Are You A Meg Ryan Or A Meryl Streep?

Before I make my point, let me say, I like both of them. I like Meryl Streep and I like Meg Ryan. Each is beautiful and great in her own unique way. The point is that each represents an archetype. Meg Ryan is the same person regardless of the character she plays. Meryl Streep is distinctly unique and different in each character she plays. Meg Ryan’s authenticity is expressed in being herself in each role she assumes. Meryl Streep stays authentic by becoming the character she plays. It is not about good and bad, we love both. The question is, what works for you.

Before you say I hate Meg Ryan or I don’t like Meryl Streep, think again. Are you a different person as you move through the roles and situations of your life? Or do you stay the same regardless of the situation? This is not about your likes and dislikes on the movie screen. If you are the same person wherever you are, then you are in the “Meg Ryan” tribe. If you change, adapt and shape shift like a chameleon you are part of the “Meryl Streep” tribe.

Okay, here is my bias. We know that Meryl Streep is the queen of the screen. She is really in a league of her own. But if you try to be a “Meryl Streep” in your life you run two risks. First, the risk of mixing roles — acting one role when you interact with a group wherein you normally operate under another role. The second risk is that you may be “found out” and be perceived by some to be inauthentic when they see you take on a different role, act in a different capacity to the one they have seen you in previously.

As a consultant I work at being adaptive. When I facilitate a strategy summit I ask the unasked questions. I need to turn on a dime when I teach. In the teaching mode I may speak with enthusiasm for two or three hours straight. As a teacher the focus is on transferring experience, knowledge and the energetic vitamins that will help people connect up with new possibility and meaning, and take action. As a strategy consultant the focus is on helping the executive access new ideas and insight, and frame options. Coaching one CEO may be very different to coaching another. Each extracts a different voice out of me. One situation calls for validation, another for challenge. At times, silence opens the way forward and other times, shouting with passion shocks us into a new direction. It is more than style of presentation. It’s about stepping into a different role, where what’s needed is different. A different mode. A different speed. Different insights. A different conversation. Even different brain chemistry. Each situation creates and needs a different response. It is almost being a different person in a different space. That is doing a “Meryl Streep”. It is a mastery of a special kind.

On this blog I speak in few voices. They all come out of the same person, but they address different issues and are directed at different groups I associate and work with. What is the unifying thread? I seek to help you improve your situation. To open a new perspective. To encourage new thinking, growth and development. Is it smart to use multiple voices? I don’t know. It is easier to have just one voice. To be one thing in all situations. Branding 101 says: be consistent. Stay on message. Focus on a niche. One inch wide and go a mile deep. Become known for one thing. Be the strategy guru. The sales expert. The CEO coach. The leadership specialist or the talent expert. The Chutzpa guy. The wise sage. The creative thinker. This is the smart branding and marketing strategy.

The question is what works for you? What are you here to do and be? Are you here to do a “Meg Ryan” or a “Meryl Streep”? The freedom of Ryan is you can just be you. The freedom of Streep is that you can be anything you need to be. You can be many people and many things.

I love both but I’ve chosen Streep over Ryan in my journey. It affords me the range and freedom to live on purpose in a versatile way. To serve many situations and people. To learn and engage with a great diversity and to discover the different “voices” and “lives” that are called out of me.

© Aviv Shahar

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