“You cannot control how people are going to respond to you and your work in the world. Surrendering the outcomes does not mean that we don't care or we aren't emotionally involved or we are indifferent to the results. We want to connect with people and move them and inspire them - and we want more kids to learn to read. Surrendering the outcomes is making peace with our lack of control over how people respond to us and our work. Surrendering the outcomes is coming to terms with the freedom people have to react to us and our work however they want.” - Rob Bell, How to Be Here: A Guide to Creating a Life Worth Living
As I hung out in the airport on Sunday, waiting on my return flight home, a friend messaged me to tease out a thought that’s been occupying her mind which is how people perceive us. I don’t think I’ve ever really written about how people perceive me - - mainly, because the last time I truly cared about that deeply was back in 2008 when my starter marriage was slowly spiraling to an end which narrowly preceded my public coming out. If you ever want to know who your true friends are, I recommend one or both of those activities. To tell you I didn’t care what people thought or that it didn’t bother me when I was publicly snubbed would be a lie. That shit hurts and it’s personal so you take it personal. When it stopped hurting me, I was pissed off. Not 25 years worth of pissed off but I definitely let people live rent free in my head for way too long. Now? I don’t do that. People don’t deserve to squat in the sketchy neighborhood of my head. Hell – I don’t even go in there alone much. The only exception to this is if you sign my paycheck, then you’re entitled to an opinion (feedback) and if I don’t really like you or the feedback then I should find someone else to sign my paycheck.
My friend went on to point out, “…you choose to show people what you choose, which may not always be who you are. Like people at work…they have noooo clue about me. But I choose to keep it that way.” My friend… she’s a wise one. And now, here I am, three days later still thinking about what she said. I agree and I also think that even when you do choose to reveal more to people, their own beliefs will influence what they believe to be true of you. And, if you care, you could go mad. Another friend, who’s older and wiser that my other friend and I, used to tell me, “It’s none of your business what other people think of you.” Even if you choose not to reveal anything about yourself, people will form their own opinions. At my high school reunion, a classmate showed up wearing a nametag that not only identified who he was but also pointed out “not dead yet” - - in response to a conclusion that had been erroneously reached by fellow classmates. Talk about reaching an opinion without information (oops, sorry man, we’re glad you’re very much alive and well. Thanks for showing up and setting us straight).
I understand why people care what others think. I do. Rejection is a bummer. I recently listened to the book, How to Be Here: A Guide to Creating a Life Worth Living, by Rob Bell. In this book, Bell describes how actor Mark Ruffalo was rejected 600 times before he was cast. SIX. HUNDRED. TIMES. And yet, he kept at it. Clearly, Ruffalo is resilient AF so I think we can learn something from him. If people reject you? Then those people are not your people.
At the reunion, I was reconnecting with someone and asked them what they did for work and they replied with an impressive occupation, adding, “…I’m not really passionate about it. I’d like to find something else… a different career.” I hear ya, pal. Rob Bell wrote that the Japanese have a word for what gets you out of bed in the morning: they call it your ikigai. This may be referred to as your calling, your vocation, your destiny, your path. Your ikigai is your reason for being. Bell adds that your ikigai is a work in progress, just as each of us are as individuals. Bell admits that trying new things to figure out our ikigai is a heck of a lot easier when we’re you’re younger and have less financial pressure (and, quite possibly fewer other depending on you). But the good news is that this is true no matter how old you are. Bell writes, “You explore the possibilities because you can’t steer a parked car.”
May you never stop striving to figure your ikigai out. It's a crucial component to crafting a life worth living. Just as critical as finding your tribe.