I asked my partner a few nights ago, “Why do you love me?” We had been missing each other for the last week. Depending on the day, one of us was up and out of the house before the other arose. Evenings had been spent apart with respective clients and friends. I wasn’t seeking validation that our relationship was okay when I asked the question so much as giving Steve and me an opportunity to remember what we value in the other.
After playfully citing some of my physical attributes, Steve answered. “I am more myself with you than with anyone else.”
I hate to think that any question I ask has a “right” answer. That would be manipulative. But as soon as Steve spoke, I knew that in this instance he had found it. We all want to be 100% ourselves 100% of the time. Unfortunately, we often lose sight of this and make decisions that we hope will make us the people we think others want us to be, losing more and more of ourselves along the way.
But thank goodness authenticity is indeed what fuels us. This is how I make a living, after all. Enough individuals, from the solopreneur parent running a web-based business to stay home with his or her child to the CEO running a Fortune 500 company while secretly questing to incorporate a nonprofit, have realized the importance of awakening to one’s vision for life and finding a way to marry it with one’s daily professional and personal tasks, attitudes, and behaviors.
Like many in my generation, I long ago abandoned the idea of defining myself by a singular title or phrase. Even in high school, I employed a slash when I branded myself Key Club President/Newspaper Editor/Actress on my DIY business cards. I’m so grateful that I had the permission to embrace all of these important facets of my emerging identity. If not, it’s unlikely I would simultaneously be running my own leadership coaching and training company, performing with an award-winning theatre company, or writing and speaking on using one’s values to build careers and organizations that are successful, sustainable, and make a social impact.
In our current economy, slashing is also a survival strategy. According to the Newsweek article, “The New American Job: Are freelance gigs and part-time gigs the future?” with close to 3 million jobs lost since January 2008, nearly 8 million Americans (almost double the number from 2007) have created slashed identities. While slashers have a score of challenges, from finding affordable health insurance to securing a large emergency cash reserve (for unemployment benefits often don’t apply), they also have the opportunity to craft a professional identity that gives them control and creativity frequently missing from a traditional, 9-to-5 office job.
Marci Alboher, a freelance writer/journalist/speaker, has written extensively about how/why (ah yes, my slash play is endless), young professionals and freelancers are particularly inclined to use slashing in crafting their identities. Her work is clear, compelling, and does not need duplication. Check it out and make sure to peruse her Thoughts on Slashing, From Aristotle. Good stuff.
But as I encounter a near constant flow of e-newsletters, tweets, blog entries, and glossy copy recommending individuals and organizations scale their brands down to a clever, easily digested phrase or two, I must speak out. No matter how much Mad Men I watch, I am not a branding expert. Yet. But I am a leadership, millennial, and sustainable success one. So I understand that for any vision, mission, or core values statement to make an impact and attract the right clients, funders, and collaborators, they must be authentic. As Americans, we have an abundance of examples of ideas, images, and slogans that took flight only to crash right down. From Enron’s “ask why” to Countrywide’s top three core values – “demonstrate integrity,” “be a positive influence,” and “be an agent of change” (just reiterating them almost made me vomit), we know – even if our actions sometimes suggest otherwise – only authentic, values-driven branding garners interest, consistently sells products and services, makes a positive social impact, and wins elections. (If you don’t believe me, try Googling “Yes we can” or “Yes we did.” It should keep you busy for the next four years.)
So how does one craft an authentic, values-driven identity? CONTACT ME.
I kid. I kid. Somewhat.
Whether you are seeking to re-invent yourself after a layoff, reach the right people with your product or service, or more effectively engage employees, begin by considering these questions.
• In what area(s) do you add value better than anyone else?
• Based on your strengths, who is your perfect client/customer/collaborator/employer/
• Why must people have what you can deliver?
• What results will you/it enable?
• Who will you be when you are able to consistently provide value to others?
And now that you’ve begun to tap into your authentic identity, CONTACT ME and discover where you can go next.