I created The 7 Systems of Influence to help people achieve their biggest, wildest dreams, but I ran into a problem along the way–the people I worked with weren’t dreaming BIG enough.
Then I ran into an even bigger problem–I wasn’t dreaming big enough.
I don’t mean my clients and I should have been putting “billions” wherever we said “millions” or that we should have talked about selling more books, speaking to larger audiences, or attracting more followers on social media.
That’s the superficial stuff, it doesn’t matter nearly as much as you think it does.
While there’s truth in this quote:
What’s measured improves. – Peter Drucker
…don’t forget this one:
When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure. – Charles Goodhart
That second quote, known as Goodhart’s Law, might remind readers of The Four Hour Work Week about what its author, Tim Ferriss, wrote:
People don’t want to be millionaires—they want to experience what they believe only millions can buy.
When you’re playing to win big in the game of life, it’s not just about the numbers.
What is big?
Yes, big is asking yourself:
- If I’m going to build a $10M business, why not a $2B business?
- If I’m going to try and get 20,000 connections/followers on LinkedIn, why not 200,000?
- If I’m going to sell 10,000 copies of my book, why not 100,000?
But it’s also asking:
- If I’m going to be in a relationship, why not a happy relationship?
- If I’m going to be a wife or husband, why not an exceptional wife or husband?
- If I’m going to live a life, why not an amazing life?
Which set of questions represents bigger dreams?
How do we dream big?
Big dreams begin with your identity. Your identity is the answer to two questions:
- Who am I?
- Who do I want to be?
The problem is too many of us, perhaps all of us, have a limited perspective of who we are which limits who we believe we can become.
Imagine you’re a tree.
What resolutions would you make for the new year?
Grow a little taller, put on some new leaves in the spring, branch out, spread some seeds around…you probably wouldn’t be thinking about how you’re going to change the world, or even change your world.
Our identity, both real and perceived, shapes our destiny.
The trick is to correctly perceive our true identity, as well as the true potential of who we can become.
Booker T. Washington was born into slavery and grew up in the southern United States during a period of racism and discrimination too extreme for us to truly appreciate. When Booker asked the world “Who am I?” the world told him “You are a slave.” When slavery ended and Booker asked the world “Who am I?” the world told him “You are a member of an inferior race.”
But that’s not how Booker saw himself.
In his book Up From Slavery, Booker details how he worked hard to learn how to read, attend school, and graduate from college. Booker became a successful educator, author, public speaker, and advisor to multiple presidents of the United States.
It would have been the easiest thing in the world for Booker to tell himself “I’m just a slave,” or “I’m just a dumb, black kid who will never amount to anything,” but instead he looked at the most educated around him and asked “If they can do it, why can’t I?”
In 1999, I asked myself that same question.
At that time I worked part time in Provo, Utah for MyComputer.com, a startup where I had a job earning $13/hr as a web designer. The founders, John Pestana and Josh James, had recently dropped out of Brigham Young University, the same school I was attending. They were only a year or two older than I was, and as I watched them flying around the country doing deals with big companies and raising millions from venture capitalists I thought “If they can do it, why can’t I?”
The more I thought about what John and Josh were doing, the more I saw myself as an entrepreneur rather than an employee. As that entrepreneurial identity took hold, I was no longer satisfied with my job, and eventually it drove me crazy to work there. I knew I could do more, and I wanted to do more. My perceived identity changed my dreams, and I only lasted five months in that job as a web designer before I started my own company.
But let’s dig even deeper.
In my faith, we believe all of us–the entire human race–are literally children of God. We believe we are the same species, that this life is a small part of our larger life experience, and that when we “grow up” we will become like God.
However, simply knowing this is my identity isn’t enough. I find it difficult to believe the only difference between Hitler and me is that one of us didn’t know he was a son of God and the other did. I know I’m a son of God, but it’s the desire to progress, to maximize my potential within that identity, that moves me to action.
