Bearing Your Personal Signature

2010 March 16
by Grace Boyle

“Every thought you produce, anything you say, any action you do, it bears your signature.” -Thich Nhat Hanh

I often talk about living your life with intention and purpose. At the very least, I strive for that. This can mean many different things, to different people and that is why diversity is so beautiful.

There is however, one piece that no matter what your calling, your belief, your vision, your life – those are all you. It bears your signature. If you’re willing to pepper those around you with your specific political view or belief system, then own it. If you write about a taboo topic, it doesn’t matter, as long as you own it. If you make a mistake, accept it, apologize and learn from it – it is you.

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Granted, there’s room for change and growth but we often forget that what we do now or in the past, speaks to our surroundings, those around us and our future.

I have a friend whose actions one might call “negative” and “detrimental” to themselves and those around them. It is a habit, that’s hard to break. Nonetheless, they are concerned if I or anyone who knows them, talks about their “said actions.” I’m not talking about spreading rumors or talking behind their back, but simply, just discussing that this is a part of their life, right now.

I wholeheartedly believe that it’s okay to not always be with it, to come undone, to feel your pain and understand those empty spaces are meant to be there, as well as the full ones. So if you are firmly planted in who you are why would want to hide or pretend those negatives parts of your life do not exist, when really, they are at the forefront of your life?

Deep down it could be that they do not feel their life truly resonates with who they want to be, who they really are and do not want to be judged.

I’ve been there. I’ve been ashamed – wishing that I could crawl under the carpet and hide my face. I’ve hurt friends and family that I love through my own selfish, defense mechanism or not thinking before I talk. I’ve taken action, only to realize, it really wasn’t something I should have done. I don’t talk about those moments everyday, but I also don’t tuck them away so they’re completely forgotten. I use them as the catalyst, as fuel, to propel me forward and remember that those moments and mistakes humanize me.

I have learned (and am still learning) that the ego is big and booming. Actions, non-action, words, listening, the way you make people feel all affect who you are and imprint on your signature.

I like a character that is rough around the edges, that has experienced the bitterness and happiness of life, isn’t naive, that listens, gives back, learns to be with their feelings and has loved and loss.

Your signature should be robust, even a little tainted and most importantly, you – through and through.

What pieces of your signature have you been ashamed of? Have you learned to own all that you have done and said in your live?

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  • Royce

    A particularly existential blog post today, KGB… your opening quote reminds me of something my high school basketball coach used today, oddly enough. He would talk about throwing good passes and not being careless, and say “imagine every pass has your signature on it; every single one you throw, make it like it's your own personal statement” as a way to get us to take ownership.

    I think about that now in relation to your post, and it's similar. Basically every decision you make, big or small, action or inaction, defines you in some way. Everything you do has your signature on it, and you are therefore defined by those interactions with the world.

    Not to avoid answering your question, but I think the interesting corollary of this is that, if you feel bad about some decisions or choices you've made, just know that each new decision essentially starts fresh, with a brand new signature. So the key is go out there and put your signature on the things which you are proud of. Surrounding yourself with people and situations that reinforce your ideals is the most basic element of this, in my opinion.

  • Grace Boyle

    @Royce I'm really into quotes and I like that you see through to this existential post/thought process.

    Your basketball coach sounds like a wise dude. I like the ownership aspect, even down to the action you physically make in sports.

    I wrote this mostly because it's so interesting to hear my friends complain about their actions but then pretend like they don't exist when it comes down to it. Obviously, we forget how each action affects us but your last paragraph sums it up nicely. I like what you have to say. Must be the Pisces in you 😉

  • sameve

    Love this one, Grace, and it's so true. We are who we are, and even though there may be times when we don't like the things we do or say, we have to own those moments too. In my opinion, one of the worst things we can do is lie about who we are, or try and change ourselves to please others. It just cannot end well.

    I've done things I'm not proud of, and there are things I'd rather not remember, but I don't let them define me. Instead, I learn from them. I think knowing who you are and (at least having some idea of) who you want to be is vital to success and happiness. This post is a great reminder!

  • Grace Boyle

    @Sam Thanks! I know it's pretty broad, but the quote seemed important to me and I'm sure we could all relate (somehow). The good and bad make us up, but you're right, “knowing who you are” is important in moving forward!

