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belonging personal brand Apr 17, 2023

People ask me what the “AHAs” are from the work I do with people navigating change. 

The biggest one is the realization that a deep, personal fear is lurking in the background for all of us.

It is not just the fear that you may lose your job because of the disruptions ahead. 

It’s not the fear that your health will fail and you won’t have the insurance that comes with your job.

The deeper fear is that you will be kicked out of the tribe. Exiled, excluded, not invited to the birthday party. That once you don’t have a job, people will cease to want to speak to you, invite you out, invite your opinion. 

Simon Sinek tells a story about a loss of status, but if you peel back another layer, behind that is the thought that status was the only thing keeping people coming back to you. That you don’t really belong. And we humans are hardwired to connect and belong.

The belief that sometimes comes from that fear is, you don’t do anything to piss people off. We learn it as kids. Perfecting, pleasing, and proving is the name of the game. 

But in order to change, even shifting a fraction, you must, as Joseph Cambpell said, “give up the life you planned in order to have the life that is waiting for you.”

Which brings me to what I’ve learned is the most important aspect of navigating change in the Future Proof course. The sense of belonging enough

* * *

We shared our draft elevator pitches to shift from job title to value we contribute. 

You’ll turn some people off by using ‘authentic leader' in your description”, was one comment on someone’s pitch.

My first reaction was, “oh yeah, better keep your options open”. 

My second reaction was, “Hell yeah! Keep it in!” 

Because the worst thing in the world is doing a job you like in an environment you hate. 

Getting clear on what you do want is also about getting clear on what you don’t.

A lighthouse signals where to go, but it also scans for boats and rocks and octopi to avoid.

But this is scary when what you most fear is not finding another place where you will belong. 

* * *

When you decide to change one part of your life - starting a company, going back to school, redesigning your career - you need to ensure some tendrils of belonging are supporting you in other areas. 

Work and family are often intertwined and uncomfortable with change to the status quo - you can see it when you bite your tongue when a friend or family member makes a choice that seems risky. 

What makes it possible to take a chance is belonging, even temporarily, to another group or community. 

Sometimes you need a third space. Having a dozen people hold space for you to “try something different” while making their own similar journeys of exploration, allows you to lay down the fear that you are making a terrible mistake that will have you exiled, invisible or unlovable. 

Even having someone challenge you that isn’t your partner or parent lowers the stakes. You can hear them without worrying about it, knowing that they are coming from a place of productive dissent in service of a better story for you to tell to the world. 

* * *

Lots of us have found that we can commit to our work as long as we also commit to being small, agreeing not to challenge the status quo, agreeing not to speak up.

Yet inside of you is the longing to bridge to a life, work, community and identity that is more you.

Ultimately the work of future proofing is to belong more wholly to yourself. To be more true to who you are. To find your voice and place to belong.


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