I can’t say I’m anywhere close to perfect at it, but each day I strive to live in harmony with my identity as a son of God. Every decision I make is framed by the question “Will this help me fulfill my eternal destiny to become like God?” In 1997 when a friend asked me “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?” I told him I wanted to be the CEO of a large corporation. Not because I wanted to make a lot of money or be famous, but because, as I saw it, the role of a CEO is leadership and management, and that sounded a lot like what God does.
A powerful identity leads to big dreams, and big dreams lead to big results.
But how do you find a powerful identity?
Note: My beliefs give me an identity that can’t be any more powerful than it is and leads to the biggest dreams possible, but I recognize not everyone believes as I do, so I’ve created steps to help you find your most powerful self that will lead you to your biggest dreams, regardless of your beliefs about what reality is and how the universe works.
6 Steps to Find Your True Self
No project is more valuable than to find your true self. Once you do, you wake up to who you really are and realize all your other “selves” (social, private, subconscious) are just mental constructs. – Deepak Chopra
In this exercise we will use mental constructs as tools to reveal your true self, but we don’t want to mistake the mental constructs for your true self. If you’re a web programmer that choice of profession might say something about your true self, but it is not your true self.
As you go through the steps below, focus both on who you are right now and who you want to be. One of the gifts we possess as humans is the ability to step outside ourselves and use a measure of objectivity to examine who we are and decide to be a new person.
I experienced this when I was 12 years old.
At that time I played the trumpet and my parents were paying for me to take private lessons, which required an hour of practice each day.
My parents felt their money was wasted if I did not practice as my teacher asked me to, but I did not enjoy playing the trumpet, and I especially did not enjoy practicing.
One day a friend invited me to hang out at his house after school and my parents gave me permission, if I promised to come home and practice trumpet first.
I agreed, but when the day came I skipped practice and went directly to my friend’s house instead.
Could I get away with it? It didn’t occur to me to doubt it, because both my parents worked and nobody was home to know whether I practiced or not.
I was having a good time at my friend’s house for an hour or two when his mother came and told me that my father was on the phone and wanted to speak to me.
“Hi Josh, are you having a good time?” he asked.
“Did you do your trumpet practice?”
“Yeah, I did.”
There was a pause, then my dad spoke again.
“I came home early from work today, I’ve been here all afternoon.”
My heart froze–I had been caught in the middle of a Big Lie, and there was no excuse, no way out.
I can’t remember how the rest of that conversation went, except that the result was I had to go home, and that the walk home was a very long one.
When I walked up our driveway my dad was waiting in the doorway.
He wasn’t angry.
He didn’t yell at me or threaten me.
He calmly said “Josh, I’m disappointed in you.”
Hearing those words made me long for the days when fathers took lying sons out behind the woodpile and whipped them. That would have been easier to take.
My dad told me he was disappointed he couldn’t trust me, and that when I was ready to be trusted again, I could come and tell him.
It took me three weeks of soul searching.
During those weeks, I stepped outside myself and looked at who I was and saw someone I didn’t recognize. I knew I wasn’t a liar, and yet I had been caught lying. As a result of that experience, I chose to change my outward behavior to match my true self, to be someone who could be trusted to do what he said he was going to do.
That’s why integrity is one of my personal core values–without it, I wouldn’t be me.
Let’s discover who the real “you” is.
Step 1: Define Your Core Values
To find your true self, find what you value. Which character traits are most important to you in yourself? In others?
- Growth mindset
This is only a partial list. Brainstorm a longer one, then:
a. Identify which 10 traits are most important to find in yourself
b. Identify which 10 traits you value most in others.
c. Eliminate any traits not found in both lists.
d. Narrow the list down to the five traits you find most important. These are your core values.
e. Create a document that says “I am” at the top, then list your top core values. This is your Core Values Statement. Print it out, and put it somewhere you will see it every day. Here’s what mine looks like:
There’s a lot behind each of these. You may find it helpful to write down what your core values mean to you. For example, when I say “growing” that means, among other things, that I am positive, have a growth mindset, dream big, and help others to grow.
Step 2: Identify Your Core Roles
The second step to discover your true self is to know your roles, those you already fill, and those you want to take on.
