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Spiritual | Sean L. Womack
What We Say We Are (& What We Do To Make Money)

What We Say We Are (& What We Do To Make Money)

It hit me last night that there are things I never say about myself, or perhaps more importantly ways I never think of myself. I don’t know why I don’t because they are elements of my personality or of my identity, but they just don’t seem to stick to my psyche.

For example, I play the guitar regularly and I’ve been hacking around on the piano a little bit (block chords my daughter reminds me) as of late. Nothing amazing, but enough to pick out and sing songs that I like. But I never think of myself as a musician. If someone polled a room and asked, “do we have any musicians out there?” It wouldn’t even cross my mind to raise my hand. I wouldn’t angst over it or wonder what people would think. I just wouldn’t raise my hand because I am not a musician.

Another is writing. I’ve been killing myself for the past few years trying to get together any one of a number of book or film projects up and off the ground. I’ve written thousands and thousands of words. I’ve written proposals and chapters and screenplays and treatments, but I don’t think of myself as a writer. If someone asked me who I was or what I do, writer wouldn’t be on the list of ways I might answer. Again, it’s not like its there but on the bottom of the list and I’m embarrassed to say it. It just isn’t there. And yet, I do write.

In the midst of this “hitting me last night” moment I started with, I think I realized something. Something about myself that I’m not sure I like. Here’s why I don’t say those two or a few other things about myself:

I don’t make money at either one of them.

There it is. I think of myself in an entirely economic framework. I am what I do to make money. Because this is the measure for us in the US. If you are not good enough at something for someone to pay you to do it, then that’s not who you really are. You cannot “be” something that you do for love or duty or because it is important in and of itself. You “are” what you do to make money.

Only, I’m not. I’m not what I do to make money. That’s not what I am or who I am. I know this intellectually, spiritually and emotionally, but I don’t know it practically. Meaning, I think it but I don’t do it. Oh, I do relationally, of course. I will say I am a husband and a father, and these are my two most important roles in life. I love doing them. I’m committed to doing them. I say that I am a husband and a father and I’ve never made a dime at either of them. So, relationally, I’m all good.

For some reason, I’m stuck on the “what I do” questions, stuck on this portion of my identity, just stuck. Of course, it is an affluent, western problem to have, this problem of personal identity. But knowing that doesn’t change the practical reality. There are elements of me, parts of who I really am and things I truly love that don’t work themselves out into the practical expression of who I am or how I operate in the world.

A dear friend told me a story about a very successful writer friend of his who struggled for years to be published and who struggled when working with agents and publishers. One day, they decided that they were going to begin acting like, working like and dealing with people like they were already a successful, published author. And that’s when it happened. The believed they were, and then they were.

In the end, does it really matter if I raise my hand to the question about who are the musicians in the room? No. But it does matter to me that I only think about myself, that I only identify myself to others in the context of what I know I can do to make money.

I’m certain I’m not alone in this — only because we are never alone in anything.

Okay, I’m going to change my profile now to add writer and musician.

And then I’m going to write on the blackboard—well, first I’m going to buy a blackboard—then I’ll write on it 100 times: I’m not what I do to make money. I’m not what I do to make money. I’m not what I do…

Demoted to Gold

Demoted to Gold

Approaching Montréal-Trudeau International Air...
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American Airlines demoted me to Gold.

I got a very nice pre-printed letter in the mail informing me that I did not qualify for Platinum status any more. They said that if I wanted to pay either $549 or $629 to reinstate my Platinum status then I could. Thanks to Apple, I know know that’s the price of a mid-tier iPad. So, do I think being Platinum is worth an iPad?

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For context, I have flown 1 million miles with American.

This is not me making it up. It’s printed on my frequent flyer card. They were the ones to point it out. In fact, they made a big deal out of it and sent me another one of their pre-printed letters. That and they printed it on my frequent flyer card. It’s still on the new Gold one they just sent me.

So, I started thinking — what is it I get for being platinum anyway?

I’m very familiar with all the list of features and benefits from American. I’ve read the brochures. But for the life of me, I cannot think of a single benefit besides 72 hour upgrades. And most of my flights are commuter direct flights with no first class. So, I have 40+ unused segment upgrades just sitting in an account. I like the Admirals Club, but I’ve paid extra for that.

The truth is, anything that American is offering me pales in comparison to not flying as much.

My work allows me be home more. And because I am home I see my kids more. I’m coaching basketball, and driving them to school. We have dinner together, and I get the read to them before bed. A few of my clients are start-ups and I like to do what I can to save them money. American is consistently the most expensive flights for me – especially compared to Expedia or Kayak.

And it’s not just American. My hotels, rental cars, etc are all cheaper my disregarding my loyalty cards and buying online. I can get all the points I want via my credit card programs, which makes me a very disloyal traveler and less profitable to them. But it seems more profitable to me just about any way that I think about it.

So, I’m thankful to American for their attempted slight. And in light of the upcoming Olympic games, I’m reminded that gold’s not a bad thing.

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