Be Who You Are

When people try to tell you who you are, don’t believe them. Maya Angelou

In some ways, it’s easy to be ourselves. After all, who else can we be? The fundamental ‘stuff’ that makes up ‘me,’ is written in genes and ‘the way I grew up.’ So why are we so afraid of being 100%, ourselves?

If we really think about it, we spend a lot of time ‘conforming’.  We worry what the neighbors, our co-workers or our family will think. But what about how we spend our time, who we associate with, what books we read, what thoughts we express?Do we betray ourselves in order to seem the same as everyone else?

We are often so afraid of being even a little bit different, that we push, no shove and repress our uniqueness to a place where we (and everyone else) doesn’t feel threatened. When we do this enough, we grow up to be replicas of those around us. Those who go to our church, live in our neighborhood, work at our company, etc. We are not individuals, we are a reflection.

If you’re a young person, you still have time to learn to assert your unique perspective and vision of yourself.  You can practice not wincing when someone tells you they don’t understand who you are, why you’re wearing that outfit, why you think that, why you hang out with him/her.

If you’re like me (old, haha) it’s hard, but we can still do it.  Let’s catch ourselves when we think, “I can’t do that.” That’s the moment we need to be brave. You can do it. I’ll report in on how I’m doing.

Image credit: Quotes wave

The Sweetest Sound: My Name

Some people make jokes about their terrible memories and their inability to remember people’s names. Like it’s a big joke. It’s not.

“Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound” Dale Carnegie

Recently I recounted a story about the CEO of a national company with 2,000 employees. When I visited his office, the walls were covered with photos of the company’s employees. Some had check marks next to them. The check marks indicated those employees that the CEO had met in their hometown (all over the country) and with whom he had spoken about their family. His goal was to know the face, name and family members of each employee no matter where he met them. Imagine the energy it took to work on this.

Why did this CEO think this was so important? Well, first of all it meant that he was focused on employees. Next, it gave him a way to connect to people who were not at ‘headquarters’ and a way to make them feel that he cared about them, which, he obviously did.

I work hard to remember people’s names. I learned a trick many years ago; when I meet someone new, I say their name as I shake their hand. Then I try to use it at least one more time before we part company. It’s a small thing but it leaves a positive impression. Check out these tips for remembering names.

Photo credit: Whisper

Job Interview Magic: I and We

I recently had an opportunity to do help graduate students work through mock job interviews. I had 4 international students, all with impeccable credentials. The first young man was charming and humble. A musician by avocation, he’s looking to help the world be a better place. He was a sharp contrast to one of my other interviewees.

When I asked this next young man what he wanted to accomplish from his ‘mock’ interview, he said that he needed direct feedback about how he could improve. I started by asking him about his strengths. He mentioned that he felt that working with people and getting things done were his strengths.

When he described how he led teams, he mentioned that when an employee did something wrong, he would tell them, “You made a mistake,” and then he would tell them how to fix it.

While I didn’t like how he described his supervisory style, I couldn’t argue with directness in employee coaching.

In giving him feedback, I pointed out that the way he spoke about subordinates was different than the way I would do it. That didn’t make it wrong but I wondered if he was being too direct, and perhaps it was cultural.

When I read this post, “The 2 Most Important Words in a Job Interview,” I realized that perhaps what I sensed was too much “I”  in the discussion of his success and not enough “we.”

The entire experience was, for me, uplifting, as is all my work with young people. I get the feeling that the world is going to be in good hands.

Habits for Excellence – Yawn. Been There.

Creating ‘habits’ for excellence is hot topic. Make your bed as soon as you get up. Put things back in their place when you’re finished with them. Pick up clutter every night. Yawn. Heard it, tried it. Hate it.

One suggestion I do like is… Become Enthusiastic. Why don’t more of us do it? Habit.

“Most people drift through life with their shoulders hunched and wrinkles on their forehead. Be enthusiastic not just about going on vacation, or taking some time off from work… but about everything in life.”

How can we find a way to be more enthusiastic? Work at it. Set it as a goal. Understand its power.

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We show people we care by listening, so listen with energy. Be verbally supportive. Nod, smile. We demonstrate our priorities by where we put our time. It’s not easy to insert more enthusiasm in our daily lives, but it’s worth the effort. We are often enthusiastic about our kid’s accomplishments but not about our friend’s or colleague’s… or a stranger’s (heaven forbid!)

Enthusiasm doesn’t look the same in every person. Some might stand up, shift their weight from foot to foot; others might get louder. There isn’t a formula. Pay attention to how YOU show enthusiasm and then harness that focus and attention when you want it.

By the way, enthusiasm does not guarantee success, but it’s makes the journey more fun. And while some people might mock us, do we really care?