How Good is Your Grammar?

The really good news is that this post is not about grammar, I promise. Not entirely. This post is about you and me and we and how we reinvent ourselves.

Reinvent ourselves? Why? Do we have to? 

Well, whether we like it or not, we are constantly reinventing ourselves. Sometimes subtly, sometimes dramatically. Our roles change often, from parent to husband to worker to boss to team player. And every time our roles change, we reinvent ourselves somewhat. How we act, how we interact with people, how we deal with issues depends, in great part, on the role we are playing. Subtle, but a reinvention nonetheless.

But sometimes, we reinvent ourselves dramatically. We change our careers, we change our path, we may change our partner, our environment and many times, even what we believe. And this reinvention is dramatic. Because this reinvention forces us to dance between our past and our future and it forces us to decide today just how inventive we will become. And inventive, we need to be, because as Adam Morgan and Mark Barden, authors of A Beautiful Constraint suggest, “if we are not leading in being that inventive, then we risk becoming an important part of the past, rather than a shaper of the future.”

Now in many ways, this is hard to grapple with. After all, we were probably pretty “important” people in our past but we do not want to remain just a memory. Remember, we are here to reinvent ourselves, to shape our future.

Reminiscent of that question, “what do I want to be when I grow up?” Never mind you may have grown up already, I know a lot of people that will ask this question on a frequent basis (OK, guilty as charged). After all, we have made a change, a dramatic change, one that requires reinvention into a different kind of future.

Except that we are asking the wrong question. And this is where the grammar comes in. When we ask ourselves the question “what do I want to be when I grow up?” our answer is invariably a noun. We say a painter, an accountant, a musician, a doctor, a writer, a plumber. And we identify as this person and this puts constraints around our ambitions and what we do. 

“Forget the noun and do the verb,” advises Austin Kleon in his upcoming book Keep Going. When we think verb, all of a sudden, we become someone who paints, someone who does accounts, someone who plays music, someone who helps people, someone who writes, someone who knows her way around sewerage systems. What you do next, who knows? You have removed that constraint from your ambition. The opportunities are in reality, endless. 

How liberating is that? Can you see the reinvention coming? I feel it!

“You do the stuff first, then you can worry about what it is, who you are…we aren’t nouns, we are verbs. Forget the nouns, do the verbs.” Wise words Austin.


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