“Be all that you can be” is one of my favorite slogans. (For you youngsters, it was the slogan for the US Army prior to the “Army of One” ad campaign). But as much as I respect our armed forces, and love creative advertising, I think the message is all wrong. I like “Be what you are.”
Of course the concept of being as opposed to doing is almost antithetical to modern American culture. We are pushed to do more with less, achieve more in less time, and be more than we thought we could be. And don’t get me wrong. Dreams, goals, and achievements are all good stuff.
But my observation and my experience, suggests that this cultural emphasis on being more, doing more, and achieving more only teaches us to ignore what we are and our true path. Yes, I realize that what I say is heresy in today’s over-achieving society, but I’ve always been rebellious (a true child of the sixties) and tend to see things in a slightly different perspective so I’m not inclined to stop now.
The problem with the “be more than you are” rat race is that is exactly what it is: a rat race. When do you finally achieve all that you can be? How do you know when you reached the pinnacle of your talents? I daresay you have no idea; and hence keep striving, achieving, acquiring, possessing.
Let me offer a different point of view. Be what you are. Be the best of what you are. Nothing more; nothing less. God made you just as you are. You are perfect in his sight. And once you accept that you are what he wants you to be, the pressure’s off. You already made it.
How does this play out in today’s society? One of the things that breaks my heart is watching people getting promoted out of their calling. Peter Drucker pointed something to this effect in his ground-breaking book, The Peter Principle. We take good salespeople and make them sales managers. We take good teachers and make them administrators. We take good nurses, and make them teachers of nurses. Yet each “promotion” requires a different skill set. Equally sad is the individual who dreams of an anointing but pursues a different career path because of money, status, parental pressure or all of the above. I’ve seen teachers who really wanted to be hair dressers, business majors who really wanted to go to culinary school, and medical students who really wanted to make music.
While you may have the intellect or talent to pursue a position of status or wealth, if your passion or calling is less notable, take pride in your gifts and go with it. One of my favorite verses in 1 Corinthians 12:22 which says “And some of the parts that seem weakest and least important are really the most necessary.” Think about it. As a society, we really don’t value plumbers. I can’t name a parent who would proudly announce that their child dreams of becoming a plumber. Yet when your toilet is over-flowing and you’re in a panic, a plumber becomes the most important person in the world to you.
Stick to who you are and don’t get seduced into being more than what you want to be. Could you be a sales manager instead of a salesperson? Sure. But would you be happy? Is becoming an administrator the next step on the ladder of success? Yes. But if your passion is selling and you love the challenge of helping people find solutions to problems (a.k.a. servant selling), why would you want to be anywhere else? Don’t let anyone shame you out of your passion. Take pride in your gifts, develop them, be content in them and be what you are.
Submitted by: Jane Z. Sojka Ph.D.