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  • Writer's picturebryan hendley

Who the %#$* are you?

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Apologies are in order again, I guess.

My friend Mark, whenever he retells stories involving me, always retells them with me cursing. We always joke about it, because it's not something I do. I'm not saying that because I'm holier than thou, it's just not something I do. Now he'll have a little more ammo, as this is two stories in a row with me cursing with my asterisks and hashtags. I promised last time that this wasn't how I wrote, but here I am again. Just for the record, it starts with an H, not an F. I don't know if that explanation makes it better, or worse. I do know that it will make Mark laugh more, which is probably worth it regardless.

Maybe I should explore why I'm suddenly feeling the need to write this way. Maybe you'll enjoy the story.

The quote comes from a basketball coach I used to interact with, at one of my previous stops. We were at a small, sort of intimate coaching clinic. Mostly, what it turned out to be, was me and one other guy, trying to talk basketball and learn, and a handful of other guys drinking beer and telling stories. And one of the better stories, was told by Mike, which is where I got the title for the article.

Mike, according to Mike, had spent most of his life driving a crappy car. When he turned 16, he worked multiple jobs, walked 10 miles uphill, both ways, in the snow, and all of that, so he could afford a brown Pinto or something. He drove that car all the way through college, then upgraded to a truck, only slightly less crappy.

He had driven that truck most of his adult life, and at 50, had finally gotten to the point where he was both willing and able to purchase a new (actually new) truck. Naturally, he was really excited, proud, and careful about this new truck.

His high school son, not understanding the years, embarrassment, effort, work, stank, and expense that it had taken him to get to the point of driving such a nice vehicle, asked a (seemingly) innocent question, which led to punch line and gem of a quote delivered by Mike.

Son: Hey dad, mind if I take the truck this weekend for my date?


Mike: Who the %#$* are you?


Son: Wha...What do you mean dad?

Mike: I mean, Who the %#$* are you asking to borrow my new truck?

I love it. I love it because I understand that he means, "Who are you and what have you done to deserve to drive my truck?" and also, "You should have to struggle, and walk, and drive crappy cars for 30 years like me."

I also love it because I can only imagine what his son had to be thinking, as his dad asked him that question, with 30 years of built up frustration that spilled out, maybe accidentally, on his unsuspecting son. Who probably had no idea what his dad was really trying to say.

I also love it because it gives me a good lead in to write my article today.

Who the %#$* are you?

It's a question we should be able to answer, for several reasons.

First of all, we should know the answer to this question at its most basic level.

Who are you?

What is it that you believe? What are your strengths? What is important to you? What purpose are you living into? (Note, this is not, "What is your life's big purpose) How do you determine success?

This is an ongoing learning process, and some of these questions may be difficult to answer from time to time. That's worth mentioning, and being aware of. We won't always have crystal clear clarity on some of these questions. Sometimes we may wrestle with one or more of these, as we realize that the answers we once had, are now changing. However, at some fundamental level, we need to know the answers to these questions, that add up to the big question of, "Who are you? "

On the other hand, I think, we need to be able to answer the tough question, "Who the %#$* are you?" as Miked asked his son. You know, who do you think you are? What value do you add? Why are you here? Not that we necessarily need to prove our worth to others (though, sometimes, we do need to prove our work to others), but we need to stand up and be accounted for. To carry our load.

Make things better, rather than looking like you are. -Ryan Holiday

Be careful here, as sometimes, our ego gets in the way. We don't answer this question with a puffed out chest or by peacocking around. The way that we see ourselves, or the way that we are afraid to see ourselves, or the way that we are afraid that others might see us, can cause us to harm our relationships, can affect our families, and can impact those that we work with. We need to carry our load, but we don't need to pretend that we can do more than we can do.

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself. And you are the easiest person to fool. -Quote from Richard Feynman

Mike's son, if he were foolish enough to actually answer, have been tempted to answer this question from a position of Ego. To puff back up at his dad (again, were he a fool), or try to prove himself. Ryan Holiday, in his book, Ego is the Enemy, has some great insight into how our Ego affects our growth and our perspective:

When you are just starting out, you can be sure of a few fundamental realities:

1) You are not nearly as good or as important as you think you are.

2) You have an attitude that needs to be readjusted.

3) Most of what you think you know, or most of what you learned in books or school, is out of date and wrong.

Mike's poor son. He was just asking a simple question...

So, be aware of Ego. We all have it, and it's worth being aware of, so it doesn't get in our way of growth, or get us into trouble.

However, it's okay to stand up and be counted. It's okay to say, "Here's what I bring to the table." It's okay to say, "Here's what I'm worth." It's okay to say, "This is what is important to me."

It's not only okay. I would argue that it's necessary.

It's tough to answer this question in the moment, if you haven't answered it ahead of time.

So, who the %#$* are you? Free yourself from (or at least loosen) the chains of ego, and figure out what your strong and edifying answer to that question would be. My hope for you, and for me, is that we learn to answer that question humbly, but firmly. Here's a start, again, from Ryan Holiday.

Humble in our aspirations.

Gracious in our success.

Resilient in our failures.

I'm pulling for you,


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