I have 3 birthday posts for you, two of them only partially finished. The first one, this one, is about identity, about what I’ve found to be helpful way to answer, for myself, “Who am I?”
The second one is about honoring your father and mother with your actions and attitudes, which I believe is extremely important for personal and community thriving, but, sadly, not practiced seriously in modern culture.
The third is about breaking things and disappointing people, and about the price of being not just successful, but originally successful and distinct.
I’ll flesh them out when I have the time as work has been very busy, a mixed bag of exciting and frustrating. It’s all part of the entreprenuerial life. The beauty of this is that I don’t write as an observer but as a practitioner. I have a lot of skin in the game. When I talk about juggling the responsibilities of family, work, community, health, and our other requirements, I share from my experiences of running a growing startup, managing multiple companies and multiple investments, while also raising a startup family, and also diligently improving myself. This, I believe, gives me a level of credibility that a mere opinion from someone who is just interpreting quotes or giving comments on things they’ve never practiced does not have.
I did finish one of the three posts, this one, so here it is.
In This Moment
Who am I?
This is a question we take for granted until something shakes our identity, or to put it more accurately, until something shakes that which we have built our identity on. What we have built our identity on becomes obvious by what causes us to lose our peace. In my case, I have observed that business threats and business failures cause me to lose peace because I’ve placed a lot of my identity in my role as a businessman. If I’m not a successful businessman, then what am I? A failed businessman? An inconsequential businessman? These are questions my mind wrestles with, particularly, as I said, when business is shaken. Interestingly enough, I don’t care if, let’s say, the fashion world was shaken. I don’t suddenly ask myself, “Am I bad designer?” or “Don’t people like my work?”. Why? because I have no stake in that world. I have no identity connected to that. I could be wearing a black t-shirt everywhere (like I currently do) and even be given an award for worst dressed CEO and it still wouldn’t shake me at all. Who I am is not affected by fashion. (I’m only using fashion because it’s one of those things I’m not too particularl about. It could be anything, like the world of stamps, or horse racing. Because I’m not a part of that world, because I have no identity connected to it, shaking it doesn’t affect me. But with the things that affect me identity, if you shake them, they will shake me.)
I started asking myself this question more deeply, and some first thoughts included:
1. I am my roles: I am a husband, a father, a manager, a friend, a son, etc…
2. I am my affiliations: I am a part of Bridge, a member of the Bonifacio family, a volunteer at Habitat for Humanity, etc…
3. I am my capabilitees: I am a voracious reader, I am an extremely hard working guy, I am someone who can run a marathon, etc…
I kept finding more and more categories that affect my self-image, until I ran into one that depressed me:
…I am my regrets. I am someone who has done things he wishes he never did, who wishes he could erase any memory of certain actions, or even better, turn back time and done things differently.
A flood of regrets crushed my mind, as I remembered event after event. “I shoudn’t have done this”, “I should have done that instead”, and “I wish I could fix that” kept coming up as I recalled painfull, embarassing, and sad moments.
This avalanche of negative memories triggered more devious self-imagery.
“I am a fool.”
“I am evil.”
“I am fake.”
I had to stop myself. It wasn’t helping. I sat there confused. Who am I? Yes, I can honestly say I am the worst parts of me. There’s too much evidence of that to deny it. I have been foolish. I have been evil. I have been fake. I have been a whole lot of horrible things. But I’ve also been good. I’ve also been virtuous. Am I fake for being a mixed bag? Do the bad parts of who I am cancel out the good parts? Who am I?
Then it hit me: Who I am, who I really am, is who I am in this moment.
Let me give you an example. Let’s say my wife and I get into an argument due to my impatience (which is 99% the cause of our fights), in that moment of impatience, I am not “wise David” or “insightful David”. I am not a “good husband” nor a “good leader”. Who I am, in that moment, is “impatient David”, “harsh David”, “angry David”. I am, in that moment, an ugly version of me. But in that moment, at any moment, I have a choice to be a better version of me, to decide instead to be a virtuous David, someone patient instead of impatient, someone gentle instead of harsh, and someone peaceful instead of angry. And if I choose then to be patient instead of impatient? Then I become “patient David”. If I choose to become gentle? Then I am “gentle David”. And if I choose to be peaceful? Then I am at peace. I am no longer an ugly version of myself, despite the reality that my wife might still be mad at me, desite that there still may be tension, and despite the case that I may be sleeping on the couch. I am a better version of me, despite the consequences brought about by the ugly version of me. And if I bear those consequences with virtue, meaning, with courage, with peace, with honesty, with kindness, with patience, with gentleness, and all sorts of goodness, then I am, in that moment, defined by those virtues, not by the consequences I may be facing.
