Those were three questions that crossed my mind the other day as I was doing some reminiscing about my own life and, sort of, comparing my life to the lives of some of my family, friends and associates.
The three things that crossed my mind were:
Who am I?
Why am I who I am?
How did I get to be the person I've become?
Superficially, these don't necessarily seem like deep questions. But, when you begin peeling away the layers, we will each find some pretty interesting, probably amazing and, quite possibly, awesome things about ourselves. For most of us, it took a long time to get “here,” wherever here is for you. In many instances, probably the better part of a lifetime. Perhaps you were fortunate enough to start gleaning these answers when you were quite a bit younger than me and my contemporaries. Consider yourself ahead in the game of life.
If we are like most normal people, we begin forming who we will eventually become at a very early age during our childhood. As we grow, our minds expand. We learn more and more about people, history, the world around us, what people do for a living (occupation/profession), what they do for recreation, hobbies, past times and family life. And, of course, we learn more and more about responsibilities, accountability, ethics, morals and the social system we reside in including government, social and civil controls on our lives.
If we are born and raised in a developed, western nation we are told we live in a free society. That is, we are free to do anything we want to do and live any way we want to . . . providing it doesn't cross the lines of the laws, regulations, codes, statutes, rules, limitations, restrictions, etc. established for everyone to live by. That may not seem like such a big deal until you realize that no one actually knows how many federal laws there are today. Back in 1980, the federal laws filled 23,000 pages. Today, there are some 20,000 laws just on gun use and ownership (yet, the public wants more laws – are we enforcing the 20,000 already existing laws?). And, there are currently 4,450 federal crimes with new ones added every year. Here's a thought, how many of these federal criminal laws have you broken?
And, guess what? These don't include state, county, local, homeowners association, work related, school related, religion-related and other laws, codes, statutes, regulations, rules, etc. we are expected to abide by. Do you feel a bit overwhelmed?
So, let's look at the Who, Why and How questions regarding who we each are individually.
Who Are You?
I'll use myself as an example. If you follow my lead, you should be able to answer this question for yourself.
The more I've thought about it, the more I have accepted that both, my nomadic inclination and my entrepreneurial trait, have some kind of genetic basis. These traits are coded in my DNA. I'm not a geneticist, so I won't even attempt to explain how this might work.
Here's what I do know. The vast majority of people not only are content to remain stationary and put down roots but need that stability to thrive. And, they need stability and security in some kind of profession or occupation to know where their next paycheck is coming from and when. These seem to be recessive traits for me. While I never paid attention to it before, I now realize I really didn't place as much importance on stability or security.
I liken my traits to the talents/traits of a true artist, musician, writer, inventor, etc. It's as if they are driven to follow their proclivities. That seems to describe me.
The Nomadic Trait
There are three siblings in my family. My two sisters (both younger) are the stationary, stable ones. My next youngest sister drove a school bus for about 35 years in the same town and lived in the same house for over 40 years just across the river from where we grew up. My youngest sister is similar.
Meanwhile, the longest I've lived in one place was a total of 8 years. While I always find moving stressful and a less than enjoyable experience, I have never been averse to making a move.
How or why I managed to remain in the Winchester, Virginia area, where I made my base of operations for 26 years, I don't know. But, it probably had to do with the fact I was able to experience many of my dreams and desires to experience different lifestyles while living in that area.
I grew up in and lived in an urban/suburban setting in northern New Jersey until I was 22. It was part of the NYC metro area. Then I lived in Syracuse, New York for two years. Finally, I lived in the Washington, DC suburbs for about five years. This was my life until I was 29.
Then, I began living in places that were quite different from the NYC and other metro areas. I began moving to areas that were more and more rural. I lived by the Chesapeake Bay near Annapolis, Maryland. I lived on larger parcels of land further from neighboring homes. I was in that area for ten years. Then I moved to the Shenandoah Valley (Winchester, Virginia) where I first lived on a mountaintop. Then I lived on the shore of a medium size lake with very few neighbors nearby. And finally, I lived on a 50-acre horse ranch in pastoral, partially wooded, rolling hills with even fewer neighbors. By this time, as I said, I actually had the opportunity to live out most of my lifestyle dreams.
Then my very real nomadic, gypsy-like traits became more dominant. And now, my van is my tin vardo (gypsy-wagon). I always thought it was interesting how many men are drawn to pickup trucks. I've never wanted a pickup. But, I've always been drawn to and have had 7 vans among the 24 vehicles I've owned during my life. I've camped and worked in several of them.
I had a chat recently with a buddy of 48 years. I mentioned to him that even though he and I have similar educational backgrounds and skill sets in audio production, we applied them differently. He was able to apply them to one primary professional pursuit, with one employer for 32 years in the same building (not including our military service, where we met, and a short period in commercial radio he had before that). And, he had only lived in a very few places, the last one for probably four decades. He sought and chased security and succeeded in securing a very comfortable retirement. Certainly, not a bad thing.
