I recently attended the very inspirational and informative “Hellenic Business Network Entrepreneurship Symposium” hosted by Hellenic Professional Women Inc. at the Archdiocesan Cathedral Community and Cultural Center in New York City on 04/13/13. The event offered the pleasure to meet several great entrepreneurs from a variety of professional fields and to network with other young professionals interested in embarking on a new business venture.
During the Keynote presentation by John P. Margaritis, author of Unlock Your Inner Entrepreneur, we were asked to look at a collection of worksheets and think about our personal and professional goals. The one that stuck for me was the “I AM” worksheet.
The question seemed a little funny to me as I don’t stop to consider who I am on a daily basis. I have always asked “Am I…?” but never really declared “I am the I am” the way God says to Moses (Exodus 3:14)… or the way Jesus often refers to himself (John 6:35, 8:12, 10:9&11, 11:25, 14:6, 15:1). It seems so… so cheeky! And yet… and yet we’re made in God’s image and with a purpose, aren’t we? Presuming so, I take a look at the worksheet with fresh eyes. I need to fill 12 slots labeled “I am.”
“I am who I have always been.” Expectations and goals have been understood and met.
“I am a Greek gal in New York” — one of many. Sure the story’s a little more complicated than that, but everyone’s story is. So I sat for a moment and thought about what that meant. What is it to be a Greek New Yorker? What is it to have roots in more than one place?
“I am American.” All the folks I’ve met from different walks of life came to mind. It’s always funny to be asked what I like because I like variety. That’s really the bottom line for me. As a Greek American in New York I feel like I’ve always been a part of a very culturally diverse community, and yet most of my friends shared something in common with me — we’re first generation Americans, breaking into the new world with a passion and drive inherited from our families, looking like we know what we’re doing…even when we really don’t. (To coin Tim Gunn’s infamous phrase, we know how to “Make it work.”) Waking up in one world and stepping past your front door into another world has always been a remarkable experience for me. It’s the America I know. Rich, diverse, full of surprises and new things.
“I am confident.” Am I? Lol. Sometimes. It comes and goes, like waves on the sand. In my “fearless” years, people would marvel at “my balls” and ask me to represent them in small debates, administrative offices, etc. I spoke my mind and called things as I’d see them. Mom thought I was headed for law school for sure…. Nope. I made my own way down an unusual path that led me here, to this point on this blog, having lived through countless joys and sorrows — and the journey’s not even half over…. I’ve mentored hundreds of students, counseled many a friend and relative, and have listened to and accepted their counsel as well. I’ve made many friends and lost a few along the way. Whatever has happened, I’m grateful for that collective experience.
“I am a leader.” I thought about the mentors who had gotten me to this point, this room, this moment. What did they all have in common? They were all strong, smart, creative, charismatic, generous, honest, fearless people with unflinching family values and an energy that lit any room as soon as they walked in. They were my heros — my Titans — beautiful, inside and out. Every day I aspired to be like them, to make them proud. Am I proud of who I am and where I come from? I am…. It encompasses more than the familiar Hellenic circle of friends and relatives. It includes teachers and guides I’ve met along the way. As Maria Loi said during the panel discussions earlier in the day, “We are all Greek.”
“I am a child.” My family stressed a culture of respect, humility and faith. Being capable and confident should not be confused with being narcissistic and vain. Raised within the complexity of an older world of Aristotelian goals and values, of the “more modern” GO writs that so many still follow today, I often wonder “Am I a good role model today?” the way a child wonders if she’s completed her math homework correctly….
Suddenly the rest of the list wasn’t hard to come up with. There weren’t enough slots on the page…. “I am… one drop in an ocean of resilient, creative people. Our strength lies in our unity and our ability to move with the tide….” I put away the page, closed the folder and smiled. “I am always myself, and that’s a great thing.”
Is this what I was expected to write? Probably not. I can rattle off the list: I’m creative, smart, sassy, productive, energetic…. but the goal is really to know who you are and to make those qualities work for you as you use your time and energy to launch into an uncertain new future. You need to know yourself and your community. As I’ve told many a student, you need to know the key (Ethos, Logos, Pathos) to a successful pitch. You need to know what need exists and why you feel compelled to fill that gap in society.
Have you ever tried making your own “I Am” list? It’s not as easy as it seems! Try to find 12 things about yourself and post them below. Have a great day!