What Am I?

August 31, 2011

Last night I tried to explain to my daughter that I am a scientist. She laughed – way too hard. Her reply was “You are not a scientist, you are a business professor.”

That’s true; however I’ve always thought of myself as a scientist that teaches. In reality I am increasingly more of a teacher that practices science. Five years from now, I wouldn’t mind being neither.

If I’m doing something entirely different five years from now, it will mean one of two things. Either I got my ass fired for telling some important person something they did not want to hear (e.g. No!), or I found the courage to make my own luck and reinvent my career.

I’m very thankful to be what I am, but I’m not satisfied. I’d like my next five years of my career to be the best five ever. I hope to keep saying that until they have to wheel me out the back door take away my key.

What do you think? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!

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Comments (18)

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  1. Hi Bret – I’ve always thought you and I had things in common. This explains a lot!

    I was also grateful but dissatisfied for the job I had too. I felt secure until the universe threw me a curveball when I was part of a massive, impersonal, and cruel layoff after a long career. I chose to make the best of it, and I happily remade myself. It took no courage because it was a “have to”, but I was lucky enough to find something to focus on that I have a lot of passion about. I feel I’m making a difference.

    Although there were lots of surprises and things I wasn’t prepared for, these have been the best (almost 10!) years ever. I wish the best yet to come for you, too. I’ve learned a lot of lessons so if I can support you in any way, please shout out.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    It would be a compliment to be anything like you, MJ! Even though the experience sucked, I’d say you more than landed on your feet. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Bret

  2. Gwyn Teatro says:

    Hi Bret ~ In my experience, dwelling in satisfaction too long creates a certain kind of unhealthy apathy. Having said that, I really love the idea of ‘resting’ in satisfaction for a while, if only to regain strength before striking out again to meet the next challenge, (whatever that might be). And, we can’t always choose our challenges. They have a way of foisting themselves upon us uninvited as well.
    Perhaps it is because I am in the middle of a challenge that the idea of finding ‘satisfaction’ and keeping it for a while is so appealing. I know at the end of it though, when I get nearer to it, I will start to think about what’s to come after that.
    If I were to attempt to answer the question, “What am I?” I rather think my answer does not settle on an occupation but on the notion that I am simply human, in all my complexity. Yesterday I was a businesswoman, a human resources consultant and part of a large organization. Today, I am a nurse, an accountant (two occupations I would never put my hand up for), a caregiver, and a writer. What I will be tomorrow is anyone’s guess. Perhaps that’s what makes life so intriguing.

    Thanks for pushing my ‘think’ button, Bret.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    The unhealthy apathy part sounds like the parable of the boiled frog, Gwen. Your observation about being defined by an occupation is a good one. For me its the only part of “what I am” that really changes significantly. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Bret

  3. Bret,

    Your post touches on more than “What I Do”; the underlying theme seems to be a reflection of “who I am.”

    As you know, when my position was eliminated, through a long and arduous process I finally realized that I had lost who I was in what I did. The two became so intertwined that when what I did was taken away, I no longer knew who I was.

    Many of us have learned lessons about ourselves the hard way, and your post prompted self-reflection that reminded me that what I do isn’t as important as who I am.

    Thanks for your insight, as always!

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    There are some people that know what I do but have no idea who I am. Others, like my daughter, know who I am but know less about what I do. More than ever, I want who I am to drive what I do. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Angie! Bret

  4. Bret

    I stepped away last year from practising as a lawyer (in the UK). I have never felt better. As Michael Gerber implores us all to do, I am going to work on my life and not just living inside of it. Nowadays it is far too easy to accept complacency as the norm. We don’t pursue our dreams for fear that they wont’ pay but deep down I don’t believe any of us really know what we want. I hope the next 5 years brings you much prosperity as I am sure it will. The fun part for me is that when people ask me what I do now, I can start by saying I am a dad and husband, and after that I just hustle.


    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Love your thoughts, Julian! It’s not easy to admit not knowing what you really want. We are expected to be so clear about that. What I really want is to be something different and better than I am now – the rest is negotiable with me. Thanks for sharing! Bret

  5. Julio says:

    Hi Bret,

    What am I? This expression has a deep connotation and meaning. Somebody, asked me this question sometime and my answer was, I am a person, who do an agreeable and productive life, of course not necessarily alone, but also with my family and my environment- in the possible.
    For doing that, I think, we have to live the present, planning the future in agreement with the following saying “Always think for tomorrow because for today you already thought yesterday.”

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    I love that quote, Julio. So true. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Bret

  6. Wayne says:

    I really don’t see a distinction between being an educator or a scientist. Every day you stand up in class, you are engaged in the scientific method. You are asking questions, making hypothesis, etc. The titles are just labels we impose on ourselves.

    I saw film producer Bobby Evans interviewed once, and he said that all of the successes in his life had come for different reasons. But all of his failures, he said, were for one reason: he said ‘yes’ when he should’ve said ‘no’. I try remember that, but sometimes I forget. Some days, the answer just has to be no.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    I hear what you are saying from Bobby Evans. I know there are many times I should have said no to invitations to do something. It did not always lead to failure. I’m still chewing on that thought. Thanks for sharing! Bret

  7. Art Petty says:

    Bret, you’re practicing what Drucker so effectively articulated in “Managing Oneself.” While his words seem easy, the implementation of his words as we all strive to be Chief Executives of our own careers, is very difficult.

    I left a job that I loved a few years ago, because I needed to challenge myself and learn more. It was a remarkable experience and I’ve never looked back. The next step out into my solopreneur world has been by far the most demanding and difficult of my career. I’m still working on the reinvention part you mention. The learning experiences have been priceless.

    On a personal note, based on our discussions over the past few years, I know no one more fit for the challenge than you. Of course, it’s OK to resist the urge to tell someone in authority to “go jump.” It’s better to do this on your own terms! (Take it from someone who knows firsthand!)

    Happy to be cheering you along on your journey!


    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    I appreciate your encouragement, Art. I probably do need to “jump”. I’m probably over thinking and certainly avoiding it. But at least I’m chewing on it. I do covet the learning experiences you talk about in your own life. Thanks! Bret

  8. Bret: interesting post. From my outside perspective, you have a rewarding career that you are passionate about. It leaves me wondering: what is missing? Whatever it is, I recommend that you do whatever it takes to make the necessary changes. My personal experience tells me that a journey involving new challenges is well worth the risk. Good luck in whatever you choose. I am sure that it will work out!

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    I do have a rewarding career, I am passionate about some parts of it, and I am thankful for all of it. Whether I stay, leave, or some combination of each, I hope to continue to find change, growth, improvement, and relevance. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Christopher! Bret

  9. German Chen says:

    I felt alone with this kind of question in my life. Today discover that so many people ask the same question. My english it is not perfect because i am from Guatemala in Central America, but i hope to transmit the correct idea of my feelings. I am an Electrical Enginnering working like a Maintenance Manager but always dreaming about to finish my career like a professor at the university, i enjoy my work but i really like to teach. at this moment of my life i am just learning a lot about my career because one day i am going to share this acknoledge.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Welcome, German. Stretch for your dreams. Even if you never become a professor, you can still find many ways to share yourself and teach others. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Bret