Blog.

Workshop
  • "How can I be my authentic self?" And other questions, ruminations, marinations, musings, observations and take-aways from my recent Personal Branding and Storytelling workshop.

    I recently had the great honor of leading my ever-evolving, when not always life-changing Personal Branding and Storytelling workshop. This version ran three hours and was hosted by the quite awesome Modern Capital Concepts. In this workshop we cover a lot of interesting ideas, we talk and connect, a lot, and we do a lot of work. Many workshops, and many I've led myself, involve a preponderance of presenting and large group conversation, punctuated by bursts of exercises and small group breakouts, but in talking to Khloe Karova, Modern Capital Concepts fearless leader, I decided invert that model, and focus on intensely engaging exercises and small group discussions punctuated by presentation and conversations with the larger group.  What I found... no surprise, is that people want to connect, and they want to learn from one another. They also want to be heard. Well that, and they already possess insights into their voice and personal narrative... they just don't necessarily see it, yet. They've buried that voice and the language that accompanies it under more formal words and thinking. Or they may be scared, or tentative, to embrace it, and who they are. All of which is to say, that there was lots of good energy and good stuff, you can learn more about the Agenda here and you are always welcome, encouraged even, to contact me if you want to discuss any element of the workshop further, especially though most definitely not limited, to hosting, and as needed, adapting a Personal Branding and Storytelling workshop for yourself and your colleagues, friends, family or peers. And all that said, I now want to take a moment to expand on some of the thoughts contained in this paragraph and share some takeaways and observations from what was a truly dynamic workshop that I am greatly appreciative to have played a role in guiding.

    How can I be my authentic self?

    Authenticity may be a current buzzword, but that doesn't mean it isn't an important concept for us to tangle with and one the participants found themselves returning to again and again. I should note here, that I designed the early versions of this workshop with authors in mind, but it neatly aligns with the needs of those launching small businesses as well. So, how do they, you, me, be authentic self? By embracing the self you are and not the version you wish you could be. That doesn't mean we can't always be striving to be better or different, but knowing who you are, owning it, and stripping away your desires to be something else, is where you start. 

    How can I differentiate myself?

    You have to understand where the gaps are in terms of work or publishing and figure out whether you have the skills and experiences to fill them. But I also believe this begins with knowing your personal narrative and story, what differentiates may be skill and experience on the one hand, but it's also the journey you've been on to become that person, and being able to articulate your successes and failures, your influences and inspirations.

    What is the "Ask?"

    In a former life I worked with the public policy staff in my office and one key lesson I learned from them is that you never show-up at a meeting without an ask in hand. There is an expectation that you want something and you've been thoughtful in determining what you want. It's no different with every meeting you take as your build your business. Nothing is more valuable than time and there is no bigger waste of time than not knowing what you hope someone can do for you, and when possible, what you can do for them.

    How do I prove my credibility?

    One thing I've learned in recent months is that first step towards proving your credibility is putting yourself in situations where you can thrive and the second step is going into those situations with confidence and swagger. I'm a proponent of being transparent and honest with yourself about what you're good at it, and not, but once you've decided what you're capable of doing, step in, all-in, and don't step out until you're successful at ti. That success will only further burnish your credibility.

    How vulnerable should I be?

    The misnomer is that we are not to show weakness, no flaws or failures, but when you make these setbacks part of your story, when you own them, and learn from them, you grow and people will embrace you for it. What your connections and clients don't want is false bravado, and the lack of there there. It comes back to being the authentic you, and again embracing who you are and bringing it to the table.

    Do I let people know I feel passionate about my work?

    Yes, always, as with vulnerability, we can shy away from what we are passionate about, and what excites us, but there is no success without passion. Our responsibility to ourselves is to determine what we are passionate about, do everything we can to make that our work and let people see the passion that is driving us. It will be contagious and that's how we build our connections and businesses, and even find our authentic selves.

    How do I find my voice?

    You keep talking, and pitching, testing new language and ideas, and refining, rinse, repeat, asking those you trust, and everyone else, if what you're saying rings true to them. You also have to continually ask yourself if what you're saying rings true to you. I would suggest that you know it when it doesn't, that it feels false, or lacking, more dream than reality. But that's why we talk to others, especially those who can be truthful with us.

    How can I make connections?

    You have to be out in the world, lunches, meetings, trainings, drinks, informational interviews, work events, using LinkedIn to find those who are like-minded or who you emulate, and then you follow-up and you go to their office, or buy them coffee, or both, and when they need something you provide it, and you follow-up with their requests and recommendations, and some things work out and others don't, and the things that don't you try to make sense of, but either way, you keep pushing.

    You also give me a shout so we can talk further, but I think I already mentioned that.

  • Are you a career-changer, business owner, re-entering the workforce or just want to be a better writer? Then you most definitely want to hit my Personal Branding and Storytelling workshop on May 18th.


    Or so I'm told... Please do find out much more about my May 18th Personal Branding and Storytelling workshop (hosted I should add by the quite kick-ass Modern Capital Concepts, Inc.) here and please let me know if you have any questions or want to host a workshop for yourself.

  • Origin Stories, Organizations, and What Comes Next.

    Introduction

    I was invited to lead a memoir writing workshop for a group of teenagers on a recent Sunday afternoon, but I'm not so sure anyone was asked to sign-up, or even that it was quite advertised, which is to say that it's possible that no one showed-up. Okay, no one showed-up, but that doesn't mean I hadn't borrowed some cool ideas and exercises for the workshop from the storytellers that come speak to the class I teach - Loop 202: Professional Development in the 21st Century, or that I can't share the outline with you. More importantly, as I prepared the outline I was struck that from a storytelling perspective, this outline could easily be adapted for individuals and organizations looking to explore their stories, and reflect on not just what makes them them, or what inspires them, but what they might focus on as they look to the future and what comes next.

