For years and years and years I was all about giving myself titles so that other people would think highly of me. I put them on my resume, I put them on social media, I put them on business cards, I talked about them when it came up normal conversation. I was all about working to make other people think about me the way I wanted them to think. All that changed one day.
One day a friend of the family (Mr O), my son, and I were sitting in his living room in front of his big fireplace and we were talking about the Tough Mudder, about the Olympics, and about American Football. Mr O really likes interacting with and teaching kids and so it was natural for him to ask my son if he knew any athletes. Right when he asked my son the question, Mr O looked up at me with a knowing look and out eyes locked. My son thought for a moment and said that he did not know any athletes. Mr O cracked a smile, still locked in on me, and he says to my son “Sure you do, your Dad’s an athlete”. BOOM
When he said those words they resonated with my soul. That was the first time I felt like I had really been given a title as a part of my LEGACY. It is really hard to explain how much that moment meant to me. Mr O was talking to my son but he wasn’t really talking to my son. He was giving me something more powerful than just a complement or a personal note. He was teaching my son that his father is an Athlete. My son will hear those words for the rest of his life. He will know me as an athlete just like Mr O sees me as an athlete.
Those words and that title, athlete, I had never told other people that I was that. I had never put it on a resume or texted it or tweet’d it. Sure, I’ve been training consistently for years and participating in obstacle course events for years, but I never considered myself to be an athlete. That title was given to me.
That was a life changing moment.
From that day forward I decided that I would never give myself a title again. Now I set a target and I get going by putting in the time day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. If I’m doing it right, then eventually I’ll hear people use titles for me that fit with that effort. And, when I do hear it, I know that when I use that title it really means something important. The confidence that comes from it is powerful too. When I use a title I know it is genuine and I can speak and write and act with the authority that title gives me.
When you look at the headers of my LinkedIn profile, my website, and my social media you see the titles that I have earned by listening to others. Principal Engineer, Entrepreneur, Athlete, Coach. There are other titles that are more personal as well like Husband and Father. By the time you read this there may be other titles that I have earned.
So, now I present this idea to you, for you to consider in the context of your life and reputation and character. I want to give you the opportunity to think about the titles that you use.
I challenge you to stop using titles for yourself until you hear someone else use them. Then, with each one you hear, I want you to use it with authority… you earned it.