I’ve been trying to act oh, so nonchalant about it, but my first column appeared over at Oprah.com …
It’s on the idea of personal reinvention, and specifically how do you find and claim your Onlyness. I’ll excerpt a bit here, and let you wander over to Oprah (did I say Oprah? I did!).com to see the full article.
In the search for our purpose, people are often told to look inside themselves. I don’t know about you, but for me, that feels a bit like looking into an abyss. It’s dark, and even though I know some important things are in there, finding anything requires groping around to find the shape and form of clues. Having reinvented what I do several times now, I’ve figured out how to do a search for “what’s next,” one that leads to clarity and momentum:
A. Name Your Invisibles
Several years ago, I was shutting down a company I had grown from scratch to be a several million dollar business. This meant starting over, which I conceptually had no problem with. I was, however, missing clues about what I could bring to a brand-new situation. I made a list of 10 people from varied backgrounds whose opinions I respected. Most of them had known me for some time, but not closely, which gave them perspective. I asked them to help name the things I was good at, or attributes they had observed.
They named many things that were largely invisible to me—things I had taken for granted. For example, many of them pointed out my economics background and how I was often the person who spotted early the little things (the micro, in economic terms) that were signs of bigger trends (the macro). Some insights were positive, like “You honor the dignity of each person” and others less so, like “You are impatient.” Their comments illustrated different aspects of what made me utterly me. You see, each of us is standing in a spot no one else occupies. That unique viewpoint is born of our accumulated experience and perspective and our vision. This is your onlyness—the thing that only you can bring into a situation. You are getting others’ help to see and describe what you naturally bring to any situation, independent of prior roles.
Working with new editors is always illuminating. More on what I learned throught that process, later…
Before that, one request — if there is a natural question that follows this post (like does owning your onlyness lead to loneliness?), post it either here or on Oprah’s site and it will provide fodder for what I write next.