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Don't Lose Your Dinosaur
The Path Towards Integrity Awaits
There’s a scene towards the end of Step Brothers where the father, at the ‘fucking catalina wine mixer’, gives advice to his two sons telling them to not lose their dinosaur.
The dinosaur in this circumstance is their passion - The thing or things that light them up. The things that make them come alive. Make them feel like an uninhibited kid. And the story he tells is how society and cultures can crush our dinosaurs as we become immersed in the pressures and monotony of adulthood. It’s a powerful bit of cinema tucked away at the end of a silly movie.
I lost my dinosaur for a number of years. Perhaps you have lost yours too. It seems it might be common to lose our spark as we follow the well worn paths of a “successful life”.
I’ve had a storied career and am really proud of who I am and what I’ve accomplished. I’ve achieved significant successes as measured by traditional western measures: A good income, an executive VP title, top billboard albums, my name on breakout industry leading products, and a nice home.
But all the while I had been sitting with some existential dread. I had lost my playfulness. I had lost my dinosaur.
David Brooks calls the chasing of traditional western measures the chasing of the First Mountain in his book The Second Mountain. The idea is that in climbing the initial mountain, the mountain of success as defined by our society, we find it fun and motivating. But once at the top there’s a sense of disconnection from oneself and one’s community. A sense of dissatisfaction. And we feel lost and let down. Only once you’re above the clouds do you realize you’re out of touch with what drives you and connects you. You’ve done what they said you should do expecting some promised land to arrive, but it doesn’t. You’re lost. You’re unhappy. You’re out of integrity. You’ve misplaced your dinosaur. I wonder if this is what spurs many mid-life crises.
Martha Beck says in her book that “integrity is the cure for psychological suffering”. I think she might be onto something. Integrity means behaving in a way that is congruent with what makes us feel whole. I encourage you to read that one again. Behaving in a way that is congruent with what makes us feel whole. What in your day-to-day is making you, or not making you, feel whole?
Integrity means behaving in a way that is congruent with what makes us feel whole.
Her belief is that whatever in your life that isn’t resonating with your truth needs to go. This is a powerful suggestion and seems to go against commonly held western beliefs. We are used to success being predicated by pain and discomfort. That nothing good comes easy. There’s some truth to that for sure, but is it true if you’ve lost your integrity? If you’re behaving in a way that is incongruent with what makes you feel whole? Which one of these concepts is more absurd?
Martha suggests that moving towards integrity requires a shedding of some societal and cultural norms. That takes a deep well of courage. But doing so is walking a path that is more congruent with ourselves, and one that will help us feel more whole. A sustained whole as opposed to the fleeting one experienced while traveling up the first mountain.
What’s your truth? What could you be doing that would move you towards a deeper sense of integrity? What societal and cultural norms are you facing that feel incongruous, and what does it take to stop listening to them? If any of these questions resonate with you I recommend promptly reading Martha Beck’s The Way of Integrity.
I have been finding my dinosaur over the last few years. I lost it a decade ago. I fell into the gravity well of chasing income, titles, and people pleasing. I even got to the point where I found myself saying “I don’t know even know what I want”. A number of my coaching clients have found themselves in a similar position. A dissonance with one’s own desires and needs. In this circumstance societal and cultural expectations have taken over and watered-down one’s own identity. What you want is being defined by outside forces and not by YOU. You’re effectively cut out of the equation.
That’s where I was. And it’s not an expansive way to live.
How did I shift? I journaled daily and brought consciousness to how I was decision making. I read a lot of books on self-help, philosophy, and spirituality. I sought out coaching and doubled down on therapy. I began a transcendental meditation habit. I said yes to expansiveness and no to contractedness. I took psychedelics, safely and with a guide. I developed a practice of yoga and breathwork. All of these have a similar throughline… I got still. I got still and listened to my intuition and sense of inner truth. I got still and noticed the cultural and societal narratives for what they were… Narratives. And as I did this I started hearing what made me stir. What made me shine. I was finding my dinosaur. And then that snowball started picking up speed. And as I grew my sense of integrity I also became a better leader, community member, partner, and friend.
This is an ongoing practice. A practice of aligning what you think, what you say, and what you do to your inner truth. A practice of asking what integrity looks like, and then adjusting, as often as we can consciously muster. We are hardwired as social creatures to behave and react within cultural contexts. But when those contexts aren’t aligned with your truth you then have a recipe for stress, isolation, and sickness. When we can act from a place of integrity, we become more vibrant, capable, and alive.
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