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Friday, April 7, 2017

On Becoming

Strange post title, I know.

Today, I wanted to share a personal philosophy that I believe is valuable to anyone that wants to 'become' something in the future.

I think that the best way to be successfully become something isn't working towards it, but instead making it the means to a functional end.

Becoming a doctor, artist, or engineer is a long upward climb. In order to manage something of that sort most effectively, you'll want to go beyond the title and look for a practical goal to achieve ahead of it: If you aim to visually convey particular ideas or create landscapes that you have in mind as an end, you'll become an artist along the way.

Doing things this way is smart for many reasons, one being that you won't see the lessons and effort required to attain the title you want to be as major of a hurdle as you might have otherwise. There's also the advantage of truly knowing what that title entails by acting upon its practicalities. This inherently ensures that you understand where you'll be when pursuing that role and aren't left lost on how to proceed when you achieve it.

Make what you want to become a means to ends that you can clearly define, be driven by, and appreciate.

That's the basic premise of my perspective, but if you'd like to see more detailed elaboration on this idea as well as a visual breakdown, then continue onward.

To start, I deconstruct the path to becoming into these phases and parameters:

  • Potential: This is you before you pursue becoming something. You are in a state of unending potential that has yet to be directed and harnessed.
  • Context: This is the nitty-gritty of things. The details that define and construct the thing you want to be. In college, these are the things you learn to get your degree.
  • Title: This is your traditional goal. Manager, Artist, Engineer, Surgeon, Writer, Hot-dog Taste Tester, you name it.
  • Practicality: This is the end or ends you would be fulfilling after achieving your title, whether through the choice of someone else when you're employed or by your own intentions.
  • Means: This is whatever is necessary to achieve your goal. You can't achieve your goal or be competent without successfully overcoming the means.
  • Motivator: This is what helps keep you moving through the challenges presented by the means of achievement. Your goal is typically a motivator.

These terms and their definitions help structure how I see the path to becoming in its two most basic forms: the Common and the Ideal.


This is how most people I know typically move forward with their lives. You sit at your potential state and either want to become something, or are told what to become. You move on to learn the required content -or context- to achieve your title. It's a pretty standard way about things and it usually leaves folk dissatisfied with their choices or feeling overwhelmed by the effort required to succeed.

The problem with this standard method of progression is that it isn't a strong way of ensuring that you know what you're getting into or if you're suited to it at all. Simply having a title in mind doesn't afford you an understanding of the responsibilities that it might entail or the specializations it encompasses, leaving you in potentially murky waters after a lot of financial and mental investment. This isn't great because your overall time and options will have become limited by the path you've taken, and being at this point of the journey without the will to move forward or a sense of satisfaction is very draining and isn't conducive to people doing good work, whether they want to or not.

Another issue that comes to mind is that even if you do end up succeeding, coasting on the motivation used to achieve your title isn't exactly a dependable practice. There are no guarantees of when that high will fade or how hard the realities of your field will hit you, likely making you less effective or putting you into a state of existential dissatisfaction and waning productivity.

Engaging your title isn't everything, so you might find other motivators that keep you going while you're exacting it, but why use that joy to stave off frustration when it could be sitting on the shoulders of self-fulfillment and bolstering your quality of life instead?


What I call the 'Ideal' variation of  this process includes one added consideration.


Practicality represents your actual use of the title you obtain. In making your goal -or motivator- a practical application of your title, you stand to be sure that the title represents functional value to you beyond its achievement.

The added bonus of doing this is that your means can now encompass your title. This tends to help ease your perception of the difficulties that come with building context by allowing you to look at it in terms of the bigger picture and avoid missing the forest for the trees so to speak. Over thinking things tends to open avenues for tripping ourselves over, and the fewer opportunities for that to happen, the better.

Even if you don't choose to make your goal a practical application of you title, consider the fact that knowing the practicalities is immensely valuable in ensuring that you better understand the connotations of your pursuit, the skills necessary to be successful, and whether or not it really is for you. There's no downside.


At the end of the day, this perspective is built off of one core idea:

Be forward thinking.

Consider the big decisions outside of their obvious conclusions. Look at the side-effects and aftermath. This isn’t something you should endlessly agonize over, but it is important to be wary. You only have one life to live, so take the time to understand the path you might be taking. You'll be better off for it.

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