Before creating my 2022 About Me page for this site, I decided to sharpen my skills by studying similar pages on the web sites of eleven authors and speakers I admire.
I expected this process would help me craft a stronger About Me page — and it did. What I didn’t expect is how much it would teach me about myself and my work.
Creating an About Me page can go way beyond bashing out content for a page of your web site. Do it thoughtfully, and the task becomes an exercise in self-discovery: why you’re here, what you have to offer, and who you’re best positioned to help.
Begin with Purpose
Living and working intentionally means thinking about why we’re doing what we’re doing. Writing an About Me page forced me to confront the uncomfortable fact that, as a project, MarkMcElroy.com didn’t have a clear goal, a mission, or an essential intent.
To discover that purpose, I opened Obsidian and started writing. My first pass at an essential intent was so lame, I hesitate to share it here. But since I’m dedicated to learning out loud, I’ll reveal it in all its horror:
I want to connect with other writers by sharing what I’m working on, what I’m learning. I’d like to point other writers to tools, ideas, and processes that work for me, or that sound intriguing. I want to share not just what works, but what didn’t, and why.
As an essential intent, that statement is neither broad enough (I have more I want to achieve than this) nor specific enough (there’s not much “meat” here).
So I started drilling down with the “Five Whys” process: asking why over and over and over again as a way of getting past superficial first answers.
- Why connect with other writers? (Because chances for success increase when we work with a community.)
- Why are we more successful when connected with a community? (We have a chance to support and sharpen each other by working out loud.)
- Why does working out loud improve us as writers? (We can learn from mistakes, teach by doing, experiment with directions, and share what works.)
- Why bother doing all those things here? (Because I’m about to retire, and this opens up time and bandwidth to offer expertise to others.)
Connect with an Essential Intent
Ah hah! That fourth “Why” drilled all the way down to bedrock: with retirement pending in April 2021, I’m ready to reinvent myself for the future and take on some projects I didn’t have time or energy for while channeling most of my creative energy into the work I do for my current employer.
This prompted a realization: I want that reinvention to draw on the full range of my expertise, which includes, in addition to my writing credentials, the work I’ve done as a strategic advisor, a professional facilitator, and an early adopter of “thought processors” like Obsidian, Roam Research, and others.
Realizing the scope of what I hope to share with others brought yet another insight into focus: every single job I’ve ever had — minister, teacher, writer, speaker, trainer, workshopper, advisor — has somehow involved connecting people with practical “things to do” that I know can improve their work … and their lives.
Use Essential Intent as a Filter
So now I had a way to position myself and my work and a clearer vision for the mission of the site. That’s nice — but the nicest thing about clarifying an essential intent is how it becomes a filter for the rest of the content on your About Me page (and on your entire site!).
- Starting my page with a succinct statement of my essential intent makes sense.
- Identifying the three communities I want to connect with makes sense.
- Suggesting that I’m looking for ways to work together makes sense, too.
But, as a filter, an essential intent can be even more useful.
- The services I want to offer can be tied directly to what I do, how I do it, and the benefits those services can offer to those I want to connect with.
- When the time comes to list projects, I can limit the list to just those projects that align well with my essential intent.
- When writing a short bio, I can choose aspects of my life that align with that essential intent.
Cull What Doesn’t Fit
With my essential intent clarified, some past posts (on travel, on technology) didn’t feel aligned with my new sense of purpose … so I pulled them down.
That said: I travel a lot. I’m on a life-long spiritual journey, so I’m interested in the interplay of faith, belief, religion, and spirituality. I’m on a quest for the perfect pizza. And because I like sharing what I’m learning about these topics, too, I need a place for doing so … but given my essential intent for this site, I suspect these topics don’t belong here anymore.
So: I’m thinking about shifting those posts to another blog entirely. That would enable readers to subscribe here for more on unblocking work, writing fiction and non-fiction, and tools for thought. And if they’re just dying to read my restaurant reviews, travel posts, and spiritual ramblings, they could subscribe to that content elsewhere.
(Psst: hey, you! I’d really like to know what you think about this! Would you send me your opinion via Twitter or at firstname.lastname@example.org ?)
Make “About Me” be “About Them”
Re-reading what I’d written so far, I noticed how often I was referring to myself.
That might seem like the thing to do, given that the title of the page was “About Mark McElroy.” But I knew from my survey of other author’s sites that the best of those always cast the author’s background in terms of what those achievements could mean for the reader.
So I took sprawling rough-draft paragraphs like this one …
Work that matters: I’ve got consulting and courses, ideas and concepts here. I’m sharing this, I’m available to talk about this. I don’t want to waste another hour of my life in meetings that go nowhere, committees that are caught up in paralysis by analysis, or teams that are more about drama than work. Meetings can be joyful space where work gets unblocked. Committees can be powerful forces for change and progress. Teams can be safe spaces where ego and drama get set aside and replaced by trust, creativity, respect, and great work. I’m particularly interested in making these ideas approachable and affordable for progressive churches, communities of faith, and small businesses to try. Contact me.
… extracted all the “I” references, streamlined the ideas, and worked to make the content more relevant to the reader, producing this:
For the last three years, I’ve been working as a professional facilitator and strategy advisor, helping teams achieve their mission with grater focus, effectiveness, and intention. I’m eager to coach your community group, business team, or progressive church in techniques that convert tedious meetings into lively sessions where voices get heard, decisions get made, and goals get set and achieved.
I put that under a sub-heading I first called, “What I Have to Offer,” but which I quickly revised as “How I Can Help You”, and later shortened to “How Can I Help?”
I applied that same “Make it about the reader!” lens to every paragraph on the page.
Say it Simply
All my first drafts are wordy, so I reviewed every paragraph, asking, “What’s essential?”
I also scanned for any use of jargon. A lot of strategic advisors often talk about “adaptive strategy” and “agile mindsets” (Ick) For this site, I substituted words like “new ways of working” or “unblocking work.”
And then, I walked through the latest draft of my About Me page and applied my favorite writer’s tool: my machete. Whack! Whack! Whack!
It can feel frustrating to delete turns of phrase — or even entire paragraphs! — because they end up being too wordy or too divorced from the purpose of the page. I console myself with this thought: “You can’t have the better version without writing the crappier version first.”
Put Other Insights to Work
- I wanted this page to start with a friendly greeting: what I’d really say if I met someone in meatspace. I had written, “Hi, I’m Mark” in the text, but ultimately decided to make it the title of the entire page. I think that title is more in line with my purpose for the page than its original title: “About Mark McElroy.”
- From the strong, visceral reactions I had to About Me pages written in formal third person, I knew I wanted to write in first person from the start.
- I think good photography is important, and I want to add a gallery of small images to a future revision of this page. In the meantime, I’m going with the James Clear Approach (TM): text only.
- I decided to pepper the text with links to related material as a way of surfacing whatever the reader might be interested in learning more about.
- I frequently encourage readers to make contact (but in ways that I hope are organic and benign — I refuse to insert annoying pop-ups and nag screens). The essential intent of the site, after all, is to forge connections with people I can learn from and support.
The Final Result
I’m sharing my own process in (tedious) detail because I hope I can inspire you to write your own About me page. Even if you don’t have a web site:
- As a meditative practice, writing an About Me page can focus and center you.
- You can steal this process and convert it into a journaling exercise to achieve insights into your own personal essential intent.
I as fellow writer and learner, I’d really appreciate knowing how this post resonates with you … and what it inspired you to do! Feel free to drop me an email at email@example.com or to DM me on Twitter @markmcelroy.