For some, “owning the essence of who you are” sounds like giving oneself the permission to assume that everything they do is good, correct and should be done. This approach is commonly viewed by others as ‘being on an ego trip.’

For some, owning their essence is something they cannot grasp; they cannot align with their essence because they are unclear of who they are. This approach can lead to a meandering and aimless path.

For some, owning who they are means to them that they are free to follow the construct handed to them by society, corporate culture, familial pressures and cultural conditioning – “My father was a lawyer, my grandfather was a lawyer, I come from a family of lawyers, therefore I must be a lawyer.” Or, “I went to business school and since business people strive for a particular kind of success that looks a particular way, then I should strive for the same kind of success.” This leads to a follow the leader kind of culture in which no one really knows what a really fresh and inspiring vision looks like even if it’s staring them in the face. Some would refer to these individuals as empty suites.

Then there are those rare few to which “owning the essence of who you are” means that they are free to express their deepest intentions, creative drive, visionary quests and altruistic desires for the world. We tend to call these individuals visionaries.

The antecedents to these four approaches can look like this:

The ego path: Preceded by “I’m not really enough, I just need to work hard to make people think I am.”

The meandering path: Preceded by “There are so many amazing people doing amazing things, what could I possibly have to add to their vision or accomplishments?”

The empty suite path: Preceded by “I’d rather not have to think too deeply about who I am and my purpose in life, and since the life of successful business people seems good to me I’ll stick with that path.”

And finally,

The visionary path: Preceded by “I know I may not be perfect, I make mistakes from time to time, but I also know deep within that I am an exceptional person, I care deeply about people, I am passionate and truly desire to make a positive mark on the world, to leave the world better than when I came into this life.”

I see one stark contrast between the first three approaches and the visionary approach. The visionary approach requires incredible courage, the courage to own who we are, to put ourselves out there in all our individuality, weirdness, creative vision and different ways of looking at things knowing full well that we will attract criticism, and yet having the courage to continue owning who we are in the face of any amount of dissension.

Throughout my work career I can say that there have been times in which I have played all the three roles of the egoist, the meanderer and the empty suite, and that today I strive each day to remain in a place of courage to live my deepest visions for life and work. It’s not always easy, but deeply fulfilling and at times exhilarating. Will you join me in striving to own each day, the essence of who you are?