"Nice to meet you! What do you do?"
How many times have you fielded that question? Without fail, this used to create a cascade of thoughts in me that went something like this:
"I know it's just a mindless ice-breaker question, but I also know the moment I open my mouth and expose my "label" I'll be pigeon-holed into their preconceived notion of what they think that means. Why don't people ask questions that open the door to who I really am, like "What really matters to you?" or if they're not up to that, perhaps, "What's your favorite ice cream flavor?" Either way, they'll know way more about me than the meaning they'll attach to the label for what I "do"."
I'm not defined by any label that is supposed to describe what I do, or worse yet, who I am. One of the best things to happen to me was shedding my CEO label. Until it was gone, I didn't realize how it had defined me, not only in the eyes of others, but in my mind's eye as well. When I get this question now, I respond with something more like this:
"I am doing what I love. And what I love, more than anything else, is to help people get more of what they love out of life. That, in turn, gets me more of what I love out of life."
Removing the label allows me to be infinitely creative. I can write and coach and speak and volunteer and lead an organization. There's no limit to what I can "do" to be myself and express myself.
I'm not suggesting labels aren't helpful or sometimes necessary. I still use them. They can be a very practical shortcut in some contexts, particularly business, where common meaning facilitates understanding. What I am saying is that I no longer allow them to "name" me. I don't allow them to "negate" everything else in me that the labels don't represent.
Now it's your turn.
"Nice to meet you! Tell me more!"