I remember reading a crime novel years ago about an antiques dealer who had an incredibly slow vintage car. At the climax of the plot, just when being able to travel somewhere above 7 mph would have been really useful, the female interest of the story elbows him out of the way, takes the wheel and - with a flick of the dashboard lever - sets the car racing down the road at 40mph. Yes: the car has gears; its owner had just failed to recognise their existence.
So what lever might you have failed to recognise? What would make your life suddenly pick up pace?
To change the metaphor for a moment, we are talking about those lost threads (of interest, passion, engagement, enjoyment) that once were running through your life, but got overlooked or broken somewhere on the journey. Is it possible to get them back?
If you had asked me at age 5 or even 10 what I planned doing with my life, I would have said “some sort of inventor”. For some reason, the existence of engineers in the universe is kept from children, so engineering inclined kids can only choose between scientist (mad) and inventor (also mad). I leaned in the inventor (mad) direction. I was forever pulling stuff apart, breaking it, putting it back together and, on one memorable occasion, blowing myself across the basement.
However, by the time I reached Secondary School, it became clear I was actually an arts guy. Maths, Sciences, Geography: not very engaged; but clearly has the mind for English and History and Music and so on. Arts guy. For reasons that still escape me (except that you have probably done the same) I took the label and ran with it, even though it was demonstrably only part of the picture.
Fast forward 35 years, from 15 to 50. Birkman releases fabulous new job matching data, which we can access via the data feed we use for our apps. I write a quick programme to sort the 210 career title scores, and present the top twenty for any individual. What does mine say? At number one, Head Cooks and Chefs (family fall about laughing: a lifetime of having had to eat strange and experimental dishes is explained). Of the remaining 19, 14 are engineering or engineering related roles, including various forms of IT engineering. (You did notice I said “wrote a quick programme”?)
So I look back and suddenly see the blindingly obvious: all that time that I was buying into the “Jon is an ‘Arts Guy’ story”, I was actually spending my leisure time building powered free-flight model aircraft, coming up with radical glider designs and … um, collecting gunpowder out of fireworks. (Less said about that one the better). And when I had to turn my half year exam fail (10.25% after being scaled up) into an A-Bursary pass, it was the serendipitous fact that my Maths tutor chose to explain calculus using practical, engineering-type applications (“how much bronze is required to cast this ship’s screw?”) that saved my bacon. (Thank you forever, Mr Bishop).
But I kept believing that I was the impractical Arts guy.
Now, as they say, the truth will out. Even though I continued to see myself in this self-limiting way, I could never stop myself from following my real passions, which included a number of things I was supposed to “be bad at”. I have never been far from some IT or coding project since I left school (first job: systems manager in a DEC installation), and for some years was never far from the underside of some old bus or car I was overhauling. But it was like I didn’t even realise I was doing it. I spent decades of my life with only half a view of who I really was.
Are you sure you haven’t done the same yourself, and bought into someone else’s well-intentioned narrative about you? Parents and teachers are often key players, and they do this because they care; but it isn’t always very helpful. They can’t help themselves: like anyone, they interpret you to yourself, using their own motivational and perceptual framework. (But that’s another whole topic).
The simple question for you is, what really critical threads that help make up who you most truly are, have got lost in the hurly burly of life? (You don’t have to be a cranky old guy; you can be 25 and totally missing it). And what can you do to find them?
What you do next when you have found them is going to be important (and not the simple subject of a blog post). But I can tell you where to look:
Motivations; and matches.
If you are using Birkman or our expresso platform, check out the motivational scores - your Interests and your Focus. And if you have expresso, then look at your career matches. The Career Families (which are available in a standard Birkman Report) are useful, but it is the specific Career Titles (“Automated Teller Machine Repairer”; “Fashion Designer” and so on) that give you the most edge. Look at your top 20 matches. What leaps out at you? It might be one score, it might be a pattern of scores. What part of you has been submerged because you accepted someone else’s “story of you”.
Pick up the threads. You might just find a lever in there that turns your family sedan into a supercar.