“To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end of life.” ― Robert Louis Stevenson
I’m spending today almost exclusively indoors so I can spend tomorrow primarily outdoors.
Today is a work day. I’m writing, creating content, newsletters, and working on a project. Tomorrow is a hunting day. I’ll head out alone in the early hours of the day and look for deer.
Both are a part of what I am, and also pieces to the puzzle of what I am trying to become.
The what versus the who…
In our society we’re challenged with this idea of figuring out or defining who we are. Who are you? We’re asked that always, constantly, and most often we respond by stating our ideals or values or virtues, or we talk about what we are. But is this who we are?
Who we are is how we act regardless of how we want to act.
Both you and I are not who we want to be, nor do we act how we want to act, not all the time at least. Who we are is who we are, it’s the choices we routinely make, the good and the bad, the lost, the found, the searching.
We will become better, but let us ask another question:
What are we?
That, at least now and in part, we can define, form, and choose to be.
I’m a man. That in and of itself should answer a lot of that question. Obviously in today’s society they’re trying to change that, but it will always answer much of the question posed by men who act as men should.
It means I’m depended upon. I’m strong and getting stronger. I’m a breadwinner. I’m a caretaker. I do work and I aim to do it well. I’m insanely flawed, and I’m working on becoming less so. I am dangerous, or at least I have the capacity to be. I belong to a line, a bloodline of other men who, if you look at how evolution acts, have been strong, courageous, honorable, survivalists.
For, throughout the history of men, it has been the strong who have survived, or at least survived long enough to plant their seed so that their line survives.
Being a man is what you are, but you are also likely a more nuanced answer to that question. You’re a father, brother, husband. You’re a warrior, a leader, a follower, a learner.
You know more about what you are than who you are, so be what you are, and choose what you are, don’t let the world force you into becoming something that you are not and don’t desire to be. Don’t degrade what you are by being a mediocre version, which is where we have to appreciate Mr. Stevenson’s quote…
“To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end of life.”
The ‘and’ is an important connector in the sentence. It connects what we are, now, the decisions we’ve made, the directions we’ve chosen to head in, the life we’ve chosen to live, to what we ought to become. It accepts that we are what we are, but it tasks us with becoming better.
Today we praise what we are without connecting the ‘and’, what we ought to become.
The truth is that we have to be very truthful about what we are. We have to know our flaws and failures, our weaknesses and our strengths, if we’re to become what we are capable of becoming.
That is the only end in life.
TO BE WHAT WE ARE
You are not trying to be what someone else is. You are not trying to live someone else’s dream or to live a life in comparison to how someone else is living.
If you struggle with finding your own path, or if you struggle with comparing how you’re living or what you’re doing to how someone else is living, get off social media completely for at least a month. You have to live your own life. You have to be your own man.
Books can and should influence who and what you are trying to become. The more you learn, the smarter you get, the more clear this definition should be. But you are still only being what you are.
Do not live someone else’s life. Do not define your successes in comparison to those of another. Do not wish you were someone else, born somewhere else, blessed with the gifts that someone else has been blessed with.
You are you. You can choose what you are. To be what you are is a challenge, especially today, but you have to start from this place of truth. You have to be you so that you can eventually become what you are capable of becoming.
If you do not know what you are, if you struggle defining this, and continue comparing, you can spend decades living a life that’s completely out of line with your character and soul.
It will lack fulfillment, meaning, and purpose. You will wake up to this fact at some point, but why not just accept and understand this now, and live as the man that God put you here as, and head toward becoming the man that you are capable of becoming, not the man that someone else is capable of becoming, or has already become.
At the same time you are not destined to be what you’ve been raised to be. You can choose what you are, which is a powerful thing.
DON’T LIKE WHAT YOU ARE?
Then change it.
I’ve realized how simple it is to change ‘what you are’ over the past decade, in some very important ways. Though, while it’s simple, it isn’t easy, and to kid yourself into thinking that it is will eventually lead you to quit.
Nothing’s easy. Even being lazy isn’t easy because of the horror it brings to your life. It’s easy in the moment but it leads to despair in the future.
If you don’t like what you are, and you have an idea of something better, then become that better thing and do that better thing.
I’ve done this in a few areas of my life. It both changes what you are in the present and what you can become by opening up wide-ranging and new possibilities.
