#30: How to Design a Bio, Part 1
Own the experience of telling your story
I have written a countless number of personal bios, elevator speeches and ‘about me’ pages for as long as I can remember. Most of them sucked, particularly the earlier ones. But over the years, I’ve learned how to make the process a lot better with continuous iteration and a whole lot of self-reflection. It is true what they say, your bio is only as good as your last one. And with that being said, your most recent one is what matters the most. It’s essentially your ticket to a lot of things: conversations (planned and serendipitous), job interviews, friendships and all the other socially-focused opportunities. So, much like the product you are selling, the craft you are practicing, & the professional life you are living, take it seriously, if you want to be taken seriously.
Some suggestions on how to make that happen:
Make an impact with style and integrity.
The likelihood of meeting someone with the same background as you is extremely high these days, all thanks to the internet and globalization. We are now more connected than ever and so are our lives and histories. In a world of more than 7 billion people, it is no longer enough to just ask yourself: who am I? To make an impact, the better questions to ask would be are: How am I different from the person next to me? What is my competitive edge? What I am willing to do to transform and become the person I want to become? Answer those through your bio and see what happens.
Leverage on your past.
Think of the ‘past’ as a tricky data point to uncover: it’s oftentimes messy, disorganized, unstructured and likely has the records of (your) system’s failures. It has the power to make anyone vulnerable, even at its best versions. Which is why it’s almost an oxymoron, right? To look into the past in order to shape your present and ultimately, your future. There’s probably a million reasons why one shouldn’t, especially in the business of innovation. But the one reason, for me anyway, on why you should, makes for a good and convincing counterargument, and a worthwhile risk: To mine a story. Your story.
Everyone loves an underdog, a rise-above-the-ashes-kind of story which is the core attribute of a lot of transformational stories. Sometimes, to truly innovate as a person, one must not fear vulnerability. And personal bios are no different. Expose your weakest links and use turn them into advantages. Have the courage to do so, and the world will respond.
Find relevant intersections.
What are you most interested on? Curiosities power intellectual rigor. The collection of which makes one unique, powerful and interesting, especially where and when it matters. I’m always a fan of the unicorn: people who are able to weave different branches of disciplines, no matter how random they are. Historically, the most outstanding innovators have always been unicorns in their own way: Leonardo da Vinci was an engineer, painter, artist, writer, architect & sculptor, Steve Jobs was masterfully brilliant in product design, marketing, storytelling, business thinking and countless other skills, Stanley Kubrick was a film director, photographer, screenwriter, producer…. I could go on and on.
Don’t be afraid to marry your interests outside of your official titles. In there lies your best and most unexpected breakthroughs. Never let anyone take that away from you by keeping you in a frigid and controlled persona that is a modern day ‘job title’. You are worth more.
Stick to the truth.
My problem with the popular work/success statement ‘Fake it til you make it’ is that it is unsustainable. You acquire more damage than good by sticking to this widely adopted mentality. It encourages optimism without self-awareness, confidence without depth, inspiration without context. The most effective form of advertising is the truth-seeking kind. And if a personal bio is meant to do exactly that (‘sell’), why not build it on foundation it rightfully deserves: Truth. Ernest Hemingway himself once said: “All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.”
Am I showing and telling the world the truth about who I am as a person? as a professional? as someone who bring values to a company by showing up and doing the work that matters? What is my mental model of myself & the world? And how do I show that in the best way possible?
Write a lot of them (and iterate).
There’s no alternative to just sitting down, and start writing your personal bios. Whether it’s for work, or for personal reasons, you must have one ready in case the situation calls for it. It’s also a good practice. You always want to keep yourself in-check. Am I meeting my goals? Am I being sluggish in my growth as a person? What stories about myself do I want to archive? What am I doing with my life? Can I honestly look at myself into the mirror and assess my character to the best of my abilities? How can I showcase the best of what I’ve got in a page of a website, a blurb in an article or even as simple as a single paragraph?
Own the experience of telling your story before the world does. Because, trust me, it can, and it will take control of your narrative. The only way to truly fight it is to grab a mic or a pen and paper, and start writing and speaking your truth/identity/story. I can’t think of a better place to start than through a personal bio.
Some examples that inspired me:
Thank you so much for reading,
“To say that luck isn't playing a part on the boldest transformations of my life so far would be a contradiction to everything that I stand for, life has a lot of randomness and it is both a privilege and a curse for me to be naturally skilled at recognizing which ones to ignore, and which ones to bet my whole heart on. The more I do, the more interesting things just get. I can't think of a more appropriate description for my chosen career path.” an excerpt from my personal bio on my website
Have you written one? I would love to read yours! If you’re comfortable sharing, please send me a link to it.
If you liked this topic, you might like my post #27: Landing a Job (or career!) Doing What You Love—As An Immigrant. All future-focused. All present-oriented. Thank you again for reading working title.