On most days I’m immersed in other people’s personal lives, histories, and stories as a way to tell their brand story. But when the tables turned and I was in the spotlight, well… gulp.
A few months ago in NYC I found myself giving the most intimate interview I’ve ever offered. It was more than an hour of talking about myself, my life from tow-headed boyhood to gray-headed papahood. I kept waiting for the interview to turn the focus “beyond me,” to work, to ideas, to other people. It didn’t.
It was exhilarating and exhausting.
It’s one thing to dive into other people’s personal lives. But mine? Wait a minute.
The tension I experienced is not abnormal when I compare notes with some of my clients. Many of them are other-centered. They serve clients, teams, loved ones. They focus their attention on ideas, concepts, actions, strategies, business, books, and other people.
But when we turn the lens on them – their distinct ideas, what they uniquely do, why what they distinctly do matters and matters now – well, some of them freeze or scurry for the nearest hole.
But here’s a truth.
As soon as you own publicly who you are, what you’re about, what you or your business uniquely does, you expose yourself.
Here are some ways I have grown comfortable sharing my personal side and have helped clients do likewise.
Sharing the Personable & Personal, not Private
The kinds of socks you wear vs. your dirty laundry
I appreciate knowing that my little girl’s doctor enjoys camping and wildlife photography, but I don’t need to know about his troubled relationship with his ex-wife (if he has one, I don’t know) to trust him and relate to him. In fact, I might distrust him a little (or a lot) if he shifted focus on his private travails mid-appointment. His hobbies: personable. His history with his ex in this context: private. The same goes for a consultant or service provider or customer service rep or business personnel.
Don’t be generic and impersonal.
Start by sharing personable details with your community of readers or viewers. Profiles on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, G+. Your personal Facebook Wall. Pepper them with the personable so we get acquainted with you behind the package or service, the program or product. Pepper, don’t douse.
Give them a mirror.
If you’re wondering how or why to weave a personal story into a keynote or your about page, frame the story as a mirror. The way you frame a hardship, a tough decision, a surprising triumph each can help your audience see themselves in your personal story.
Why does it matter?
An angel investor wants to know of a founder why she has chosen this particular project of any other to expend her finite time and resources advancing. What’s your story? Why do you do what you do? What drives you? Why this? Your shaped responses also become fodder for website copy, collateral, interviews.
Make it art.
Your song becomes our song. Art-making lets that happen. Craft can be a meeting place between my personal pain or my personal obsession and your pain or curiosity. You can make the personal trans-personal.
In the very act of making – a photography series related to grief, a series of poems, a book, a multi-media project, a 90-second film – the creator’s attention shifts away from his personal biography and toward the fodder of his craft.
Without craft or art-making, the creator might be only a confessor, and the audience, a collective counselor.
Take a stance.
Any idea for a business, book, start-up, or brand that comes from you – your convictions, your lived experience, your choice to pay attention to – is personal. If you don’t “do” art, make your sharing deeply held views and stances artful.
Did you get that last part? It’s actually in your taking and developing a stance on an idea that you might be the most personal (and useful in being personal) that your solely or mostly sharing personal experiences or history. If there’s been notable shifts in some WRITING DEN members’ capacity for leadership, I would say it’s been in their willingness to embrace taking a stance while being wholly themselves in their writing.
Show up as yourself in the moment. Speak or write what you deem true for this moment, given what you know and have experienced and have put together. Your community deserves to chew on what you deem true. And they’re privileged to see how parts of your personal history come to play in your business.
Go Naked, Now
And, yeah, if an interview’s purpose is to examine your life lived, then, give yourself to the interview, raw, exposed, naked.
If this blog speaks to you I invite you to join our The Tracking Wonder Quest Community. Our community is comprised of professionals, entrepreneurs, creatives, teachers, coaches, and consultants dedicated to doing business from a place of authenticity and wonder. I’d be pleased to have you join us.