  • floreta

    i'm spiritual, especially lately..

    but I like people with a little dirt. I don't want perfection.

    I guess I also have a bit of a darkside as well. :)

  • David

    Gracie, I needed to read this post and especially loved this part…

    “I like a character that is rough around the edges, that has experienced the bitterness and happiness of life, isn’t naive, that listens, gives back, learns to be with their feelings and has loved and loss.”

    Did you go to school for writing? Because damn girl, you have a true talent! In fact, this post left me a bit speechless and any comment that I leave on it will surely make me sound like a giant meathead. So I'll just smile and nod in agreement with every word you said because it all rings true. Scary true.

  • emilyjasper

    What struck me about this post is that I didn't think about the decisions that didn't turn out for the best, but the times I decided to do nothing. I am not very spontaneous, and so each decision usually comes with a lot of planning and processing. After all that processing though, sometimes I don't go ahead with whatever it is I'm debating doing. I've been doing a lot over the past couple years to take advantage of those opportunities and not talk my way out. Even if it's something a simple as booking a trip to visit bloggers, if I'm able to do it, then I need to go ahead and go. I know I'd regret not taking a chance because who knows what time will be available down the line. Thanks for provoking big thoughts today!

  • Grace Boyle

    @David Isn't writing amazing like that? It can speak to each person so differently and resonate on particular days/moments. I didn't go to school for writing, but what you said, means a lot, so thanks Mr. Stehle :)

    Glad to hear you like.

  • Grace Boyle

    @Floreta I totally like people with a little dirt. If there isn't dirt – I'm not interested. The rough around the edges is what I meant by that 😉

  • Grace Boyle

    @Emily Non-action (as you speak of) is a great point as well as actions you have taken and haven't been proud of. It really goes both ways! I'm happy to hear some thoughts were provoked, thanks for sharing and the RT!

  • Chelsea Talks Smack

    GOD, I LOVE THIS. I think i'm finally at a place where yes, I own the things- good and bad that have happened in my life and that i've done…I'd like to wear them proudly on my sleeve, because they make me me now, and I am proud of that.

  • Grace Boyle

    @Chels Thanks dear! We tend to have very much the same philosophies, eh? :) I'm glad you picked up on owning the good and the bad. I didn't want it to seem like I was touting only doing things that are the “good,” which is why I talk about how I love a tainted character and someone who is rough around the edges. It's all part of your signature!

  • Kat_ksk

    “Deep down it could be that they do not feel their life truly resonates with who they want to be, who they really are and do not want to be judged.”

    I generally hate being talked about, and you've really put your finger on why. So so many times I have felt exactly like this. And it needs to change.

    Thank you for writing this!

  • Grace Boyle

    @Kat No one likes being talked about. I'm very sensitive to it, as well. The best thing I can do is know that what I'm doing is TRUE to me, so if they're talking about me, then hey, I'm doing something right (whether it's good or bad, they're talking)!

    I'm happy you enjoyed it. Thanks for stopping by Kat!

  • mehnaz

    Love your way of thinking.

    You are who you are with all the scars and joys and fears and everything else. You always make a very good point about being accountable to yourself. that's what speaks the most to me about your post.
    We can all grow and learn and become better versions of ourselves, but that basically starts with owning yourself…
    I'm not always proud of myself for handling things, but if there's anything that I know, it's that every experience has important take-aways.
    great post!

  • Royce

    I definitely said “used today” instead of “used to say” in my post above… brain = fried?

    I like your comment about complaints by friends. One of my big rules is basically “No Complaining” – no one cares, and usually by complaining all you're doing is creating a problem out of nothing by giving an annoyance a voice. By being silent and giving at least the appearance of everything being okay, I think you actually ARE making things okay. Or at least better. Does that make sense?

  • Grace Boyle

    @Mehnaz Oh thank you so much :) You're very right – every experience has very important takeaways and we mustn't forget that. That's why I talk about a character that has seen/experienced it all. Thanks for sharing and your words of inspiration!