Who I am, who I really am, is who I am in this moment.
So let’s say I failed big time, and it causes me my job. Yes, I am a fired, jobless, maybe embarassed David. But if choose to look for what I can learn and do better, then who I really am is teachable David, and if I choose to thank God for the experience, then I am grateful David too. I am not defined by my work failure, but by my moment by moment response.
Let’s say I have no money, and have to pay off debt. I don’t have to be “poor David”. I can, from this moment on, be “money-wise David” by deciding differently on future financial decisions. I may have been “money-dumb David”, but by choosing better right now, and committing myself to choosing better in future “right nows”, I am someone new, someone better.
But this is a double-edged sword. Just as I don’t need to be trapped by past mistakes, I shouldn’t rely too much on past achievements. I may have been extremely generous in times past, but if I decide to be selfish in this moment, then, in this moment, I am not a compilation of generosity, but a selfish man. Just as it is protection from bitterness and being swallowed by regret, it is also a guard against pride and thinking too highly of one’s self. I may have succeeded in things past, but in this moment, am I succeeding in being the person I have to be?
The past mistakes are beyond my reach. They exist in a moment I can no longer recover. The past achievements though beneficial do not matter as much as today. And the future? Who knows what the future will bring? Why hinge my identity on what may or may not happen? But in this moment, the only moment I am ever actually in, there are only two choices: Will I or will I not be the person the moment requires me to be.
I can hear my baby crying. Time to be that man.
Got this from a post a friend emailed me. I thought it was hilarious.
A New York City woman once posted this personal ad for a wealthy husband:
I’m a beautiful (spectacularly beautiful) 25 year old girl. I’m articulate and classy. I’m looking to get married to a guy who makes at least half a million a year. I know how that sounds, but keep in mind that a million a year is middle class in New York City, so I don’t think I’m overreaching at all…
I am looking for MARRIAGE ONLY. Please hold your insults – I’m putting myself out there in an honest way. Most beautiful women are superficial; at least I’m being up front about it. I wouldn’t be searching for these kind of guys if I wasn’t able to match them – in looks, culture, sophistication, and keeping a nice home and hearth.
A wealthy Wall Street guy responded:
Your offer, from the prospective of a guy like me, is plain and simple a crappy business deal. Here’s why. Cutting through all the B.S., what you suggest is a simple trade: you bring your looks to the party and I bring my money. Fine, simple. But here’s the rub, your looks will fade and my money will likely continue into perpetuity…in fact, it is very likely that my income increases but it is an absolute certainty that you won’t be getting any more beautiful!
So, in economic terms you are a depreciating asset and I am an earning asset. Not only are you a depreciating asset, your depreciation accelerates! Let me explain, you’re 25 now and will likely stay pretty hot for the next 5 years, but less so each year. Then the fade begins in earnest. By 35 stick a fork in you!
So in Wall Street terms, we would call you a trading position, not a buy and hold…hence the rub…marriage. It doesn’t make good business sense to “buy you” (which is what you’re asking) so I’d rather lease. In case you think I’m being cruel, I would say the following. If my money were to go away, so would you, so when your beauty fades I need an out. It’s as simple as that. So a deal that makes sense is dating, not marriage.
Separately, I was taught early in my career about efficient markets. So, I wonder why a girl as “articulate, classy and spectacularly beautiful” as you has been unable to find your sugar daddy. I find it hard to believe that if you are as gorgeous as you say you are that the $500K hasn’t found you, if not only for a tryout.
By the way, you could always find a way to make your own money and then we wouldn’t need to have this difficult conversation.
I hope this is helpful, and if you want to enter into some sort of lease, let me know.
This was supposed to be my piece in a publication but I think it’s turned out for the best that I’m publishing it here. I think Valentines is also a great time to post this because of all the external pressures and internal longings of the season. I’m adding this to my series: This Is Who You Are.
I was asked to write something, anything, from a guy’s perspective, and one thing I want to remind you from the start is that there are many kinds of guys, just as there are many kinds of girls. So my perspective may not be what people would consider the common guy perspective. I won’t be writing about secrets to keep your man happy, or whether I wear boxers or briefs, or what I think makes a woman sexy.
