Last week I taught “Six Steps to a More Compelling Signature Story” through Pinchot University to a group of very cool professionals. Together, we explored how to develop story frameworks they could use to define their bio’s or LinkedIn profiles.
I had a blast working with such a wonderfully animated and diverse group! Some folks brought in bios that they just needed to tweak; others were still defining the paths they were on and the work they were seeking.
How I empathized with the ones who needed to create their bios!
Two years ago I started struggling to create a new one.
When I began work on my website, I learned that I needed to create a bio and an “about me” page. It was daunting!
As a sole proprietor, designing a website isn’t just about defining your brand and your graphics.
It’s about defining your work and defining your life.
Needing help, I hired a business development coach to stand by me, light a fire under my tail, and help me navigate this strange new world of websites.
Each Friday afternoon, throughout the hot months of July and August, we sat on my leather coach and talked about my vision, my values, my experiences, my clients, my services, and my dreams. Then, she told me to start writing about myself.
Yeah, right! When I tried to define where I was going, it was foggy.
How could I present myself on a website, before I was really sure where I was going?
Which of the many things I had done should I focus on? What markets could I best serve? What look? What brand?
I warmed up by studying hundreds of consultant websites – so many of them just plain boring (this may have changed now). I read tons of bio’s. I looked for those with a voice that was both passionate and professional.
Finally the time came when I needed to stop researching – and WRITE.
Putting the self on paper
As I wrote, I’d advance and flounder, unsure how to summarize thirty years of experience, and frustrated that it seemed so difficult to put on paper where I was headed.
I composed and revised, composed and revised, until one day I had a draft that felt good enough to put out to the world.
And with that, a website started to emerge, stylish and beautiful. I almost didn’t recognize myself, although I had written every word.
I began to see myself from outside myself.
It gave me confidence, although in truth, I was still evolving. But I had taken a step, a step that allowed me to move forward.
I was beginning to create my path by walking forward.
Then, more edits…
Within two months of taking my website live, I needed to edit again. I saw text that I loved – and text that was no longer me – too wordy, too full of consultant-speak. I wanted a voice that had depth, yet conveyed elements of my own quirky personality.
Feeling like a teenager trying to sneak a smoke, (and to the chagrin of my coach who thought the website could rest for a while), I learned to edit webpages and revise text.
I’ve probably revised each page I’ve written – and most of the words.
The process has taught me a lot. I write, I grow, I read, I revise, I write again.
I cut slowly through the fog.
So my advice to those students sitting in my class – and to you, if you’re wanting to reinvent how you talk about yourself – is simple: write NOW.
Write what you know, what you can see today. Create a new bio. Take a first step. Choose a direction. Write again. Revise it. Enjoy the process.
Let what you’ve written about yourself speak to your heart. Let it inspire you.
Keep changing. Keep revising. Keep moving. Revise again.
Create the road you’re walking.
On the eve of teaching my Signature Story course, I put my own teaching to the test: I revised my LinkedIn profile summary that I’d thought was good enough when I revised it 5 months ago.
The revision didn’t take long. And it came out so much better. And, probably for the first time, I liked it.
As Paolo Freire, (1921-1997) the great Brazilian activist/educator used to say, “We make the road by walking.” He may have borrowed the idea from the Spanish poet Antonio Machado who wrote, in 1912:
Wanderer, your footsteps are
the road, and nothing else;
wanderer, there is no road,
the road is made by walking.
Walking makes the road,
and on glancing behind
one sees the path
that he will never trod again.
in Campos de Castillo. trans. Betty Jean Craige
We cut through the fog by walking. Take a step. Create the path. Follow that. See where it takes you. Change course when you need to.
A bio is a living document.
Read it. Hate it. Love it. Let it talk back to you and tell you where you’ve been, where you’re growing and who you can be.
Then keep walking.
Blessings on the trail,
p.s. I’ll be teaching another workshop this fall, but, in the meantime, if you know anyone who needs help cutting through the fog and writing and speaking about themselves in a way that is dynamic and real – send them to me. We’ll have fun!