Vulnerability + Storytelling = A Great Bio

Want a great bio? Be vulnerable.

Want a great bio? Be vulnerable.

Is there a part of your life story that you usually don’t share? It might be the basis for a jaw-dropping bio.

If you want to do business in today’s world, you’ll need some form of a bio for your LinkedIn profile, personal or corporate website, artist statement, or even your speaker one-sheet.

Great bios use the power of story and vulnerability to create a shared, meaningful experience with your audience. Telling a story of vulnerability is a powerful way to show people—rather than tell them—the unique value that only you can bring to the table.

Brené Brown, author of Daring Greatly, says “Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”

Being vulnerable does, indeed, allow us to shine our lights, to become beacons for those who would join our tribe. But being vulnerable is scary.

I recently worked with a client who was a renowned music industry executive. I’ve changed his name and other details to protect his privacy.

“Jackson” made buckets of money for himself and his employers and had a network of hundreds of celebrities. My client’s successes were indisputable, almost intimidating, and that was what he was comfortable with. The culture he was a part of, the New York and Los Angeles glitterati, was all about image.

But his beginnings were more humble. He was from a small Texas town. His first job in the record industry was selling urban music. So, here was this white guy from the country trying to sell rap and R&B. But for Jackson, those sales were more than a numbers game. He was entering a whole new world. Curious and genuinely wanting to understand his end customer, he started spending time with the artists and their fans. He earned their respect, learned the market like the back of his hand, outsold everyone in his company, and was president of a major division within a few years.

Jackson was hesitant at first to talk so openly about his roots. But once he understood that being vulnerable would help people truly experience his high level of integrity, work ethic, and down-to-earth nature, he took the plunge. We began his bio like this:

“How does a guy from Harmony, TX (population 1,179) end up as a high-level executive building 8-figure businesses for the world’s most iconic music companies?”

Do you think people wanted to hear the rest? You bet!

Iterations of my own bio include a novel I wrote that secured me an agent, but went unpublished. This “failure” explains that I’m an excellent creative writer (it’s not easy to get a literary agent). Paired with my sales management background and design skills, it makes a strong case for me as a triple-threat branding expert for my entrepreneur and job-seeker clients.

Think of something you don’t usually share publicly, but that says a lot about who you are.

If you can let your guard down and give the gift of that story to your audience, they will know without a doubt how very special you are.

After all that, if you’re still worried about what people will think, remember that not everyone is a member of your tribe. Consider this other quote from Brené Brown:

“Don’t try to win over the haters; you are not a jackass whisperer.”

If you’d like to learn how to build a brand that is powerful in its vulnerability, one that propels you towards your personal, professional, and financial dreams, I invite you to get in touch!

Kimberly Robb Baker


September 1, 2014 at 10:56 am Leave a comment

Idea to Neutralize Job Search Fear

Photo credit:

Photo credit:

I spoke with an IT client today who was worried that, with her broad-based background, she would be perceived as a “Jacquelyn of all trades.”

In almost every job search, or life transition of any kind, the fears start rearing their ugly heads.

As you think about your career, what are you afraid of?

Do you fear that you are too old; too young; the wrong sex, race, religion, or body type to succeed?

Do you fear you won’t make enough money? That you’ll get hired and be discovered for the “fraud” that you are?

Here’s an idea:
What if the opposite was true?
What if your destiny is to be right where you are, riding the updrafts of every bit of your life that led you here? What if this is your time to shine? And what if tomorrow and tomorrow and then next day are too? What if failure is or was a necessary path to your success?
Napoleon Hill tells a story about a man who gave up on his gold mine just feet before striking rich. He sold his claim only to watch the next owner become extremely wealthy. But that man went on to be a great success in the insurance business. He always remembered that fear had made him stop just before the big payoff, so he spent the rest of his life moving forward as if the opposite of his fears were true.
Is there room in this idea for practicality? Aren’t there times, after all, when you’ve fought the good fight and it’s time to refocus your energy? Yes, of course. But I would suggest that those decisions are made from a place of reason and love.
In my experience, when fear is involved, it is an indication that the thing you fear is the key to your success.
As for my IT executive, I assured her that once we neutralized the possible fear of employers that her knowledge was broad, but not deep, the wealth of her experience would be seen as a boon. We’ll use some business cases to demonstrate the extent of her understanding and strategy. Then her knowledge of multiple industries from software development, automation, and business analyst viewpoints will indeed become a strength.
So, what is your fear? Imagine for a moment that the opposite is true.

