I like classic rock music. In fact, I like rock music in general and even though from time to time I listen to some Alice In Chains songs, I had never come by the one called Nutshell. It was The Daily Stoic newsletter which led me to it.
This song has a verse that captures the essence of the Stoic battle with a dreadful efficiency:
And yet I find
And yet I find
Repeating in my head
If I can’t be my own
I’d feel better dead
If you cannot be your own, you’d better be dead. Layne Staley the original lead vocalist of the group, who was actually singing these lines died because he couldn’t be his own. For a certain time, drugs had been owning his life and took it away.
Do you own your own life? Do you own your professional life? Can you own your professional life without owning your personal one? These are haunting questions if you descend down enough to the depths of your soul to seek for an answer. I think few own her own life.
Let’s just think about our professional life. What might we mean by being our own?
Does it mean that you don’t follow any orders, any tasks given by your boss? No, I don’t think it does. Let’s be practical. Many of us do need a job and having one also means that we have one boss - or eight actually. In order to “survive”, you have to take on certain tasks.
But accepting tasks must be your own decision. You shouldn’t be someone who takes just any task without any questions.
Being your own at a workplace doesn’t mean that you don’t take any orders or tasks from your boss. But it does mean that you don’t just take any.
If something goes against your principles, against your deeper values, you must stand up for them. Ask, and if necessary and seems possible, try to convince. But avoid arguments, they won’t move your case forward.
If you accept a task despite the fact that they go against what you believe in, fine. It might happen once in a while. But it cannot keep constantly happening. If you let tasks that you don’t agree with taking over all your job, you are not your own. There might be certain points in your career when you have to realise that you must step aside.
Let’s take an example. You are a programmer who cares about our craft. You always want to make things better. You want to write better code and spend less time on automatable tasks, such as builds and deliveries among others. But you don’t have the support for those one-time investments and you cannot just do it under the shadow. If you just accept it as is, you’re not your own. I don’t say that you’d feel better dead, but most probably you should look for another team where advantageous changes are welcome.
If you truly believe in something, you must follow. If you don’t, you live in disharmony with yourself and it can have horrible effects on your life, including your health.
Ask yourself the question and put the answer here if you dare: Are you your own? If not, what are you going to do about it?