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The 4 Rules For Being Noticed And Getting Ahead

Our own light shines brightest when we reflect the accomplishments of those we have helped to succeed. – Roz Usheroff

When you look at people who are in the spotlight of accomplishment, do you automatically assume that they were born with inherent gifts?  Do you believe they possess unique abilities that mere mortals do not possess? Do you think that explains why they command and attract attention?

Are you currently surrendering to a belief that you could never aspire to similar heights of achievement in your own right?

If you do, then you are not alone.

But here is the thing . . . many of the people whom you see as strong and confident were not always like that. In fact, many were initially inclined to shun the spotlight and retreat to the supposed comfort of anonymity in the shadows of self-doubt.


Don’t be.

The Shadows Of My 4-Person Rule

Many years ago when I worked at Club Monaco, a Canadian retail fashion chain, I had a self-imposed rule that if there were more than four people in a meeting, I would remain silent.

My reasoning was that I had a greater chance of appearing stupid if I spoke in front of a larger audience. I was fearful of being exposed as someone who did not know what they were talking about. You can think of it as being the 4 Smart – 5 Stupid Rule.


As I look back, my thinking seems foolish, especially since I now address audiences of all sizes the world over. Naturally, over time, those fears eventually disappeared due in part to the fact that I allowed myself to accept the positive feedback from my diverse audiences.  The real turning point however, was my realization that I had known more about what I was saying, than for what I was giving myself credit.

Overcoming The “Spotlight Effect”

Ultimately, I shied away from the spotlight in terms of speaking up and standing out because I believed that everyone was watching me and would therefore notice my every flaw or imperfection. This highly sensitized level of self-consciousness actually has a name…“The Spotlight Effect”.


If you are not familiar with the term, it is the belief that you are noticed by others more than you really are. What is even more interesting is that rarely, if ever, will you have an accurate perspective on how people view you.

In this month’s eNewsletter, I will provide you with a new set of rules for stepping from the shadows of self-doubt and self-limiting beliefs to shine in your own right.

Rule #1 – Focus on your Strengths

If you want to change the fruit, you have to change the roots. If you want to change the visible, you have to change the invisible first. – T. Harv Eker

How many times have you been in a meeting where someone presents an idea in which you have said to yourself, “Hey! I thought of that!”

This has happened to everyone at one time or another, and not just once. So here is my question to you . . . why didn’t you speak up? Why did you hesitate to share your ideas or flashes of brilliance?

Until you get to the point of realizing and accepting the fact that you have a value all of your own, you will likely be in the shadows of your own 4-person rule.

woman with sketched strong and muscled arms

Tips for discovering and boosting your confidence:

  • Think back to your past successes – even the small ones. It could be acing a tough job interview, dealing with a difficult customer or completing a project under budget. How did you feel? The key point is that each success you have had should serve as a stepping-stone to building your confidence in the value of ‘you’.
  • Seek input from trusted individuals with whom you work and live about your strengths. Remember, with the spotlight effect we rarely, if ever, have an accurate view of how others perceive us. You will most assuredly be surprised by the answers you receive.
  • If you are not happy with something about yourself, don’t lament it – change it! If you feel that you need to be more visible, begin with tiny steps. Challenge yourself to speak up early in a meeting or ask to be first on the agenda of a virtual presentation.

Rule #2 – Knowledge IS Power

If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail. – Benjamin Franklin

Nothing fosters greater confidence than knowing your stuff!


Doing your homework and becoming a subject matter expert removes any element of surprise. It also means that your preparation time before attending a meeting or addressing an audience is as important as the event itself.

In other words, you can’t just show up and wing it. That would be like showing up at the starting line of a marathon race without actually training for it. It doesn’t matter how fast you are, or how athletic you look –  you are not going to win the race.

Tips for setting the stage for speaking out:

  • Know your audience! Find out who is going to be attending the meeting, and what they want to achieve. Why are they there? Why are you there?
  • Get a copy of the agenda and highlight the areas with which you can offer meaningful insight – then carpe diem . . . seize the opportunity to speak.
  • Prepare thought-provoking questions in advance. Address those in attendance who are the subject matter experts.  Your enthusiastic participation will be duly noted.
  • When presenting, don’t just talk at people. Engage them. Create a two-way dialogue which shifts the focus from you to others, and gives everyone the opportunity to shine in a collective spotlight. To make your audience part of the process, try the following:
  • “What are your questions?” vs. “Do you have any questions?”
  • “How does this resonate with you?”
  • “I’m curious to have your perspectives.”
  • “What are your thoughts before I move on?”
  • Stock the boardroom or audience with allies who will validate your perspectives. Book time to share your vision with them before the meeting to build your sponsorship.

