If you were to ask someone what they wanted to be, they’d most likely reply back with an answer related to identity.
What’s a reply related to identity look like?
I want to be a designer.
I want to be an artist.
I want to be a writer.
All of the above are based not on being but rather tokens.
But maybe you disagree with the adage that says you shouldn’t allow what other people think of you sway your decisions. Then you don’t need to read on.
But if you wish to arrive at your most honest answer for the question “What do you want to be?” then heed these lessons from my failings over so many years.
Don’t focus on tokens. Identity is a token — a token of how you perceive society to perceive certain people. This is why I've always failed. I was always obsessed with the outcome of another person’s life. I'd see a successful person, and say to myself, by golly I want to be like them. So I’d begin desiring the job that successful person had. I’d begin wanting to read the books they called their favorites. Etc. Etc. Basically I would try to emulate them. But what exactly was I emulating in all these attempts?
I was not emulating their being. I was emulating their tokens -- manifestation ascribed to them by our perceptions. I was fixated on obtaining the same tokens while blind to who they really were as people.
Instead of trying to recreate the product, learn from their process. How did they come to be who they are. And then apply the lessons learned to yourself while focusing on what you want to be. I guarantee that you won’t end up just like them if you do this. We are unique. It only seems like there are few categories of aspirations because most of us starve ourselves the chance to actually listen to who we want to be. The tokens allure us.
A concrete example of this would be the streak on this website.
Some obsess on maintaining it. And from this they become devastated when it's finally broken. But what the hell was the point of that streak in the first place? Was it just so that you can have an HTML Element with a high number value next to a flame icon? No! You wanted to be someone who wrote consistently. That’s what you wanted to be.
Most people will say something like 'sighhh, if only I could be a designer at a big company I'd be happy'. They imagine if only they lived a life where they drank nice coffee with smart co-workers and lived in a cool city, that everything would be 300. But their focus is consumed entirely by tokens.
I’m not saying that tokens can’t be a part of the being. What I'm arguing for is be who you are, and then let that bring you the tokens, rather than the other way around.