Why We Put Ourselves in a Box


Hey there,

Jordan here. It’s 3:55 a.m. and I’m writing this. I’m on the couch so that I don’t disturb my girlfriend with my typing. Our Boston Terrier, Arthur, is gleefully asleep on my legs. And I’m wide awake.

Here’s why.

I am rebuilding my own website right now. I know it sounds trivial and it is. But honestly… I hate it. And I hate it because anytime I create an asset that is focused on me, I immediately start questioning why I present myself in a certain way. And then I go down the following rabbit hole…

One thing that I’ve noticed a great deal, especially among entrepreneurs, is that we collect credentials that really don’t mean anything. Like these examples… written with sarcastic dialogue!

  • Storyteller (Interesting, so you’re good at reminiscing about your college years..?)
  • Global Keynote Speaker (Great, so you’ve flown to the next country to speak once… or twice)
  • TEDx Speaker (Awesome, so you got into one of the 1200 events globally… annually)
  • TED Speaker (Super cool, your video got on a big website)
  • Influencer (Great, but telling people you’re an influencer means you’re not one)
  • Guru or Superhero (See above)
  • Expert (Sweet, so you know a lot about one thing and nothing about anything else)
  • Advocate (Cool, so you care about something more than… uh, other people?)
  • Investor (Right on, so you put some money into a company that wasn’t yours once or twice)
  • Serial (Roger, so you do things a bunch of times and hopefully suck less with each sequential effort)
  • Advisor (Perfect, so you’re good at telling other people what to do)
  • Media Personality (OMG, so you hounded a producer enough to get a soundbite… annually)
  • Contributor (See above)
  • Connector (Beautiful, so you know a lot of people)
  • Coach (Sweet, of little league soccer… or softball?)
  • Thinker (Got it, so you love to think more than others)
  • Innovator (Coo, so you’re restless… and aware of it)
  • Author (Love it, so you’re good at writing alone in the middle of the night and weeping softly…)

I have used  all of these when trying to answer who I am. And all of them feel empty. None of them say anything about who I am, the value I provide, who I serve, or why someone should trust me.

I know you’re thinking, “Not me! I don’t do this!”

Oh but yes, my friend, you do. I get your struggle. Because I am there too.

Somewhere, somehow you fall into this same trap. Maybe it’s something on your Twitter or LinkedIn, a quick bio you had to give to a conference, what you tell your colleagues, or heck, even what you tell yourself.

And it’s depressing as all hell.

We try to put ourselves in a box. Because boxes are convenient. Boxes are clean. Boxes give use a sense of purpose and therefore clarity (which is a rant for another day).

I remember when I did my first international speaking event in 2009 in… of all places… Singapore. What was one of the first things I did when I got back? I updated my LinkedIn profile to read “Global Speaker” because I had made it, baby! Because as Jay-Z once said, “If I can make it here [Singapore, presumably], I can make it anywhere.”

Right? No way.

I hadn’t made “it”. There is no “it”. There’s just boxes we use to say to our audiences, “Hey you, I have done things you dream of doing… so trust me!”

Is that how to build trust? Is that how we communicate our authentic selves? Is that how we lead a more honest, authentic, transparent life? Is that how we offer value to others? Of course it’s not. But it’s so easy to think that it is.

The reality is that it’s all based in fear that we aren’t enough. It’s that simple… and that hard.

But there is good news. I have a surprisingly simple way to help us avoid this line of thinking, more or less.

I don’t mean to do that douchy cliff hanger, but this email is getting long and my eyes are heavy. So I’ll share a formula I built for the speakers at my agency later today that I think might help you too.

Cool? Cool.

– Jordan “Global Speaker + Coach + Storyteller + Thinker + Guy Who Looks Like Dorian From The Mask When I’m Tired + Extraordinaire Or Something”Axani

PS. It’s 4:42am now.

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