Rule #3 – Sincere Passion Is Contagious   

Be still when you have nothing to say; when genuine passion moves you, say what you’ve got to say, and say it hot. – DH Lawrence

A powerful message is dampened by a cautious or uncertain delivery.


Tips to help you to shine when it is time to speak:

  • Don’t say what you have to say to gain approval. Say what you have to say because you truly believe it.
  • When you speak, make eye contact with as many people as you can. Let them not only hear the conviction in your voice, but see the confidence in your eyes.
  • Have documentation at hand that supports your position rather than just an opinion.
  • When you are finished speaking, don’t end with a shrug of the shoulders, “Well, what do you think?” submission.
  • Never end your point of view with your voice rising as it will appear that you are asking for permission.

Rule #4 – Perfection Is An Illusion

Everyone makes mistakes. The wise are not people who never make mistakes, but those who forgive themselves and learn from their mistakes. – A Buddhist Monk

For me, a major breakthrough in terms of stepping out from the shadows and into the spotlight of my full potential came when I finally gave myself permission to be imperfect. What I have learned over the years is that audiences are more apt to champion me when I focus on them, as opposed to myself.


Tips to help you to own your power and become comfortable being visible:

  • If you make a mistake in front of your entire world, admit it, fix it, and learn from it. How you deal with adversity speaks volumes about your character.
  • Like a figure skater who falls during their routine, don’t sit at center ice and give up. Instead, get up and continue forward.
  • Focus on getting it right, as opposed to being right. When you are more interested in delivering value to others you are less likely to dwell on your missteps.

Everyone Has A Spotlight . . . 

I’ve come to believe that each person has a spotlight waiting for them. – Katherine Stone

In the end, stepping into your spotlight and getting noticed means that you are more likely to be considered for opportunities for career advancement.

So go out there and shine!




Tell Me Why? Introducing The Three Rules Of Why

Like Stephen Hawking’s Theory of Everything, which is a “single, all-encompassing, coherent theoretical framework . . . that fully explains and links together all physical aspects of the universe,” the question “why” has a similar potency.

When you ask the question why, you are in essence seeking your own personal answers in your own unique universe. In other words, you are setting aside the preconceived notions of how your world works (or how you think it works), and opening yourself up to a greater understanding of the expanded possibilities that exist for you.

I am not talking about a self-pandering “why me” lamentation. Nor am I talking about a vague search for some elusive facts or insights.

What I am talking about is turning your focus outward – beyond your present reality, to gain a better understanding of where you are now, why you’re where you are and – most importantly – how you can move forward toward your real and bigger future.

In this context “why” is the single, most powerful word in the world.

The Three Rules Of Why?

Why do I do what I do?

If you have ever asked someone why they do something, you will usually get a canned response highlighting either their reasons i.e to make a living, send my kids to college etc. or, a job description.

While this pre-programmed response is completely true, it is also completely irrelevant in terms of answering the question.

Jobs Love Work

It is only when you peel back these layers of socially accepted protocol, that you will truly understand why you do what you do and then, be in the position to make a true connection with others.

So . . . why do you do what you do? Why are you in the job you are in right now?

Why does it matter to others?

When you ask – and answer the question why do you do what you do, you must then ask yourself why does it matter to others?


Given that we are in the Holiday Season, it is a question that will likely bring to mind the movie “It’s A Wonderful Life.” This is because you are looking beyond yourself, and your circumstances, to try and quantify your impact on the lives of those around you.

After all, there is a world of difference between knowing why you do what you do – and I mean really knowing it, and connecting with others on a meaningful level . . . to them.

The irony here is that you can’t answer this second question until you have answered the first. But once you do, your job and your career will take on a deeper and more powerful meaning.

Not only will you find your passion, which is the driving force behind what you do and your ultimate success, but you will also be able to discover and ignite the passion in others, be it your co-workers or customers.

