What karaoke taught me about self-identity

Photo courtesy of Derek Gavey

 

I’ve often said that there are two types of people in this world: those who think there are two types of people in this world, and those who don’t.

Sorry, I’ll start again.

I’ve often said that there are two types of people in this world: those who like karaoke, and those who don’t.

For most of my life, I was firmly in the latter category, but recently I have found myself transitioning to the former.

Mind you, it has nothing to do with a new-found ability to belt out tunes or the generic “I’m older and care less what people think” trope. (Neither of which are true.)

But it is a consequence of the freedom that you gain when you no longer define yourself by what you do.

Livin’ on a[n unstable] prayer

I’ve written before about how you are more than what you do. I’ve learned that it’s vital to your sense of identity to not define yourself by your vocation. What happens when your vocation becomes non-viable? What happens when you no longer want to do that particular thing?

It’s one of the reasons why I’ve in recent years been attracted to the idea of being a “multipotentialite”, even though I’m not one by nature.

But there’s another reason why defining yourself by what you do is bad for your long-term ability to thrive: it can keep you from exploring other pursuits that you may find enriching, useful, or satisfying.

Like a [karaoke] virgin

Which brings us back to karaoke.

For the longest time, I was “the musician”. It was how I identified myself. And while I didn’t necessarily take myself all that seriously, I took my music vocation as seriously as a heart attack.

With music that important to me, I couldn’t do karaoke. Hell no. I was a “real” musician; I didn’t belong on stage with all those other people! They were all singing “Sweet Caroline” and “Like a Virgin”. Pfft.

Well you can imagine the punchline. Years have gone by, I longer call myself a musician, and because of this, I now have the ability to realize that I love karaoke.

In some ways, performing karaoke is actually more satisfying than performing my own music. I still get to be on stage, only this time I get a better crowd response. I still get to sing, only this time people are singing along. I still get to go out and express myself, only this time, there isn’t any of the soul-crushing sense of futility involved in trying to play music that I was never truly satisfied with.

And frankly, I think I’m better at performing other people’s songs than I am with my own.

But that’s okay, because I am more than what I do. It’s not a mark of failure, and certainly not a mark of a character flaw, which it would be if my sole attribute was being a musician.

Don’t stop believin’

But this isn’t about karaoke. This is about what you could do when you relinquish the link from a vocation to your identity.

What are you not doing because of who you think you are? What opportunities are you missing out on? What would you enjoy if you would let yourself enjoy it?

I’m not just talking about entertainment options. Could you find a new career? Could you find a new opportunity? Could you find a new passion?

You’ll never know until you stop defining yourself by what you do.

And if you can find a karaoke bar with private rooms like this one, I highly recommend it. Invite all your friends. Best. Party. Ever.

But enough about me. Is there something you’re holding back from because it doesn’t fit with “who you are”?

Mike Pumphrey

Mike Pumphrey

I'm the founder and author of Unlikely Radical, a site to help people succeed with money, achieve their goals, and live intentionally.

I offer a free phone consultation to anyone who is interested in changing their financial narrative. Are you ready? Click here for details.
Mike Pumphrey
Posted on March 2, 2015