June 23, 2014 at 4:48 pm Leave a comment

Written in Black & White: A Discussion of Race & Social Justice from a Biracial Counselor’s Perspective

cliff flamer

“Colorblindness is not only impossible; it’s unethical.” – Cliff Flamer

Note from Kim:

My 5-year-old son has come home from school telling me that his Indian friends say he’s not a “real Indian.” My sister-in-law has taken my 3-year-old daughter to Indian parties to hear the guests announce loudly, “Who’s that white girl?”

While I’m “white” (German, French, English, Irish, Scottish, and Cherokee to be exact) and my husband is Indian (as in, from India–Hyderabad to be exact), our children came out looking pretty light. People who don’t know them assume that they’re white, and in doing so they miss out on much of who they are.

The piece below, written by my colleague Cliff Flamer, struck a chord in me. In work, as in life, we owe it to each other to not make assumptions, to let each person define themselves. Certainly, our workplaces will be enriched if we encourage employees to bring their whole selves to the table. That’s the kind of world I’d like for my children.

Cliff’s bio is at the end, and you can reach him on his company’s Facebook page.

Written in Black & White: A Discussion of Race & Social Justice from a Biracial Counselor’s Perspective

by Cliff Flamer (Originally published in Career Planning and Adult Development Journal, Vol. 21, No. 4)

In a public high school in suburban Connecticut, it’s a novelty.

“Why’s he wearing those clothes?”

“It’s cool. He’s actually part Black.”

In a public bathroom amidst a circle of leather-clad teenagers, it’s a threat.

“What, you think you’re Black or something?”

At a jazz show in Harlem it’s a challenge.

“This is your father? Your real father?

On the side of the road in South Carolina in the presence of a state trooper who’s letting me go with a warning, it’s a secret.

“You have a nice day, son.”

Around the cafeteria table on a small college campus in Boston, it’s access.

“Homeboy must be lost.”

“It’s cool. I know him.”

At a restaurant in San Francisco, it’s a cool party trick.

“I’m black.”

“No you’re not.”

“No. Really. I’m half black.”

In my counseling office at a San Mateo community college internship, it’s all of these things.

When I ask clients to guess what ethnicity I am, I get all kinds of answers—Mexican, Hawaiian, Puerto Rican, Italian, Greek, Native American, Latin,  and of course White. But never Black. And never half Black.

With my stick straight hair alongside my slow pace, relaxed enunciation, and laid back demeanor, my medium dark complexion loses its ethnic power and becomes nothing more than the perfect tan on a White guy who probably surfs a lot. Like most multi-racial individuals, my heritage (Scandinavian and African-American) hides within me and unless I find myself confronted with those demanding check boxes on an application form, I usually don’t find reason to bring it up.

Maria Root (1996) introduced a model to address the complex identity issues of multiracial people. Within this model she offers the possibility that a multiracial individual may experience a shift from one identity to another according to the situation he’s experiencing. From a personal standpoint, the result of such oscillation is not only a lack of a singular and continuous identity but also a resentment towards the widespread acceptance of categorizing individuals by one and only one race.

Like most biracial people, my life has been all about shifting between identities. As a child, I grew up with black culture all around me, culminating in big family holiday gatherings at grandma’s house with candied yams and collard greens. Despite my lighter skin and “good” hair, I identified more with the Black side of my family, if for no other reason than that they were geographically closer than the White side. (My closest Norwegian-American relatives lived 2,000 miles away in Montana and North Dakota). But in grade school, there wasn’t a Black kid to be found (besides me) so I became just another White boy in Connecticut—equipped with all the privileges to which White people become accustomed. Peggy McIntosh (1988) refers to this compilation of unearned privileges as the “invisible knapsack.” So while I had all this wonderful Black culture pouring into me through my father’s extended family, I was simultaneously and unknowingly acquiring a sense of entitlement, belonging, and advantage as a member of the dominant White culture.

