Identity Beacon

Illuminating Possibilities

Identity Beacon - Illuminating Possibilities

What’s on your business card?

How do you present yourself to the world? Do you — can you — present your true self or do you present the traditional, expected “data?” — What you do, who you work for?

Here’s another approach for fashioning a personal business card that asserts your more powerful, more meaningful parts. Stay with me …

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to make a presentation to the Association of Career Professionals(ACP) here in Connecticut — a diverse group of career coaches and consultants, outplacement executives, and individuals in various states of transition. The session was entitled: My Brand, My Career: Building the Relationship of a Lifetime

While shaping one’s personal brand was the ostensible focus of the meeting, my intention was to take the crowd to a deeper place — a place that, once reached, would become the foundation of their personal brand, but also provide them a fresh perspective on how to build a life and legacy they’d be proud of. In short, their brand would become their authentic, distinctive, and sustainable center of gravity.

To get to this “deeper place,” we tackled a variety of questions ranging from who am I? and what makes me special? to where am I going?, who can I trust?, and what is my message? All of these questions, and others, were aimed at cracking the code on one’s essential identity as the starting point for shaping a truly meaningful brand.

Once you crack your code, you’re ready to get real. Put your personal brand statement on a business card — if you don’t have one, or only have a company card, have some made — you’re inviting people to get to know you faster and better. You’re inviting notable discussions, which could lead to a new job, or even a new career. (And, it’s a great conversation starter at cocktail parties!) You’re promoting what you’re really “good at” and what makes you unique. That’s what your brand needs to do.

What are you waiting for?

The problem with “identity” (Fixing it is up to you)

Do you know what the word of the year was in 2015? It was ”identity” according to Dictionary.com.

Why has identity become a hot topic today? Why was “identity” the word of the year in 2015? Chalk it up to the new individualism — a world where we’ve become keenly aware of, and more vocal about what defines us, thanks to the opportunity social media has unleashed to publicly assert yourself. (Ironically, despite its many blessings, social media has contributed to the problem by enabling people to create “identities” which may have nothing to do with who they really are.)

Why does personal identity matter? Because it fuels not simply a sense of who you believe you are, but as a result, the choices you make such as where to work, whom to call a friend (or enemy), and indeed which political candidate gets your vote.

Taken together, our identity-centric lives are coalescing into potent, new communities demarcated by beliefs, both spoken and unspoken, that increasingly influence how well society functions — or doesn’t — economically, socially and politically.

So, what’s the problem?

For all the attention this “identity trend” is receiving, it reinforces an impression that actually diminishes rather than expands upon what it means to be fully human. Indeed, the notion of “identity politics” undermines the deeper meaning of human identity.

The actual ‘problem with identity’ may be a matter of meaning. As the word of the year in 2015,identity’ suggests the timeless fact that we all long to belong. We yearn to tie ourselves to a group, a tribe, a community we can call our own. But that isn’t the deepest meaning of the word.

What I’ve learned over three decades is that your essential identity – your distinctive, value-creating characteristics – springs naturally from the core of your being – a place that is blind to classifications, transcending gender, ethnicity, religion, and every other label we adopt as a way to locate ourselves in the world. You are simply you: unique and powerful in your own right.

With this in mind, identity’s 2015 “word win” may reflect the sobering fact that it was the most used, least understood term out there.

When your definition of identity is based upon a descriptive label rather than the special contribution you’re capable of making as an individual, you short-change yourself, those you care most about, and society as a whole. Why? Because, to paraphrase a quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes, you leave your music inside.

How you can help fix the identity problem

It’s pretty simple. To borrow another quote from Holmes, “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”

Don’t let the pull of labels or social media distract you from tapping into and applying your innate identity to your life. Everyone will benefit including your co-workers, your friends, your children, your spouse or partner and, most of all, you.

At bottom, having a clear sense of identity is the key to shaping a life marked by authenticity and integrity –- knowing what to do, what not to do, and why.

Here’s one more quote to take away. It’s from British artist, illustrator and teacher, Evelyn Mary Dunbar: “We are each gifted in a unique and important way. It is our privilege and our adventure to discover our own special light.”

