On Being Unmistakable

unmistakable

What will you do in 2016 to assure you and your best work are unmistakable?

Srinivas Rao

This is the last prompt from Quest 2016. And it is a great one for me.

Assure You Are Unmistakable

I am unmistakable. I know this. I have always been one of those people who makes an impression. I do not blend easily into the background. I do not have to “do” anything to be unmistakable. I just need to show up.

People remember me.

My work, on the other hand, is entirely forgettable and mistakable far too often.

Assure Your Work is Unmistakable

What would it mean for my work to be unmistakable?  Unmistakable is not unforgettable; it is not irreplaceable. Calling for my work to be unmistakable is not setting standards about what return I will get from my work. Being unmistakable simply means being clearly one thing as opposed to any other thing.

For my work to be unmistakable is merely to create things that are identifiable are my work as opposed to somebody else’s work.

And, to assure that my work is unmistakable, I must let the specifics of my experience and perspective appear in my work.

Individuality is in the details. We are all human beings with human needs, desires, and experiences, but what makes each person unmistakable are the details.

I have identical twin nieces. I make mistakes in identifying them in pictures or when I walk into a room where they are sitting quietly. But, as soon as they speak or act, the differences between them become clear. Despite having identical DNA, living in the same house with the same parents, and having many of the same experiences in life and through school, they are unique people with unique perspectives on the world. And when I see more than the external similarity between them, which is extreme, they are unmistakable.

It is so much easier for my work to be unmistakable than for my nieces to be unmistakable. I have a highly unusual set of educational experiences, a breadth of experience with different English-speaking cultures, a remarkable comfort with skepticism and wonder, a huge body of literature, art, philosophy and culture that I have been exposed to, and a set of aesthetic pleasures that are particularly free from the boundaries of genre and media.

If I bring the breadth of the details that inform my work into my work, my work cannot be anything but unmistakable.

What is Holding Me Back From Being Unmistakable in My Work?

My insistence on inter-disciplinary, cross-genre, boundary-breaking living and thinking has a history of making waves. I can hold more complexity in my mind than many people. In all the places in my life where I join in communities with a single focus, there have been people who were uncomfortable with my complexity.

In my formative years, the world around me seemed to call me weird like it was a bad thing. I carry in my body deep fear that if I let my weirdness out, I will be alone and unloveable.

Despite evidence that my weirdness is what draws my favourite people to me, I hesitate to let that translate into my professional work.

The bulk of my professional life has been in the conservative, corporate legal world. Despite working with cutting-edge technologies and innovative businesses in Silicon Valley, the law office I worked for was part of a major, old-school, New York law firm. My office was the odd-balls who were tolerated because we brought in too much money to ignore. But, even in that office, I was the oddity, the artist who needed a creative life of my own, who wasn’t satisfied simply facilitating other people’s creative work. I struggled to balance the needs of my soul with the needs of the office, whereas my colleagues met the needs of their souls through the work or sacrificed their needs to the needs of the office.

Later, as a fundraiser for a theatre company, I was part of the corporate face of the institution, the respectable side of things, not the passionate, creative side.

Finding ways to be a creative, passionate, effective business artist is calling on me to reject the rituals of business that I have experienced and find new models. And to trust that there is a way to be authentically me and professional at the same time.

It seems too much to believe that, in fact, the way to business success may be to be the weirdness that is me. The fear of being unloveable and unrewarded is great. And, I know from experience, that I cannot conquer the fear. I can only set it aside and work despite the fear and see what happens. And to trust that even if I discover that working that way does make me unloveable to some people, a) I will be able to handle it, and b) it will also make me compelling to others.

In addition to my fear of being unloveable, there is an arrogance to thinking of myself as special that I reject. But, in retrospect, I have thrown the baby out with the bathwater and also rejected the idea of allowing my unique qualities to drive how I present my work.

There is a crucial distinction between being unique and being special.

Each human being is a unique constellation of genetic tendencies and lived experiences. This does not make us special in any sense of being deserving of more or better. It makes us special only in the sense of being different from every other person.