Why will it make a difference in my life?

This last question is the means through which you discover the ultimate answer relating to your “why” equation.

It represents the “at the end of the day”, and “why I get up in the morning” outcome, that all of us seek, in terms of our greater meaning or purpose in both our work and private lives.

Simply put, this is how you answer the “is it worth it” question.

Rocky Champion Quote

Remember the old Rocky Balboa quote about “every champion was once a contender that refused to give up?” It should both remind and encourage you to understand that the road to success is never a straight or direct route.

There will always be detours and bumps and breakdowns of various sorts along the way. Knowing why you do what you do, and understanding the impact it has on others, is the key to answering the “is it worth it” question.

Of course, your answer is never fully understood until you have achieved your desired outcome.

So think about your desired outcome, and envision what that outcome will look like. If said image is pleasing to you and reflective of where you truly want to be, pursue it relentlessly,without hesitancy or second thoughts.

3 Tips on How To Avoid The Indecision Trap

I remember someone once telling me that indecision is in itself a choice.

It was a simple yet powerful observation.

Many have come to the crossroads of indecision not certain as to which is the right path to take. It is almost like being in a state of suspended animation, in which you are frozen or paralyzed.

There are, in these kinds of situations, countless call to action sayings such as “in the end we only regret the chances we didn’t take.” However, it is not until you are standing at the precipice of a life changing unknown, that weighing the full gravity of your choice can mute these words of encouragement. In short, there is a big difference between knowing you have to make a choice, and actually making one.

The following tips will hopefully help you to take that bold step forward from indecision to decision.

1. Time Will Make Your Decision For You

A wise man said that time decides if you don’t, and time always decides against you.


If for example you have a ticket to board a flight to Chicago, but can’t decide if you want to get on the plane, if you wait too long the plane will leave without you. The decision will have been made for you.

The point of the above example is that life happens beyond yourself. You can choose to be an active participant in your own life and future, or let the winds of fate or circumstance make the decision.

In whose hands would you like to place your future?

2. Even If You Get It Wrong, You Can Still Make It Right

In her book Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway, Susan Jeffers talks about her “No-Lose Model.”

Her model is based upon the belief that there is no such thing as a “right choice” or a “wrong choice,” as there is nothing in life with which you cannot ultimately deal.

By referencing the Jeffers model, I am not saying that your decision will not have consequences – it will. Nor am I suggesting that dealing with said consequences will always be easy. In fact, it might be extremely difficult.


This said, you are stronger and more resilient than you give yourself credit for. As a result, the consequences of indecision – of having someone other than yourself take responsibility for your actions and outcomes, is a far scarier proposition. After all, do you want to deal with the results of someone else’s choice or your own?

3. Always Be True To Yourself

Often times indecision arises when we are faced with doing something that goes against our values and who we really are.

being true to yourself

If you are experiencing uncertainty or unsure of what you should do in a particular situation, take a step back and ask yourself “will my ultimate decision align with my personal values?”

Making a choice that is based upon your personal values and beliefs is in and of itself liberating.

The reason is quite simple . . .

When you make a choice based on your values, dealing with the consequences is far easier than regretting a decision that goes against who you are and for what you stand.

This is the tipping point in the scale of indecision.

Stay true to yourself, and let the chips fall where they may.


Now that you have read the above, the rest is up to you! Of course, it always has been . . . up to you.

Should you speak your mind?

The other day I read a quote by Barbara Corcoran in which she states “Never be ashamed of who you are. People always recognize and appreciate authenticity – in any style.”

Corcoran who, besides her extensive credentials as a business woman, syndicated columnist and investor, is also one of the “sharks” on the popular television show Shark Tank.

This led me to wonder . . . to what degree is authenticity tied to our ability to speak our minds.

Let’s face it, on the show Corcoran is not a timid soul, nor is she reluctant to tell it like it is. As the first woman to own a real estate brokerage firm – which she sold for $66 million just a few short years ago, she is definitely someone who speaks her mind.

So, is one of the keys to success the ability or willingness to speak one’s mind? Is authenticity demonstrated in being a what you see, is what you get person?


Based on my experience, it all comes down to credibility, intent and delivery.


If you look it up in the dictionary, credibility is defined as possessing “the quality of being trusted and believed in” and/or the “quality of being convincing or believable.”

