Who the heck are you? Baggage vs. Luggage

My journey and story as an entrepreneur always leads me to share this: I never was taught about finance, business, or street smarts in high school or college. I learned about all of these things by doing. I learned by failing and learning from my mistakes. I also learned from watching and hearing about other’s mistakes. I constantly seek advice from entrepreneurs, other speakers, coaches, and business thought leaders. As I seek knowledge and share mine with others, one of the things that is very evident is that culture, school, relationships, and the world’s environment in general never asks one to DEFINE THEMSELVES. When was the last time, if ever, that somebody said, ‘Hi, I’m Matt. I am a leader, encourager, inspirer, warrior and a visionary. I value fight, faith, family, giving, gratitude, action, accountability, love, service, and excellence. Who are you and what do you stand for? Defining yourself gives you and the world clarity and certainty as to who you are.

What? Is this person crazy? Define myself. Imagine if every time you met someone in a business or life setting, they were able to clearly, confidently declare who they are and what they stand for? How much better would the world be? How much easier and more impactful would business be? The reality is that this concept is not normal to teach, to learn, or for culture to demand.

The one thing I always find in common with entrepreneurs who are impactful to the maximum degree is that they have a clear understanding of who they are (Define themselves) and what they stand for (Values). You may be saying, “That all sounds great Matt, but I have never been asked to so this, so tell me how the heck do I even start?” That is the reason behind this week’s blog. To catch you up to speed check out last weeks blog “Do Your Be: Six Steps to Intentional Impact”.

Before I get into the exercise I love to use to help individuals define themselves, let me first explain what defining yourself is not. This is not stating a role or responsibility you have (I am a father, I am an entrepreneur, I am a wife). Defining yourself is not what the world, culture, your family of origin, friends, or peers think you should be. Defining yourself must never be done with dis-empowering, unclear, and uncertain language. Defining yourself is not stating what you are doing, or how you are getting it done. Defining yourself is declaring with 100% absolute certainty who you are. What value do you bring to the world? What naturally flows out of your DNA? What gifts has God blessed you with? What innate skills, abilities, and superpowers do you have that make you, you? Defining yourself is a journey. It can not be done overnight. It is also a moving target. How I may have defined myself using the Circle of Impact coaching model in my 20s, is most likely different in some areas then it is now in my 30s, and I am sure it will change in my 40s.

As humans, we have life experiences. As we live life, we plot out memorable and impactful points, experiences and things that have taken place. When we do this, we associate a negative or positive emotion and energy to the experience. We also consciously or subconsciously shape the way we think, feel, and believe about certain things based on these experiences and how we decide to react to and perceive them. Living life is what allows us to define ourselves. I walk all of my coaching clients through the following exercise called the “Suitcase Dump”. Effectively, it is unpacking your suitcase of life experiences and deciding is it is baggage or luggage, then deciding if it is good baggage or luggage, what you will do with it, then repacking your suitcase. (I must thank and give credit to Graham Cooke for sharing the concept of baggage vs. luggage with me.)

Baggage usually has a negative connotation with it. You may hear somebody say, “Wow! That girl has some baggage”. Think of baggage as someone else packing a suitcase for YOU to take on a trip. Let’s call this trip a vacation! Life should be a fun, exciting, challenging, and empowering journey. Now imagine that you get to your beach destination, dump your suitcase on the bed, and realize that other person packed you snow boots, snow pants, and a big thick hoodie. How not cool is that? Baggage can also be a positive thing. The one thing to remember is baggage is something that somebody places on you. Example, did your friends at school growing up always tell you that you were not fast enough to play varsity football? What did you do with that information, experience and data point? Did you decide to pack it in your suitcase or not? A piece of good baggage may be this. Your father, who is a dentist, “encouraged”, “pushed” and “influenced you to become a dentist. You are a successful dentist with a thriving practice, yet you have taken something up that somebody else pushed, influenced or gave to you.

Luggage is what you have put on yourself, told yourself, and given to yourself for the journey. Luggage you pack, take ownership of, and have brought along for your journey. Luggage can also be positive or negative. In the same examples above, did you tell yourself you were never fast enough for varsity football? Did you place that negative thought, energy, and idea in your suitcase? Again, same example, have you always dreamed, strived, and been passionate about becoming a dentist?

Your suitcase is packed so full of life experiences, good and bad baggage, good and bad luggage, that it is necessary to unpack it all to take inventory of what is there. I am not here to say what you should refill your suitcase with, but I will say that unpacking, inventorying, and deciding what items to repack your bag and go on your journey with is what is most important. Should you keep some baggage? Should you throw away some luggage? What percentage of your bag should consist of the two?

When you take the time to step outside of your experiences, unpack your suitcase, and view it from another angle, this empowers you to decide what you will take along, what you will discard, and what you may just want to leave alone and not bother with for right now. At the end of this exercise you should be able to stand up and declare with absolute certainty what is in your bag, what it means to you, and who you are.

I encourage you to do this exercise. If you have any questions, please let me know. This is what I do day in and day out with entrepreneurs, CEO’s, executives and leadership teams. If you would like me to come out to help you with this one-on-one, fill out the request form on my coaching page.

I would also love your comments and feedback about the baggage vs. luggage concept and the suitcase dump.

Tune in next week, when I will share tips and an exercise to declare what you stand for.