My mom always says that God knew what He was doing when He only gave her one child – He knew I’d be enough to keep her busy 🙂 I’m pretty unabashed about the fact that I’ve always spent half of my time on earth and half with my head in the clouds.
I’ve always had big goals, but, until about six years ago, I believed that, in order to achieve my goals, I needed to iron out all of my unique kinks.
You see, I’m Lebanese. And an only child. And my parents had very, very odd jobs that put all three of us on different continents many times over. And I’m a bit of an introvert. My hair is way too curly. My school lunches never looked like any of the other kids’. And we never owned a regular toaster. (What can I say? There are some things that just STICK WITH YOU.)
I spent the majority of my youth aching for “normal” things – straight hair instead of matted frizz. Fourth of July cookouts instead of kibbee and shawarma. Parents with regular 9-5’s.
Little did I know that the very things that I tried so hard to suppress about my personality and life experiences would be the very things to shape a unique and profitable worldview in the marketplace.
There’s an old cliché repeated over and over again to aspiring writers: “Write what you know.” It’s a catch-all way of telling people to tap into their own experiences to tell authentic, captivating, honest stories – at the end of the day, these are the stories that enamor audiences. I have a secret to tell you: that advice doesn’t just pertain to writers.
We spend so much time trying to craft our “professional identity.” Everything from our resume, to our email signature, to our elevator pitch. We strive to emulate the success we see and to create a version of ourselves that’s equally as polished, but in doing so, we effectively DILUTE all of the things about us that make us special and interesting and unique. You guys:
STOP STRAIGHTENING YOUR HAIR.
At this point, you’re screaming HYPOCRITE at me through your computer screen – if you’ve seen any of my recent blog posts, you’ll see I still straighten my hair REGULARLY. But, there’s a difference. I stopped straightening my hair long enough to identify, embrace, and articulate the things about me that make me unique – I KNOW my curly hair makes me stand out, and quite frankly, I purposefully wear it curly to business meetings for that reason.
When I STOPPED trying to force my life and my identity into a pre-conceived and misguided shape of perfection, I began to understand that my perceived “liabilities” were actually my biggest strengths: they are the things about me that offer a unique value-add to the market – the ability to attract, identify, and engage with a different subset of clientele.
you need to write what you know
We need to tell YOUR unique story – your story is your brand, and your brand impacts your business. So, how do you do that?
1. Identify key life experiences.
Stop trying to squash them. Everything that’s happened in your life is part of your story and shapes the way you approach your day to day. If you grew up in an extraordinarily clean house and are now meticulous about the way your sock drawer is color-coded – THIS is a worldview! If you’re the child of divorced parents – THIS is a worldview. If you’re an immigrant – THIS is a worldview. If you battle anxiety – THIS is a worldview. If you’ve won the lotto – THIS is a worldview. What happens to you serves to shape you – no matter how big or little. Identify your significant life experiences.
2. Identify what you learned from them.
Once you understand how to identify both major and minor POV-shaping incidents in your life, now it’s time to articulate WHAT you’ve learned from them. How did moving across country at 17 stretch, challenge, and strengthen you? How did caring for an ailing grandparent impact your priorities? Draw out the major lessons you’ve learned in these key moments in your life. Write them down. This is your story – and we need to learn to tell it.
3. Apply those lessons to your professional life.
Specific life experiences typically result in broader life lessons. Let me give you an example from my life: my freshman year of college, I failed my first major performance examination. And I didn’t SORT of fail – I REALLY failed. Hard. core. As someone who got a little light-headed from anything less than an A-, I found myself pushed to the brink by this failure. I began questioning my career and my talent and my life choices and wondering if I should just cut my losses and pick a different profession.
After weeks of assessing, I went back to school after the winter holidays with renewed determination. Instead of running from my fears, I faced them head on. I sought and received feedback, dug deep, and made some adjustments. That spring semester, after working my tail off to improve upon the critiques I was given, I was cast for the first time in a school production.
The major takeaway from this experience was that failure is not fatal, and if you let it, failure can strengthen you in ways you didn’t even know possible. I hold on to that lesson TO THIS DAY, and it shapes everything I do – personally and professionally. Failing was one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. I tell this story frequently because it’s helped shape who I am as a person and especially in the work place. To me, failure is an opportunity to be even better next time.
What are some of the lessons you’ve acquired throughout your life, and how can you apply these lessons to your work?
Your life experiences make up your life story, and your life story is your STRONGEST and most UNIQUE brand – it’s what you know. To be successful, we all need to write what we know.
There’s a time and a place for straight hair – but for the moment, let the frizz go wild, and let’s dig in. If you’re ready to get to work, I’m sending you a FREE, step by step guide to learn how to cultivate YOUR unique worldview – use my email opt-in form to get it sent straight to your inbox!!