You Are Not Your LinkedIn Profile

It has been a challenging start to the year.   A lot of left over loose ends from the mad rush that 2013 turned out to make themselves known to start 2014.  A lot of which, on their own, are just part of life. But condensed into the sprint that took place felt a little like running through a row of paddles as part of some initiation. Life kicked the life out of me, I felt like I was the all singing, all dancing crap of the world. Annie asked me, "How can I help you avoid the tailspin?" A very fair question from someone who my peaks and valleys directly and viscerally affects.  A question that I have asked myself on more than one occasion recently. At the pace I am going right now, I will finish my current moleskin notebook in half the time of my last one, ideas were captured and the long looks into the mirror exposed. It was a little like insomnia, you're need really asleep and you're never really awake.

I realized over the past few years, that I have defined myself by my work. "Who is Andy?" was a question answer using the names of companies. "Who is Andy?" was answered with "not sure, think he's different now" if someone hadn't seen my latest update. "Who is Andy?" didn't have an answer that I was comfortable with outside of the version of Andy that I could fit into 140 characters.  If you posted something different for each social network, were you a different person?

And as I continued to allow myself to define myself by what I was doing, I allowed my mental status to be defined by something external to me. If what I was doing wasn't doing well, then I wasn't doing well.  If a project I was involved with was floundering, so was I. If a big pitched ended up as a failure, I claimed that status for myself.  That stuff was my life.

But as the question of "Who is Andy?" began being asked less and less as more and more of what I was doing began to change.  Projects I'd been involved with wrapped up or moved on.  Pitches I'd been really proud of didn't pan out and the void left wasn't immediately filled with something else.  And I just let that space exist and leaned into its awkwardness. When friends asked if I had time to catch up, I did and we did and nothing about the laughs we shared was not contingent on what I was doing.  I wasn't my LinkedIn  profile.

And so now, clearly in the midst of more change, I am finding clarity in the question of "Who is Andy?" Not in what I am doing, but in who I am in the eyes of the people around me that matter the most and in the slow moments where I am not a human doing, but a human being.  But as those previous edifices fall and a new kind of freedom is uncovered, it is fair to say I couldn't have powered through this with out my friends and family, even if recently they met me at a very strange time in my life.

My One Speed

My bike only has one speed. Whether going down hill or making a climb, I don't have another gear to shift into. Me and my bike are a lot alike. I mentioned in my last post that I ride pretty aggressively in NYC. I wear a helmet and my training as a professional bus driver in college comes in handy as I zip through the winding streets of the West Village and the yellow cab dominated streets of Midtown. But now matter the neighborhood or terrain, I only have one speed.

Only having one speed is an incredible way to feel ever turn and know exactly what it is going to take to make it through an intersection or climb up a hill. Only having one speed means selling out to the effort you know it is going to require to grind through the backside of Harlem Hill in Central Park. With just one speed, there is no confusion about how to approach any kind of terrain, you just approach it like you do everything else and don't stop pedaling until you're on to the next one.

Yes, having one speed does mean your uphills feel higher and your downhills feel lower, but, knowing what you have and leaning into it makes the ride that much more personal.

Your Pursuit

When I worked for Marquis Jet, I had the privilege of interacting with some incredibly wealthy people. (And when I say interacting with, I mean cold calling them until their secretaries finally put me on their calendar and I could woo them with the charm of my pocket square) But in that close proximity to the 1%, my definition of wealth changed. Previously it had been something to the effect of "someone with a lot of money" but this new understand of wealth was most clearly articulated by my boss, John Daut, "Wealth is defined by having more options." Growing up in middle class America, my life wasn't too hard. I didn't live on the wrong side of the tracks or have to get a job when I was 12 to support my family. But I also had to learn the value of a dollar saved in order to buy something that I wanted down the road. I started saving to buy a truck when I was 14 years old. Two months after my 16th birthday I finally found the truck of my dreams and handed all the money I had in the world over to get it. That 1985 Chevy Silverado was and still is my favorite vehicle I've ever owned.

But, looking back on it, the process of hunting for that truck that I first learned about the freedom that comes from wealth. The scope of my search, or the options that I had in making that purchase, were limited by the money that I'd managed to save for those two years prior. In the same way, when thinking about life after high school, the number of colleges that I got into was another variation of wealth. The more options I had, the better the choice that I could make. Again in job offers after college and career moves since then. The more options you have, the more wealth, not just money, you have accumulated.

I was asked recently if I could define "hustle." (And no I didn't just tell them to Google "Andy Ellwood") And while there are a lot of variations of how I've heard hustle thought about for various situations, the short answer I went with was this:

Consistently taking action toward an ultimate goal or objective. 

For me, I hustle for options. The more I hustle now, the more options I will have in the future. The more options I have in the future, the more freedom I will have to spend time with people I respect creating things that I'm passionate about. It isn't about hustling for hustling's sake. It is about knowing why you hustle and taking advantage of the options you create along the way.

So, on this 4th of July, here's to your life, your liberty, and your pursuit of happiness.