Who do we want to become?
This is the first question prudent firms and leaders ask themselves. They ask this profound question to order their lives. Answering the question provides clarity about the legacy a firm will leave behind, including how the firm, its people, and its work will be remembered. The question reflects the truth that our lives are shaped by what we live for. Ordering one’s life does not eliminate struggle or make difficult decisions easier. It does, however, clarify our difficult choices and give meaning to the struggles we will inevitably confront as leaders—and as followers.
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The question’s depth is expressed in five powerful ways.
- The question presumes that we have a choice about who we are to become.
- We are asked to express our desire (i.e. who we “want” to become).
- The question recognizes that the act of “becoming” is already happening.
- It supposes that we can become someone different than we currently are.
- The question recognizes that who we become is inextricably linked to who our firms become– and vice versa.
Let’s take a closer look at each one of these statements.
We have a choice about who we are to become.
Regardless of circumstance, we are free to choose how to respond to life. We can take the path of least resistance or we can choose to forge a new route. We can choose to let others dictate our lives or we can choose to shape our own. We can choose “up or out,” or we can choose sanity. Either way, we DO have a choice.
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You made a prudent decision.
The question asks us to express our desire.
We must ask, “What is my deepest desire?” Before we pursue our aspirations, we must know our personal identity. Is it power, fame or riches? Or, is it service, justice, or personal growth? Does our firm exist for our family’s benefit or does our family exist for our firm’s? Is service to our firm a means to some end or is it the end itself? Are you clear on your destination or just riding a horse in the direction it’s going?
“Becoming” is already happening, whether we choose to participate or not.
Regardless of our awareness or acceptance of the fact, our “becoming” has already begun. “Becoming” continues unabated of choice, so “not choosing” is a choice. You and your firm will continue on the current trajectory until you meet an immovable object and the impact energy pushes you in another direction. Do you prefer to harness the wind or float with the current?
We can become someone different, regardless of our starting point.
Contrary to the voices in our heads and the history of our firms, we can begin again. The act of becoming is NEVER a straight line. It is the meandering river cutting its banks through the soft soil. A stream at first, through drought and flood, it flows downhill gaining size from tributaries until it reaches its final destination: the sea. It stops only when we dam it.
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Who we become is inextricably linked to who our firms become, and vice versa.
When we ask who WE want to become, we share a vision of who “we” are. WE is part you and part me. We tie our future selves to one another. A house divided cannot stand. We support one another in our journeys toward a shared desire. If your end desire is not my desire, then there is no WE; there is simply you and there is me.
The first question prudent firms and leaders ask themselves is not “What do we want to become?” Instead, it is “Who do we want to become?”
“What” is finite. With what, you arrive. The question of “what” is answered: fireman, doctor or astronaut.
“Who” is eternal. One never arrives at “who” because “who” is Being. It is personal—inward. By its very nature, “who” is always “becoming.”
Who do you want to become?