In business, specialising is important. If a company that produces molded plastics is approached to begin producing protein bars, they will likely turn that request away.
They will have trouble producing the protein bars for a competitive price, and if they do somehow get the contract there’s a high chance the customer will be disappointed since they don’t have the years of expertise to make sure the product is of high quality.
Dell will never sell a laptop running OS X, just as Apple will never sell me a phone running Android.
It’s unlikely that either will ever end up supplying airlines with meals. It’s just not what they are good at.
Businesses understand this. But most individuals I know struggle with it.
Interestingly enough – many entrepreneurs I know struggle with it! They all specialise in business, but in life they’re constantly trying to please everyone.
Parents. Partners. Friends. Grandparents. In-laws. Colleagues. Teachers. Cousins. Customers. Siblings. Business partners. Children. Investors. Mentors. Other community members… and more.
…we have a lot of relationships in life.
The trap I see most people falling into is pretending to be someone they aren’t in an effort to keep these people happy.
Maybe you tell your parents that you are going to study Medicine at university while you resent them for it, and yearn to be a professional athlete instead.
Or maybe you continue to drink alcohol when you go out with friends, since your social circle doesn’t like people who don’t drink.
Many digital nomads, expats and location independent entrepreneurs I’ve met are still trying to convince their friends and family that they are happy living abroad, being self employed, or often choosing to have no home base at all.
A lot of them return from their exciting life abroad because the guilt trip from their family and home town eventually drags them back.
In each of these situations, they’re still trying to maintain their old image to keep their long established relationships alive. They are wearing masks – pretending to be someone who they no longer are, but have difficulty sharing their new self with those around them.
I experienced this myself from around 2010 onwards. My life changed a lot in that time, including:
- deciding to quit my well-paying, secure job (100% against my parents’ wishes),
- choosing to live abroad with my wife (against my parents’ and my in-laws’ wishes),
- seriously reducing my alcohol intake (out of step with some of my family and many of my friends at the time),
- transitioning to a plant based diet (this was like changing religion, friends of friends’ parents and other people I barely knew were outspoken against the choices I made for my self – 100% perplexing!)
During most of these changes I felt I had to convince the other party of my choices, probably to get their approval.
Then I stopped. I’m a good person, trying to do what everyone else is in life – have fun and be happy. Why be ashamed of that?
After making this choice, I had no secrets, didn’t need to “win you over”, and I certainly didn’t need to sugar coat things in order to impress others.
That didn’t mean I had an excuse to be rude to others… Being honest should be about integrity, not inflicting pain on others.
What I have found is, by knowing who I am and being honest and open about it has pushed a few people away, but they were incompatible with my new life.
More importantly though, it’s helped me to develop closer, more honest relationships with most of those around me, and has attracted some very interesting, high value people into my life.
These people never would have found me if I was still pretending to be the old Jase.
But this isn’t about me. It’s about you.
It’s important to be honest with yourself first. If you aren’t happy, you can’t make anyone else happy.
If it takes lying to your girlfriend to keep her happy, something is wrong. If you need to hide your side-business project from your circle of friends, you probably need new friends. If you optimistically tell your colleagues about your new year’s plans to get into shape and they don’t encourage you, it might be time to leave that toxic work environment.
By being clear on who you really are, then unapolagetically sharing this with the world, you’ll lose a few old, expired relationships. But you will gain many more in return.
You’ll be amazed how many people will “get it” and you will inspire them to do something similar. Your older family members may take a little time to get used to it and never “understand it”, but they’ll probably support you anyway.
Most importantly though, the new connections you make will help to open your eyes to a whole world that you previously couldn’t see – or that you looked at in a different way.
“Having a strong perspective that is highly personal can get you a lot of flack, particularly with people on traditional paths.
If you know who you are, it’s very possible that you can find something that fits your thesis.
What you are looking for in this world probably exists… it just might take some time to find it.”
Dan Andrews, Tropical MBA
Know who you are, what is good for you and what you want, and be open to others about it.
If those around you aren’t supportive or at least accepting of your life, it is their problem, not yours.