During that same period, I had several businesses. I built, owned & operated recording studios, a couple tape duplication businesses, location recording businesses, I did live concert sound, music recording, information recording, conference recording with portable cassette duplication systems, radio broadcast production, all kinds of video production, created, produced, marketed and internationally distributed an audio magazine, did voice-over work, was a dealer/distributor for a variety of professional audio equipment and cassette duplication systems and supplies, was a broker of professional video equipment, was a trade book publisher, was involved in some multi-level/network marketing businesses, did a little professional speaking and business consulting. And, I lived in at least ten different homes all of different styles in three different areas of the Mid- Atlantic region.
How does anyone do that and stay sane? Maybe that's my problem. I'm not sane. I guess it would be safe to say security and stability were not necessarily high on my list of aspirations.
I had told him on several occasions I could have never done what he did being in one job with one employer for all those years or staying/living in one place for as long as he had. That was neither a criticism nor meant with any sarcasm. It simply shows how two people can be very similar in certain ways and yet, so very different in other ways.
And, that continues currently. He is content staying where he is with life pretty much as it is. Meanwhile, my motor is still/always running ready to see what's around the next bend in the road or over the next hill. He's happy with his retirement pursuits as they are and doing volunteer book narrating and exploring his graphic creativity. There is a routine and basic stability to his life.
On my side of the equation, I still have “dragons to slay.” I want to get off my backside and write books. There are a variety of audio productions I want to produce. I want to produce a series of video documentaries on several topics. I still enjoy and want to do some speaking and conduct small seminars and workshops. I always want to meet more new and interesting people. And, I want to continue to explore this country & Canada. I want to return to NZ and Ireland. I want to get to Australia to explore that country. And, I want to continue to explore my own boundaries.
And, to top it all off, I'm now involved in a new entrepreneurial adventure that came out of the blue. It's one more way my entrepreneurial trait is pushing my boundaries. I'll talk more about this new business venture in the future.
It's not that I'm doing all the things I just enumerated for financial reasons or gain. Sure, if I generate some new revenue streams, it will help make the third-half of my life (that I'm well into now) more comfortable and secure. But, mainly, I simply have to do these things. It's part of who I am and I've come to realize and accept that about myself. Many of my retired friends look at me and shake their heads. Why doesn't he just stop, they're thinking. But, that's the point. If I stop _ I WILL stop. It will be the end of me. I will have little reason to wake up each morning.
These are my dreams and my passions. They are the same dreams and passions I began to realize as a 12-year-old newspaper delivery boy. They are the same dreams and passions I discovered when I became involved in communication as an amateur radio operator at age 14. They are the same dreams and passions I discovered in my first semester in college – that had nothing to do with my course of study, yet launched me on a lifetime career that continued to expand and resulted in an amazing life I could never have imagined. They taught me to keep my mind and heart open for pivotal people, pivotal events and pivotal opportunities.
Who? Why? How?
Who am I? I'm an open-minded, free, independent, critical thinker who is always learning and always seeking opportunities to exploit my accumulated entrepreneurial and nomadic skills, abilities, experiences, knowledge and dreams. It is in my DNA.
Why am I who I am? Because, throughout my life, mostly until recently, without realizing it, I had to push the boundaries. I had to be free to live and function outside the mainstream norms to create my own world. I made lots of mistakes. I failed many times. I didn't create a stable, secure retirement lifestyle. But, when I think back to all I did and jumped on the opportunities to do, I couldn't have done it any other way. Did I miss some opportunities? Did I leave a lot of money on the table? Absolutely. But, that's the past, even ancient history, if you will. I am who I am because I got to do all the things I did – on my own terms.
How did I get here? Before I fully understood the ramifications of my entrepreneurial and nomadic traits, dreams and passions, I knew deep inside somewhere that I was destined to keep trying new and different things, mainly, in my case, in the world of the entrepreneur. There is simply something inside the entrepreneur that drives him or her to take risks, albeit, usually calculated risks, but risks just the same. I got here because I could never give up on my own dreams and passions and the traits that were (and still are) driving me.
I took a short test online. Of course, it's not a medical or scientific test. But, the results were as I expected. It's very likely I have some form (and there are various sub-forms of this condition) of ADHD. I'll bet that many, if not most, people with entrepreneurial traits, and probably nomadic traits, may have some form of this condition. I don't believe it's a bad thing. As a matter of fact, it's probably one of the things that helps us strive and keep moving forward.
Obviously, from what I said earlier about all the things I've done during my life and career, I have to keep moving to new and different things to maintain my interest and motivation. And now, as I'm accepting many of the traits I've had and exercised throughout my life, it's become easier for me to accept Who, Why and How I am.
How about you? Have you peeled back your layers? Have you REALLY looked to discover Who you are, Why you are who you are and How you got where you are now? You may really be surprised and . . . I hope delighted to find out that we who seek personal freedom, simple, minimal and frugal lifestyles are pretty special people. We may appear to be the “odd man out” to the mainstream, majority of people. But, in reality, if you're anything like me, you could never feel free nor truly happy if you chose to conform to being someone you're not. I'm happy to have you in my “club.”
Live free and be happy. EH