Being clear on your core message is important.
It helps with making decisions, communication, personal branding, creative expression, building an audience, world domination (hey, I’m not judging! You just might be better equipped for that job than the current powers that be) etc.
There’s just one problem with knowing what you stand for: we’re all complex beings. We have trillions of cells, trillions of brain synapses…and, despite claims to the contrary, not necessarily shorter attention spans than a goldfish (phew!).
How do you narrow all that human brilliance down to a single message?
Great question! It’s a battle I’ve fought over the years, both as an entrepreneur and as a writer.
I would try one message on for size, only to realize a few weeks or months later that it wasn’t quite it.
You should have seen all the iterations of my websites. There was one time when I went from “bland vanilla feel-good blabla” to “all-out revolutionary hardass” design in a way that must have given my audience digital whiplash syndrome. (Sorry! That’s not how I planned to turn heads.)
Whenever I saw someone who seemed to have their core message figured out, I felt a slight pang of envy that they were clear where I was feeling confused.
And I’m only somewhat exaggerating when I say that I sometimes wished God (or any other deity, I’m not picky… that includes you, Jupiter!) would start speaking to me out of a burning bush with clear instructions.
Where was the Lightning Strike of Inspiration™? The Parting of the Clouds™ that would make it all apparent? Hell, at this point I’d even settle for something prosaic such as an instruction manual.
Well, I recently got my lightning strike of inspiration. Except it wasn’t a lightning strike (although there’s been plenty of thunder doomsday weather going on where I live…).
No, what happened was much more subtle than that. An email, a YouTube video, a question.
No God and no burning bush (although perhaps the internet should count as a burning something these days?).
All it took was a simple mind trick that raised the stakes.
When I went through this, my core message came through loud and clear. No ifs or buts. No doubts.
No parting of the clouds, either… which has me thinking that that aspect of the whole experience might be overrated.
Anyway, in this article, I’ll not only share my core message with you (be afraid, be very afraid!), but I’ll also reveal how I discovered it and how you can do the same!
Discover your core message by putting some skin in the game
One principle in life is that we often get better results when we put some skin in the game.
(Your own skin, dear reader! How many more times do I have to point out that human sacrifice is totally unacceptable?)
Instead of exploring a situation from a safe distance, the goal is to engage with it on the field.
That’s something that I’ve been working on implementing in my own life.
Instead of telling a friend or a coaching client what they should do from an ivory tower like some quarantined damsel in distress, I strive to tell them what I would do if I were in their very well-fitting shoes.
Or, as Nassim Taleb puts it:
“Don’t tell me what you think, tell me what you have in your portfolio.”
Well, it turns out that putting some literal skin in the game can be the magical pill that solves everything.
What helped me discover my core message was an ingenious question that entrepreneur Jennifer Lee posed in the video below:
“What would you tattoo across your chest?”
Her question was based on the example of a woman who had done just that — she had tattooed her core message across her chest so that it was visible whenever she wore something that didn’t cover her collarbone.
Something about the permanency of that consideration helped me find my answer.
This is probably the part where I should point out (just in case my mom is reading this… hi Mom!) that I haven’t actually gotten a chest tattoo, nor am I planning to.
Before I tell you what I came come up with, I’ll give you a moment to answer that question for yourself.
If you absolutely had to tattoo something across your chest, what would that be?
If you live in a culture where tattoos are a no-no or if your chest is already full of tattoos, what’s a phrase you would wear on your clothes for the rest of your life? (I’m assuming that you wear clothes…?!?)
My core message
Alright, here’s my answer:
“You got this!”
If I absolutely had to tattoo something across my chest (and if that slogan didn’t sound too much like an invitation to sexual harassment), that would be it.
Here’s why that's my core message:
I believe in personal power for collective change. I believe that people such as yourself have all these wonderful gifts, talents, and skills inside that can benefit the world at large.
However, unless you believe you can do “this” (whatever this is), you’re probably not going to try — which would deprive the world and all the people you could help of your uniqueness.
In contrast, if you believe you can do something, it makes your success that much more likely.
That’s why it’s so important for me to let people know that they got this.
What your core message means for you
Funnily enough, as I checked my planner for the year, I found something rather surprising.
At the beginning of the year, the planner had “asked” me to write down words of encouragement for myself during hard times. (A very prescient planner, given, you know…2020!)
Want to guess which words I came up with at the start of the year?
“You got this!”
(Yes, you guessed correctly. 10 points to Gryffindor or whatever your Hogwarts house team is!)
Why this matters
That’s an interesting insight, isn’t it? That a message I had written to myself (that I had already forgotten about) mirrored the core message that I wanted everyone to know.
This has me thinking that your core message isn’t just for the people around you… it’s also your message to yourself.
What I most love about the 3 words that make up my core message
“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’” — Eleanor Roosevelt
What I love about those 3 words is that they say so much with so little.
The phrase “you got this” covers what Eleanor Roosevelt so eloquently describes above but it also describes a lot more.
Depending on the situation, it expresses trust, confidence, faith, resilience, optimism, commitment… and so much more.
(Plus, unlike Elanor Roosevelt’s quote, it would actually fit on my chest!)
In short, the phrase “you got it” got it!
It can handle whatever you throw at it.
Just like you and me.
We got this!
Or, as Albert Camus put it:
"In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger — something better, pushing right back.”
What's your core message? Leave me a comment below!
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