For Corcoran, the source of her credibility is clearly defined and represented by her success.

However, do you need to build up a business and sell it for $66 million before people will listen to you? No!

Your credibility is built in the small, everyday things you do, as you work towards your bigger goals.

If you say you are going to do something, and then do it, you build credibility.

If you demonstrate consistency in terms of living your values, you build credibility.

Think of it in the context of compound interest. The more you do the small things, the more your credibility will grow, and with it the weight your opinions and words will carry with others.


While being direct and concise when you speak your mind is important – I will cover this in greater detail in the next section, it is the underlying intent that ultimately comes through in your words.

Speak Your Mind Watson Quote

In his February 2014 Inc article titled 5 Reasons You Should Speak Up (Even When You Think You Shouldn’t), Kevin Daum wrote about how “the greater good” should be the priority when someone speaks their mind.

Specifically, while you might be reluctant to say what is on your mind because you do not want to offend someone or be seen as criticizing another person, by staying silent, you may be doing far more harm than good.

In every case why you are saying something is as important as what you are saying.

Or to put it another way, remaining silent while the bus you are on is going over a cliff serves no ones best interest.

Conversely, speaking up simply to be heard or make someone else look bad is equally destructive.

So, before you open your mouth to speak ask yourself, how will this help or improve the situation? Even if your words are cutting, if there is an ultimate good that will come from it, then silence is definitely not golden.


We are all familiar with the term “it’s not what you are saying, but how you are saying it that matters most.”

Speaking with authority and clarity is important in that it demonstrates you are not merely expressing an opinion, but speaking from a position of insight and experience.

However, talking down to someone or coming across in a dismissive manner, will overshadow the merit or validity of what you are saying. So be respectful.

If by speaking up you find yourself in disagreement with someone, do not say, you are wrong and here are the reasons why. Instead say, “you have an interesting point of view, but here is my take on it.” Then go on to explain upon what you are basing your input, and why you believe it is worthy of serious consideration.

Of course, and no matter how you express yourself, someone might still get offended anyway.

If they do, then patiently listen to what they are saying and unless they have presented an alternative view that changes your mind, stay firm without becoming emotional. In short, always speak from a position of cool certainty versus defensive condescension.


In the end, speaking your mind with integrity and transparency in a manner that demonstrates your desire to make a situation better, is the best way to showcase your authenticity and value as a person.


The Uplifting Power of Mindful Living

Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” – Melody Beattie

As the year comes to a close, I wanted to leave you with a message that would resonate with all of us.

For some, this has been a celebratory year, for others, a challenging year, for others, a mediocre year.

Regardless of the results, the most important way of ending this year is to celebrate with mindfulness.

What is Mindful Living?

Let’s look at gratitude for a moment,

Gratitude is a choice.

I am not simply talking about the cup being half full or half empty analogy here. While taking such a view in life demonstrates the tenets of optimism and hope, gratitude is not determined by perception of circumstances, as much as it is your attitude towards them.

It is an attitude that is not dependent upon how you feel at any given moment, nor is it based upon success or failure. Gratitude is based upon a set of values that define who you are, and is the foundation upon which you will build your life.

This is what I call Mindful Living.

How do you reach a state of Mindful Living?

About two months ago, I was sitting in a sermon where the minister identified the six things you need to be happy.

Along with gratitude, the following life principles or values provide the foundation for a mindful life of peace and stability, even in times of upset and uncertainty:

1. Live in the present

Are you being told to slow down? Stop rushing? Smell the Roses?

live today

Echoing similar sentiments to those expressed in the Melody Beattie quote, the minister said if you live in the past you live with regrets. If you live in the future, you live with fear. But if you live in the present, you live with joy.

This doesn’t mean that you don’t plan for the future, nor learn from the past. It means that you LIVE in the here and now because it is at this moment in time, and each subsequent moment you are fortunate to experience, that you can do something positive with your life.

2. Live with Humor

Do friends tell you to lighten up or to stop taking life so seriously?

Humor street

As any comedian will tell you, humor is often born out of the most difficult and hurtful periods in one’s life.

We have also heard that laughter is the best medicine.

The fact is that by being able to laugh at ourselves and find the humor in even the most trying situations, we will gain the mindset to weather life’s inevitable storms.

