"I Am My Job."
Is there any more American mantra than this (spoken or unspoken)? I know this “worn-out axiom” has been central to my self-concept for most of my adult life. Someone asks me how I’m doing, and I immediately talk about how my company is fairing— Joie de Vivre, Airbnb, MEA
I’ll never forget when my friend Vanda corrected me, “No, Chip, I’m asking how YOU are doing?”
Arthur Brooks is one of my favorite thought leaders, and this recent essay in The Atlantic on “A Profession is Not a Personality” had me smiling. Here’s a gem of a paragraph:
“Americans tend to valorize being driven and ambitious, so letting work take over virtually every moment of your life is concerningly easy. I know many people who talk of almost nothing besides their work; who are saying, essentially, “I am my job.” This may feel more humanizing and empowering than saying, “I am my boss’s tool,” but that reasoning has a fatal flaw: In theory, you can ditch your boss and get a new job. You can’t ditch you.”
Fortunately, in midlife, we often start to see our patterns (and our ego) from a wise observer point of view, and hopefully with a dash of humor. We chuckle that business is often full of busyness. We start to recognize that even the words we use to describe our work are toxic. We have “drop-dead” dates. We’re “terminated” when we lose our jobs. We’re “killing time” at work. Our customers are “target markets.” We’re “crazy-busy,” and our work is considered an “occupation,” the same word we use to describe how a foreign country invades its neighbor.
Of course, another beauty of midlife (if we’re open to taking this path) is that we can start ripping off the Band-Aids that have represented our identities. In the process, we become ourselves rather than our business cards. This “midlife unraveling” may give you a sense of freedom like nothing you’ve felt since high school. If you want to explore this liberating concept further, it’s one of the foundational elements of the “Great Midlife Edit” that we offer in our MEA workshops.
Bottom line: You are not your job, your bank account, or your shiny car. You are not your trophy wife or husband. You are not even your body. You’re something far more wondrous and expansive than that. If you’re open to the mystery, the second half of life is your golden opportunity to discover who you are beyond the masks you have worn for so long.
I’m game if you are!