“This above all else: to thine own self be true.”— “Hamlet”
About 25 years ago, I pictured myself as a leader. All through my schooling, in a variety of roles both inside and outside the classroom, I pictured myself as a person who was going to be at the head of organizations someday.
Boy, was I kidding myself.
It turns out that that is not my best role.
I don’t like making decisions for other people, and leaders have to do that.
It turns out that my strengths lie in other areas. Analyzing, over-analyzing, presenting options — these are all things that are in my wheelhouse. Personnel decisions, giving orders — not so much.
Which is why, even while I was pursuing my delusions of leadership, somehow I gravitated to roles that would place me in an advisory position.
I was my class vice president; I was an associate newsletter editor; perhaps my favorite role ever was serving as an assistant baseball coach for my best friend.
And even today I’m a lot more comfortable seated at a keyboard working my thoughts out on paper than I am making snap decisions and choosing other peoples’ courses of action. It’s taken a long time to let go of the image I had in my head, so that I could just deal with my own reality as it is.
I bring this up because this week JeffCO Schools are sending thousands of young men and women out into the world as certified high school graduates. And among all the pieces of advice they’re going to receive (as we desperately try to get in one last lesson), the most important one that anybody can take to heart is “know yourself.”
And that’s not just me spouting off: when my buddy Jay and I were researching our book, that was the single, most important piece of advice we heard from dozens of our friends.
You, young graduate, with the entire world in front of you and myriad dreams to choose from, should start your journey to your Perfect Life in front of a mirror. How sad, how frustrating will your life be if the dream you pursue is of being a heart surgeon, but you find out later that the sight of blood makes you queasy? Or if your dream is to be a Navy SEAL, but you really hate the water?
You, young graduate, in spite of how we have treated you for the last twelve years of schooling, are a unique, special young person with unique talents and passions.
Don’t waste the gifts you’ve been given pursuing dreams that were meant for other people; figure out how you were made, what contribution you were intended to make, and then pursue that with everything you’ve got.
Because then it must follow, as the night the day, that the universe will conspire to make your dreams come true. Because when your purpose matches your gifts, a harmony is created that resonates throughout your life. And your dreams will present themselves to you as realistic probabilities.
That is how to start to build your perfect life. Good luck!
Michael Alcorn is a music teacher and fitness instructor who lives in Arvada with his wife and three children. He graduated from Alameda High School and the University of Colorado-Boulder.