One of the biggest struggles I’ve come up against lately is letting go of my addiction to labels. I realized this the other day when one of my Riff Raft partners, Jackie, was telling me about this great Steven Pressfield book she’s reading called Turning Pro. Every time she’d tell me that it’s time for me to “go pro”, I’d come back with the question, “Pro what?” Then I started to get whiny about not knowing what it is that I do for a living and how I couldn’t very well “go pro” if I didn’t know what I was a pro at.
That was about the time she delivered a (well-deserved?) bitchslap. She said, “It just means start behaving like a professional. Show up consistently, do the work, ditch the excuses. No matter what you do.”
We continued the conversation on our podcast this week; you can check that episode out by clicking here. And I realized while we were talking that she was absolutely right. It’s past time for me, and I’d imagine for a lot of folks, to stop whining and start working. It doesn’t really matter on what; it just matters that you do the work (another great Pressfield book, by the way).
For me, that means writing, teaching and performing…and something else that added itself to the list just yesterday. In addition to being a writer, teacher and performer, I realized that I’m also a philosopher, a guy who likes to find new ideas and tear them apart and put them back together in new configurations and see where they fit into the fabric of life. Writer, teacher, performer and philosopher. That’s my work, and it’s time for me to go pro.
So what does all this have to do with labels? For all of my working life, I’ve been obsessed with having a label for what I do (banker, manager, sales trainer, web guy, etc.), but I’m starting to realize that the label is not important. Having a label for what I did always made me feel like what I was doing was real, like it had substance. The closer I get to living my purpose, though, the harder it is to define and put a label on because it’s who I am and, as Kierkegaard said, “Once you label me, you negate me.”
Letting go of the labels has been a struggle, but it’s also been liberating. It’s allowed me to stop worrying about what I do and just go do it already, to get down to the real work of being me.