It is possible to both honour my uniqueness and to remain humble.

All I need to do is show up fully and get my ego out of my way.

If I let myself show in and through my work, it will be unmistakably work that only I can produce.

Srinivas Rao is the host and founder of The Unmistakable Creative podcast where he has conducted over 500 interviews with thought leaders and people from all walks of life.

 

Side by Side Stories with Connection

SidebySideInspirationSquare

What’s the story you most desire to bring to life in 2016?   

What’s the story your just-right client most desires to bring to life in 2016?

Where do your two stories overlap?

Jen Louden

My Story

The story I most want to bring to life in 2016 is the story of my earned income through coaching replacing all the spousal support I have received from my ex-husband since we separated. This is the story of establishing my independence, my competence, my strength. This is the story of sharing the gifts I bring to the world and being rewarded for it.

This is the story of my success.

The Story of My Just-Right Client

My just-right client has their own version of success, but the core of what they want from life is to feel that they are valued and that what they are doing in the world is meaningful. The story my just-right client wants to bring to life in 2016 is the transformation of their life from hum-drum to vibrant.

Side by Side Stories with Connection

Although my story and the stories of my just-right clients are separate, they connect in the heart of my coaching work.

My coaching work is to help people articulate their own definitions of a meaningful and successful life, clarify what practical and mental shifts are required to make that life a reality instead of a dream, and to walk with them through the process as the champion of their best self.

When they pay me for this companionship, they commit to making their story a reality and they play a part in making mine a reality, too.

We walk separate paths, side by side, with connections.

With each other.

In our work.

Stand Out. Don’t Fit In.

amplify2

 

Which element of your best work do you most want to amplify this year?

Instead of considering simply doing more work, take the time to consider which elements of your work would most light you up to amplify. What’s holding you back from amplifying it? Is it that obscure little thing no one will care about? Or is it that if they see it, they’ll care too much and call the Imposter or Weirdo Police?

There won’t be a time in the future where it’ll be easier to amplify that part of your work.
p.s. You can’t stand out and fit in at the same time.

Charlie Gilkey

What is my best work?

Okay, confession time. My best work is the stuff I keep under wraps in large portions of my life. Simply typing these words into my computer made my heart beat faster and my throat dry out.

My best stuff is the stuff that makes me radical, the stuff I truly think the world needs and that I know scares people.

My best stuff is when I show up in my full self and invite people to join me.

Other people describe me as majestic, elegant, intelligent, comfortable with artists and engineers, atheism and spirituality, interdisciplinary, a polymath, always searching for understanding, deep thinker, passionate, gregarious, honest, direct, insightful, practical, and a creative problem solver with great stamina for conversation and exploration of the ideas that move me.

I come alive most when I connect with other people who are fully alive and showing up with whole-hearted authenticity.

I am a life coach/writer/theatre artist, a former lawyer, and a body-wise intellectual. I have experience in education of gifted kids and my life coaching clients are mostly gifted, creative, and/or sensitive renaissance souls or polymaths. My passion is leading people from dependence or co-dependence through independence to interdependence. My superpower is leading political, religious, or social justice related conversations on Facebook in which people have genuinely changed their minds in response to persuasive arguments.

My best work is what I do when my full self shows up.

And there are parts of my self that I keep under wraps in situations where it feels unsafe to show up fully.

I am tall and have a body deal about that. I do not stand up straight regularly for various reasons that have to do with fitting in and being seen as gentle. But, unless I stand up straight, I am selling myself and those around me short. I come alive when my body is not cramped into a doomed attempt to be a culturally acceptable size for a visibly female body

I am a passionate thinker, a mystical atheist, a deeply spiritual secularist, a democratic socialist, a gender queer (non-binary) bisexual, an armchair philosopher, and an advocate for all sorts of radically inclusive political policies.

I hide these things in too many places. When I hide them, I stop feeling alive.

What would light my up to amplify in my world?

In my world, amplifying the mystical atheism, the secular spirituality, and the passion behind my actions will light me up most, especially in my business. My passions and my spirituality are what brought me to this work. I want to let them flow through it.

