As a twenty-something preparing to be a thirty-something, I find that my reading lists have shifted. From the works of Nietzsche and Dostoyevsky who question the reasons for my living to the more pragmatic works of how-to-stay-productive-in-a-world-of-distraction. I suppose this is fitting. I am, after all, matriculating from the questions of "Who am I?" to the "How Can I?"
This shift has taught me a few things:
- Identity, far from being unimportant, is recognized more by its expression than its nature.
- "Who you are" is not as significant as "who you let others be" (I'll explain more below).
- And lastly, "who I will become" is not a consequence of productivity, but rather presence.
These days, it's incredibly difficult to think about productivity without talking about leadership. Productivity is the concern over process, which inherently necessitates a governing structure for regulation and accountability. More than ever before, I believe in the need and desire for such structure. Boundaries and limits are important for a humanity that possesses primal impulse. Yet there is a danger here, too. Even within the positive desire for efficiency or the preemptive structuring toward responsibility, we too quickly get fixated on roles.
Don't get me wrong. Focus is a great thing. It is a tremendous thing.
But there is a deeper thing: Presence.
I found a common theme among business books (prepare for the sweeping generalization): they are radically rooted in managing the self, especially catering to the universal ambitions of upward mobility and success. There is nothing wrong with such thoughts, other than that they miss the point. They don't teach you how to lead people, rather they are transmitting techniques on managing people. Leadership, here, is of a different quality, isn't it?
Think about the truly great leaders. Think about those who have so greatly impacted your life, those that unleashed parts of you that you never even knew you desired. Think about those leaders who believed in the inevitable. I'm talking about the people that you'd go to war with, not those you simply want a paycheck from.
What was it about them that opened you up? What was it about them that struck your core, helping you see that what they had was also something you possessed?
This isn't the "everyone is a leader" spiel. I'm talking about that wavelength within. The heartstrings of the universe, kind of thing.
To me, that kind of person, that kind of leader, possesses an ability to see who you are, for who you are, and creates the space for you to be. And strangely enough, that room they help create with you, helps you focus on the "How Can I?" In other words, your productivity is directly correlated with their presence with you. They see you. You see them.
Perhaps what I am trying to say is this: Whereas "How Can I?" toward the self is a question of ambition, "How Can I?" in light of presence is a question of empowerment.
Presence, leadership, greatness... such are notions of platform. Success from the platform perspective admits to itself that the self is not enough. The self is not great enough as a vision.
Presence speaks from the vision, within and around. The "How Can I?" is already there.