Who are you in your communities? 

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It’s been a couple of weeks since I took my dog for a walk. Last night I took him on our long walk. We wind through a couple of different neighborhoods and end up on a long trail that leads back to the house. The weather was mild. I had a light jacket on that kept me comfortable. There was a nice breeze, no pressure of time and plenty of plants for my dog to sniff along the way. I saw some familiar faces, waved and even did a quick meet and greet with another happy dog. On nights like this, I wonder why I don’t do this more. 

When I take my dog for a walk, I put on my New Balance trail running shoes, a pair of some old jeans, a pullover mid-layer or my North Face shell jacket that protects me from light wind or rain. My daughter says, “Dad, you look like you are going camping.” Yes, I guess I’ve come to like the “camping-look.” Typically, I’ll listen to a podcast about meditation, TEDx radio or This American Life. This calms me. Slows me down and takes me to another place. I become someone else. Well, I’m still me, just another part of me.

When I work with clients or colleagues, I like to wear a buttoned up collared shirt (tucked in), jeans and a pair of oxfords or my old pair of worn-in ankle boots. Alternatively, if I feel more casual, I’ll wear a plaid shirt (untucked) and a pair of canvas shoes. This may sound trendy or even “uniform-like,” but I’ve found wearing comfortable clothes that fit, helps me be prepared for unscheduled client meetings, keeps me looking professional and allows me to focus on my work. When you feel you are prepared, you have more confidence and behave differently. It’s taken me awhile to get to this place, but this is another facet of me.

I like to run. I don’t do it competitively, I use it as a tool to get myself outside and think. I am competitive about how long I run and how long it takes me to do certain runs. I like to do the most I can in under an hour. When running, after about two miles, whatever you are wearing, starts to bug you. I’ve tried a few different combinations, but have finally settled on a brand of shorts and shirts that work for me. Believe me, if you have shorts or a shirt that’s constricting, rubbing or itchy, after about five miles, that gets amplified. Wearing the right clothing allows me to not worry about them and focus on my breathing and where my feet are. I’m hyper aware of my pace and foot placement to push myself and stay healthy to run another day.

The other day I was dressed for work, leaving the house and a neighbor was walking out at the same time. I waved and she asked me where I was going. “Going to work,” I said. “Wow, you have a lot of different looks!” She laughed. I just smiled and got in the car. It’s true, I do have a lot of different looks, but more importantly, there are many different perceptions of who I am. I am a dog owner to some people, a runner to others, a Web Developer and coach to my colleagues and just a dad that picks his daughter up from school in an old truck, to my daughters friends. These divisions are good, because they all overlap, make me who I am and influence how I solve problems. I’ve worked hard to keep these perceptions of me in balance. Yes, I’m conscious of what people think, but not because I want them to think of me as someone that I’m not, but to think of me as who I really am.

Your hobbies, your work, your friends and your profile online is who you are. These are your communities. We naturally tend to blend them, because we become friends and earn the trust of one another. Friends become clients, colleagues become friends and inevitably there is crossover. This is how it’s always been, but now because we share more of ourselves online, it’s on display. There is a record. We don’t have to remember who you are, we can look it up at anytime. It used to be our friends lists were for us. Now they are public. Because it’s so easy to share information, it’s harder for us to control the distribution of it. This means we have to be careful what we say. To some, this may mean censoring themselves more. To others, it may be clearing the air about who people think you are. Most people think you are that person that they met with last. So, if you haven’t seen someone since highschool, but are friends with them online, they think of you as that person they last encountered. There is no going back. This is how it is. Maybe this will all make us a little nicer, or not. There is no question, the future is your personal brand and the currency of that future is your reputation.

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