It's the motivation technique you haven't heard
by brittany taylor | Published February 27, 2018
I'm my own worst enemy.
It's hard to admit, but it's not a secret. I’m a master at pushing hard for other people, but when it comes to going after my own dreams? Motivating myself to get to work on my own behalf can be a bear—and the motivation techniques I read about from six-figure bosses don’t help me GSD.
So I took a page from Pitbull’s book. Surprised? So was I. I blame Instagram.
Closed-captioning is the gift that keeps on giving. It makes television watchable in crowded bars. It makes Facebook’s auto-play videos bearable. And it transforms run-of-the-mill GIFs into better-than-average GIFS.
I love a good caption, and today, my captioning love was rewarded with this gem.
There I was, thoughtfully scrolling through my Instagram feed, when Chelsea Handler popped into view with a guy I sort-of recognized.
One read through the caption made me realize who it was.
A double-take made me realize what it meant.
Nicknames are a sign that you’ve been adopted by a group. It’s a sign of being so integral, so admired or beloved that the group wants to bestow a new, special name upon you. A nickname is a status symbol. Consider these: Mother Monster, King of Pop, Madge, The Boss—they all have incredible social currency.
In each of us, I believe there’s a tiny voice that craves that sort of recognition. Maybe not on that scale, maybe not with that cache, but there is a part of us that craves that sort of valuation by a group whose opinion we value.
Humans are social creatures. Even introverts are herd animals. We all want to belong in some way, and we all want to be seen for what makes us special.
But we—and especially we women—are also taught not to toot our own horns. “Work hard, do your best, and you’ll get your due,” is what people say, over and over until it’s what we believe is the natural way of things.
So, we work hard, and we wait.
We work hard, and we try not to look like we’re waiting for other people to realize how great our work is.
We work hard, and we try not to be disappointed when we’re not hailed for being the leader we know we could be.
Working hard and waiting is exhausting. It’s time to work hard and seize the damn day.
When I was in 9th grade, a group of girls I rode horses with approached me at the barn one summer day. They’d been talking and had decided on two nicknames for me. I could pick the one I wanted. Both were, in hindsight, terrible nicknames, but I picked one and I was thrilled and that’s what they’ve called me forever after.
It’s been 15 years since then. I haven’t seen these girls in person in a decade. And I’m still thrilled when they shoot me a text, nickname-included.
It’s like I wrote above: When a group collectively decides to give you their own, special nickname, you feel like Harry Potter days away from Slughorn’s Christmas party. You’re the Chosen One, and damn if you aren’t giddy about it.
Did you know Bruce Springsteen originally didn’t like his nickname, “The Boss”? He felt it took away from his background as a working-class guy who wrote music for people like him.
Feeling like the Chosen One is great. An embarrassing or otherwise bleh-inspiring moniker is...well, not so great. But when you let others do the picking, you get what you get.
It’s a bit like approaching a birthday without a wishlist in that respect. Just like the sweater your gran sent you for your big 3-0, you might not want to be seen in public bearing the name your pals picked out.
When you leave your name up to other people, you risk becoming known for something you don’t want to become known for, and you’re still waiting around on the off-chance they decide to give you a nickname at all. It’s a bit of a fuss for such long odds of it all going the way you want, don’t you think?
Instead, I propose trying Pitbull’s approach: Give yourself a name you love right now.
The nickname game isn’t about looking like a cool boss. (For more on why that’s a bad goal to pursue, click here.) Nope, choosing your nickname is about creating an idea of what Future You looks like.
This nickname is the embodiment of your ideals, your dreams, and your goals. It’s what you want to be known for. When people that aren’t you, your mom, or you dad use this nickname, you’ll know you’re on your way to becoming that person.
And you’ll feel great about it.
One thing: Kick Gretchen Weiners out of your head. Your goal isn’t to turn your nickname into a catchword. Your goal is to work your butt off to earn that nickname, to live up that nickname.
It’s a similar concept to visioning or manifesting your goals. Once you put the nickname—and what it represents—out into the world, you’ll encourage yourself to put in the work necessary to achieve it.
Today, your chosen nickname is motivation to propel you forward. Tomorrow, your nickname will be a badge of honor that you deserve.
Give it a think. Try a few nicknames on privately. You want to be able to envision yourself saying the nickname without laughing or blushing.
Play with it. Laugh at yourself in the mirror. Doodle on notebook paper. Practice your autograph. See what feels like you—well, future you.
Once you settle on one you like, start using it. Put it in your Instagram bio. Slap it on a business card. Sign it playfully in thank-you notes.
Remember, in the early stages, you can hit pause and rewind as much as you want. Nobody is going to care about what changing a personal or professional nickname looks like or means. All of the anxiety and confusion—if there is any at all—exists solely in your own mind.
And if you want to change things up later in the game, when other people are using your nickname? No sweat. Just pay careful attention to your rebranding (and maybe study up on the artist formerly known as Puff Daddy).
Go for it. After all, if Ladybird can do it and Prince can do it and every “guru” you see on LinkedIn can do it, why not you?