Nouns limit us. 


Want to be a singer? Sing. 

Want to be an artist? Draw, paint, or sculpt.

Want to be an expert? Learn. And keep learning.

For years, I’ve wanted to be a writer. If only I had stuck with journalism–then I’d surely be an established sports columnist for The Times Herald Post by now. If only I had tried to publish the poems I used to write, people would know how creative I am. When I finally publish my book, maybe I’ll be invited to writer’s conferences and give TED talks.

If only. When. 

Then, I woke up with an idea, and I wrote it down. And then something happened: I became a writer.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about our human dependency on titles. We feel a constant need to label ourselves and others, and hang those labels on our identity like a pendant necklace. But I find the construct so limiting. 

Technically speaking, if I look at just my day today, I am a runner, a reader, a writer, a chef, a cyclist, a shopper, a project manager, a digital marketer, a speaker, a gamer, a student, and a teacher. And this doesn’t even get into other labels like friend, son, brother, and so on. So why should I focus on just one of these to encapsulate my value and place in this world?

It’s so liberating to remove these labels from our lives because we remove any sense of a gatekeeper from the picture. I don’t need anyone else’s validation to consider myself a writer–not a job title, a book deal, or anyone else’s approval–so long as I put words on a page day after day. How simple, and delightful.

I’ve long believed that the concept of experience in a work context is overrated. It’s often (perhaps, usually) those with the freshest set of eyes, or with completely outside perspective, that have the best ideas to spur innovation. In that sense, I don’t even think it makes sense to classify ourselves “as” our profession, and I think it’s also perfectly okay (and perhaps even to society’s net benefit) to focus on different kinds of work throughout a career. And I believe the same concept applies to anything we may pursue throughout our lives.

Nouns imply arrival, and I think that is a pretty terrible place to be. Because now what?

True happiness comes from being totally lost in what we are doing, in a state of flow, utterly oblivious to whatever end state may or may not come. Ironically, that state usually also produces our best outcomes, but who cares?

So call me whatever you want; I will focus my energy and concern on actually doing whatever it is I want to “be.”