I hope you agree.

 

 

 

What’s your Dawn Wall?

This past January,Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson reached the summit of El Capitan’s Dawn Wall — a quest that included years of planning and that many considered the most challenging rock climb in the world.

One of the climbers, Kevin Jorgeson said of the achievement: “I hope it inspires people to find their own Dawn Wall. We’ve been working on this thing a long time, slowly and surely. I think everyone has their own secret Dawn Wall to complete one day, and maybe they can put this project in their own context.”

I think we do, too. I know I do, although, I’m not always sure what that is. No matter. What matters is waking up to the possibility that there’s a larger purpose to our lives than just getting through the day — something that takes the courage, patience, determination, grit, vision, and passion these two guys put into their climb.

Or, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe, it doesn’t matter at all; maybe, getting through the day about 30,000 times (that’s 80+ years, if you’re interested), is enough. No Dawn Walls, but lots of dawns.

What a waste of a life, but that’s just my opinion.

(What) Do you believe?

I’m not grumpy. I’m distressed.

I believe in hope, cheer and gratitude as much as the next guy, but I’m finding it tougher to “get there” this year. Why? Because there is so much injustice in the world today, which seems to me to be unrelenting and unforgettable; even, haunting.

Needless deaths haunt me whether they are the result of police error, premeditated acts by extremists, or virulent disease.

Children who suffer haunt me. It isn’t fair. It isn’t right. But it is. A current article in The New York Times highlights this awful reality, as seen through the lens of Unicef’s 2014 assessment.

Gross inequality haunts me. Until just recently, the Dubai Royal Family was about to ink a deal with the president of Tanzania, whereby, the government would turn over more than 500 square miles of land to the Family as their private hunting reserve. In doing so, 40,000 Masai would be displaced from the land that has been their home for centuries. The deal never happened but it was close.

Injustice is just everywhere, making it harder to have hope, offer cheer, and be grateful. Yet, I do and I am. Despite the insanity that colors our world, I believe, and I believe you do too.

So, if you’re game, take this year’s ‘belief quiz’ — you’ll get the quiz in my new viewsletter, shortly, if you haven’t already. When you do, fill in a few answers and share them here.

I’d love to know what you believe!

Count your lucky STARZ

Starbucks just announced it will provide a free online college education to thousands of its workers, without requiring that they remain with the company, through an unusual arrangement with Arizona State University. The offer is being extended to the 135,000 U.S. employees. That’s a lot of potential brain power.

In the tradition of famous word couplings — think “Branjolina” and “bromance” — let’s call this partnership “STARZ.”

In taking this step, Starbucks is signaling that they understand the power of being — and being seen as — an institution. Not the kind that cares for people who have mental and emotional problems. Nor the type synonymous with large, faceless, bureaucratic corporations. (Insurance companies come to mind.)

The kind of institution I’m referring to is the kind that underpins a company’s ability to thrive and endure. Here, from Webster’s, is the definition that counts: An institution is “an organization that has a relationship with the culture or society of which it is necessarily a part.”

Starbucks gets this imperative and its investment in higher education is how it is bringing its understanding to life. Why education? Because education is the oxygen of progress. It breeds curiosity, innovation and opportunity — the stuff society needs to stay healthy. In Starbucks’ case, an investment in education will breed profits, too.

Are there other STARZ out there? I hope so. I’d put Google on the list, along with Zappos and Whole Foods. What organizations come to mind for you? Which ones have the potential to become true institutions? Which ones never will?

The peace in Bill Marriott’s eyes

This time of year it’s hard not to think about peace. We’re in the season of “peace on earth, good will toward men.” We sing about it, ponder it, imagine it, pray for it. But we don’t have it.

I believe that before we can have peace among all of us, we need to find peace within each of us.

To this end, I was struck by a story told to me recently by Jim Hackett, CEO of Steelcase, one of Fortunes Most-Admired Companies. He recounted a conversation about the challenges of long-term brand building he had had with Bill Marriott, Chairman of Marriott International. At one point, Bill said to him, “we know who we are not.” Jim saw “the peace in Bill’s eyes” and decided then that he wanted that peace for himself.