The dictionary says a role is:
…a set of connected behaviors, rights, obligations, beliefs, and norms as conceptualized by people in a social situation. It is an expected or free or continuously changing behavior and may have a given individual social status or social position.
Or to put it in simpler terms, it’s something you say you are based on what you have done, are doing, and/or will do.
Before we discuss roles any further, consider your biology. You are not your body, but that doesn’t mean your body is irrelevant. You may see your current body as a temporary, physical manifestation of or house for your eternal spirit, or as the result of millions of years of evolution. Either way, what’s undeniable is that your body, like all other physical life, was designed to protect itself from harm long enough to perpetuate the species. While individual circumstances and choices may affect naturally occurring roles such as child, sibling, parent, and spouse, any serious discussion of roles can’t afford to ignore them.
However, there are many other important roles to consider as well, which you could also say are “naturally occurring,” including:
Finally, there are those roles that take a bit more conscious effort or choice, like:
- Programmer (or other job title or professional role)
- Sneakerhead (or other hobby/interest)
- Triathlete (or other athletic pursuit)
- Dog owner
Go ahead and build your own list, and get detailed. If you have 50 roles on your list that’s just fine, you can’t have too many. Once you have your list, then:
a. Trim it to no more than five roles that are most important to you.
b. Prioritize your list. No, you cannot say any role is just as important as another. You must choose a #1 role, a #2 role, #3 role, etc.
c. Create a document with “Who am I?” at the top, then list your top roles in order. These is your Core Roles Statement. Print it out, and put it somewhere you will see it every day. Here’s what mine looks like:
Yep, I broke my own rule and included six roles instead of five. Try for five, but include more if you feel they absolutely must be part of your Core Roles.
As with your Core Values, there may be a lot of context behind each of your roles, and roles that are important to you may be absorbed by more all-encompassing roles. I could have put “entrepreneur” on this list, but why do I choose to be an entrepreneur? Partly because I love entrepreneurship, but also because it helps me fulfill my role as a son of God, or I feel it’s something God wants me to do. I could have put “runner,” on this list, but why do I run? Partly because I love to, but also because I believe God wants me to take care of my body, and because good health helps me in my other roles, like setting a good example for my children.
When you combine your Core Roles with your Core Values you get your Core Identity.
Your Core Identity is everything, which is why it’s such a focus of the stories we tell. You see it at the end of the movie Saving Private Ryan when the title character, now an old man visiting a military cemetery, pleadingly says to his wife “Tell me I’m a good man.” “Man,” is the role. “Good,” is the value.
You read about it in the first Harry Potter book as Harry discovers at age 11 that he’s a wizard, a role he couldn’t have imagined, and then spends the rest of the series finding out that he’s not just any wizard, but the only wizard who can save the world. Along the way, he learns something about the values he holds, and once he is comfortable with his Core Identity, he is able to defeat his arch-nemesis.
These stories are fiction, but knowing and living your Core Identity will give you real power.
Step 3: Reality Check
How well do you live up to your Core Identity?
Create a matrix like the one below and fill in your Core Values down the left, and your Core Roles across the top. Or do this the easy way, and download my Core Identity worksheet.
Next, score yourself on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the best–how well are you living each value, for each role?
For example, if one of your roles is “father” and one of your values is “loving,” you might score your performance in this area somewhere between a 6 and an 8 if you feel like you’re doing pretty well, but you know there’s room for improvement.
Pro tip: After you’ve done a self-evaluation, enroll someone who knows you well, and whom you trust to be frank with you, to score you, without first seeing how you scored yourself. Then discuss the discrepancies and similarities between your two sets of scores with them.
Step 4: Act
To align your life with your Core Identity, make a plan and execute it.
Create a list like the one below (or again, download the worksheet to make this easy). Write each of your five top roles, five times . Then write each value, once per role, until you have 25 Core Role + Core Value combinations. Finally, write down one action you can take to improve the score you gave yourself above. Pro tip: You’re more likely to implement your plan if your actions are simple.
