Don’t judge me. I was in between meetings the other day and drove through Taco Bell. I just needed something quick before a conference call, so I ordered a couple of crunchy tacos with extra tomatoes.
The voice on the other side of the order box was that of a 50-year-old Southern gentleman who sounded as if he needed a nap. With a slow drawl he said, “Pull up to the first window.”
Then, at the window I’m met by a college-aged kid who shouts “Hello, governor!” and then rolls out my order with the thickest Australian accent imaginable. I’m confused and asked him who took my order. “Yeah, that was me,” he says. In a perfect NE Boston accent. He was like this guy on Conan. Or, if you like sports, he was like Frank Caliendo.
I’m hooked. He does a couple other voices, and I have to ask, “What’s up with all the accents?”
He answered, “You know, it’s just my deal. It’s what I’m about. I guess it kinda defines me.”
Eventually, I had to run but that bit of drive-through showmanship stuck with me. It stuck with me longer than the conference call did, honestly. And in a good way. That kid at Taco Bell reminded me of something about identity.
Identity and Voice
I’ve written elsewhere about the concept of voice. My voice is that unique sound of me operating in my created and discovered giftedness. It resonates powerfully within and around us and makes others straighten up and pay attention.
This guy at Taco Bell was doing that (ironically, by impersonating other voices).
So what’s the lesson? Find your own voice and don’t spend a lifetime pretending. No one has your exact DNA or exact set of experiences and passions. It is the unique “you,” but unless what is created is discovered, it stays buried.
Millennials and others have flocked to the Enneagram for this self-discovery while others prefer StrengthsFinder, Birkman, or the Myers-Briggs. The one I’ve used the last couple of years is called the Insights Discovery. It’s easier to institutionalize within an entire company.
Self-discovery tests should a) increase your wonder at your Creator; and b) improve your desire and ability to use your gift.
On the first point, recall that in the book of Psalms, the writer prays to God, “It was you who created my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will praise you because I have been remarkably and wondrously made.”
The works of God are worth remarking about and wondering at. It’s worth studying God’s creation of you. Self-discovery, then, should be done not with a self-exalting attitude but with a “no wrong answers” kind of excitement! I was made with wiring and gifting by a Maker who knows what He’s doing! Is that the way you approach the topics of identity and voice?
On the second point, Eric Liddell, the 1920s Olympic gold medal sprinter/missionary said, “God made me fast, and when I run, I feel His pleasure.”
He didn’t just know he had the gift of running, and he didn’t just tell people about it. He ran.
Don’t let your strengths finder results exist only on your resume. Don’t simply share that you’re a 6 wing 7 at a dinner party or a corporate icebreaker exercise. Find your voice, your unique wiring and skillset and use it.
If you’re fortunate enough to be able to build a job description around your skillset, do that. If you can’t make it your job, then look for ways to use that skillset outside of work—volunteer with it, or hone your skill on your own for the day when it can be your job. Or find creative ways to bring it into your job.
One final note. Being you is not an excuse for not pursuing growth, self-development or maturity. Just being me is never an excuse for being a jerk or being routinely stuck in a negative, ugly character expression. Some people use their wiring and personality as a license for bad behavior.
Good leaders (or what I call hero leaders) grow, and in particular, they grow in their weaknesses. They use their strengths and grow in their weaknesses.
That’s a sound worth hearing.