“I was with a friend of mine in an airport and a stranger came up to me and said, You’re tall. Are you a basketball player? and I replied, No. Then another person came up to me and asked, Are you a basketball player? And I said, Nope. So my friend asked me, Bill, why do you keep telling them no? And I told him, Because basketball is what I do, but it’s not who I am.”
The quote above is from Bill Russell, perhaps the greatest basketball player in history. An 11-time NBA champion, Olympic Gold medalist. Two-time NCAA champion. The evidence strongly suggests that Bill Russell was, in fact, a basketball player. But I just love the wisdom of his view of his real self: “basketball is what I do, but it’s not who I am.”
DEFINE YOURSELF Bill Russell understood that he is more than his job, more than his occupation. Basketball was only a part of his life, not all of it. I wonder how many people today equate what they do professionally to who they actually are. I wonder how many of those people’s self-worth and value are shaped and determined by their performance on the job. I can tell you I’ve been there. I’ve allowed my job performance and quarterly evaluations to greatly influence my opinions about myself. Talk about a roller coaster. I’m great on Monday, I suck by Wednesday, OK by Friday. Which meant my family loved me on Monday, hated me on Wednesday, and wasn’t quite sure how to feel Friday night.
Who are you? Are you an engineer, or is engineering simply what you do? Are you an (insert occupation here), or is (insert occupation here) simply what you do?
Define yourself. Celebrate the entire you, not just the paycheck you. Celebrate your wonderful complexities and nuances, rejoice in your capacity for greatness, and treasure your roles as a father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, friend, neighbor, and member of humanity. You are so much more than you think you are.
Who ever you are, remember that it’s a great day to be you!