It’s quite common for the rock stars to have an stage name – an alter ego from the John Smith they started out with. One such person is Suggs, the front man of British band Madness, who started life as Graham McPherson. He changed his name as he wanted a shorter one more suitable for graffiti tags. He chose the name at random from a jazz encyclopedia, borrowing it from the Jazz drummer Peter Suggs. What it gave him was a persona that was ready for when he became the Madness singer.
The question is should we all develop an alternative persona, lead a double life, and perhaps flip between the two?
Flipping between the two could be on a part-time basis – office worker during the day, stand-up comic working his way up from occasional open mike spots in the evening. A final flip as the alter ego becomes the main persona would complete the transition or may be the dual existence is maintained for the joy of it.
The benefits of having a double life would be:
- More variety than a single career might allow. Your life doesn’t need to be a mono-culture of office work for instance. A creative outlet could make your life more rewarding.
- The opportunity to try different persona out, finding the one that really fits before transitioning to it full-time. For some not giving up the day job until success seems certain in the alternative career is the only way as the risk of a big all-or-nothing change creates too much fear.
- It might just be necessity as you could need to combine working life with parenting or caring for example.
- Experimenting with different ideas for the next stage in your life such as retirement. The trick is to figure out and start doing before you start the next stage.
- The opportunity just to do more and even give something back.
There are though points to be cautious about:
- One part of you might be there just to fund the other. The danger here is that the alter ego is just a form of passive consumption and doesn’t really add any constructive sense of who you are or meaningful purpose. Having said that if you’re building a pension or planning retirement then your income earning self is funding another existence which could include volunteering for example.
- The alter ego poses a reputational danger to the main you. If you’re a part-time burlesque dancer then keeping the mask on and name different during your evening performances might be necessary to keep the high-powered office role ticking along. Having said that you might want at some point to let the cat out of the bag as a way of creatively burning a bridge or two and forcing yourself to make a change. That’s your decision; one you shouldn’t make on the basis of a blog post or anything you read (on the Internet especially).
- Just doing it on the Internet isn’t really going to cut it. By this I mean being some oddity of forums, blogs and chat rooms. There has to be a little more substance. For instance, even if you’re a writer then sometimes a bit of real world workshopping of your output might be a good idea to develop your craft. A grander aim beyond discussion is needed. The anonymity of the ‘net should never be a cover for illegal or destructive behavior either.
- The alternative is too secret and is hidden from those close to you. Not everyone needs to know but someone does just to make sure you’re not deluding yourself about the purpose of the alternative you. If it’s secret it could be harmful. The idea is to add more fun and creativity not deception.
The double life can both be a permanent thing, a transitional phase or just a series of experiments. Here’s a list of creative alter egos to the 9-5 persona we might too readily see as our main identity:
- Writer, photographer, or painter.
- Sports person – whether that’s in the local pub darts team or iron man triathlete.
- Student – anything from basic literacy to a part-time doctorate on any subject.
- Gardener or home-builder – this might include activities from tree surgery to tiling the kitchen.
- Traveler – exploring anything from your local town to cycling round the globe.
- Musician, comedian or actor – even if it’s just the local am-dram or open mike.
- Volunteer – could cover woodland restoration, charity shop work or local youth club.
- Uniformed – you can be a paramedic, firefighter, policeman, coastguard or in the armed forces on a part-time voluntary basis.
- Fund raiser – set yourself a challenge, get people to sponsor you, raise funds for something you care about and unleash the inner hero.
What double life will you be leading?
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