In the 7th grade we were given an essay to write in English class. It was an upgrade from the 1st grade drawing “This is me.” My 7th grade was a long time ago – it was in the ’60s! – but I still remember the instructions and how very hard I found essay to write.
Our teacher was Mrs. De Villiers. Dragon D., as we called her, was one of those rare teachers who was strict but kind and demanding but fair. She would not settle for a half-job! This essay was entitled “Who Am I?” and we were not allowed to include any physical characteristics.
We had to write about the roles we played and how we played them. You couldn’t just write “I am a sister.” You had to say what kind of sister: “As a sister, I am the thorn in my brother’s side” or “I am my brother’s best friend.” But that wasn’t all.
The essay had to clearly say what that meant. Now that was the hard part. What does being the thorn in your brother’s side mean? That you have a difficult relationship that brings tension into the home, that there is a rivalry for affection that puts pressure on both of you to excel?
Strange how some things from your past really stick! this was my very worst year in school. I was not doing well, faking illness at least once a week and very often getting to stay home at least 2 days out of every 5. The last thing I wanted to do was to open up to anybody and tell them who I really was!
But I did it. I think it was a seminal moment in my life. It was truly “enlightening.” Whenever someone talks about enlightenment, I think back on how I grew as a result of that essay. It made me think about what I was doing and where I was headed.
Over the next few weeks, I found myself changing. I changed my attitude toward everyone – Dragon D. included. In small but very real ways, my relationships with friends and family started to take on a different, healthier tone and most importantly, I began to feel better about myself and everyone around me.
I can’t say the sibling bickering stopped, but it was less destructive. It was easier for me to let people know how I was feeling and to articulate what I wanted to others – not for me, but for our relationships. The difference was quite remarkable. That essay changed my spirit.
As I was wondering what to write about in this newsletter, Dragon D.’s challenging essay came to mind and I realized how formative it had been and how it shaped – and still shapes – my thinking. Having spent the past month or so working on Light Up Your Brand, I realized the connection with this assignment from long ago.
Light Up Your Brand is how you do that inventory for your public persona. Whether or not you are in business for yourself, it shapes the relationships you build with the people interact with on a daily basis. It defines your interaction with people and it provides structure for your intentions.
It is not just about addressing the spirit of your business or your marketing. It’s about you!
It defines your identity. It reminds you of the answer to the question: “Who am I, really?”