One of the things I have gotten in the habit of doing as I have gotten older is openly questioning..
What motivates people to do what they do?
Or to amplify the question a bit – why are people the way they are?
Whether it’s a leader, a great public speaker, a manager, a friend, a co worker, a lover, and more….
I became increasingly motivated to understand what created the characters around me.
What were their lives experiences and history?
What changed them from their birth to develop the person I saw in front of me?
And were there other things beyond birth that was influencing their personalities, and if so, what?
This first came about after watching Joss Whedon’s Firefly series. The characters depicted on the show had such rich depth to them, I couldn’t help but wonder – what did Mr Whedon do so magnificently well where he was able to portray these vibrant characters each with such personality, such flavor and texture as individuals – that they felt alive?
And then, I would turn to a show I enjoyed at the same time – Alias – and while the show was highly entertaining, the characters felt shallow – like they had no real depth to them.
Put specifically. Alias’s character depth and portrayal felt like someone had used an etch-o-sketch to ‘paint’ the characters, where Joss Whedon’s character portrayal felt more like an artists with a paintbrush and a rich palette of colors to work from had been hard at work.
I admit – I became addicted to Joss Whedon’s work after this. I religiously watched the show “Angel” after this with my ex wife, Amy, one of the few things we actually had in common.
Now prior to meeting Amy, I had been intensely questioning this thing called ‘success’ – and why was it so fleeting to me yet others seemed to come across it so naturally. After intense self reflection I had come to realize I was going absolutely nowhere with picking myself apart and trying to ‘become better’ or ‘work harder’ at what I was doing using the same methods I’d been trying. Invariably this wound up in personal failure. Something had to change.
SO I began looking at others asking the question “What paints a successful persons character?”
And with this, I also started asking “What constitutes failure?”
I started the process by identifying people who had achieved success in areas that most interested in me.
For instance, I’d come to identify business and career success in people like Bill Gates and Ron Ostreim (a former friend of mine), Aerosmith/Steve Tyler, and Oprah Winfrey. Steven Spielberg and JJ Abrams. Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt. Tony Robbins and even Eminem. Simon Cowell and Martha Stewart. Hugh Heffner and Richard Branson. William Clinton and even Jimmy Carter.
At first I got lost in the details. Each – and I do mean each – had such uniquely different backgrounds – and came from wildly different backgrounds – that at first I thought I was being too broad with my own brush strokes, as the intent I had was to apply the brushstrokes I’d learned from these wonderful people to my own life.
But then it hit me. The obvious truth of it all.
Each of these successful people had weathered the storms of their own lives and continued following their passions.
Jimmy Carter’s a great for instance. He tried to be a great President by taking his passions with him and leading accordingly. While he may not go down as being the most effective President, I’d argue he’s been more effective in promoting his own ideals than any President has ever had the power to do.
Similarly with William Clinton.
In fact. I’d found that despite the proverbial pie in the face (and literal in Bill Gates case) that each had gone through in their lives, with my friend Ron as a personal example, I learned success isn’t a product of circumstance, it’s a self reinforcing state of mind.
And what I realized was that EACH of these people I had considered to be successful – all they did was focus on the things they enjoyed the most.
But going back to the Joss Whedon thing.
I’d long noticed and wondered to myself “Why does it seem like – when I first meet people – their personalities seem dull and drab. But as I get to know them, I notice the nuances of their personality and they appear to gain color and variety to them…
It was odd. I’d noticed this at an early age – that people’s personalities didn’t appear static, that they appeared to change – in front of my eyes.
At first I wrote off this observation. Telling myself I was discovering things about them as time went on which created the perception of more personality and character the more I got to know someone.
But over time. I noticed this wasn’t the case.
Which commenced some quasi conscious experimentation.
What if I started – actively – getting to know people I otherwise wouldn’t want to get to know? Do they develop more personality as I spend more time with them? If I sleep with someone and remain emotionally involved with someone I’m not really interested in, or if I befriend a guy I normally wouldn’t what happens? What will I see?
The theory was this: That knowing someone’s history creates and shapes the person I get to know. The more of their history and the more we experience together, the more this adds to the depth of their perceived character. If I was wrong, then I’d see no substantial change on a consistent basis based on my influence. People are who they are would have been the takeaway.
BUT IF I had witnessed change on a regular basis. EVEN TONING down my personality.
What would that mean?
My third wife. I got married to after feeling a little down on myself and life and I got married not out of pity – but out of trying to be something to someone who was her own worst enemy. While I certainly saw her personality expand during the course of our marriage, I also saw her toxicity increase.
But I was proving a point to myself.
Maybe – just maybe – I’d gotten comfortable with people who I could predict. And maybe – just maybe – my mind had stagnated as I found myself consistently choosing to approach the same types of people and working the same types of capacities.
The world around me was a product of my own mind.
And I could diversify it.
By overloading my own mind with new experiences.
By doing things so out of character for myself. That I might very well redefine me….
In the end. There is no end.
There’s only transitions from one state of being to another.
I’d realize that most people and the environment around me reacts in highly predictable ways to external stimulus. The more history there is to that which is acted upon the more in line with that history the observed tends to be.
Over time I realized that the tv shows, movies, books – all are snapshots of what’s inside of me in a figurative sense.
When I experience someone or something. My experiences, my background, my worldview, my emotions – all influence the world around me and develop more of these stories. What I see in ‘the media’ is how I’m perceived by the world around me. It really is that simple.
I do wonder if it’s possible for anything or anyone to see me as I see myself only from an external perspective.
It seems unlikely. But possible.
But what I realized with all this soul searching was – no matter what I choose to do.
Whether that’s sit on the sidelines or talk to an attractive woman.
Something will invariably find a problem with what I’m doing.
And something else will invariably believe what I’m doing is perfect.
And the infinite variety of possibilities and interpretations in between…
Are what shape the personalities and perceivable world around me.
THIS is why I enjoy drugs on occasion.
I see things that are new to me and not always predictable.