What is holding me back from amplifying it?

I fear that I will look weird as I do this and that people I care about will think I have gone off the deep end.

And yet, when I show up with those parts of myself, I am compelling and charismatic and helpful.

I have an old story in my body of people being afraid of me when I show up fully. And, I know that when I was a child and inexperienced with sharing my full knowledge, passion, and being, I was harsher than I necessary when holding my integrity in the places where the world wanted me to conform in ways that would harm me.

I have learned so much about how to hold my care for other people and my authenticity is healthier balance over the years that I am no longer as harsh as I was. I have learned much but still forget that I have learned it.

What do I need to remember to be able to amplify it?

I can show up fully without crowding other people out of the space.

I have practiced over years and continue to get better.

I am quick to notice when my shadow material is showing up and I have skills to pull myself back into alignment.

My compassion for other people is strong and my commitment to their own authority over their own experience and choices is strong.

I will make mistakes and do my best to repair any damage I cause and that is the best any human being can ever do.

Rigour, Passion, Stamina

 

rigourpassionstamina

The Quest 2016 prompt today is “What can you stop doing in 2016 such that it would allow you to focus on higher payoff activities?” from marketing consultant John Jantsch.

It’s All About Perspective

Like all things, this prompt can be looked at in many ways.

The low-level business management perspective has very practical implications. What can I stop doing? What can I delegate? Can I hire a personal assistant, a bookkeeper, a tax accountant, etc. so I can delegate my schedule, the daily financial tracking, and taxes to other people? Can I leave my website in the state it is in for a year without worrying about it? And, there are a few things at that level that I could think about, but they are dull and boring and distinctly outside the realm of why I am participating in the quest.

There’s the new-agey, self-helpy perspective: I can stop letting myself be blocked by my limiting beliefs. This, of course, requires one to figure out what one’s blind spots are.

There is the personal growth perspective: I can stop questioning my inner authority. I can stop looking to gurus, mentors, and teachers for information and reassurance that I know what to do instead of just doing what needs to be done.

And there are more.

What Are Higher Payoff Activities?

In order to pick a perspective, I must first identify my goal. Without knowing the desired end state, it is impossible to guess which path leads in the right direction.

High payoff activities are activities that serve my business greatly and are aligned with my values.  I can’t and don’t expect my business and work life to meet all my needs, but I know from experience that if I cannot find a perspective from which to do my work that aligns with a substantial percentage of my deepest values, I am at risk for major depression, and major depression interferes with all aspects of my life, including my business.

Higher payoff activities might be purely financial. In fact, more money coming in from my business is one of my goals for 2016.

But, there are other things my business needs to do for me.

My core values are Agency, Making, Big Scale, Connections Between People, and Beauty. I capitalize these because my version of each of these things is unique to me. In fact, when I name them for myself, I call them Oak Tree, Making, Breaking the Mould, The Space Between, and the Eye of the Hurricane.

For me, many of my core business practices are very satisfying in terms of Agency, Making, and The Space Between. But, I could make some improvements in the scale of the work I am doing.

Scale with Integrity

I am not interested in money for money’s sake. I want my business to make enough money to pay me and a small support staff a decent salary and offer powerful programs and services. Beyond that, a share for the government, and a share for charitable donations, acquisition of money does not motivate me.

Where I want scale is in the depth of some of my work and in the number of people touched. I want to impact the world in a big way.

So, I ponder, who must I be to have that impact and what must I do? And who must I not be and what must I not do?

What I have noticed is that when I show up with my full authentic self, with care and compassion for others, having for myself no agenda other than supporting their agenda, I move people deeply and effectively. I have also noticed that when I stand tall, speak with my full intelligence, and stick with the ideas that drive me, over time, people listen to me and invite others to hear me speak. This data points me along a path to the scale I crave.

Having noticed this pattern over time, I know what I must do and who I must become to reach my goals.

I must be courageous. I must create the work that speaks from the truth as I see it.