Instead, I have written a short piece on a different kind of woman, a woman I find both fascinating and challenging because of the standards she upholds. She is a rare kind of person, and in this world that promotes sexiness, fortune, fame, and everything fleeting, she is an endangered species – and that makes her all the more beautiful.
It doesn’t take an expert to know that the more rare something is, the more valuable it is.
We know this from art, from jewelry, from antiques, to cars, to even bags, and haute couture. Let’s take the very famous Birkin bag for example. While many people are impressed by it, very few will know the answer as to why they’re so expensive in the first place. I asked a few fashion friends, and what did they tell me? “Because it’s Hermes!”
Powerful branding, yes. Deep thinking, no.
Let me tell you why a Birkin commands such a high price: craftsmanship, materials used, maker, and lastly, rarity.
First of all only expert artisans work on the bags which are handmade and bearing the Hermes’ signature saddle stitching. It takes about 2 days to make one bag. The materials are from various specialty tanners that give each bag a distinct smell and texture. Given that the process is so meticulous and the attention to quality so focused, the result is a strong albeit heavy bag that is one of a kind. In other words each is distinct. Each is rare.
More rare than a Birkin, more rare and infinitely more valuable than the treasures of the Earth is a Woman of Beautiful Values. What is she? Who is she?
She is a woman who is not dictated by the trends, not easily impressed with the famous, not swayed by worldly pressures, and not discouraged by life’s challenges. She is a woman who knows her values, what’s truly important to her, and pursues them with focus and discipline, faith and hope, perseverance and passion.
Some may say, “I know a lot of women like that. What’s so rare about that?”
Well it’s the second part. Not only does she pursue her values, THE DIFFERENCE IS IN WHAT SHE VALUES. What makes her so rare is what she makes important in her life.
Values are the things we hold important. What we value becomes obvious based on what we spend our time, energy, and money on. Think about it? When a guy likes a girl, he spends whatever time, energy, and money he has on her. When a girl wants to shop, she spends time, energy, and money. When a parent has children, he or she spends time, energy, and money. And the more valuable something or someone is to us, the more we spend time, energy, and money on it.
A Woman of Beautiful Values spends time, energy, and money on cultivating her inner being, not just her physical shell, because she understands that who she is inside is she who she truly is when age and nature and life strips youth. She cultivates her mind with noble thoughts and learning. She fills her soul with noble inspirations. She grows in spirit through faith. Though no one sees or commends her, nor puts her on a list of most sexy, a Woman of Beautiful Values is secure in understanding, that what is essential is invisible to the eye, as the book The Little Prince so eloquently says.
A Woman of Beautiful Values spends her time, energy, and money on beautiful things. What are beautiful things? These are things that matter, things that last, starting with other people. A Woman of Beautiful Values spends her time, energy, and money on making other people better.
Her life’s emphasis is making the lives of others beautiful, not so much in proving her own beauty. She desires to lift others up, even at her expense because she understands that this is what it means to truly love.
A Woman of Beautiful Values spends her time, energy, and money on living a life of true love. She seeks to validate, not to be validated. She seeks to serve, not to be served. She seeks to give, not to take. Yet she does not lack validation, nor service, nor gifts, because in her is a cistern full from a lifetime of investing in her soul and spirit.
A Woman of Beautiful Values values God most. There is a humility that comes with complete dependence on God. Humility comes with admitting that we cannot live this life without Him. Humility isn’t silence or the lack of bragging. It is seen when one exhibits willful service, gracious forgiveness, and quiet trust.
To sum it up, a Woman of Beautiful Values is full of faith, hope, and love because she embraces the source of these three virtues: God.
ONE OF A KIND. I like that phrase. That’s a Woman of Beautiful Values. It signifies rarity, that among everything and everyone in this class, you’re set apart. You’re special. There’s no one like you.
O Woman of Beautiful Values, don’t envy the common ways – no matter how famous, no matter how enticing, no matter how euphoric, for the world needs more ladies like you. Don’t worry if you’re not on a billboard, people don’t advertise their treasures. Don’t worry if you’re not sought, there are really more fans than there are connoisseurs.
Have I described a standard too lofty? Maybe. But the thought of you inspires me. More than your benefits, I know one thing is for sure, that someone this full, this attractive, this impossibly unattainable is worth every moment, every effort, every expense.
Stay strong, stay resolute, stay full of love, O Woman of Beautiful Values, be a light.
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