We all have super powers, albeit some are decidedly less cool than others.
Recently, I learned about a test that reveals your core instincts and motivations. I viewed these much like innate super powers, and knowing where you fit or where others fit helps you understand them; much like the Strengths Finder or Meyers-Briggs. This one is called the The Enneagram.
Generally, I don't like being put into categories that define me as only a certain way. It's too limiting. It puts me in a box.
Which, yes, I don't like because I'm a mime. But that's beside the point.
This test, however, doesn't give definitions, only motivations. It is based on instinct and natural behavior, not learned behavior. It asks, "How are you wired to react?" I am an Enneagram 3 meaning I am an "achiever." I'm ambitious. I'm motivated by self-image and achievement. I gotta do stuff. I gotta get my hands dirty. I gotta act. I gotta dance.
Before proceeding, I highly recommend you read up on the Enneagram to learn what you might be. It can be a lot, so I'll give you the 9 basic types and their simple motivations:
Do you know which type you might be? You can always pay to take the test and find out officially. I find it more effective to learn on your own about the types. If you take your time molding them over, eventually you'll settle on yours. This type, this "super power," helps you understand your place in the hero's journey.
The Hero's Journey
Every hero, super and not, has a story arc. A path. A Hero's Journey. We are always inside some hero's journey; be it our own, or someone else's. Having recently played Luke Skywalker in May the Musical Be With You, I have fallen headlong into one of the most epic journeys of our time. I explored Luke's path as we rehearsed and performed, a path I was already quite familiar with. Understanding the hero's journey is an exciting way to overcome the trials of life.
Let me show you what I mean.
Act 1: Intro
Let me invite you into the story arc of my life, my world and my character; flaws, features, strengths and super powers. I've lived through several cycles of this Hero's Journey as I graduated college and sought out a job and even got married. Right now, however, my world takes place in my office job as Creative Design Director at ACR Homes, living with my beautiful Ladyfriend as I seek to follow my career as a performance artist. As an Enneagram 3, I am ambitious, but overly sensitive and fearful that my self-image will be damaged by something. Eventually, my call to action, whatever it might be, will compel me to cross that threshold.
Maybe this is where you're at. You feel like you're just starting something. Like you're grasping at straws to figure life out. It's very common after college. I encourage you to self-reflect and create a space to define your character and introduce him/her to the world. Use the Enneagram as a starting point. In any story, you have to know your main character, right? This space becomes an act of self-expression, processing, and sharing. Like just starting a movie with a friend: It's the part of the sleep-over where you set out the sleeping bag and cheese-its and decide to do something amazing. Whatever you do... Let's get creative!
Act 2: Action
In act 2, you've made that big decision; you've crossed the line and are heading into territory you can never return from. This part is thrilling and energizing, and you will encounter the first bits of conflict that you will later have to overcome, or face utter defeat. For me, that was when I decided to launch Juggler & Mime, when I decided to pursue the life of a performer.
To be honest, I'm still transitioning in and out of this phase. I'm exploring wisdom from mentors and challenges that will help me succeed. I'm extra afraid of failure right now, because I have a wife and a whole lot of self-pressure to not hurt anyone with my decisions. That doesn't mean I'm going to give up or change courses, it just means I need to keep seeking support from friends and communities that encourage me to do my best.
As an Enneagram 3, my superpower helps me to make friends wherever I go by knowing what people like. My high school teacher's called that, "charm." I call it, "I-don't-know-when-to-stop-smiling." This has helped me build a strong reputation, even when my insides are curling over. This power is not always so super, because it conflicts with my Ladyfriend, who is an Enneagram 6. As a truth-seeker, she sees right through my charm and to the sensitive and fragile person inside of me. She builds me up, but it is not always easy when someone says, "That's not you. Stop it." She's taken down my glass walls of identity so I can create a more truthful version of myself. I need to keep taking that courageous step. So do you.
It's okay to fail. It's okay to make mistakes. If you are taking risks and you lose, the only thing you can do is get back up and try again. The world will continue to turn. And Ella Fitzgerald will still sing "Cry Me a River" and it'll be beautiful.
Act 3: Resolve
Act 3, we will engage in the final conflict. Your flaws will come to the forefront. In the big picture of life, this would mean you resolves your final conflicts and settle into the peace of death, but we're gonna talk a little smaller scale.
For me, this would mean taking a huge risk and quitting my job to go full-time as a freelance artist and creator. I have wisdom from one side saying:
"Keep the stable job, enjoy the healthcare benefits and savings plans, and use your free time to create your art! Save up time and money. You're learning so much at your job right now. You're still young. Wait until the time is right."
And then I have wisdom on the other side saying:
"The time is now. There is never a good time to take a big risk; so do it before you have children and bigger debts. You can learn on the fly. You are already very intelligent and skilled; you just need to do what you know."
I'm afraid of either decision, which leaves me frozen. The battle is far from over, but it is looming overhead. Every decision I make about how to use my time goes toward feeding one of these outcomes; and when I do poorly (for example, my shitty writing skills) I become despondent. And then, I suddenly learn a new skill (like coding this website; did you know I coded that cool scrolling effect myself?) and I feel like my whole life is going to change directions.
What's it gonna look like? I don't know. I'm this Renaissance artist right now with little specialization, and a whole lot of diverse abilities. All I know is to continue to seek wisdom from mentors (I'm in the middle of reading like a thousand books, including The Secret Life of Clowns, "Meditations on the Wisdom of Action" and Level Up Your Life) until I have the confidence to take the next step.
Let the Credits Roll
There is always redemption. Whether or not Act 3 ends in comedy or tragedy (a marriage or a death, in Shakespearean dramaturgy), the beauty of life is that it is messy, and it always goes on. After your Act 3, you'll have to redefine your new world and your new identity, and start all over again. The cool thing is, after every iteration, you learn a whole lot more and it gets a whole lot more fun (and, unlike reincarnation, you're still the same Enneagram! Neat-o! Time to respawn!)
So where are you at? Maybe you're waiting to do something. Maybe you just faced something huge, and now you have to start back at Act 1, redefining your world. Maybe you're building something, and you don't really know where you're going. I encourage you; life is a constant transition. You will know what to do when the time comes. Until then, I recommend we both build stronger foundations by choosing and overcoming challenges, creating systems and routines for success, and supporting each other along the way.
Be glad and confident,
Actor, Director, Editor, Producer