  • Grace Boyle

    @Royce It makes sense, but I don't think that being silent is the key to making things okay. That goes to my post of asking for what you want…because if you're silent, then all is okay and how am I supposed to know something is wrong either? Maybe it's about owning it. I know that we all complain, but let's use the word, vent or talking, versus complaining about an issue you're having. It HAS TO BE BACKED with action…right? Does that make sense?

  • Royce

    Okay definitely gotcha now. I guess my point was more in answer to the person who is creating drama out of nothing, versus someone who do has some legitimate problems but is complaining without actually doing anything, as you say.

    So I agree, the best approach seems to be to own your problems. To that end, I'd almost take it a step further and say venting about it is good, but you could show even more ownership of your problems by coming to your friend (which is you, because let's be honest you're everyone's friend) and saying “Grace, I have this problem, what do you think about my plan to fix it?” or even “Here is my problem, can you help me come up with a plan of action?” rather than straight complaining. Now THAT makes sense haha

  • mehulkar

    I like this post. I would extend “bearing” your personal signature, to “being” your personal signature.
    Like everyone else, I wrote an article a couple months ago about the power of social media and how to use it effectively.
    One of my main points was that blogging/writing in general is an amazing way of first recognizing and then “real”-izing your true self. I talked about it from a student perspective, in preparation for a career. Once you've done that; i.e. explored yourself in and understood your opinions and general views on things (and an astonishing amount of people, including myself, have never done this), once you've practiced this, there is no interviewer that will leave you stumped.
    I disagree with the first few words of your last statement though. Your signature shouldn't “should” be anything. It should be you. Which is what I think you meant anyway.

    P.S. It's amazing how the blogger community is so connected. I've been weaving through hundreds and found the same names everywhere. And now, I'm here. At an exMSAE'er. (I had doubts about who you were until I saw that you described yourself as an ENFP. I knew you had played for Higgins back in the day :) ) You probably don't know me, but I was a year older than David.

  • mehulkar

    PS. The fact that you are featured alongside the likes of like Neil Patel, Ramit Sethi, Dan Schwabel, Andrew Warner and Under30 is somewhat mind-blowing to me.

  • Grace Boyle

    @Mehul Yes, I do know who you are and as soon as I saw this comment on my e-mail your name sounded familiar and I was right!

    The quote from Thich Nhat Hahn which was the inspiration for this post says:
    “Every thought you produce, anything you say, any action you do, it BEARS your signature,” so I used “bearing” because of the wise words, but “being” also works.

    The blogging community is connected – it's really because there are no geographical boundaries and the best way to learn, is through others. It has opened up connections and after graduation, my current job came because of this very blog. It is powerful and shouldn't be underestimated.

    I AM an MSAE-er for life 😉 funny, right? And yes, Higgins and I are still close and he taught us so much about brain types.

    Good to see you here. Stop by whenever and if you ever have any blogging ideas, questions, feedback or thoughts, feel free to shoot me a line whenever. Cheers!

  • Grace Boyle

    @Mehulkar Haha, why is it somewhat mind-blowing to you? What does that mean?

    We're all just people who put our pants on the same way – only difference, we have chosen to express ourselves through blogging, networked, built a community and then continually learned. All those guys and Spinks who runs Under30 are all intelligent, amazing guys.

  • jennyblake

    Beautiful post Grace. I read this during an exact moment of feeling a little down and melancholy. I was walking through the halls of the Austin convention center at SXSW – surrounded by people but in the middle of an emotional “empty space” – feeling a bit sad and lonely.

    I particularly loved this line: “So if you are firmly planted in who you are why would want to hide or pretend those negatives parts of your life do not exist, when really, they are at the forefront of your life?” It seriously stopped me in my tracks and reminded me to embrace those feelings and just carry on. That those are every bit as much a part of me as the happy, optimistic side. Thank you! I really needed that 😀

  • Grace Boyle

    @Jenny Thank you! I love hearing this from you because I understand where you were at mentally (as you explained) but I also love how a small jolt or even a quote can give you that boost or reminder.

    You're amazing! :)

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  • Katie

    Great post. I don’t know you in real life, but I am happy to have heard a little bit from you through the internet! Keep being awesome. :)

  • Grace Boyle

     Thanks and same to you :) Appreciate it!