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To Be rather than To Seem

Esse Quam Videri

Esse Quam Videri.
To be, rather than to seem…
An admirable yet difficult motto from Cicero. Exactly the sort of thing you would expect to find on the sledging pennant designed for Birdie Bowers’ trek to the South Pole with Captain Scott (pic above).

It’s a pithy little phrase, and it’s also a good opportunity for me to turn the mirror on myself.

  • Are you a runner? But do you actually run? Often and hard and fast? Or do you just trot round the park a couple of times a week at an identical pace to years ago?
  • Are you a cyclist? But do you actually put in the miles? Or do you just own a nice bike or three?
  • Are you a photographer? When was the last time you went out specifically to take photographs, with thought and imagination, learned new techniques and got the most out of your expensive camera?
  • Are you writing a book? Are you actually writing, regularly and with ruthless effort? Or are you just a dilettante who enjoys talking the talk but isn’t prepared to sit down and grind out a book?
  • Are you doing what you love with your life? Is it fun, fulfilling and worthwhile? Or are you merely dabbling with all these important things, whilst drowning in excuses, mediocrity and procrastination?

These are the questions I ask myself. What questions should you ask yourself? Perhaps…

  • Are you on a diet? Are you actually eating less, running more? Or are you kidding yourself, sneaking calories, and ambling along a treadmill for a few minutes at the gym?
  • Are you saving, planning and preparing to leave a job you hate for something that you love and care about? Or are you just paying lip service to the dream whilst frittering cash and frittering time?

I don’t know you and I don’t know what side of these lines you are on.

But these questions, or ones similar to these, are ones that might be worth you asking yourself.

Don’t shirk the uncomfortable question.

Don’t kid yourself with your answer.

I fear that too often I am on the wrong side of my lines. But I try at least to be sufficiently honest with myself to acknowledge this. And then I try to work hard to get back on track.

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  1. “Are you a photographer? When was the last time you went out specifically to take photographs,” this thought came to me some time ago. Looking bag I had never gone out purely to shoot. I will keep the phrase close to my heart.

  2. Brian Posted

    Ouch! ‘Drowning in excuses, mediocrity and procrastination’ just about sums it up. Videri quam esse isn’t really the motto you’d choose, it it?

  3. Are you saving, planning and preparing to leave a job you hate for something that you love and care about?
    YES I AM – leaving in August – I rule!

  4. These are many questions i ask myself and i ask my audiences when i speak to them. I had never heard of that motto before though! That is definitely one i will have to remember! What language is that by way? Latin?

  5. I’ve been asking myself questions of a similar vein for several weeks now and am taking action – it feels great to grow and know that I am taking control of my life. However, the questions I ask myself aren’t as blunt and to-the-point as yours. Really…”don’t shirk the uncomfortable question”. I love it. Thanks so much for the extra kick in the pants – I needed it!

  6. Al, as always an interesting one, to challenge, I would ask (myself), if ‘I am’ a runner, how often do I have to run, and how hard and how fast, in order to measure if I meet the criteria of ‘being’ a runner? (Most importantly what is the measure?) Should I always be running? Should I just do it more often than I do, is that the message? and therein is the element of improvement necessary in order to ‘be’?! If I’ve never run before, if I do it more often than never does that then make me a runner? Or, should I only consider myself to ‘be’ doing whatever I am in that moment? Am I ever just one thing? Am I ever, anything? Who is the auditor of my measures? Me, my peers, society? Does that even matter?….ok, that enough for now 🙂

  7. I think the meaning of ‘Esse Quam Videri’ is a little different to the one you’ve ascribed to it. Essentially, it means to not ‘pretend’ to be something that you’re not. So, in terms of your piece, it is perfectly okay to be a runner who jogs around the park a couple of times a month without breaking any PB’s – just as long as you aren’t trying to convince yourself (and most importantly, others!) that you’re a marathon runner. It’s about being honest with yourself, if you only dabble in various different pursuits and are perfectly content with that, then all power to you.

    • Alastair Posted

      Hi Paul,
      I certainly agree with that definition – apologies if it’s come across a bit squiffy in my explanation.



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