Enabling who you are

posted by Jeff | Thursday, August 23, 2018, 8:18 PM | comments: 0

I was listening to the most recent Hamilcast podcast in the car today, where the show's designer was the guest. He mentioned an instance where he was having dinner with the other principal Hamilton collaborators and thought about how they were all great people, and that their success just further enabled who they were from the beginning. In other words, people who suck will always suck, or kind people are always kind.

I have no doubt that this particular group of people are wonderful, and the public perception of them certainly suggests that they are the kind of people where "you could have a beer with him." (Hamilton fans will see what I did there.) Success most certainly enables you, too, in most every way. But I don't agree with the idea that you are what you are regardless. Environment and experience greatly shape who we are, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. Sure, fame has enabled and changed Lin-Manuel Miranda, but as far as we can tell, it has been mostly in positive ways. Our culture has countless examples where fame ruined people, and I don't think that's indicative of who they always were, or meant to be, or even who they potentially could be.

We all aspire to be certain things. Environment can enable or restrict us. The hard thing is trying to make the environment something that benefits us and others. This is still a country where the birth lottery still heavily influences our outcomes, and we can't control that. I wasn't born into wealth, but I was born white and that has worked to my advantage. I've found it relatively easy to change my surroundings to make life more like I want it, personally and professionally. It's how you choose where to live, the people you surround yourself with and the work you do. You must make your environment and not simply let it happen to you.

But enabling your ideal self is also influenced by experience. I think this is where we get into trouble. I've told the story before (I just told someone about it today, in fact), but when I was seeing a therapist after Steph and I split, he said that your first blueprint for relationships is your parents, and if yours are divorced, that's not a great example. Apply that to almost everything we learn... we only know what we know. I had to unlearn a lot of professional behavior after things I witnessed in college and then local government, because they were horrible examples of how to conduct yourself at work. I almost got fired for something I said at my first corporate job because of that. Being my best me was somewhat inhibited by poor experience. That's a lot harder to correct, because even if you want better experience, it's not always obvious when you don't have it.

Enabling your best self is hard. It seems like things are stacked against you. People still figure it out, and they definitely aren't predisposed to sucking.


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