365 Days of Courage #45: Embrace your Onlyness


Happy Valentine's Day!

This is my love letter to you. My ode to your onlyness, as t'were.

I've written about "onlyness" before and talk about it - incessantly sometimes - with my clients.  Just yesterday, I was talking to someone for the very first time and onlyness snuck into the conversation.

I'm obsessed with "onlyness". Madly, truly, deeply obsessed. Like reading Anne Lamott obsessed. Or watching Idris Elba obsessed.  Or listening to Curtis Stigers and his band in a New York jazz club obsessed.  Or discovering Law and Order twenty years ago when I moved to New York obsessed.

Onlyness feels to me like the answer to everything.  Wherever there is a disconnect in your life or business, I'm convinced that it is because you are disconnected from your onlyness.  You're trying to imitate someone else's onlyness instead of embracing your own.

In case I haven't already regaled you with tales of onlyness, here is the definition of "onlyness" by Nilofer Merchant, who coined the phrase.  

Onlyness is that thing that only you can bring to a situation, the collective combination of all your experiences, hopes, dreams, achievements, setbacks, meanderings and accidents of birth.
— Nilofer Merchant

Can I hear an Amen for the meanderings that brought us to this very moment in our lives?  

The meanderings that made no sense as we meandered and yet which now - as we reflect back on our lives - create a pattern that informs and highlights the work we now want to do in the world or the people we want to spend time with or the problems that we yearn to solve.

In an interview with Nilofer Merchant, my business mentor Tara Gentile asked her to say more about what "onlyness" is. Nilofer responded:

So Onlyness is that spot in the world only you’re standing in. It’s a function of your history and experiences, visions and hopes, and I use those four words very specifically. I’m saying it’s everything that might have happened to you, even if it sucked. It’s everything where you’re from, and sort of what has shaped you up to this moment, but it also has to include your aspirations and dreams for where you want to go. So it’s both the moment, it’s the creative space that you’re living in that is both the past and what has made you, and the future and what is pulling you into the future.
— Nilofer Merchant

So today I want you to embrace your one and onlyness.  Trust it.  Respect it.  Buy it flowers and its very favorite dark chocolate.  Toast it with a bottle of something perfectly chilled.

Honor your onlyness by putting it to good use in your life and in your business.

Here's to you and "all your experiences, hopes, dreams, achievements, setbacks, meanderings and accidents of birth."

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Click here to learn more about Nilofer’s book: The Power of Onlyness: Make Your Wild Ideas Mighty Enough to Dent the World

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