Monday, April 12, 2010


At my last keynote in Portland, a student came up to me after the presentation and told me that she really enjoyed my speech. She said her favorite part was when I told the audience, "You are what you do," and that it meant a lot to her. I smiled politely and tried to keep the confused look off of my face, as I sadly didn't remember saying that.

Then last night, it hit me... I did say that! It was a spur of the moment kind of thing, but yes, I remember now! I hadn't written it or planned to say it, but it had just come out as I rambled on about the philosophy of personal choice. Guess I was on a roll or something.

The gist of it was this: 'You are what you do,' means that we become what we practice. If we sit around watching TV all day, we become a lazy couch potato, expert in American Idol standings but sadly lacking in practical and useful knowledge. If we lie on the sofa playing video games all day, we develop excellent reflexes and hand-eye coordination, but we fail to become people who contribute in any way to our friends, families, or modern society. If we spend all day studying... well, then we become studious, scholarly, smart. If we spend all day practicing catching footballs, we become better football players, and start to take on a more athletic attitude.

We control who we are by deciding what we do. What we do is what we become. Thus, the person we become, be they smart or dumb, successful or not, is completely within our control. But the vast majority of us fail to control it, and instead let our lives be guided by dumb luck and circumstance. None of us want to become lazy, and most of us would rather be skilled in something practical than in being able to recite Kenny Chesney lyrics, but that doesn't stop us from spending inordinate amounts of our spare time on things that don't really matter. Don't get me wrong - fun is fun. It's okay to spend time watching TV or playing video games or doing things that are solely for enjoyment (God knows I spend a lot of time that way...), but the question becomes, is that all you spend your time doing?

Because if so, that's all the person you'll ever be.

No comments:

Post a Comment