One aspect of being biracial that’s particularly irritating to people with definitively dark skin is that I have the “choice” as to whether or not to reveal my secret depending on the context of the situation (Tatum, 1997). In other words, when I get pulled over by a cop or when I’m buying my Gatorade at the corner store, I have the ability to keep my race hidden so as to maintain the advantage of being perceived as White or, perhaps more to the point, not Black. While I admit this choice protects me from the oppression of racism, there is a drawback to the power of choice. In not appearing Black, I’ve encountered numerous racists, in the most true and ugly sense of the word, most of them my friends and acquaintances. Especially during my formative years, I swallowed their slurs, telling myself “they didn’t really mean it”, while secretly battling the idea that I should end the relationship. I thought I could handle it. I thought I was letting those comments slide off my back, but they chipped away at me. I internalized that racism against Blacks, against that part of myself.

At 10 years old, two events changed the course of my identity development. My grandmother died and my parents got divorced. As a result, I lost touch with my father and his entire side of the family, all but stripping me of my Black culture. Without the usual visits to grandma’s house or my dad’s presence in the PTA and after-school soccer games, I began to view myself as simply White and conveniently had this perspective reinforced by my peers, teachers, and anyone else with which I came into contact.

My Black blood passed silently through my veins, that is, until I absolutely had to breach the subject of race. And revealing that dormant part of me at such a vulnerable stage in my life could certainly be compared to severing an artery.

In following William Cross’s Racial Identity Development Theory for people of color (1991), I pinpoint my first racial “Encounter” experience as happening during 8th grade History class. We were filling out one of those forms with the checkboxes on it and I was in the usual quandary. Deciding that this was an acceptable environment to mention my biracial heritage, I raised my hand and asked the teacher which box I should check. He responded in his southern accent (which I’ll never forget): “Oh I think you should know what you are by now.”From that point forward, he treated me differently and I learned for the first time what it really felt like to be Black. Subsequent events followed suit—my best friend called my brother a Nigger after he tilted his pinball game, school friends started telling Black jokes in the hall, and I acquired largely unclever nicknames such as “Zebra”, “Half-Breed”, “Oreo”, and “Whigger.”

In an act of typical teenage rebellion and in line with Cross’ third development stage of “Immersion/Emersion” (1991), I broadcast my Black heritage with amplified as of yet unexplored pride. I went to inner-city New Haven with my older brother and our White mother and shopped at Third World Imports, the only place on the map where we could find the Egyptian-style stretch pants with the super-low crotch. (These were the same pants that made 80’s icon, MC Hammer, famous.) I hung African power medallions around my neck. I went to a Baptist church with the hand-waving preachers and the bellowing choir. I listened to jazz, rap, blues, and hip hop in contrast to the more popular classic rock genre. In short, I didn’t make sense to a lot of people (including myself at that age). I wasn’t easily categorized and, in homogenous, rural Connecticut, I was quickly squeezed out of the mainstream culture. I swelled with indignation like a wave, rising out of the ocean’s surface and gathering reckless, inimitable speed.

In college, the wave finally broke. I began dressing myself down to ward off the quizzical often hostile glares of the other African-American students. Several weeks into the semester, a group of them approached me and provided me with an ultimatum.

“You put Black on your application to get in here, didn’t you.”

“I put White too.”

“Are you Black or aren’t you?”

“I don’t know.”

These words weren’t far from the truth. At this point, I identified as being identity-less, trying my best to throw away the burden of having to choose. I saw race as an unnecessary means of classification that prevented me from being who I really was. This confrontation acted as a sort of second “Encounter” for me, sling-shotting me further away from Black culture and into the comfort zone of the people who looked a lot more like me and who were seemingly more open to my quest for race-less individuality. Tatum suggests that “the areas where a person is a member of the dominant or advantaged social group, the category is usually not mentioned” (1997, p. 21). In being a part of White society I was allowed the option (or luxury as I perceived it at the time) of not having a racial identity. White people, as the dominant culture, generally do not bring up their race as a topic for discussion let alone as an aspect of their identity. It was just what I was looking for.

In retrospect, I can see how these Black students who confronted me were deep within the Immersion/Emersion phase of their own racial development, bonded together by their collective experience as being disadvantaged by racism (Cross, 1991). Had I too experienced more abundant and more consistent forms of oppression growing up as a result of being Black, I probably would have related more to these African-American students and perhaps viewed their interrogation as an invitation.

I’ve been rejected from all angles—for being Black, for being White, and for being both Black and White. I’m not mentioning this to elicit empathy, rather to summarize the conditioning that has led me to resent racial categories altogether. And I’m not alone in my bitterness. In being forced to choose one race or the other, most biracial individuals experience ambivalence and frustration surrounding their group identity (Carter, 1995).

