How you introduce yourself has everything to do with how you see yourself.
I am a writer. A speaker. A company starter and a dispute resolver. But that’s not all that I am. How others see me, and even more importantly, how I see myself, is contained in the words I use to describe myself. These words should include all the things that you are, including what you’re working to become: the dynamic as well as the static parts of you.
All of us are works in progress, tadpoles becoming frogs.
That’s probably why it’s so limiting when people are summed up with adjectives that speak only to their former glories. Academy award nominated actress. Nobel prize-winning economist. President Clinton. What we hear is that you’ve already come and gone. Summed up, and no longer becoming.
Over-simplified packaging (even to honor) probably derives from our survival instincts. A stranger approaches: is she friend or foe? As we start learning more about her, we put her in one category or the other. Where is she in my pecking order, and where am I in hers? Today it’s no longer safety we’re most concerned about, but meeting the expectations we have for ourselves, and that others are busy imposing upon us.
What I’m talking about is scrambling those expectations in the ways that are best for you as soon as you start talking about yourself.
Doing so changes everything: the way you see your work, the way you think about your life. Because these are the words you are choosing to define yourself.
Social media has made tagging ourselves the very springboard for conversation. This wasn’t the case “in the olden days” where self-description was limited to more specific occasions (Resumes. A few lines in a yearbook. A short bio when someone was introducing you someplace).
Today, we are constantly introducing and branding ourselves. When there is truth in our marketing, these kinds of tags can move our expectations (and the expectations that others have about us) to the rich-with-promise places where they need to be.
I have a friend who describes himself as “the home inspector lawyer, professional speaker, and raconteur.” His promise is that he’ll help you with your home inspection problems, and that you’ll have fun while he’s doing it. Joe is many things, but first and foremost he’s an entertainer: happiest when he’s making you happy.
I am collaborating with a woman who describes herself as an “empire builder.” Whose empire, you might ask? The stated goal is that it’s mine, but (in truth) some of the best energy in our collaboration also comes from being a part of what Amy’s building for herself. And then there’s the software developer at a client’s company whose bio begins with “puzzle piecer.” When I read this, I see my fragmented jigsaw puzzle sprawling over a table and Jonathon’s getting a charge by helping me find that recalcitrant piece.
People like this who involve other people in what they’re doing—and with who they are—are influential people. There are even meters for tracking their influence (like Klout; PeerIndex; Appinions; and PeopleBrowsr, the creator of something called Kred). The endorsements of influential people are important precisely because there are all of us out here who want to be involved with them and learn from the choices they’re making.
Mark Schaefer, a Rutgers marketing professor, has put his finger on the way that influencers are creating buzz with their followers in social media today.
This is an entirely new marketing channel, and when’s the last time we had one of those? Done well, it can be enormously effective because you’re getting this advocacy [for whatever it is you’re offering] organically.
But organic marketing is really only part of it.
It’s not the reflected glory from past accomplishments that influential people are providing, but future promises. In the words they use, each of them is involving our expectations with theirs. Not by offering a static summary of who they are, but by opening a door that invites you into a shared experience you begin creating together: truly, a springboard into the future.
Think about defining yourself this way.
It’s more than just words, of course. But the right ones invite others into your work-in-progress—while putting your best foot forward.