What Are You Here For?

I like to talk about the importance of flying your freak flag.  It is a message which seems to resonate and it is largely about authenticity…being who you truly are…making your unique contribution.  One of the questions that I always ask people to reflect on is “do you know what you are here for?”  I think sometimes this question freaks people out a little…thinking about purpose and calling has some electricity to it…it can make your tummy rumble a little bit. One of those questions.

I personally see it as a question that we need to dance with throughout our lives.  The answer is important, the answer may evolve as we go through life and if we lose sight of our purpose or our calling it can be easy to gallop off and chase other things or to misinterpret our experience in the world.

Sometimes people get fired.  People get fired for a lot of different reasons, but we have a pretty strong tendency to see it as a bad thing.  And while I understand that the unexpected termination of employment is a big deal, I know that it can also be a good thing in many ways.

One of the reasons many people do not fly their freak flags is that we all know that sometimes that flag is going to draw enemy fire.  Being one of a kind means standing out…and there is some danger baked into standing out.  So, we fake the funk.  We play along. We go with the flow, we downplay who we are and we fit in…and we avoid the enemy fire.  But that enemy fire is important…that enemy fire informs us of the true nature of our relationship with the organization or community we are in.  It helps us figure out where there is work to be done and whether or not we are truly compatible.

There is no progress without deviance.

-Frank Zappa

If you go to work for an organization and set about doing the voodoo that you do and they start to resist and circle the wagons and point all of their pale bony fingers at you as they desperately hold on to the past…and you keep pushing…well, you may lose your job because of that.  And in this particular scenario loosing your job is a good thing.  It happened because you refused to forfeit your magic.  It might not be convenient, but it is a good thing.  It is a righteous thing.

Wholeness is not achieved by cutting off a portion of one’s being, but by integration of the contraires.

-Carl Jung

Flying your freak flag is not for the faint of heart, because the real you, the whole you and nothing but the true you is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea.  But regardless of what the world sends you, if it is a result of you being you…then it is righteous.

But if you do not know what you are here for, it can be hard to interpret the evidence correctly.

Conformity makes us radically incomplete. Easier to manage, but incomplete and unhealthy.

-John Taylor Gatto

I could probably build a pretty bad ass fort out of all of the rejection letters I have received in my life. Without some clarity as to what I am on this planet for, I might take the wrong meaning from these rejection letters.  I might see that as evidence that there is no value in what I do or that I lack talent in how I do it.  I have seen a lot of people interpret rejection that way.

Rejection is not necessarily a bad thing.  If you are doing something that is somewhat unique and original, most people are not going to know how to respond.  We are much better at finding, sensing, choosing and relating to what is popular than we are at finding, sensing, choosing and utilizing what is valuable.  Sometimes popular and valuable overlap, but sometimes they are actually at odds.

If you do not have clarity of purpose, you may misinterpret the messages that the world sends you.


Do you know?

Be good to each other.

  1. Susan Avello

    Great article. I love it! Especially the line “we fake the funk”……Thanks for the reminder, Joe.

  2. Andrew S. Dungan

    The first job I had out of graduate school I quit before I got fired. Maybe this was a pretty pansy move, but I flew the freak flag, Joe. I saw those wagons circling me. None of that feels good and when you see that circling, boy oh boy, you know you are in for it!

    What also doesn’t feel good is the consequences of having to quit that job. Most everybody hates you. Lies are told about you so that the organization can cover their own hide. Your entire social matrix that you thought was real you find is an entire lie. The people that you thought loved and supported you: yeah, a facade. Wow, that all hurts really bad for about a year! You don’t really forget that, you just know how to rebound from it.

    And then you have to make a decision: do I continue to fly my freak flag? Do I continue to be who I am?

    What put my job on the line was a false standard of real cognitive diversity and engagement. Nope, cognitive diversity and engagement wasn’t allowed within the organization I started with. Furthermore, even some individuals that were elected representatives weren’t privy to certain information while others basked in it and disseminated it between one another. I guess only certain individual’s voices were allowed to be heard and only certain individuals were lucky enough to have certain knowledge.

    However, I knew that this was both disenfranchising, marginalizing and plan unethical.

    In the long run, I knew that the consequences of such a false standard were horrific, particularly strategically if the organization wanted to continue forward on multiple levels and personally, for each individual’s personal well-being (development). Nevertheless, no matter how hard I spoke against the organizational standard, I was neither heard (even discounted as wrong) and, in the long run, was slowly cut from the group.

    It was brutal.

    Slowly approached the day of my review. I knew it was going to be a bad one. I remember being told time and time again that I was “unhappy.” I wasn’t unhappy with the job. However, I never placated or stopped telling the truth. Things were broken. All people needed to be respected.

    The review had been pressed back almost four months past the original date and I knew it was going to be a bad one. I was suppose to receive it one week ahead of the meeting date so that I could look it over, make comments on the document and then meet with the leadership to chat about a plan.

    I remember receiving my written review at 1030 pm on Thursday evening prior to a set 1000 am meeting on Friday morning. I was even more shocked as I looked over the review and recognized that I had ‘failed’ in each and every area of the review. “CONFIDENTIALITY,” “FIX IMMEDIATELY.” Following this heading a cursory and ambiguous example. “Is recognized as a leader,” “FIX VERY SOON.” Same thing: some ambiguous statement about how I wasn’t a leader in the minds-eye of the people. Each and every area pointed out that I had failed to do what I was supposed to do and that I was a major problem. It was obvious that I needed to leave right away before there was a great organizational split.

    This is a great example of what flying your freak flag will do. Be ready to get crucified if you want to fly your freak flag. BE PREPARED! IT WILL HAPPEN! And don’t be afraid to tell your story. Why not? It’s yours to tell? We’re not the freaks! We’re the ones that just happen to not fit in. 🙂

  3. Finiky

    You rock. I’ve often said to people around me (work, home, friends) that we all need to fly our freak flags. I fly mine high and proud. I came across your video and now your blog.

    I am happy to say I know who I am. I am proud to say I fly my freak flag.

    Thank you for reminding us to be true to who we are.

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