There are five biracial graduate students in my multi-culturalism class. I know this because we bonded together one day when the professor divided the class into “people of color” and “White people”. Us biracial folk are used to not having a place in these situations; that’s not what’s bothersome. It’s when we’re forced to make the choice we’ve been avoiding all our lives that the recycled memories of rejection and finger-pointing resurface. This is our racism. This is the part that few understand. And unlike people of identifiable races, we can’t recognize each other from across the room.

For a biracial person, being assigned one race means being denied of the other. Thus, race itself becomes the enemy. From this perspective, refusing to label someone by their race is an act of kindness, a gesture that allows an individual to supersede the confinements of a singular race.

As someone who’s constantly been trying to avoid the “color question”, it’s difficult to comprehend the plight of people of color who want to be acknowledged for their race, identified by their race, and respected for their race. All my life I’ve boasted my ability to see beyond peoples’ skin color—that I’m uniquely colorless and colorblind—because I thought this was helping people to be 100% themselves. In commiserating with my fellow graduate students and opening up discussions with frustrated clients of color, I’ve come to realize that this carefully preserved “ability” of mine is actually a weakness. Colorblindness is not only impossible; it’s unethical. A counselor who denies a client his race is like a doctor ignoring her patient’s inflamed kidney. Good or bad, race is a part of that client, as essential to his survival as any organ in the body.

In a sense, we’re all looking for the same thing—to be acknowledged for the experiences that have shaped our identity. My clients, wonderfully strewn across the race continuum, remind me of this with their incredulousness, enthusiasm, and haphazard wisdom. I can comfortably say, with the renewed hope of a lucky transplant recipient that I’m beginning to understand.

When approaching biracial clients, I’ve found it extremely helpful to reflect on my own experiences through childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood. Building rapport with biracial and multiracial clients starts before they even enter my office—by developing a culturally sensitive intake form. For many clients checking those boxes designating racial background is nothing more than a stroke of the pen, but for biracial clients this exercise may invoke immediate resistance (and they’re not even divulging their real issues yet!). Counselors can easily eliminate the risk of preeminently offending their clients by rewording the racial profile item on the intake form to read “Please Check All That Apply.” A minor change with major results.

Counselors should also avoid any and all questions that force a biracial client to choose a between races. This may be particularly challenging for Counselors who strongly identify with their own distinct culture or who perceive identification with a single culture as an essential component to developing a healthy personal identity. It’s common for biracial clients to present with feelings of isolation, rejection, bitterness, and estrangement as a result of not fitting in to one or more racial groups. Encouraging immersion with culturally homogeneous groups in hopes of eliminating these feelings can be counter-productive since it’s these kinds of groups that may have inspired self-deprecating feelings in the first place.

Coordinating biracial clients to meet with other biracial clients, though challenging, remains a safe venue for identity development. Just as People of Color may bond underneath acts of oppression and White individuals may gravitate to one another because of their similarities, biracial people find connection through their mutual experiences of exclusion. As College Counselors who collaborate with anywhere from five to fifteen students every day, we have the unique ability to “unveil” multi-racial and biracial individuals to bring them together. Counselors can prove themselves invaluable to biracial clients if only to lead them to their as of yet unidentifiable biracial peers.

Having developed a strong dislike for categorization, biracial clients, myself included, tend to exhibit reluctance towards personality tests, career assessments, interest inventories, and any other objective counseling tools or tests that involve imbuing the test-taker with a distinctive, all-encompassing label. Questioning this resistance can serve as an appropriate and effective means to uncover the larger underlying issue of a biracial client’s possible aversion to racial and cultural categorization. In fact, this dislike of human compartmentalization may extend outside of race into other areas of the client’s life such as religion and sexuality, merging into that client’s over-arching philosophical belief system.

Biracial and multi-racial clients prove especially challenging for Counselors due to their uncategorizability. This oft overlooked genre can present themselves in several different ways. According to Maria Roote (1996), biracial individuals may 1) identify with both sides of their heritage simultaneously, 2) identify with one side primarily but over time identify with several different groups, 3) shift from one side to the other depending on the circumstances, or 4) designate their race as “biracial”, thus embracing the border between the races. As a Counselor, it’s important for me to remember all of these possibilities and understand that these are viable options for a finite racial identity and not necessarily an unwelcome purgatory from which the client hopes to be saved.

