There are many books and techniques available on self-awareness. They may help you advance through the process but for me, the breakthrough came as I was pondering a couple of simple questions.
Did you ever ask yourself why you work?
For the majority of people, money is the main motivation. Yet, you will have observed that everybody works pretty much all day long and some people earn $10 an hour while others make $500 or more an hour. Why is that?
Is the difference due to an intrinsic, genetic quality that cannot be overcome? Are all the people making more money truly more intelligent or playing in a closed system that only favors them? Or is it due to something more mundane that can be acquired or copied? In that case, wouldn’t it be worth trying to acquire or copy it? Why would you keep working the way you do and earn less money?
Is it that you cannot imagine yourself or do not feel capable of doing anything else, or that you are not willing to learn or try new things? Or is it that you have another priority besides money? People often have secondary objectives like recognition, self-fulfillment, power, and independence, is this your case?
For me, the answer was clear. I was working to pay the bills, ensure a comfortable lifestyle for my family, and reach an independence that allowed me to live many experiences. I was after money just to buy me the free time to do whatever I wanted with minimal obligations and responsibilities. Fame, power, social status, and saving the world were not major motivations. In fact, I do not particularly enjoy working.
Did you ever ask yourself why you work the way you do? How did you end up there? Was it the result of thoughtful planning or by accident? We all have these preconceived notions that guide us and limit our outlook. They come from our upbringing, experiences, social interactions, or external constraints, and affect all areas of our thinking and behavior like religion, education, work, social order, etc… I am not saying they are necessarily wrong, but our inability to critically examine them may lead us to an incongruent and frustrating life, just by default.
Looking at the people who are making money, there are essentially two paths with decent levels of probability to making good money: the corporate executive path or the entrepreneurial path.
The corporate path is usually well understood. Its advantages are its apparent stability and financial comfort. Its main disadvantage is that it is a long process that provides limited free time and control over your destiny. It essentially takes 40 years of stress with the likely outcome of being pushed out of the system when you may not be fully ready, but it permits a reasonable accumulation of wealth and potential residual revenues through retirement.
The entrepreneurial path means many things to many people, from a local shop to creating a breakthrough startup. The goal of some ventures is merely to provide a salary to their founder while, for others, scale, exit, and large monetary gains are the objectives. The main differences are ambition and the business model chosen. The entrepreneurial path is perceived as riskier but can offer more opportunities in terms of money and control of your life than the corporate path.
So why was I working the way I did? Obviously, if my goals were money and free time, choosing a corporate job was not a wise decision. It certainly could provide me with the money, but certainly not much free time for another 25 years.
I tried to understand what led me to my current situation and realized that, despite appearances, I had been a risk-averse conformist.
I had taken too many decisions for granted without properly questioning them. For example, I studied in a top French engineering school, not because I loved science, but because 40 years ago when you had strong mathematics skills, that was the obvious path. And in the company I worked for, I was moved around the globe sometimes in harsh assignments (USSR in 1990 for example) essentially following the priorities of my employer. I am not complaining about it. Nobody forced me to go and it served me well within the organization. But were my interests fully aligned with these moves? I am not sure I could have answered that question at the time. That says a lot about the difference between maturity, self-awareness, and intelligence, and how educational paradigms and social pressure may limit your thinking.
This is where you see that I am not so bright: it took me almost 20 years to take a real dive on how to mold my life… or to be a little softer about myself: after 20 years of introspection, I finally reached a point of awakening.
Coming back to the year 2000, I should add that I was not born an entrepreneur. My father was a corporate executive. I was a corporate executive. All my friends were corporate executives. My aspiration had always been to climb the corporate ladder. Of course, I had opened and managed companies in new markets for the benefit of my employer, but it never occurred to me to become an entrepreneur. Yet the entrepreneurial path was the only path I saw as the solution to my predicament.
TRAVEL UPDATE - STAGE 2
Distance: 14.3 km
Cumulative Elevation: 431 m
Time: 4.5 hours