Do This One Thing Every Season
By McLaren Gould
I love studying the idea of a good life, mostly because I want to have one. My first problem is there doesn’t seem to be one right way to get or live one.
As someone who loves explanations and making plans, I find this tremendously frustrating. My memo app and notebooks are full of quotes from podcasts and lectures, book titles by and about interesting people, and links to sites that will help me be (or sound) smarter, hipper, happier. My second problem is I get stuck in a paradigm of “Magnum Opus or Bust,” constantly packratting away my favorite ideas without applying them because I somehow get caught up in assuming I need to implement them all, flawlessly, at once.
Even if logic tells us that the polished stories we hear of business wins, enviable careers, and enlightenment are heavily edited highlight reels — with the benefit of retroactive narrative construction — the good ones sometimes convince us that the path to success is brightly lit, short, and free of much real downtime for the folks who really deserve “it.” Successful ships are always adventuring at sea, never being restored in a port — or simply out of work — it seems.
These more seductive narratives sound a lot more glamorous than, “I tried some stuff and embarrassed myself a bit and pivoted forty-seven times and some of it was very lonely and other bits were boring and other parts were absolutely perfect, and now here I am doing something that sounds pretty cool and brings me a degree of contentment but honestly I’m already half-searching for my next thing.” But that’s the true story of most folks. We have hits and misses all at the same time, like a fashion line.
The fashion analogy is key. Four times a year, each brand revamps itself into its most modern iteration, weaving new attributes in with brand stalwarts, and experimenting. What if instead of trying to radically compress all of my notes and quotes into one great life, I picked a few to try on and braid into my existing self each season?
Explaining this idea to a friend, we came up with the term Persona Line, a collection of statements about skills, traits, or activities we wanted to focus on in the following season. As in, “Ooh, trying poetry is part of my fall Persona Line, come to a jam with me?” or, “In my winter Persona Line, I’m saying ‘tell me more’ instead of ‘are you kidding me’ when I disagree.”
Persona Lines are both a declaration and an invitation to try on a new persona element without committing to keeping them in your grand life plan forever. Part vision board and part tongue-in-cheek, the persona line brings play and levity into the disciplined pursuit of personal development.
It also allows you to keep only the greatest hits in your personal collection long-term, and to discard what feels dated or no longer flattering. A constant, cyclical process of innovation and iteration towards building the magnum opus of your great life.