In terms of appearance, biracial clients land on every point of the spectrum between looking distinctively ethnic and utterly unidentifiable. Furthermore, their appearance may completely contradict their culture. For example, I’ve worked with a blonde-haired. blue-eyed female student who grew up embedded in her African-American culture. For this reason, it’s imperative that Counselors remain unassuming. Oftentimes, when I gently inquire about a client’s cultural or racial identity who appears to be, say, Latino, I may get an incredulous response: “I’m Latino; what did you think?” Here is an opportunity to mention the possibility of his being biracial or multi-racial, as many of my clients are. By simply by posing this question to my client, I’m modeling that all-important virtue of “not knowing” when it comes to race, introducing the idea that other people outside of my office and possibly within the client’s own circle of friends, may be more racially complex than they first appear.

Biracial clients are used to being overlooked. Whether it be because they look too much like one race or not enough like any one race, there’s sure to be some level of alienation evident in their identity development. As Counselors, we have the option of becoming the exception to the norm. Biracial clients have a story to tell and, in my experience both personal and professional, they’re eager to tell it, especially to an unassuming audience who’s willing to give them the space in which to define themselves.


Carter, R. T. (1995). The influence of race and racial identity in psychotherapy: Toward a racially inclusive model. New York: John Wiley.

Cross, W. E. (1991). Shades of Black: Diversity in African-American identity. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

McIntosh, P. (1988). White privilege and male privilege: A personal account of coming to see correspondence through the work on women’s studies. Wellesley: Wellesley College Center for Research on Women.

Root, M. P. P. (1996). The Multi-racial experience: Racial borders as a significant frontier in race relations. Thousand Oaks: Sage.

Tatum, B. D. (1997). Why are all the black kids sitting together in the cafeteria? and other conversations about race. New York: Basic Books.


Cliff Flamer has been writing poetry, short fiction, and melodramatic bits of memoir since the 9th grade when his Teacher, Mr. V, forced him to start keeping a journal. After a year of “cheating” on his journal entries by writing them all at once in home room, Cliff discovered a knack for putting words together—a fascination that powered him through college and into near-homelessness following graduation. To pay for his 40’s and Big Macs in the real world, Cliff picked up a job at a bookstore where he’d often lay down in the aisles after hours and pay homage to the sideways names on the pocket book bindings. After getting tired of stretching out his $8/hour, Cliff took up a position as a Recruiter following through on the interview merely because the job description had the word “writer” in it. Within a year he was making more than anyone just out of college should, especially an English major. More important, he discovered a second love in resume writing and career counseling, which has become a new funding source for his 40’s and Big Macs, only now it’s Single Malts and Indian take-out.

June 21, 2014 at 4:50 am Leave a comment

Three Ways to Get in Touch with Your Destiny—Yes, You!!!

I took this photo in Rishikesh, India. I thought I was just there for a yoga class, but the powerful teacher, Rudra Dev, asked me then and there to commit to the path of Raja yoga. Can you say "destiny?"

I took this photo in Rishikesh, India. I thought I was just there for a yoga class, but the powerful teacher, Rudra Dev, asked me then and there to commit to the path of Raja yoga. Can you say “destiny?”

If you have this one thing in place, you’ll probably manage fine in your career whether you read my blog or not.


Without it, you’ll likely feel stuck, even if you osmose the combined career wisdom of me and all of my colleagues.


That thing is a connection to your destiny.


You most certainly have a destiny. Whether or not you know it or are connected to it, it’s there, waiting to facilitate your one-in-seven-billion contribution to spaceship Earth.


Everyone I’ve worked with who’s achieved greatness has always known they would. And when doubt has crept in, they still acted as if their success was pre-ordained.


Last week, I worked with a mogul who started out as an RN. Injured and home on disability, she applied to business jobs just for fun. She was snapped up almost immediately, excelled at the business side of healthcare, and opened up her own shop. Things were tight, though. She was still working as a per-diem nurse to make ends meet. Finances were so bad that she had no gas to drive to a per diem gig she’d gotten. So she went to a department store, smooth-talked them into giving cash back for a belt she’d purchased months earlier, and used that for her gas money.


