“Sisyphus, of course, was worried; he’d come to depend
on his burden, he wasn’t sure who he was without it.”
Sisyphus and the Sudden Lightness
- Stephen Dunn
In Greek mythology, Sisyphus was the evil and cunning king of Corinth, infamous for his trickery and for twice cheating death. He was punished by Zeus for his misdeeds by being condemned eternally to roll a heavy stone up a hill. As he neared the top, the stone would roll down again, so that his labor was everlasting and futile.
Great philosophers, poets, and statesmen have weighed in on the modern-day applications of the legend of Sisyphus and his fruitless endeavor, with opinions ranging from cautionary tale to hero. I am however, drawn to the point of view of poet Stephen Dunn, who saw Sisyphus as a man so engrossed in his meaningless, never-ending task, that he embraced the burden; and found his identity within it. Quite simply, Sisyphus was defined by his work.
Just as Dunn saw Sisyphus as being characterized by his work (in fact, the term Sisyphean Task was created to describe a futile endeavor), so many of us are guilty of allowing our work to define us. After “What’s your name”, “What do you do?” might be the second-most frequently asked question. If it weren’t so customary, it might be perceived as odd or even rude. But it’s so common that most of us have a well-practiced answer. Given the emphasis that we place on our career choice, it’s no wonder how quickly the work we do becomes the easiest way to define ourselves.
What if there was a different way of thinking about it? What if your answer to the question was radically different? Jennifer Ritter tells a story about studying abroad in Italy. Her Italian was conversational at best when she arrived and when she would ask someone “What do you do?” she expected to hear about their job. What she got was their passions, hobbies, families, origin stories, and more. Closer to home is the story of legendary San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who summed it up perfectly when asked by a reporter “What will be your legacy?”.
“What’s my legacy? Food and wine. This is just a job.”
What Jennifer and Gregg have discovered is that you have sovereign power over how you view yourself. It doesn’t matter if you are a teacher, a manager, business owner, an employee, or even unemployed…you are more than that ‘title’. I am a Consultant, PGA Professional, Strategist, and Advocate, but those roles don’t define me or how I live my life. I am a husband, father, brother, son, and friend, among many other things.
And you? You are the way you treat other people. You are the way you inspire others and build them up. You are the smile on your face and the things that make you happy. You are your beliefs and the goals you strive toward. You are the confidence you deserve to have about yourself. You are your hopes and dreams. You are the person you want to become. You are not Sisyphus.
Proud to write for you, but this is just a job,
Michael Mueller, PGA Career Consultant
Proudly serving the Carolinas Section
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