That ‘peace in your eyes’ is powerful medicine for many ills. It helps cure greed, insecurity, stress, envy, and a variety of other contemporary ailments that get in the way of creating a more fulfilling life, a more successful business; indeed, a more serene world.

What brings you peace?

 

 

 

 

 

Living leadership (Lessons from the dying)

The idea that life, let alone leadership, can be informed by those who are dying, seems counter-intuitive at first. Of course, it isn’t. People who face death, especially, those who’ve lived long lives, can see things more clearly than those of us who are still running with the herd, whose perspectives may be clouded by the dust storms we encounter as we move furiously forward, every day.

The spark that led me to write my Living Leadership newsletter – the article, Top 5 Regrets of the Dying – also led me to ask myself what regret(s), if any, I would have at 90 (!!), if I chose not to do something in the here and now.

So, in the spirit of commitment (mine) and community (ours), let me share with you one thing I would regret not having done, were I to find myself, 30 years from now, reviewing my life.

i would regret not having worked more with children; not having brought my love, understanding, skills and experience with identity discovery and development into places where children (read teens and college kids) reign … youth organizations, schools, perhaps, even families.

If I can help kids learn a bit more about who they are at, say 15 or 19, then I’ve upped the odds that they’ll make better choices going forward. For me, that’s worth fighting for. Whether, years from now, I’ve touched 100 children, 100,000, or more is less important than the fact that I’ve tried. No regrets.

Is there a “regret” you just won’t tolerate when you’re looking back over your life, decades from now? Feel free to share. You’re probably not alone.

 

 

The Power of Identity in Brand Building

Apple, Whole Foods, Alcoa, GE, Ford…all different companies in completely different businesses. What they all share, despite their disparities, is an abiding understanding that their fortunes are intimately tied to the contributions they are capable of making in the world. And that that contribution springs naturally from the identities that govern how each entity creates fundamental value.

A healthy corporate identity comes from building a vital, visible relationship between the institution and the society of which it is necessarily a part. Making this connection clear, promoting it and living it, is how successful companies attract and retain great talent, create sustainable partnerships with valuable customers, and — in the end — are able to keep shareholders happy.

How can you find the connection to identity in your brand building?

Download this free resource to inform your practices.

Who am I? – Mapping your identity

Most people consider the question, who am I, to be some deep, cosmic idea that defies a clear answer. Further, most people think it’s a question one can address only after you’ve got more than a few decades of living under your belt.

Wrong on both counts. Getting to know “you” in a real, articulate and meaningful way, is entirely doable and can start at almost any age. I’ve had lucid identity conversations with 10 and 11 year-olds. Through a process called Identity Mapping, I’ve worked with students, 13-19+, as well as people their parents’ age. Here’s a secret: they all get it.

I recently came across an article by a young girl, Julia R., in Teen Ink magazine that caught my attention. Julia understands a basic tenet of identity development. She writes: I dislike saying “‘I am trying to find myself’ because my identity is not lost, it just needs more uncovering.” Right on, Julia! You’re not inventing you, you’re discovering you. The name of the article is, Who Am I? Here’s the link.  http://bit.ly/Abg3yQ

I’ve found that Identity Mapping is a powerful way to uncover one’s unique capacities and then apply those powerful strengths to school, your career, your family, your community and other important relationships.

Imagine being in complete alignment with who you really are. Identity Mapping is designed to tap the creativity, vision and potential that resides in all of us, no matter our age.

For more on how to uncover the potential your identity holds – see this link.

What do you believe?

12. I can’t get the number out of my head. It must be the season…the 12 days of Christmas, the 12 months of the year, even being on the cusp of 2012.

We’re not just in the season of 12s; we’re also in the season of believing. In family, in friendship, in giving, in — yes, for some — even Santa Claus. So, I have chosen to offer up a little “belief” quiz.

Here you go: Continue reading