Orienting You to You

Written by Scott Schimmel

There are a few movies that I will stop and watch no matter how many times I’ve seen them or what else I’m supposed to be doing, like Goonies, Rocky II, Billy Madison, any Indiana Jones movie, or Catch Me If You Can with Leonardo DiCaprio. There’s something about Frank Abegnale, the main character that grabs me every time I watch it. Before his 19th birthday, he pretends to be a pilot, a doctor, and a lawyer—and almost gets away with it. Wherever he goes, and whomever he’s with, he expertly adopts a persona and convinces everyone that he is who he’s pretending to be.

Frank and Me
I keep being drawn to the film because I find myself a lot like Frank Abegnale. I can’t remember a time growing up when I wasn’t pretending to be like someone else. I wasn’t a conartist, but I was an expert at convincing people that I was who (I thought) they wanted me to be. Depending on who I wanted approval from, I was attentive, or funny, or sincere, or well-behaved. Sometimes I acted interested and other times I was aloof. I watched and studied other people, learned what gained approval or disapproval, and regularly did only what came unnaturally to myself.

The Glitch
The first time my charade malfunctioned happened on the same day I was chosen to be the “Citizen of the Year” by my teachers in sixth grade. A couple hours after the award was announced over the loudspeaker to the entire school, I was busted for organizing an underground ring of expertly planned Spin-the-Bottle games during recess. I got suspended and had to shut down what was the epitome of a Zack Morris Saved-by-the-Bell exploit. Fortunately, it was too late to revoke the award, but I remember thinking to myself how strange it was that I could perfectly pull off the sneakiest feat on campus in years, while simultaneously convincing my teachers that I was the best behaved kid in school. I could try to be all things to all people, but it became more and more difficult.

If you’ve seen the movie or read the book, you know that Abegnale has the same problem I had. At some point, everyone gets busted for pretending to be someone that they’re not. It just doesn’t work for very long.

It doesn’t work to pretend to be someone you’re not, but what’s the alternative? What does it look like to be the real, authentic YOU? Especially when you’re not entirely sure who the real YOU really is? You’ve got to get to know yourself.

No Shortcuts
Unfortunately, most people never do and never grow up to become self-aware. There are no shortcuts in getting to know yourself and discovering who you’re supposed to be, and it’s not easy. In a lot of ways, getting to know yourself can be the most difficult pursuit you ever go on. As a student at San Diego State University said to me recently, “I can’t tell you how many times people have drilled into me that I have to figure out who I am, and that I need to know my purpose. Everyone tells me to figure it out, but no one tells me HOW to do it!” Even people who want to figure themselves out often get lost figuring out how.

That’s one of the reasons why our YouSchool team (www.theyouschool.com) spent nearly all of 2012 trying to crack that code of self-discovery and put together a process to help REAL people discover their REAL selves. We think everyone deserves the opportunity to go on that journey to live their best lives. We tried to capture a common sense process, with sequenced steps, questions, and conversations that unique people need to go through to gain clarity and conviction about who they are and who they’re meant to be. Here’s a little bit of what we’ve found:

The Uncommon Sense Principles to Discovering the Real YOU

You have a story—even siblings raised in the same home with exactly the same circumstances walk away with different stories. Nobody else has walked in your shoes and experienced life the way you have. Your story has absolutely, critically shaped who you are, how you think, and what you choose to do. Spending time remembering, reflecting and telling your story can be healing and inspiring.

You have villains opposing you—there are certain voices, people, challenges, wounds, or roadblocks that are standing in your way and will stand in your way. Pretending like they’re not there or being naive to them isn’t an option. You need to face, fight, heal, redeem, or work around them in order to become the best YOU.

You hear echoes of a hero inside—we all have had triumphant moments that point towards who we could be at our absolute best. Everyone has a unique set of talents and abilities that need to be discovered, developed, and unleashed. Everybody has a hero inside of them waiting to be called upon.

Your environment is powerful—our parents worry about who we latch onto as friends because they know instinctively that who we spend time with shapes what we do and value more than anything else. Becoming reflective about the environment you live in—how it shapes you, limits you, or empowers you is a necessary step in building a great life. Learning how to influence and change your environment is a skill that only a few discover.

You’re in charge—don’t wait for someone to find you, pick you, recruit you, or create the perfect job for you. Don’t pass off responsibility for your development or your health onto someone else. It’s your life. Don’t let anybody else write your story.

Quite frankly, if you haven’t been living out of an authentic place then you’ve been wasting time. Life is too short to act like someone else or live the life that other people want you to live and at some point it all catches up with you. Figure it out before the stakes get too high. Now is the time to be introduced to who you really are and say yes to the journey of self-discovery. It’s perhaps a long and difficult journey and you’ll be tempted to settle. As Carl Hanratty, the FBI agent in charge of Frank Abegnale’s conviction said, “Sometimes it’s easier living the lie.” But don’t take the easy routes because the world desperately needs you to be you.

Scott Schimmel is the President and Chief Guide of The YouSchool. He’s insanely focused on helping young people reach their potential. Connect with him:www.theyouschool.com and Twitter: @schimmelscott