Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Who You Are

To my son Tommy,

At the start of a new session of just about anything, there is often a time when you go around the room and we are asked to introduce ourselves.  They say "tell us who you are and what you do" etc.  Usually you get up, mumble your name, say a few things that you think are pertinent, and quickly grab a seat.  When you say who you are and what you do, you tailor it to what you believe is useful to the group.  If it is a business meeting you mention the company you work for and what you do for a living and maybe your background experience.  If it is a church meeting, you mention how long you have been a member of your parish and a brief description of what you perceive as your level of faith.  If it is a community meeting, you mention when you moved to your present community and you point to people you know or have worked with within the community.  If it is classroom meeting, you talk about your education level and experience and perhaps what interested you into taking the class.  You basically attempt to paint a quick picture to allow others to get an idea of who you are based upon their own experiences with people they have met just like you.  You only share fairly non-personal nondescript information to give only the picture you want.  It is a list of qualifications on a verbal résumé that are given to either impress the others or to appease the others.  That is a shame.

Every person is so much more than who they just said they were.  You are more than your job.  You are more than your residence.  You are more than your age.  You are so much more and when people limit what they say they really share themselves short.  It would be amazing if somehow we could share a glimpse at our entire person in the few awkward seconds we are given to explain "Who You Are" to a group.  It wouldn't be practical, due to time constraints, but it would be an amazing gift.

Instead I offer you this advice. When you find yourself in that position, pick something "out of the box" that you are proud about and share that.  Be real, be honest, but be exciting and even a bit mysterious and vague.  Pick out something you are extremely proud of.  Then sit down without much fanfare.  Invite others to find out more about who you are or better yet who they are through your comments.  You aren't going to be able to express who you are in a sound bite mentality but you will be able to intrigue others into exploring who you are or perhaps even exploring themselves from your brief moment.  And don't limit yourself by the occasion either.  Just because you are in a business meeting doesn't mean that your profession should be the thing you are most proud of.  Here are a couple that would work for me.  They all would start out "Hi my name is Leo and I ...

  • ... am trying to be the best father I can to an amazing four year old boy who is currently busy trying to learn his own home phone number.
  • ... was a world traveler and an army brat and I lived in Italy for three years where once I saw an amazing human chess game.
  • ... am recently considering what organizations to volunteer my time to to best give back to my community.
  • ... once helped save people in an accident when a car drove into the bar I was working at doing approximately 100 mph (the car not the bar).
  • ... am interested in learning more about the problems facing Baltimore City and what I can do to change them and just started following some of the various policy makers and news reporters on Twitter to see what I can figure out.
  • ...  am married to the most amazing woman who, when she isn't stressing about an upcoming nursing exam or cleaning up after her messy husband, bakes amazing desserts.
  • ... am proud to say I have said a decade of the rosary every day for the past three weeks.
  • ... helped five people just today with solving problems on their computers so they can get their job done.
  • ... once wore flip flops and Hawaiian shirts for an entire winter because I was on a Jimmy Buffett fan kick.
  • ... read Plato's Republic twice by the age of 14.  
  • ... am so excited to learn about you guys that I can't think of a thing to share.
Be quirky.  Be original.  It can be things you have done or things you are doing or things you want to do.  Just be real and be true to who you are.  It might sound a bit like bragging but really it is a bit of salesmanship that may possibly open an entire world of sharing.  When people approach you later quickly change the focus off you to how what you are doing, or want to do, relates to them and then switch again to make sure you truly find out about them.  And anyone of these introductory phrases almost guarantees someone approaches you later and asks you about something unless you went completely inappropriate to the meeting.  Even if you did, it wasn't your normal mindless dribble and at least everyone will have something out of the norm to talk about, "Hey what was with the guy with the flip flop story?  That was completely random."  Remember, you are interesting, you are unique, and you have so much to share.  

You already do all this naturally as a four year old.  The other day we were getting into the car and said hi to someone passing by and you added, "Hi!  We are going to church! And I learned my phone number! Are you walking to get exercise?  I like walking too!"  which, though a bit non sequitur in your execution, seemed to me you shared what you are proud of and even topped it off with showing interest in the person you were meeting and how you guys relate.  Right on point.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

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