3. Live Simply

How often have you promised yourself to simplify your life, get rid of possessions or cut down on your spending?


While there is nothing wrong with having money or nice things, should they be the focal point of your life?

The minister made the statement that the less you need to worry about material possessions, the freer you become.

Are you defined by what you do for a living, the type of car you drive, or the home in which you live.

I often think back to a story I read in the newspapers a few years ago about an elderly woman who, for most of her life, lived modestly in a 1 bedroom house. In fact the newspaper reported that she “held little more than a few plain pieces of furniture, some mismatched dishes and a hulking TV set that appeared left over from the Johnson administration.”

When she passed away, Grace Groner left $7 million to her former alma mater Lake Forest College.

Though “Groner was frugal,” the article also noted that “she was no miser.” She traveled extensively, volunteered throughout her life, and “occasionally funneled anonymous gifts” through her attorney to “needy local residents.”

This is a woman who gave more than she ever took, and in the process lived a full and happy life.

4. Live with Patience

Have you ever regretted something you said or did because you reacted too quickly?


I believe that patience begins with you being honest with yourself.

I also believe that patience is selfless in that it enables you to perceive a situation through the eyes of another, or an understanding of the natural order of things.

I remember the story of an entomologist who, upon finding a Chrysalis for a rare butterfly, brought it home and placed it in a warm location in his house waiting “patiently” for it to emerge.

One morning when he awoke, he discovered that the butterfly was struggling to escape its cocoon. For several hours he was spellbound by its struggle. Finally, he could wait no longer. In an effort to expedite the process, he used a scalpel to make an ever so slight slit in the cocoon.

Sure enough, the butterfly emerged. However, and much to the entomologist’s disappointment, its wings did not open. At first he didn’t understand why, but then he came to a heartbreaking realization. The reason the butterfly could not open its wings to fully display its magnificent beauty is that in his efforts to hasten its release, he had deprived it of its necessary struggle to escape from its cocoon. As a result the wings could not fully develop.

5. Live to Celebrate All Experiences

How do you process past or current failures? Do you see them as a sign of weakness or as an invaluable education?

Celebrate Life

There is a saying with which we are all likely familiar that proclaims, “Those who fail to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.”

The fact is that you should equally celebrate the lessons learned from both your successes and failures, because they are in their own unique way, marvelous teachers.

When you can face your failures in the same manner that you face your successes then, and only then, will you have the freedom to enjoy the benefits of lessons learned.

6. Live with Gratitude

Are you mindful of the stories you tell yourself about your life?

When it comes to actually living with gratitude, I am sure that we all have a story to share.

During his sermon, the minister told the story of a man living in a housing project in Chicago, barely making ends meet for his family, who was shot by a sniper. He became paralyzed.

The minister, who went to see the man shortly after he had been released from hospital, talked with him for a while as he lay motionless in his bed.

Noting that there was no bitterness in the man’s voice, he asked him why he wasn’t bitter.

The man’s response? “Because I’m so lucky to be alive and see my family everyday.”

I thought about this for a moment, because I am not certain that I could possess the same mindset of gratitude under similar circumstances.

Then it dawned on me. The man’s gratitude was based on what he did have as opposed to what he no longer had.

Think about this last statement. What is it that you value most? What is it that really matters to you?

Is what you value perishable, or is it based on something more meaningful – such as the love of a family?


In the end, while each of the above values or principles are in their own right important, I believe that possessing a gracious heart and mind represents the ties that bind together a life of greater purpose and meaning.

Or to put it another way, gratitude provides the lens through which you can view life in a manner that enables you to live in the present, live with humor, live simply and with patience and, celebrate a life of lessons learned and goals achieved.

Looking back, I feel truly blessed for an amazing year made possible by the many wonderful and loyal clients that I’ve had the privilege to work with and for kindness of many who recommend my services.

Wishing you a happy, healthy and glorious New Year.



What is your social capital net worth? by Roz Usheroff

I recently came across a discussion on Twitter in which there was a debate as to what the differences in terms of risk were for an intrapreneur as opposed to an entrepreneur.

While an entrepreneur is obviously someone who runs their own business, what is an intrepreneur?

Practically speaking, an intrapreneur is an employee who thinks and behaves differently.

Rather than simply fulfilling the requirements of their position, an employee with an intrapreneurial mindset will instead begin to think outside of the box.