Step 5: Memorize Your Core Identity
My Core Values and Core Roles are printed out and stuck to a magnet board in my office where I can see them from my desk where I sit for several hours every day. You might do the same, or perhaps you can create a graphic for the home screen of your phone. Do what works for you, but make sure you see them every single day.
Include reading them as part of a morning ritual. Try saying them out loud. Work to memorize them so they become ingrained. The real goal isn’t only to have them in front of your eyes, but in your mind and heart.
Step 6: Analyze & Refine
If you leave this step out, you’re missing at least half the value of this exercise.
Make an appointment to revisit this worksheet one month from now. Create the appointment right now, in your calendar software or whatever you use to schedule events. Pro tip: You may want to print out a second copy of this worksheet right now so you don’t have to search for the file when you go to do your check up in a month.
There’s no guesswork here, there’s no maybe.
Follow these steps and you will find your Core Identity. As you take action, including reviewing this worksheet monthly (or as often as works best for you), your Core Identity will solidify and become powerful. It will provide you with a strong sense of who you are, who you want to be, and clarity to make the right choices as you encounter obstacles and opportunities.
How does this fit in with The 7 Systems of Influence?
As a reminder, the 7 Systems are:
System 1: Vision. What’s your big dream?
System 2: Genius Zone. What overlap of knowledge, experience, and skills makes you uniquely well suited to turn your dream into reality?
System 3: Audience. Who’s the ideal person to influence? What do you want them to do?
System 4: Content. What content will trigger your audience to do what you want them to do?
System 5: Action. What’s the fastest, cheapest, easiest way to deliver your content?
System 6: Collaboration. How can you work with others to 1000x your impact?
System 7: Love. Passion, empathy, and good will.
You might think finding your Core Identity fits in System 2: Genius Zone, but it’s actually the first part of System 1: Vision. That’s because who you are, and who you want to become, are where your dreams, goals, and vision come from.
Extra Credit: Develop Affirmations
Positive affirmations help reinforce existing positive behavior, eliminate negative behavior, and assist us to develop new positive behaviors.
See if what you are saying makes you feel stronger, physically, or weaker. If it makes you feel weaker, stop saying it. Try to reformulate your speech until you can feel the ground under your feet solidifying. Then practice only saying things that make you strong. – Jordan Peterson
When I got caught lying about my trumpet practice, I made the choice to forever change my behavior because something inside me said “You’re not a liar, you’re an honest person.” To lie was to betray my true self, and it made me uncomfortable. I could have chosen to ignore that voice inside and ignore the discomfort of living in a state of self-betrayal. I could have covered up the discomfort with rationalization, by keeping busy, or by numbing my mind with alcohol and drugs. Instead, I chose to align my behavior with my true self. Ever since then, when faced with circumstances where I could be dishonest to gain temporary advantage that voice inside has said “You’re an honest person,” and helped me make the right decision.
By creating my Core Values and Core Roles, I have clarity when faced with important as well as everyday choices. You may find it helpful to take things one step further and create positive affirmations. To create your positive affirmations:
a. Combine your Core Values with your Core Roles, like this:
- I am a humble leader.
- I am an honest leader.
- I am an empathic leader.
b. You may find it helpful to combine a list of affirmations like this into a single affirmation. For example, if you are a husband perhaps you want to be respectful, honest, vulnerable, present, supportive, grateful, positive, patient, and kind, amongst other things. You might sum that up in a single affirmation as “I am an exceptional husband.” That may sound vague to someone else, but you will know what it means, and that’s what matters.
You may be thinking “But I’m not a great husband, I’m often disrespectful, distracted, selfish, ungrateful, and impatient.” That’s good. The point of developing and then internalizing affirmations is to catch yourself whenever you engage in negative behavior so you can say “Wait a second, this isn’t me,” and then make the necessary changes.
Some people feel uncomfortable with positive affirmations, or they’re not sure they work. If that’s you, try reading 7 Reasons Positive Affirmations Aren’t Working For You.
I’d love to hear about your Core Identity, as well as the affirmations you come up with and how they help you find your true self and impact your life. Please share them, along with any questions or comments, in the comments section below.Liked it? Share it!