• Tracy Benelli

Q1 - Who You Are

Updated: Feb 9

Belief in oneself and knowing who you are, I mean, that's the foundation for everything great. - JAY-Z

There is something that each one of us is uniquely equipped to do. Question One is about giving that calling its proper vocabulary.

"WHO YOU ARE" is the heart center for describing the best in you and the uniqueness of your expertise and sets the context for explaining how you are a difference maker. The questions that follow expand on the foundational understanding of WHO YOU ARE to tell a complete and dynamic story of you: one that energizes you and stirs the imagination of others about how you will make a difference in their lives.

The insights you gain in exploring the nuances of this question will be your guide in answering the additional questions. When completed, they will present a vivid portrayal of what makes you stand out, rise above, and how you make a difference in the lives of others.

What' s the difference between "WHO YOU ARE" versus "WHO ARE YOU?"

"Who are you?" focuses on facts and checklists, not on the actual person or thing. When most people are asked, "tell me about yourself," or "tell me about your company," the usual reply is to provide pieces of tactical information (occupation, where you're based, what you studied at school, etc.). All those details are accurate and reasonable, but they don't get to the heart of WHO YOU ARE.

WHO YOU ARE is really asking "who you are called to be"? It reveals the essence of your gift and how you have refined that gift through the active practice of living.

We frequently mistakenly decide that who we are was predetermined. This is not true. There is never a point in your life when you are done becoming you. Your ideas, skills, and insights are all in a constant state of becoming. This is true whether you are looking to define your reputation or that of a company, product, or service. The question of WHO YOU ARE is about how your calling has been made evident by your journey up to now.

Sometimes, without being fully aware of it, what you believe about yourself is the byproduct of what other people say, think, and claim. Likewise, your beliefs aren't always absolute, as other people's opinions and experiences can often sway them. When you talk about yourself, you use terms, ideas, and labels that others use to describe their value, but in reality, they have nothing to do with the distinctiveness of how you are a difference maker.

In business, for example, it's not unusual for a company to compare itself to other firms they admire and use the same terms or facts to create an understanding of why they're relevant. But using the same words and styles someone else doesn't make you stand out, it makes you blend in.

The same is true for personal reputation. Emulating another person can be the highest form of flattery. But it also guarantees that you won't be known for your qualities and gifting, and your unique contributions will go unnoticed.

It's normal to want to look to companies and people who inspire us to find ways to describe our vision, accomplishments, and skills. But copying others diminishes your right to embrace your best. It also denies others the choice of finding your solution that addresses what they're searching for. Do you want to give people the same advantage they could get anywhere else? Or would you instead provide them with something unmatched and of real value?

Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing. – ABRAHAM LINCOLN

Shift From Believing to Knowing

As stated earlier, being clear on the beliefs that fuel the work you do, and the skills you've honed is key to nurturing a standout reputation. But to establish a singular voice that energizes the imagination of others and tells a clear, unique story of you and what drives you, you must shift from what you believe to be true to what you know to be true.

Why is "knowing" so important? When you believe something, you are basing it on what others have told you. When you know something, that knowledge comes from you having experienced it as real. Those who stand out are absolutely certain about their best because they know it to be true. To achieve that level of confidence, you have to tap into your own personal experience and filter out the opinions of others. You can plan how you'll pursue your plans and dreams with assurance and confidence and speak about the value of your ideas with conviction.

Also - and equally significant - truly knowing what beliefs and principles you hold dear will give you powerful insight into your character. It's our character that truly defines us. Knowing with certainty WHO YOU ARE gives you ultimate control over what you want to be known for and how you'll achieve that goal.

Purpose is what gives life a meaning. - CHARLES HENRY PARKHURST

See WHO YOU ARE Through These Examples

Personal: A woman I know loves facts—the kind of facts that provide background on how music, books, movies, television, social media, and politics intersect. She used to describe herself as someone who knew a little bit about a lot of things, but she wasn't necessarily an expert in any one area. After working through The Five Questions of Perception, she came to recognize her expertise is identifying emerging cultural trends and she advocates the value of these trends to others. Now when asked, "tell me about yourself," she begins with, "I'm a pop culturist," and, at age 52, she's playing a pivotal role in launching a local radio station dedicated to emerging music.

That small shift in perception about the value of her expertise was essential for her, and it will be for you, too.