For years I wanted to be a hunter, but I never grew up around it. I had no friends that did it. Posed with how to actually do it, I simply called around, got my gun license, read some books, found a buddy who did hunt, and started hunting. I booked a trip to Africa to hunt with a guide. Got tags locally (have yet to fill my dear tag this year), and got after it.
This notion that we are who who’ve been and that we have to remain as this guy, is a horrible thing to believe. It means we have to live as what we were raised to be and nothing more.
I grew up an athlete, and since that ship has sailed I need new challenges, and not just within business, learning about the outdoors and getting after it out there has provided such challenges.
Be what you are, but don’t settle for being what you’ve been.
You are more your ambitions than you are your past.
TO BECOME WHAT WE ARE CAPABLE OF BECOMING
This is the real challenge in life. It’s taking what we are and adding potential to it. We obviously don’t really know what we are capable of becoming, which is why it’s a lifelong pursuit that requires daily work.
It isn’t something you do once in a while, or for a month or year or week or quarter. You are trying to become what you are capable of becoming and you are trying every day.
A great way to measure this is to document your life.
Are you living a life worth writing about? See if you are by writing about your life. What are you right now? Come back again in a few months and write that down again. Write down your income, what adventures you’ve had, what you’ve achieved, and keep adding to the list.
The goal should be to decades from now look back at who you were and be something profoundly better.
This is completely under your control.
You get to choose what you are and what you become. The more you want to be, the more powerful, successful, happy, fulfilled, the more work and discipline it will take.
This is how you find fulfillment.
You are true to who you are and you take control over what you are. You don’t diminish it with weakened expectations. You have to aim high or you will be disappointed.
We need fulfillment, but it isn’t won by existing, it’s won through effort and improvement. You literally have to ‘win it’, you cannot, at least as a man, expect it to arise without putting enough effort in for a long enough time.
Be what you are. Become what you are capable of becoming.
Your work is both a part of what you are and a part of what you are trying to become.
Don’t ever downplay the work you do. It shows your character. If you’re lazy with work you will not succeed, and thus, you’ll lack meaning and fulfillment in the rest of your life. As men, we need work like we need air.
We do not, however, have to spend out lives in acquisition mode. That’s not the point. The point is to struggle well, and to find worthy struggles that challenge us, which is why work is so important to men, it gives us purpose, meaning, and a challenge to overcome.
If we’re not struggling in life (I’m not sure if that’s even possible), we’re not living and improving, we’re not becoming what we can become. Aim higher, always, and adopt greater struggles. This is the ‘secret’ to success, improvement, and fulfillment. Don’t degrade your potential by sullying your sights on weaker ideas of what success is.
Define what you are (or at least what you’d like to be) and then create a plan that will help you become what you are capable of becoming.
This isn’t ‘self-help’ stuff, or hippie-dippy nonsense. This is why we are here. This is the point of life, the end goal, to become what we are capable of becoming.
Give it the seriousness that it deserves, but don’t confine it to your work life.
Back to that intro of the article, I’m working today so I can play tomorrow. The ‘play’ tomorrow is actually harder work than the work. I have to hike around 15 km’s through rough terrain, and if I get an animal, I have to hike out with the animal, not easy!
Nothing of value is easy. It may be far simpler than we’d like to admit, but it’s never easy.
In your plan, take time to think about what you would like to become. That is, what kind of man, what kind of life you want to live, what kind of legacy you want to leave.
Create the habits that will get you there: If you want help with this, pick up a FREE copy of my new audiobook The Lost Art of Discipline HERE
Work is a massive part of our feeling and being fulfilled in life. It’s a big part of what we are. But there’s much more to life than work.
More and more I find peace in nature, and stress in suburbs and cities. I like nature. I feel free, at peace, and at ease, even if I’m facing a great challenge. It brings me back to my DNA.
I’m convinced that all men feel like this – though I could obviously be wrong.
I’m convinced simply because our DNA hasn’t caught up to how our society is. We still need the tangible signs of success that only nature can provide. The top of a mountain, the blood of an animal in our hands as we take it apart after a successful hunt, the land we have domain over, the fields on our farm, the horse we’re rested atop of. We need nature. We need physical struggle and well as mental ones. We need tangible evidence of success, not just things we buy, but things we build and create.
We need fulfillment, and it’s being lost in a way of life that isn’t true to our species and how we find fulfillment.
We need success in work, with relationships, and outside of both.
I’m slowly figuring out what that looks like in my life, what I want to become, take some time, go for walks, write it down, define what feeds your soul in those three areas.
Get after it.