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Sisyphus, Significance, & Sovereignty


“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 in life 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. Sisyphus has been painted as everything from a cautionary tale to a 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, for Dunn, Sisyphus was a man who became dependent on the work in front of him to define who he was.


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 elevator pitch of what we do for work. Given the emphasis that we place on our career choice, it’s no wonder that so many of us think that the significance of our title defines who we are; and how quickly the work that we do becomes the easiest way to describe who we are.


But what if your answer to what you do was more than what services you provide in exchange for monetary reward? What if there was a different way of thinking about it? 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. Those discussions opened an entirely new and fascinating perspective. Gregg Popovich, coach of the San Antonio Spurs 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.” -Gregg Popovich


What Jennifer and Gregg discovered is that you have sovereign power over how you see 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 Christian, husband, father, brother, son, and friend.


And you? You are the way you treat other people. You are the way you cheer others on and build others up. You are the things that make you happy and the smile on your face. You are the beliefs you have 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.


I love writing these for you; but this is just my job, -ks

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