Business: Sometimes, describing WHO YOU ARE can initially be very straightforward, but as others begin to rely on the same concepts to express themselves, the need to reexamine the definition of WHO YOU ARE becomes necessary, and a shift in perception is needed.

Intuit, the preeminent brand of financial management software for consumers and small businesses, described themselves too simply, stating, "We are a financial software and Web-based services company." As both their business and the category grew, and other competitors with slightly different variations of their core offerings established strongholds, it became necessary to refresh the definition of who they are. Now they describe the company this way: "We empower prosperity around the world." That shift from pragmatic facts to soaring ideals grabs the imagination of their customers and outlines quickly what Intuit knows is their value to others.

Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. – HOWARD THURMAN

Your Assignment

To discover the words that best reflect the truth of WHO YOU ARE, you'll answer a series of questions and then enter your answers into a Word Cloud Generator. The questions are pertinent to anyone at any stage of life and any business at any stage of growth. How you consider them and answer them is unique to you.

There are two sets of questions below: those for personal discovery, and those for business.

The personal discovery questions are designed to go deep into what you believe about your gifting and expertise. The business questions seek to describe the essence of your ideas.

To reveal what motivates you, let's start by cataloging what makes you come alive.

Step 1: Answer the questions in MSWord (or similar program) to uncover your "weekend words." "Weekend words" are those ideas, stories, dreams, and goals that you talk about with your loved ones, friends, or simply imagine in your private thoughts when you're relaxed and envisioning how you can apply your gifting to make the world brighter. "Weekday words" are the opposite and include those expected titles, labels, analytical phrases, complicated scenarios and "business-speak" terms you default to on Monday mornings, but are not necessarily true when authentically describing WHO YOU ARE.

Tips for Answering the Questions:

In your document, list only the words, phrases, or sentences that best answer the question. No need to rewrite the entire question. Only the answers will be used in the Word Cloud.

Don't worry about writing complete sentences or full paragraphs. Try very hard not to self-edit. If the same description or word applies to multiple questions, go with it. This is critical for discovering those words that energize you.To unleash your full potential, preface each question with "As a difference maker…" For example, "As a difference maker, what is the most personally or professionally fulfilling thing I've done thus far?"Prepare yourself by following the priming exercise below. It is important to get yourself in the right state of mind to let the weekend words of your aspirations fully make themselves known.

Priming Exercise

Find a quiet place without interruption. Imagine that it is late afternoon on what has been a wonderfully perfect day with friends and family. You've spent the day enjoying being together and experiencing the joyfulness of life. You have taken a moment to go off by yourself to revel in the relaxed late afternoon sun and reflect on the day. You can hear your laughter in the background and smell the delicious aromas of a delicious meal being prepared. As you reflect on the day, your thoughts turn to the gratitude you feel and you begin imagining what you want from life. Your thoughts flow smoothly without criticism or obstacles. And you perceive, perhaps clearly for the first time, the best in you and what you offer.

These are your weekend words.

Now take a moment to settle your thoughts, take a few deep breaths and focus on yourself, your dreams, and your ideas.

Answer these personal weekend words discovery questions:

  1. What are the top seven words you use to describe yourself or your idea?

  2. What are the five elements of goodness someone will experience when getting to know you?

  3. What do you do well?

  4. What three things do you love to do most?

  5. What three things do you spend the most time doing?

  6. What do you spend the most time thinking about doing?

  7. What are the top five skills you have?

  8. What inspires you every single day?

  9. What personal values are most important to you?

  10. How do your closest family and friends describe you?

  11. What are your top five accomplishments to-date?

  12. When do you feel the most confidence?

  13. When do you feel the most alive?

  14. If you were to receive an award, what would you want that award to be for?

  15. If you could only accomplish one more thing in your life, what would it be?

  16. What do you want to be doing more of in your life?

  17. What do you stand for?

  18. How do you want to impact the lives of others?

  19. What is the most personally fulfilling thing you've done?

  20. What do you want your legacy to be?

Finish these personal weekend words sentences:

  1. Finish this sentence: "I get a fire in my belly when…"

  2. Finish this sentence: "I am at my best when…"

  3. Finish this sentence: "I want to be known for…"

  4. Finish this sentence: "I am courageous when…"

  5. Finish this sentence: "My driving values are…"

  6. Finish this sentence: "I am determined to…"

Answer these business weekend words discovery questions:

