At a dinner party a few years ago, a guest had the idea of playing a game called the FIVE I AMs. It's straightforward enough -- you simply list five ways of describing yourself. At first glance, it's easy to rattle off the usual suspects; creative, fierce, independent... you get the picture. The game really caught me off guard because I had never actually stopped and thought about "what I am." I live me everyday, but picking five things that summed up what "I am" was harder then I thought. Over time (consciously or subconsciously) it ended up being a great way of establishing my "brand" and figuring out what I stood for.
That simple conversation-starter has become an exercise I revisit often. Some of my FIVE I AMs change over time. Others are strangely fixed, as if they're the very foundation on which my identity is built. Sometimes we're so swept up in the day-to-day that our sense of self can become obscured. This exercise helps me see myself more clearly when life can get a little foggy. It's a little way of taking stock, of reacquainting yourself with YOU.
Recently I found myself wanting to go over my FIVE I AMs, so in the spirit of sharing, here they are:
Know your truth. One of the most important lessons that I have learned in life is it's exhausting not being true to who you are. Everything good starts from an honest and authentic place. I started my company, NKPR, on that basis. I wanted to be able to pick and choose my clients, my colleagues and the brands that I represented. That was 10 years ago and that integrity is at the very heart of what we do every day. You need to be honest with yourself and keep yourself in check.
Truth can sometimes be an elusive thing -- sometimes it's difficult to tell what your truth is. But I've learned to listen to my instincts and follow that feeling. The older I get, the louder my gut instinct sounds, helping to guide me to the person I want to become -- even when the path isn't an easy one to choose. If things feel wrong at the outset, pay attention to those warning signs. I make many mistakes -- I guess we all do -- but at least I know I've remained authentic to myself in that moment.
This one was pretty easy for me! Anyone who knows me would tell you that I am a dreamer. I dream BIG and set UNREALISTIC goals for myself at times -- and you should too! I was once in a brainstorm meeting where someone sneered, "Oh Natasha, you're such a dreamer"... and believe me, she sneered! I thought to myself, since when did that become a bad thing?!
As far as I'm concerned, life is about challenging yourself and pushing past limits. My dreams have got me through difficult times and have helped me enjoy and appreciate the good times. When you dream big, things that you didn't even imagine often come true!
To borrow from Mahatma Gandhi...
People often become what they believe themselves to be. If I believe I cannot do something, it makes me incapable of doing it. But when I believe I can, then I acquire the ability to do it even if I didn't have it in the beginning.
Which leads me to my next I AM....
Think of your life as though it were a movie. You get to write and direct your own story! Be sure to include some heart-warming romance, clever dialogue... and surprise lucky twists. Each of us is the director of our own life. When things go off track, remind yourself that you are the writer and the director of your own story.
Making yourself the director is about assuming responsibility in the best possible sense. You may not be able to control every detail. Sometimes it rains on set when you would prefer sunshine. Sometimes the hero turns out to be a villain. But you get to yell "Cut!" And you get to audition new characters, change locations and EVEN approve the wardrobe!
Connect with the person you are and the one you want to become. My FIVE I AMs today are different from the ones I may have written 10 or 20 years ago. They may be different next year as I continue to learn and grow. In my 20s, I was shy, unsure, made mistakes... and thought that life was about following a path. Now I'm more confident, still unsure about many things and know that it's OK to make mistakes. That's how we learn and evolve.
If you let yourself evolve, even embrace that process, you can reinvent, refine and explore. By letting myself evolve, I've let go of things that don't work, I've embraced things that I didn't originally conceive of. I'm still the director, but I roll with the little revisions and rewrites along the way.
... Last but not least... I AM...
It's like a field of dreams. If you build it they will come. If YOU believe it, they WILL believe it. Whatever I do, I believe in it with genuine sincerity and conviction (sometimes to a fault). Believing in what you do may be the key to successful entrepreneurship and a fulfilled life.
Maya Angelou once said:
I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
Make them feel your passion. Don't compromise in what you believe.
Sometimes in life, you can lose sight of who you are... or who you'd like to become. I highly recommend figuring out your FIVE I AMs. Going back to them helps me get me back on track. Try the game for fun at your next dinner party -- you'll learn some interesting things about your guests... and you might even discover some interesting things about yourself!
Thank you for travelling on this journey with me!