This means that they will:

  • See opportunities where none previously existed.
  • Potentially change their goals and objectives as they embrace a new personal independence that will better align them with their organization’s goals.
  • Embrace their true unique ability because, similar to entrepreneurs, they will now be pursuing results from a position of passion rather than just duty or job description.
  • See the significance of advertising their unique ability because they know that it will help them to receive the recognition they deserve.

By adopting the intrapreneur mindset, any concerns they might have in terms of being seen as political will be eliminated.  This is because, like any good business person, they will become strategic and intentional in everything they say and do.

Within the above context, how can one equate the financial risk of owning and running your own business with any purported risk that exists within the framework of a paid position?

My belief is that the only difference in terms of risk for intrapreneurs as opposed to entrepreneurs is currency type.

While an entrepreneur will risk financial capital, by becoming an intrapreneur, an individual finances their efforts using social capital.

This is not to suggest that entrepreneurs do not need to possess a certain level of social game.  Far from it.  However, an intrapreneur’s primary risk capital is based on their reputation.  Or to put it another way, by thinking outside of the box, intrapreneurs are trading on their good name or personal brand otherwise known as their social capital.

So what is your social capital net worth?  Of equal importance, how do you increase your social capital net worth to the point that you can effectively operate as an intrepreneur within your present organization?

The key words are creditability and contribution, and you cannot have one without the other.  This means that to build your social capital net worth, you have to be visible and involved.


In this context, the following exercises should help.

Exercise 1: Building Your “Fan Base” (Creditability)

  • Make a list of those individuals who you can call upon to support your ideas, initiatives, and suggestions in future meetings.
  • Make another list of those individuals who have relationships with decision makers with whom you do not have direct access but would be willing to speak on your behalf to introduce or reiterate your suggestions.

Now, identify two tactics that would help you to demonstrate your appreciation for their support, and reciprocate appropriately.

  1. Tactic:
  2. Tactic:

Remember, your brand is the sum of every experience others have of you.

To stand out, you have to creatively highlight what makes you different, better, wiser, smarter, interesting, and more desirable than others who profess to offer what you offer. Then you have to be visible and promote the best of what you do. The best way to do that is to offer something no one else is offering.

Exercise 2: Mobilizing Your “Fan Base” (Contribution)

Make a list of those people who have the power to:

  • Impact your career because of their position and influence
  • Provide you with opportunities to be involved in high-profile projects
  • Serve as a coach, mentor, or sponsor

Now, identify two opportunities that would help you to showcase your value and bring you greater visibility in your company.

  1. Opportunity:
  2. Opportunity:

In the end, when you seek the assistance of others to help you create opportunities to deliver value to your organization, you will be well on your way towards building a healthy social capital balance sheet.


What is your story? by Roz Usheroff

I recently had the opportunity to hear Dr. Bertice Berry speak and have to tell you that her humorous, yet powerfully insightful comments left quite an impression.

Berry who, has the sixth of seven children grew up poor in Wilmington, Delaware, defied the odds to graduate magna cum laude from Jacksionville University, receive The President’s Cup for Leadership and earn a Ph.D. in Sociology from Kent State University all by the ripe old age of 26, is one of a kind.


A regular fixture on television, this bestselling author has offered up gems of wisdom such as “When you walk with purpose you collide with destiny,” and “leaving a legacy is about illuminating a pathway for others to follow.”

However it was her statement that “The world is not connected by tiny atoms, it is connected by stories,” that resonated with me most recently because it speaks to the uniqueness of each life and the potential we all have to leave an enduring mark.

One of my favorite stories, which I share in my new The Future of You! video series on Udemy is about the street person that I had encountered one evening when a client and I went to dinner.  Here is the link to this segment from the series titled Become a Person of Gratitude & Power.

While I will leave you to check out the video to hear the whole story at your own convenience, suffice to say this homeless person reminded me that true power and the ability to influence is not based on individual circumstances but on possessing an attitude of gratitude.  And it was through his story that we made a connection, despite the seemingly obvious and glaring differences in our respective life situations.

This brings me back to Bertice Berry’s statement that we are all connected by stories.  Like the man in the street you too have an important story to share that is not defined by your job title or amplified by your accomplishments.

So here is my question to you . . . what is your story?