    The Outline

    First, begin by clearing some space in whatever space you're in, give people room to move around, get physical, blood flowing, and connecting with the energy of the room and one another.

    Places of Origin

    Think of the room as the world and ask people to go to the part of the world where their family is from. Don't limit them to the places they or their parents were born or moved from. Or even the place where their grandparents came from. Ask them to think about the places of origin they associate with their families, and the origin stories that have been passed along to them. And then ask them their associations with those associations. What do they think they know about place however they define it, and their place in it? How did they get from there to here, the journey, the decisions? What drove those who came before them?

    Life Line

    Next, ask the participants, assuming you have some, to line-up to one side of room. Tell them that where they are standing is when they were born. Have each of them tell you in 30 seconds the story of their birth based on the stories they were told by family, whether it's their biological or adoptive family, or the family they've built for themselves.

    After that, you, or me in this case, stand on other side of the room, and announce what the moment is right then, both the date and time.

    Identify a small group of participants to walk towards you, and say to them by name, if that moment is your birth and this moment is now, you are walking across your life and everything you've experienced - crying, laughing, heartbreak, love, loss - and this point - and then you point - is when you were 5, 10, 15 years old and so on. Now give yourself ultimate permission to think about what comes to you, and resonates with you, about what was happening then.

    Remind them that everything they've ever experienced is available to use and that personal narration is full of life experiences. Then have them walk to that age, and while they don't need to tell the room everything, ask them to share their story for 30 seconds.

    For the next small group, share some prompts: Go to the moment that rocked your world. Go to the moment that changed your life. Go to that moment where you learned a lesson. Coach them to try to focus on place, to put themselves back in that moment, and then have them walk towards that moment and tell you 30 seconds about it.

    After you're done engaging everyone, take a moment to have them assess the experience, how it felt, what they learned, and always taking a moment to reflect.

    Circles

    Now have the participants form two circles, and if the group is really big, multiple circles, but the idea is that there is a circle of participants facing outward, and another circle circling them, standing face to face, and facing inward.

    Start by having the members of the inner circle tell whatever story has captured their imagination, the moment, and what has come to them since the exercises began to the person facing them in the outer circle. Remind them to think about dialogue, what rooms look like, smell like, who was there, their stories too, and to think about contect and texture.

    Give them two minutes.

    Then have the inner circle rotate one person over and tell the same story again to someone new, but now give them one minute. Encourage them to concentrate on what's most important to the story they want to tell. What's the actual story? Which details, characters, feelings, and conversations are most pertinent?

    After that, its the outer circle's turn. Two rotations, rinse, repeat.

    And then take a moment to have the participants reflect, again, this time as both storyteller and listener. What worked, what didn't, what did you want to know more or less of?

    All of it.

    Write

    Now we write. Ten minutes. Again, whatever story resonates most with the participants, have them channel it, and write it, no editing, just writing.

    Maybe though nothing has quite resonated yet, or inspired them, maybe this has been a warm-up for the story they most want to tell, which is great. But maybe that story hasn't taken form yet. The idea is to liberate these ideas, to take action, to keep pushing, and so give them more prompts - one of the happiest days they can remember; their first crush; when they learned to do something new; when they were scared but overcame it.

    Just write, feel something and seek to capture it in words, and on paper.

    Workshop

    And then, and again, assuming you have participants to share their work, ask each person to read what they wrote, and the group to share their thoughts on that work.

    I always encourage people to share something positive first, but then be thoughtful, push people, offer constructive comments about the characters, and point of view, what made sense or didn't, the gaps, and issues around continuity.

    Next

    At this point, we would be done. People would have been on their feet, talking, sharing ideas, moving, digging, reflecting, and writing.

    They would leave with a story, and if the day went really well, stories.

    But that would be it.

    For now.

    And that would be cool.

    But in preparing for this workshop and mixing and matching these different ideas, I started thinking about how this kind of exercise will benefit writers, but my initial interest in these exercises was in helping my Loop 202 students learn their stories.

    We only brief touch on these exercises in class, but why couldn't there be an extended stand-alone session such as this for any individuals who are looking to better tell their own stories as they think about work and what makes them happy?

    Further, and full-disclosure, this has very much been on my mind lately, how do we even know if we are on the path we want to be on professionally?

    Are we happy, effective, and motivated by our work?

    Are we energized?

    When's the last time you asked yourself that? I've been thinking about this alot, and if you aren't certain how to ask yourself that question, or even how to start, why not engage in a series of exercises like these that focus on your origin stories?

    With some tweaks they could be focused on work. Instead of your place of birth for example, what was the first place you ever worked? And what if we asked ourselves not what was our happiest day in general, but what was our happiest day at work?

    Do you know even know the answer to the latter question? Might you want to find out?

    I know that in personally exploring these questions, much of what I have been doing recently is not what made me happiest and most energized earlier in my careet when I first started finding some direction and my voice.

    How do I, you, get back to those things? The first step is making sure you recognize them for what they are and why they meant something to you.

    Further though, why stop with individuals?

    I've worked with many organizations over the years who no longer quite realize, or recognize, who they are, or why they're doing what they're doing, much less how they got there?

    Couldn't we adapt exercises like these for the individuals running these organizations, inviting them to spend time reflecting on their organization's origin story, it's history and timeline, what happened when. What it felt like? What energized the staff? Why people want, or wanted, to come work? What the organization did well and may have gotten away from?

    I'm sure we can and I think this would be really cool, and really doable. I'm still thinking about what it could look like, but if you have ideas about this, or interest in making something like this happen, and you want to talk about it with me, let's do that.

    Just give me a shout, share your thoughts, and we will get down to business.