Identity Crisis

So, let’s not pull any punches here. I am facing an identity crisis. It’s been a long standing issue. I have this strange feeling that I do not belong here: a stranger in a strange land.

  • I am half east and half west.
  • I am half spiritual and half secular.
  • I am part religious zealot and part scientific realist.
  • I am part print designer and part web developer.
  • I am creative and I am analytical.
  • I am over the hill and I am starting over.
  • I am a traditionalist with subversive leanings.
  • I am an introvert and I am compelled to tell everyone.
  • Half one thing, half another, but not quite whole.
  • I am all these things and none of them.

Questions of identity

  • Who am I?
  • What do I want to do?
  • When will I know I have arrived?
  • Where am I going?
  • Why am I here?
  • How will I get there?

Is it professional suicide to admit a lack of certainty, a lack of confidence, a lack of direction regarding one’s role, position, knowledge and skillset? Or is it fair to say that the more we know, the more we know how much we don’t know?

Do I bite the hand that feeds me if I speak of corporate communication with derision? Should the corporation be aided in using clever words and images as messages that serve to mask or conceal sociopathic behaviour?

Was the Cluetrain Manifesto (1999) successful in poking holes in the mass media establishments? While the movement provoked derisive accusations of cultish idealism wrapped in unintelligible arguments, was it able to accurately forecast the changes that would be brought about by the human conversation enabled by the internet, or are things mostly business as usual?

Questions of value

  • What is valuable?
  • What do I value?
  • How do I create value?
  • Do I have value?
  • How do I value others?
  • Are ideas valuable?

According to Frans Johansson, creative ideas are valuable (Johansson, The Medici Effect). An idea is innovative if it is new, valuable and realized. This innovation often comes from people Steve Jobs referred to as the thinkers and the doers. It’s fine to come up with a new idea, but you also have to work through the hard intellectual problems and realize that idea in concrete form.

Steve Jobs used Leonardo da Vinci as an example of the thinker/doer in one person:

Leonardo was the artist, but he also mixed his own paints. He also was a fairly good chemist, knew about pigments, knew about human anatomy, and combining all of those skills together, the art and the science, the thinking and the doing, was what resulted in the exceptional result.

A Dynamic Life

To be dynamic is to be characterized by constant change, activity, or progress. Tony Schwarz writes about David Brooks and his book The Social Animal, and how, with this book, Brooks differentiates himself from his peers:

It’s his unwavering willingness to grapple with issues rather than simply pontificate about them; to embrace nuance, ambiguity and paradox rather than choosing up sides; and to be forever open to learning and to being changed by what he learns.

—Tony Schwarz, We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know

To say that I don’t know who I am may be the first step to beginning to understand myself and to prepare myself for transformation. Questions lead to further questions, and a quest to find the truth becomes an adventure of discovery. This is the beginning of a dynamic life.