I must be reliable. I must deliver and promote my work so it moves into the world.

I must not be timid. I must not let fear of being controversial stop me from speaking up.

I must be whole. I must not hide my passion, my rigour, or my stamina.

And there is my answer to the prompt.

To focus on the higher payoff activities, I can stop letting fear of being controversial stop me from speaking up. I can stop hiding the full expression of my intense passion, my rigorous analysis and deep thinking, or my stamina.

Why Would They Miss You?

whywouldtheymissyou

 

Would they miss you if you were gone?
What would have to change for that question to lead to a better answer?
~Seth Godin

This prompt for Quest 2016 is very similar to the prompt Seth Godin contributed to Quest 2015.

Last year’s prompt was “Who would miss you if you were gone? If you didn’t show up to work, didn’t send out that newsletter, didn’t make that sales call, didn’t tweet that tweet… who would miss it? How does your answer shape how you’ll live out 2015?” My answer was the only people who would miss me would be the people who had seen the authentic me. Everybody else would miss their image of me.  And the inspiration was to head into 2015 bringing more of my authentic self into my work.

I have done that. I continue to do more of it.

My clients would miss me if I were gone.

But, Godin’s second question is more interesting to me. For “that question” to lead to a better answer, it would need to be a better question: Why would they miss you if you were gone?

I am sure this prompt is related to Godin’s book Linchpin in which he argues that people should aim to become indispensable in their work.

I am indispensable in my organization. I am my organization. I am a solopreneur.

But, I do not want to be indispensable to my coaching clients.

I do not want to be missed because things fall apart without me. In fact, if my clients fall apart when I am no longer working with them, then I will have done them a grave disservice. My job is to empower my clients not disempower them.

I want to be missed because I am a valuable resource, a trusted witness, and a useful companion on my client’s journey through the constantly changing terrain of life.

The why of my being missed matters.

In my work, I show up with my full self to witness my clients and put all of my skills and resources in the service of their fulfillment of their dreams. When I do that, I am not only helping them take powerful actions toward fulfilling lives in alignment with their values and standards, but I am also modelling for them how to support themselves when they are not with me.

In the long run, my clients learn to self-manage, and also come back to me for support when they recognize that they need it.

I can honestly say my clients would miss me for the right reasons.

 

Seth Godin is the author of 18 books that have been bestsellers around the world and have been translated into more than 35 languages. He writes about the post-industrial revolution, the way ideas spread, marketing, quitting, leadership and most of all, changing everything.

Changes of Direction for 2016

2016NewDirections

It has been almost a year since I posted to this blog. At that time, I was participating in Quest 2015 hosted by Jeffrey Davis at Tracking Wonder. Quest 2015 was a month-long period of contemplation and visioning for 2015.

Participating in the Quest was an important part of the life shifts that I have been working through this year, life shifts that have led to me wondering what to do with this blog.

I have very much enjoyed the conversations that have come out of my writing in this form and cherish the people I have met, but I have struggled to figure out what the purpose of this blog was and how to use it.

In particular, this year has led to me changing my name. My husband and I are divorcing and I have gone back to using my birth name, Kate Arms. I have not wanted to write under my married name anymore.

So, I am moving where I will be writing to several different locations.

The reflections of how to live an engaged, playful, and healthy life now appear in Firestarters, the newsletter I write for Signal Fire Coaching. If you want to read more about creativity, InterPlay, living authentically, and playing with the hard stuff, you can subscribe here.

My writings about writing will be found at Cracks in the World. That will be the place to read both announcements about my work and reflections about the writing process. Although the site is not fully live there yet, you can sign up to be notified as soon as it is.

This blog will stay live and I will be using it for the challenges I like to participate in. This month, for instance, I will be participating in Quest 2106 and will be posting my reflections from that process here. The Quest is a community of people digging into their visions for the following year through three prompts a week. If you are looking for a way to step into the new year with enthusiasm, creative energy, and vision, check it out. It might be just what you are looking for.

I want to thank you for reading this blog in the past and hope you will join me in the other venues that meet your interests.

Kate