I was driving by myself in my car the other day, listening to music piped from my iPod as usual. It’s set to shuffle so I always get a changing playlist. Suddenly a tune from David Byrne, an old favorite, came bursting into my consciousness. Now, for those of you too young to remember, David was the brilliant founding member of critically acclaimed “Talking Heads”. He is a pure artist known for his quirky sound, mind bending lyrics and collaborations with the likes of Twyla Tharp and Brian Eno. And, if you don’t know who they are, then I am afraid you missed a lot of the “New Age,” experimental sound and modern dance history.
Anyway, back to my story. So David in his classical style belts out the line: “I am just an advertisement for a version of myself”!
My head did not start hurting immediately, but I started to contemplate the meaning of this didactic. I had heard the song and these words before, but not really listened to and considered their meaning. I know that from birth till now, there were infinite versions of myself that could have emerged. Based on the way the cards were revealed, and how they were played, we got to a single existing version (me in the now). That is, unless you believe in parallel universes and alternate realities, in which case this whole experience would be moot. I thought a little about those alternative versions that could have emerged over the years. What would have happened had I gone to MIT instead of Indiana, had I taken the Goldman Sachs job in 1986 instead of McKinsey, and so on? Interesting infinite possibilities, but I had no regrets. The way the cards played out were good for me. I like this version of myself.
Starting from this point, with this version of myself, I see in front of me the infinity of possible versions of myself that could result. And it occurred to me that at the end of the day, the version that would exist would depend on how well I played the cards yet to be revealed. What version lies ahead? A great husband and father, a leader, a good mentor, a thinker, a change agent, a builder, a creator, a do-gooder? I hope all of the above could be captured in one version. And I realized Andy Andrews is right (he has written some great books and he makes a big deal about the choices we make). What I do the very next moment is profoundly part of playing the cards right because of its effect on which version will emerge.
Photographed by onkel_wart (Thomas Lieser)
What should I do next? I turned off the music, got out of the car and had a great presentation of our capabilities to a potential client. I know that this act does not sound so profound, but in the grand scheme of things, we are working on building a great sustainable business, and the card that came up right then and there was a client meeting. And, I played it with the best I had in that moment. Because I know that the best version of the future me will depend on me playing my best each step along the way. I figure I have always tried to give my interests my best shot, but a little reinforcement did not hurt. After all “If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing well”.
In writing this blog, I am taking advantage of another moment to raise a dialogue on choices we all make. Perhaps it will catch one of you at the right moment as you contemplate which version of yourself you want to create. Perhaps, like David says, you think you are an advertisement for a version of yourself. If you want to create a better version of yourself, then you can get there with better choices.
I am excited to see what version of myself, my family and my friends will play out. Should be exciting!