Revealing Yourself Through A Verb

Nancy Duarte is a fascinating storyteller. If you haven’t heard her speak, check out this TEDxEast video. If you haven’t read her books, Slideology and Resonate, I would highly recommend reading to improve your storytelling and presentation skills. In her book, Slideology, Nancy talks about how she and her husband hired a life coach and undertook an exercise to find out more about who they were as individuals and draft a life mission statement. For one of the exercises, each had to choose three verbs that embodied their perceived individual motivations. Duarte said this process was one of the most clarifying exercises she had ever done.

Back in my teaching days, I used to ask students to introduce themselves on the first day by telling me and their fellow students all the standard name, rank and serial number information and an adjective used to describe themselves. After reading Slideology, I thought I should have asked what verb best described them. After all, aren’t we defined by our actions?

So, here are the verbs that resonated with me as I was working through this exercise to develop a professional mission statement.


verb (used with object) to make suitable to requirements or conditions; adjust or modify fittingly; and verb (used without object) to adjust oneself to different conditions, environment, etc..

One of my favorite books is The Mixed-Up Chameleon by Eric Carle. This book remains on my desk as a reminder that one has to adapt to life and not force fit solutions. No person or company can remain the same forever. Adapt to your surroundings and avoid adaptation for the sake of keeping up with the cool and colorful crowd. Be yourself as you go along with the flow of life.


to develop the faculties and powers of (a person) by teaching, instruction, or schooling.

You know the saying, “Those who can, do, and those who can’t, teach?” Throw that notion out the window because it has no place in the business world. It is essential for one to adapt the mentality of teach the teacher, so the person being taught can survive and thrive on their own and spread the word and teach others. This is how new efforts and culture spread in a business environment. We all have something we can teach, just as all of us have something we can learn.


to use, participate in, enjoy, receive, etc., jointly

It isn’t all about you and your ego and what you have written or have done. It is about recognizing others as the hero of the story. Be inspired and learn from the talents and gifts of others. Last week, Aaron Strout wrote about the power of curation. Collecting data or information to tell a story only works if you share the story with others. Stop being jealous of the gifts of others and give thanks for how they have inspired or educated you.

Nancy Duarte shares a list of verbs in her book, Slideology. Take a look at the list or create your own. What verbs describe YOU?

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  • Anonymous

    Lauren – first of all, great post. I love thinking about describing ourselves in the form of a verb. For me, I think I’d use words like “Love, Care and Grow.” You chose three that I also like as I’m a big believer of adapting, educating and sharing. Second, thank you for including a link to my post. I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback. It’s a topic that is near and dear to my heart so it’s always encouraging to see others feel the same way.

    Aaron | @aaronstrout:twitter 

    • Lauren Vargas

      Thank you, Aaron! I did not pursue my dream of being a museum curator, so curating content will have to be as close as I get, so it is near and dear to me too. Thank you for continuing to write and explore the topic.

  • Tamsen McMahon (@tamadear)

    I’ve been mulling for a couple of weeks now a post about my guiding word for this year, and now here you are with a post that resonates perfectly. Last year I had fun with the “three words” meme (and as it turns the ones I chose were all nouns, though two of them could be read as verbs: focus, balance, faith), but this year I wanted laser clarity — and only one word. 

    Fulfill. A verb. 

    I could not have known how widespread my application of that would be this year, but it has continued to be a grounding — and at the same time, catalyzing — force. I’ve never been happier, truly, and that’s no coincidence.

    But I love the idea of finding three, so to “fulfill” I would add “connect,” and “clarify.” 

    Wonderful post, Lauren. Thanks for making me stop and think.

    • Lauren Vargas

      Tamsen, you are definitely one of those people I thank for having gifts and talents that inspire me! The three verbs you have chosen very much represent you.

  • Stephanie McGuane

    Great post with strong verb choices as well. I would love to think more about this, but at first blush, I’d say Observe, Drive & Unite. I’m definitely going to put this exercise to use and share with others. Thanks!

  • Stephanie McGuane

    Great post with strong verb choices as well. I would love to think more about this, but at first blush, I’d say Observe, Drive & Unite. I’m definitely going to put this exercise to use and share with others. Thanks!

    • Lauren Vargas

      Go with your gut. Don’t over-think the exercise. Be YOU.

  • Nancy Duarte

    Great post, Lauren.  Thanks for the compliments!

    • Lauren Vargas

      Thank you for the inspiration, Nancy!

  • Ike Pigott

    Lauren, I didn’t go with a verb this year, but since the middle of December my guiding word has been Intent.

    And it works.

    • Lauren Vargas

      Since my law school days, I have loved the word, intent. Good choice…makes you reflect on motivations.

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