  1. What are the top seven words you use to describe your product or business?

  2. What are the five benefits someone will experience using your product or doing business with you?

  3. What do you do better than your competitors?

  4. What are the five things that get you most excited?

  5. Why are employees or customers attracted to you?

  6. What are the three things you spend the most time-solving?

  7. What business values are most important to you?

  8. How would customers describe your organization or product?

  9. What is the ultimate outcome for your business?

  10. What inspires you every single day?

  11. If you were to receive an award, what would you want that award to be for?

  12. If you were to receive an award, what would you want that award to represent?

  13. What do you stand for?

  14. How do you want to impact the lives of others?

  15. What accomplishments make you most proud?

  16. What do you want your legacy to be?

Finish these business weekend words sentences:

  1. Finish this sentence: "I get a fire in my belly when..."

  2. Finish this sentence: "I want to be known for..."

  3. Finish this sentence: "I am most proud of..."

  4. Finish this sentence: "I am determined to..."

Step 2: Use a Word Cloud generator.

Take your answers from your document and paste your answers only into a word cloud generator such as Word Clouds. Use only your answers for the word cloud, not the questions.

By using a word cloud generator, you will see the words that rise to the top. These are words you use most to describe what is most memorable, most important, and most depicted of what you believe about yourself and your ideas. This is important because we frequently use words without thinking about them. To see them in a format that underscores their frequency and importance gives us a vital first clue in discovering our unique vocabulary of value and creativity.

Step 3: Look for affirmations and trends.

Make a note of the words that make you sit up and pay attention - the ones that cause you to feel the excitement that comes with recognition. Look for those words that indicate a truth that has surfaced. Write down those words and concepts.

Next, make a note of those words that are repeated several times. It can be the actual word or derivative of a particular word. Look for new concepts coming to the surface, or if your current understanding of WHO YOU ARE is validated by the words shown.

Do you see a new idea about your expertise and gifting? About how your company can affect change?

What word patterns do you see – are there words that are describing an area of interest or purpose that perhaps you hadn't paid much attention to in the past? Is there a new idea about you or your business that is revealed through weekend words discovery exercise?

Circle the words that resonate most strongly and truthfully with you. Sit with these words. How does your body feel when you look at the words? Do you feel excited and energized? Do the words seem familiar, or do they feel foreign to you? If you're energized, what ideas for action come immediately to mind?

Did you know that your gut, your heart, and your mind are considered your three brain centers? Trust the reaction of your body (your gut or heart reaction). Your body doesn't lie, but sometimes your mind can fool you. What are those words telling you about WHO YOU ARE? Compare those answers to the very first questions you answered back in the beginning (your two personal wins and three words). How do those align with or expand what you see in your word cloud?

Helpful Tip! Sometimes it is difficult to see ourselves or our business objectively. To quiet those voices and opinions that have run their course, it may help to imagine you are looking at the words of a very close friend. Think of someone you know well, who has similar interests, but one that you can take a step back from to remove the self-editing and self-criticism to see the truth of how remarkable that person or that product is.

Step 4: Answer this question, "I am…." using your weekend word concepts.

Old ideas have to be verbalized and put aside for new insights to take hold. Adapting new cognitive behaviors is about finding new ways to think about what you offer. Look at the sentences you wrote and deconstruct them, looking for any old patterns of perception, so you move those aside and allow the new, more vibrant story of WHO YOU ARE come to the surface.

Step 5: Simplify your "I am…" statement.

Don't get discouraged if the words reflected in your word cloud don't seem to tell a whole story of you. It's not unusual to go through this process several times before the words that bring an authentic "aha" come to the surface. You first need to acknowledge and then put away, old concepts or preconceived notions to make room for new- and more truthful - words and insights.

A Word About Journaling

I find journaling to be an invaluable tool for helping me gain insight and perspective.

There's a definiteness about decisions and ideas that comes from journal writing. You learn what drives you and, in turn, how you participate in the world around you. The value of journaling may not seem evident at first, but a journal provides a chronicle of progress, no matter the format. When you look back on it in the future, you'll have the benefit of perspective that only time can bring, which will allow you to see and appreciate just how far you've come. Whether it's for personal awareness and reflection, or business possibilities and vision, keeping a journal is a valuable way to make a note of your observations and insights.

Download Q1's journaling page and take time to print and ponder the journal prompts to continue this section's lessons.

Jump to Question 2 - What You Do.



©2020 by Tracy Benelli