One day several summers ago, I was talking on the telephone with a client, reviewing the profile of her natural gifts and abilities. My parents, visiting from Ireland, were sitting on the veranda outside my study. My father is analytical; he spends a lot of time in his head. A few sentences a week is talkative for him. So, as I consulted with my client, I was wondering, “Is my Dad listening? I wonder what he’s thinking? And would I ever know?” I finished and hung up the phone.
Sure enough, Dad came in to talk to me about the call, “That was amazing. You really seemed to help that person. You truly seemed to know that person deeply.”
This was like manna from heaven for me. I couldn’t believe my father said it. But then he asked me a question that to this day makes my heart stand still.
“What would you tell a man who has done the wrong job for 53 years of his life?”
I knew who he meant. He was talking about himself. I couldn’t believe it had come out of his mouth. I couldn’t believe that after so many years my Dad seemed unaware of who he was or the impact his life had made.
My father has a brilliant mind, yet when he was 12 years old he was yanked out of school and forced to make a living working with his hands. He began by laying terrazzo floors and moved on to house painting which became the family business. He lived in a world where you had to do what you had to do just to survive. My Dad never received a formal education. He always craved it, always missed it, and always insisted that every one of his children have it. Of course, there is nothing undignified about manual labor, but he wanted to be a writer.
It was clear to me from his devastating question that the hardship of his life had caused Dad to lose track of who he was. My father had championed my brothers and me. He was our first coach. He gave us the clarity and structure that we needed growing up. At the dinner table, he’d stay behind and if any of us wanted to talk, we talked until we were done. His car was called “the Confessional” because you got in, drove around, and poured your heart out to him. Somehow none of this registered with him, at least not at this particular moment, so I took a deep breath and said, “You know what, Dad? You did the wrong job for 53 years of your life. But every night at 5:30 when you got home, you started your real job…drawing out the potential in your boys, coaching us to be the best we could be. Every night at the dinner table you did that. And when you took us out in the car you did that. And now, Dad, because of you and your ways with us, we’re going around communicating with people all across the country, encouraging them to be the best they can be.”
I’m happy to report that my Dad has finally become aware of his accomplishments. More importantly, he has begun to act on this awareness. Every ten days or so, my brother Brian, the president of a large business coaching company, gets a call from my father, who maintains the role of insightful advisor and patriarch.
This experience with my Dad serves to reinforce a truth I’ve discovered from doing thousands of profiles and speaking to thousands of people – most have lost an awareness of who they are. They need to remember. They need to be championed. They need to be seen. This has never been more necessary. With the computer, the cellular phone and the palm pilot, our fast-paced generation does not sit around the fireside or the dinner table, reflecting and engaging with one another. We have been given endless opportunities for communication, but technology has taken away the understanding and skill of conversation. Without it, people lack a sense of “true north” in their lives.
David Whyte, author of The Heart Aroused,points out this very lack. In today’s society, we’ve lost the art of conversation…with ourselves, each other and our Creator. Instead of conversing with each other, we talk at each other. The art of conversation has given way to the skill of verbally willing our agenda. Yet, without true conversation, the ability to be seen or to be championed or to remember who we are is effectively lost.
Far too often in my profession, I’ve seen the unfortunate, sometimes tragic, consequences for people who have not gained an awareness of who they are. On the other hand, I have also witnessed the positive results for people who do become aware of who they are and act on that awareness.
The experience with my Dad served to reinforce my own life purpose. I summarize it as follows: My purpose on the planet is to empower people to become the best version of themselves possible by helping them to remember who they are and to act on that awareness.
When I consult, I usually do it by telephone because my clients are all over the country. I also find that sessions over the phone are more comfortable for my clients. Steve (not his real name) showed up on my radar when my assistant told me that he was determined to do his profile review in person. She spoke with him about the distance and the cost but his mind was set. When he arrived, I understood his insistence on a face-to-face session. It took Steve several minutes to walk down the 50-foot hallway to my conference room. He was a very handsome tri-athlete in his early thirties with a loving wife. Five years before, he had been blessed with the arrival of their son. However, his joy was undermined when Steve was diagnosed with a rare form of ALS. Not much is known about it other than the brain cuts the signal to the muscles. Even though he looked the picture of health, he had difficulty moving and talking.
Steve has a great profile. He is relational, competitive, analytical, big-picture-focused and spontaneous. However, as he watched his child grow, he also saw his own capabilities being eroded by his disease. I am designed to be empathetic, and I was moved by Steve’s affliction.
In our session, we strategized about how he could move forward. I pointed out to him that his profile revealed he had a great capacity for knowledge and could gift others with clarity and perspective. He had never really needed to tap into those abilities earlier because his looks, achievements, and Alpha-male persona opened doors for him easily. Now he was being given an opportunity to work smart by leveraging his time, resources and energy. He left our session with hope, direction and empowerment.
Steve is an ideal example of the maxim: when we know the truth, it sets us free. He has transformed his life by acting on his newfound awareness; his purpose as a father, husband and professional has been re-established.
One of the most difficult aspects of writing this book is keeping it from becoming just another treatise on self-awareness. Self-knowledge is not inherently useful. Self-awareness has to be a pressure point. It must stimulate us to move into the life we’re compelled to live. I want this to be a book that makes you aware and provokes you to move, to act and to experience. It is essential to have movement and experiences to celebrate and to inventory them as either substantive milestones or islands of remembrance that reinforce the fact that you are alive.
As a profiler, I am fascinated with identical twins and how even with exactly the same DNA and nurturing they can demonstrate such different abilities. The same holds true for families. I have four brothers and a sister. While we have the same genetic make-up and received the same nurture, we are each different. When we gathered around the dinner table for our regular “gab-fest”, my father would often comment on how something said could be heard five different ways. Even though my siblings have completely different profiles, they have all excelled in their respective fields by tapping into their own distinctive abilities. The diversity in my family provided the starting point for my own study of individual differences in the gifts and styles of various people. Throughout this book, I share stories from many of my clients (with names and details altered to protect their identities) and from my own family as they have progressed and increasingly embraced the use of their abilities over the years.
Remembering who you are and understanding the subtleties of your designcan make the difference between thriving and surviving. Enthusiasm is the key to life. It literally means “God breathing in our lives”. My passion is to help people become aware of who they are innately designed to be, discover their organic essence, and empower them to mirror back their design to their Creator. If I can instruct and inspire you to “wiggle forward,” I will have achieved my goal.