I’m an artist

When I started getting serious about my studies in college, I felt like I needed to make up for lost time with each day that passed (which was true). I was involved with a summer internship program called INROADS, and I met dozens of other young professionals determined to make their mark on the world. This internship program had a strong professional development component, and there were frequent day-long training sessions.

One Saturday, we participated in the True Colors personality test. I was unsurprised to find out that I’m a Blue (warm, kind, compassionate) but many of my friends in the program were a bit shocked to see that my main color wasn’t Gold (organized, punctual, dependable) or a Green (knowledgeable problem-solver).

I’ve gotten feedback like that for much of my life. People assume I’m super-serious, lack a sense of humor, and would not really be the most exciting person to hang out with (I’m exaggerating a bit, but the point remains). When people get to know me on a personal level (or even just outside of a professional setting), they quickly find out that I’m….well, not what they think.

They’re often shocked to realize that I’m (extremely) sarcastic, witty, spontaneous, and empathetic.

I'm a Blue. What about you?

I’m an artist

I was having a discussion with a friend of mine who just moved to New York for acting school and for whatever reason, I launched into an empassioned sermon of encouragement about doing things that matter and leading a life worth living It tied in with how I left my job and why the unconventional route is really the only option for someone like me.

The message resonated with my friend quite a bit and she remarked that although she knew I had artistic leanings (I was involved with an urban arts/poetry organization in college), she had know idea that beyond the surface, I was 100% artistic in my world view and passions.

Since I don’t interact with many of you on a daily basis or even infrequently, let me share something about you in case it’s not apparent:

I’m an artist.

Not in a conventional sense where I play an instrument or anything.

But I paint.

I paint with words and ideas. Communication is among my strong suits. Making meaningful connections with other people based on mutual interest is one of my greatest strengths as well. This is something that makes me particularly well-suited to extracting purpose from facts and reorganizing them in a way that better represents the sum of their parts.

So I’m good at things like branding and marketing. Telling a story. Pitching things in a particular lights. It’s not something that I’ve worked to be good at—it’s just a skill that comes easy to me.

I’m often asked about why I’m not doing something that better leverages this. Like why I don’t go into politics. But people don’t realize that every business is a people business. It doesn’t matter if you’re in hospitality or sanitation or education—it’s a people business.

It’s one of the reasons I know I’ll be successful out here on my own now that I’ve left the world of full-time employment. It’s not because I’m so skilled or know people or anything like that. If anything, it’s partially attributable to being extremely well-aware of my strengths and weaknesses.

As I’m entering into a phase in my life where I’m able to combine my passions with my interests in an area that people will benefit from, I feel a wellspring of confidence in me that things will work out just fine.

And I’m honored that you’re coming along for the ride.

Willie Jackson is a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Consultant & Facilitator with ReadySet, a boutique consulting firm based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is a frequent writer and speaker on the topics of workplace equity, global diversity, and inclusive leadership. Connect on LinkedIn or get in touch.