She had her doubts that night that things were going to work out. But from then on, her business was booming. It was as if she had to demonstrate that she was really serious and would go to any lengths to succeed. She built a second business for a combined revenue of a quarter of a billion dollars and revolutionized what was possible in her industry.


Another client from a Southeast Asian country had a low-level job at a telecom company. But his sights were set much higher. He applied to multinational companies, wanting to fulfill his dream of working globally at an executive level. Well, he got a call from a worldwide consumer goods firm that involved developing “distributor” channels. To this day, he believes this was an accident of the applicant tracking system, because his resume was rife with telecom references to a different kind of “distributor.”


The client is now making in the mid-six figures (in US dollars) as an executive who’s worked in three countries and pioneered green business practices in new industries and markets.


Are you connected with your destiny?


If your arms are figuratively crossed in skepticism, pessimism, or feelings of unworthiness, it’s unlikely that your destiny will be able to get a foot in the door. Here are some ideas of how to get a dialogue (and some physical deliveries) going in the destiny department.


  1.       Experiment: The book E-Squared is a cool, scientific method approach to the law of attraction, written by a former skeptic who creates experiments you can do to see if the Universe really has your back or if it’s all just a bunch of woo-woo hooey. I did the first couple of experiments in this book with amazing results. It kind of petered off for me because I was already at the point of, “Duh! I know this works, and I want to manifest more than a cup of coffee.”


  1.       Give Thanks: Keep a gratitude journal or start a regular practice of listing all of the things you are thankful for. Think about it, why would your destiny show up in a big way if its small tokens of affection go unnoticed?


  1.       Notice: Big changes can be made in life simply by noticing, without judgment. Just be present. This sounds like trite advice, and I admit that it seems to be plastered to every self-help book and yoga studio logo. Though I’d heard it many times, the book Taming Your Gremlin delivered a big “Aha!” for me. Noticing really is enough. You’ll start to see some pretty amazing plans your destiny has for you, and you might even observe that every triumph and failure in your life has set you up to shine in this next, exciting chapter.


As Steve Jobs said in his famous address to Stanford graduates, “You have to trust in something—your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

March 24, 2014 at 12:33 pm Leave a comment

Your Resume Will Be Ignored If…


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If the top third of your resume ever gets ripped off by hurricane winds, a hiring manager should be able to come upon that scrap of paper and decide to call you in for an interview. If the top third of your resume is not that compelling, the whole thing will end up in the recycle bin anyway. People read your entire resume only if they’re already interested after a quick glance, and the “marquee” area at the top is the key to a positive first impression.

The top third of your resume should contain:

  1. Your name
  2. Your contact information
  3. Title or titles you’d like to be considered for
  4. Your most important contribution to a potential employer
  5. Proof of prior success

It sounds tough to do all that, I know. But I have a secret…

I write the top of the page last! As you write the body of your resume, keep a notepad or Word file with items you come across or ideas that the muses bring to you around what prospective employers should know about you right away. This could be how your early career as an accountant solidified your meticulous honesty and transparency (especially if you are in an industry like banking or stocks where this is a big plus!). One HR pro I worked with had a unique approach to wellness program because of her master’s degree in dance. If you’ve won awards, worked for big-name companies, attended a prestigious school, etc., these should all be mentioned in this “marquee” space.

Think about the problem that is most likely keeping your hiring manager or board of directors up at night. At the top of the page, demonstrate that you are the answer to that problem. Don’t be afraid to ask questions on your resume. COO: “Is operations bleeding your bottom line?” Brand Manager: “Does your brand strategy consider the consumer’s path to purchase?” Executive Assistant: “Is your office so chaotic that it’s interfering with productivity?”

Oh, and ditch the objective statement. This is not about what you need. It’s about what you bring to the table.

The "marquee area" of your resume should be able to stand alone.

The “marquee area” of your resume should be able to stand alone.

February 10, 2014 at 1:19 pm Leave a comment

Seeger and Hoffman: Lessons on Being Brilliant

Found at and

Found at and

Last Sunday evening, my dad and I were listening to the Almanac Singers, a group Pete Seeger was a part of in the 1940’s. There was a feeling of reverence in the air as we discussed his life and music. I had grown up listening to dad’s old LPs of The Weavers as well as Seeger’s solo albums. When I heard Monday morning that he had died in the night of natural causes at the age of 94, I felt a sweet kind of sadness. It was like finishing an achingly gorgeous novel, wishing there was more, but having been fairly warned by the bookmark as it made its steady march toward the last page.

