Stepping Out from Behind the Cardboard Cutout

So as human beings, we face a profound choice. Do we show up in the world as a cardboard cutout – a representation of what we think other people want to see or what we believe we should be? Or do we show up as our full and hairy selves? Messy, complicated, vibrant and alive?

As long as we go the cardboard cutout way – shaping ourselves around others’ stated wants and preferences – our connections to others and to the world have a certain flatness. We look and sound more or less like everybody else.

When we choose to show up as who we are, when we make visible all the parts of who we are, when we choose to write and speak from the bowl of our bellies about the things that matter most, life gets wilder, more unpredictable.

The connections we make are deeper, stronger, more primal.

The expression we make – our words, our ideas, our art, our books, our classes, our programs, our coaching, any of our creations – become richer and more nuanced. They have more power. People feel the impact in their bodies, not in their minds.

Right people start to circle around. Because they are hearing something that calls them. Not-right people opt out.

This is true in every area of our lives. Family, friendships, community, and work.

And it has added relevance when we choose to be in business. When we choose to offer our original work, our services, our creations in exchange for money.

Because when we want to be paid to bring our original work and voice and expression into the world, we have to be visible. We have to be sufficiently visible, frequently enough, over time, so that people can register who we are and what we offer and decide if they want it.

So the choice of how we show up in the world becomes vitally important.

If we choose the cardboard cutout approach (which is often what is taught, with variations, in more conventional marketing and business trainings), we tend to create transactional marketing, looking at what we say and do that maximizes “conversion” and revenue. We shape our expression, our offers, our messaging to what we perceive people want and are willing to buy. We might add a dash of our personality here, or a smidge of the unexpected there, but mostly we color between the lines.

When we choose to show up as ourselves, we don’t get the comfort or luxury of using a blueprint (not that those work that well for many folks any way). Things get unpredictable, remember?

So what do we do?

Learning who we are, aligning with who we are, choosing to share who we are, these are radical acts of self-assertion.

We take on the task of developing the substance of what we want to share. Of identifying the animating energy at the center of our work, the energy that’s been with us our entire lives, that colors and shapes everything we do.

And from that animating energy, to capture and commit in writing the concepts and ideas that are at the heart of what we offer.

And then, if we choose, to develop what I call your Book of Language, the words, the phrases that transmit the beating hear, the unique energy, that is your work in the world.

These pieces give us a different place to move from.

A different way of anchoring ourselves in our own work, a different source for generating the thousands of different expressions – emails, social media posts, articles, content, intellectual property, and offers – we need to make to have a viable presence in the marketplace.

Without that center, we can get pushed and pulled by outside forces. We can get distracted or seduced by cool new ideas and directions. But when we know that center, we can take in new possibilities and feel in to how it fits with everything else we bring to the table.

When we do this deeper work, this excavation of who we are, this development of the substance of what we have to share, the refinement of the language we use to share, it, we anchor in an identity that is felt by others as real and true. People trust the things we speak and write. We open to the possibilities, to the magic, of sharing who we are with the world.

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