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There is an excruciatingly beautiful moment when someone realizes a secret they have kept from themselves. It is mesmerizing and heartbreaking at exactly the same time.


Given the right conditions and compassion, anyone is able to unlock a truth inside of them that is undeniable. Once they are able to process it, their truth leaves them feeling both elated and devastated simultaneously.


The truth of what was lost and what is now possible creates the potential for actual change. It is that first acknowledgement of someone’s potential to themselves, as hard as it is, that is beautiful to witness.


We all have the capacity for this. Is it simple? No. Does it require bravery? Absolutely.


But you are entirely capable of shifting the way you see yourself and how you share who you are with others.


This is how your secrets are your greatest advantages.


Your Pain Is Your Limitation

In many ways our history becomes our story if we don’t accept that our future will be determined by our past. If we don’t come to terms and work through the parts of our history that we wish hadn’t happened or wish happened differently, we will be limited.


In other words, we can only see what we have been shown. This could be because of limiting self-beliefs (I’m not – fill in the blank – enough) or limiting skills beliefs (I’m not a talented – fill in the blank – I can’t).


Often we don't think about our limitations because it's a part of the story we tell ourselves about ourselves. Click To Tweet

Only when we are placed into a situation where we need to try are we faced with our limitation. Yet, it is always there. We just accept it as true.


When you were a child you had no limitations. You tried everything and failure just meant that you hadn’t gotten it right yet. That’s freedom.


Something happened. Something was said. Or you were directed into a story that began limiting the possibilities of what you are able to learn. Not to be great at, just to learn.


Your Pain Is Your Innovation

Understanding our pain is to face what happened to us, as much as what didn’t happen for us.


Often, we feel more guilty about what we really needed (or still do) than we feel hurt by what happened to us. Although, if I would ask you:


What is the one thing that has happened to you that you wish never did? Click To Tweet


It’s possible that you will answer that significantly faster than if I asked:


Looking back, what do you think was missing that would’ve changed things?


Many will answer this by sharing the obvious: “My dad wasn’t around,” or, “We couldn’t afford college.”


But your situation is never your hurt, and it’s a lot easier to blame than it is to address our true need. Because addressing that, isn’t only addressing what was lost, but what seems impossible currently in our lives.


I’m sorry if your dad wasn’t there. But many kids from single mother homes succeed. Why? Because it’s never your situation. It’s your need.


Maybe your need was for guidance and direction. Perhaps it was the sense that you can finish what you start. It could even be that your sense of commitment to what matters to you was shifted because your parents didn’t live up to their own commitment.


From that one example, your dad not being there for you, there are so many potential unmet needs and shifts in your understanding of what’s fair.


You get to use that.


Once you understand your own true unmet need you have met your customer. Click To Tweet


You will always be your customer. Your deepest motivation will always be to help others in the way you weren’t.


And once you lock into that. Once you create a solution based on your true unmet need, you are able to mold that solution in incredibly innovative ways.


Why? Because when you care this much, you find a way.


Self-Awareness Creates Value

It stands to reason that you are only good at what you know. So how can that be secret?



The value you think you give might not be the value others receive. Click To Tweet


This goes back to the self-image story that we tell ourselves. So much of how we are is a part of who we are that we might not even be aware of what we are really good or bad at.


It’s like that thing with insecurity, when what you try hide from others is likely the first thing they notice and accept about you.


The truth is, we are substantially better at fooling ourselves than fooling others.


Our natural aptitudes, the things we didn't study and generally wouldn't consider of value or of service to others - might be exactly why people come back. Click To Tweet


Maybe it is that people feel at home with you. Perhaps it’s because you’re a great teacher. They might admire your optimism, your vision or your beauty (or design if you are thinking of consumer value).


These are parts of ourselves that we didn’t earn, they are hardwired into our DNA or a product of our nurturing – or both. For us to be aware of it, in order to give even more value, requires an intention to discover, accept and develop what makes us different – and most of us are very comfortable thinking we are the same as one another. In fact, for some of us, our intention is to be the same and that’s what we are focused on developing.


In doing so, by ignoring our natural aptitudes, we actually do ourselves a great injustice and to those we serve a great disservice. Because, to not develop the parts of what makes us useful to others is to deny them our full potential and spectrum of our value – and that requires self awareness.


Self-Awareness Creates Trust

This is true for our personal lives as much as for our brand or business (if you’ve been reading me for a while you will know that I do not separate the two).


When we share ourselves or want to serve and give value, to not do it honestly and transparently is counterproductive – it serves no one. And what this implies is that we have to share what makes us awesome and what we accept as challenges.


Sharing our intention to accept the challenge and to find solutions or become better at that particular area for improvement shows others that we are self-aware - and that creates trust. Click To Tweet


It all boils down to being honest with ourselves. In the same way as we need to be aware of what makes us amazing, we need to accept that there will always be parts of who we are or what we do that can be better.


To not talk about this to those who are involved is to hide, and when others can blatantly see that there is a need for change or an adaptation – and we do nothing – it makes us seem unreliable, unaware and, similar to an ostrich with his head in the sand, ignorant. No one wants to put their faith and time into someone who doesn’t show us that they can be better.


Without trust there cannot be an opportunity for growth, because growth requires participation. We need others to take the next step, and for that to happen we need to make ourselves three dimensional. We need to move away from the notion that to be trustworthy means to be infallible, perfect or spotless.

How we change and adapt in the face of our challenges, when we have shared what they are, is what makes the journey worth participating in for others. Click To Tweet

This is how we learn from each other, and it is how collectively we take steps forward.


If we only focus on the parts of us that are easy to present as attractive or worthwhile, we lose the opportunity to share our vitality, our hunger to grow and serve in new and better ways.


Empathy Is The Secret To Collaboration

Once we come to terms and celebrate that making anything happen requires humility and vulnerability (impossible without self-awareness) we are able to set a tone for what’s okay for those around us.


This is powerful because you aren’t just enabling someone to be themselves, but you become the person they trust to share their aspirations with – because you actually care.


This is your first step to a potential collaboration.


When you put yourself in a position where someone else is able to share their true motivation for what they want to achieve you are in the best position to establish a collaboration if their goal matches with yours in some way.


You haven’t invited this person to work with you. You haven’t ask their help.


You have simply created the environment for them to share themselves by showing yourself first. If they do share something that resonates meaningfully with you, you can share that there is synergy.


When you collaborate with someone when you know their motivation, you no longer have to hold that person accountable or make them “keep to their word” – because you never convinced them to work with you, you only allowed them to be part of something where their true motivation can have an outlet. If they don’t do their part, they are only letting themselves down.


And if their motivation is meaningful to them they won’t let themselves down – mainly because they have been enabled to do something that matters to them.


This is impossible without showing empathy first. And we know that paying a salary or convincing someone to work with us will never create an environment where the person feels deeply motivated and is working at optimum.  


Empathy Is The Answer To Customer Satisfaction

If you don’t seek to understand those who matter to you – you have lost.


And to understand them isn’t to know them, to understand them is to create the environment where they feel understood. It’s about them, not about you. The moment you make the conversation about yourself you have shifted from being empathetic to selling.


Whether your product is your friendship or your brand. People no longer want to be sold. They want to be helped and they want to feel that they belong. You can only achieve that by listening, and the only way to show you listened is to take action.


When we aim to understand our audience that is when we are able to give them solutions in ways they would never have asked for, because they couldn’t imagine it. That is our job as innovators. To listen, predict, and provide solutions before there’s a problem. That is how we build loyalty, by introducing people to possibilities that they didn’t know was an option. We preempt their need only by caring enough to get to know them.

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