I dreamed this Saturday night of an ancient graveyard with a huge clock right at the entrance. Yeah, my subconscious mind is pretty direct. The dream was detailed and vivid, leaving me with a strong sense of how transitory life is.

The dew of this dream clung to me throughout Sunday, so that the news of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death of a drug overdose really struck me.

I first noticed Hoffman in the movie Magnolias. I searched the credits at the end to find the name of the chubby towhead who took my breath away. His body of work, more than 50 films and possibly as many plays, is well detailed elsewhere. With a young family and a business to run, I rarely find time to watch movies. I can’t list all of his work or even claim to have seen most of it. But I can testify that Hoffman was extraordinary enough to consistently pierce my veil of busyness, to get me to sit down for two hours and just be human. I know that when I watch one of his movies I will undergo something that is more experience than entertainment, that I will encounter some new part of myself in his performance.

Unlike the graceful ending to Seeger’s story, the passing of 46-year-old Hoffman was like a needle scratching rudely across a record album, or one of those film noir scenes of ultra-happening speakeasies being raided as the musicians stop playing and harsh lights instantly turn glamour into shame.

I didn’t want to feel this loss, and my defenses jumped right in to distance me from it. I heard them say, “That’s not the world I live in. It’s very sad, but just about as meaningful to me as this big football game everyone’s going on and on about. It’s another news item.”

One thought slipped in under the door, though. It was a tweet from Jim Carrey: “Dear Philip, a beautiful beautiful soul. For the most sensitive among us the noise can be too much. Bless your heart.” Carrey’s words kept me just open enough to allow the possibility of exploring what Hoffman’s death meant to me.

Many of my social media friends talked about how senseless it was. One commentator suggested that a brisk walk with a good dog was all the high anyone could need. We have all kinds of opinions about other people’s lives. But neither I nor the dog walker have a right to judge the choices of a man whose only relationship to us was that he gave us a precious gift, that he bared his soul so we could see it.

Haven’t we all been figuratively in that bathroom with the needle in our arm?

When I’m at work on a tough project there can be anything from a stack of used tea bags to a bunch of carrot “bellybuttons” strewn about. In the old days it was more like coffee cups and empty cookie bags. I also become obsessive about choosing the perfect size and color of my fonts and getting just the right degree of shading on my graphics. Food and perfectionism numb me when I’m facing potential failure or (even scarier) greatness.

Brené Brown in the audio version of The Power of Vulnerability confesses that she watched eight hours of Downtown Abby after reading some unflattering online comments about her looks. She then continued the numbing fest by Googling historic references in the series.

At times, we’ve all chosen to postpone the moment when we’ll experience our feelings or step into our full potential. It leaves me crestfallen that Hoffman used such a deadly numbing agent. But let’s not cluck our tongues at his situation as if it’s something that wouldn’t happen to us. I’m lucky I can’t immediately die of a sugar or caffeine overdose, and I’m equally lucky that my self-medication isn’t the topic of nationwide speculation.

What rises to the top here are not the tragic, embarrassing circumstances that ended Hoffman’s life or the other occasions when he sought escape. What comes shining brilliantly forth are the many times he did not run, the countless instances when he was still enough and brave enough to allow his talent to overtake him.

As saintly as Pete Seeger was, I’m sure he numbed himself on occasion. That his self-medication was less lethal and apparently less frequent than Hoffman’s doesn’t change the unifying lesson of both men’s lives. If you’re brave enough to show up fully to your destiny, you will leave a worthy legacy no matter how long you live.

Will you truly show up to work today? Can you be brave enough to breathe into the fear and excitement of being completely present in creating your work? I’m taking that deep, scary breath right along with you.

Thank you Pete and Philip.

February 3, 2014 at 3:45 am 5 comments

There is more than one way to write a resume. Find yours!

Your resume is not a government form. Dare to be different!

Your resume is not a government form. Dare to be different!

There’s something about writing a resume that tends to put people into “official mode,” as if they’re filling out a tax form and there’s only one right way (paved with “self-motivated” and “visionary” cobblestones). If you want a great resume, let go of that idea right now!

January 29, 2014 at 2:36 pm Leave a comment

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