How Many Places Can You Belong? A Challenge

James Walpole/ March 28, 2020

I love going into new situations and finding out what I can do.

I plunged myself into a tech company, despite not being very technical myself, and I found my place.

I spent the last month working in a horse stable. I think I proved that I could fit in there, too, alongside coworkers from different countries with a different language.

I’ve worked in a hardware store, played intern assistant for a CEO, acted in plays, played sports, run races, given talks, and traveled. All of those situations have been opportunities to find out whether I can find a way to harmonize with new kinds of music and “belong” with different kinds of people and missions.

What’s the upper limit on this? How many places can I belong?

This is a fascinating question. And if you believe that we’re here to create something and add something to the world, it’s a compelling way to approach the learning journey of life. After all, what “belonging” is in this view is mainly that state in which you’re contributing, or competent.

Become a contributing member of all the groups and all the settings? Well, you would be the ultimate human. None of us can hope to reach that level, but we can find growth in shooting for as many “belongings” as possible. As the psychologist Jordan Peterson would put it, every time we find productive places inside new competence hierarchies (whether that’s a new office or a sports club), our places in the overall human competence hierarchy improves.

But more importantly, when we belong everywhere – or at least try to – we will find ourselves more at home on this planet and in this life. It’s not a game we can fully win – but it’s exciting and meaningful enough to last a lifetime. Whether I’m dipping into finance or farming or fine dining or what-have-you in the future, I hope I’ll keep in mind the ways I’m forging a deeper relationship with my world.

James Walpole

James Walpole is a writer, startup marketer, and perpetual apprentice. You're reading his blog right now, and he really appreciates it. Don't let it go to his head, though.

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