In the past six months I’ve had an uptick of people curious about how I’ve been able to go out on my own and brand myself. For the month of September, I’ll be launching weekly newsletters all about my brand process and story.
Here’s a sneak peek at the posts to see week after week:
- Week 1 (Last Week): My entrepreneurial journey which led me to my brand. Why would I want one and what are the elements of a brand?
- Week 2 (THIS WEEK): Who is Amy J. Wilson? What is my mission, vision, values, purpose?
- Week 3: My journey towards my look and feel of the brand; what was my inspiration?
- Week 4: Three things I’ve learned about myself during this process
Prologue: The Essence of Amy
“You’re taking a ‘whole menu’ approach to your career,” said one of my mentors in conversation recently. About a decade ago, with little warning, she started seeing the resumes of emerging Millennials choose not just one entree, but something from every part of the menu. As someone who has been teaching the next generation of innovation leaders for the past 15 years, I find that she’s well qualified to understand where we’re flowing and intersecting as a society.
I nodded in agreement wholeheartedly. I’m a Multi-Pi and a multi-hyphenate type of person.(If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check this newsletter about the shapes of individuals and the system). In short, I have a breadth of experience, and specialization in several spaces:
- Communications, Public Relations & Storytelling
- Transformation/Change Management
- Innovation & Entrepreneurship
- Equity, Service, & Human-Centered Design
- Responsible Technology, Product Management
I’ve found it hard to stick to just one topic when I have so many varied interests. As my practice and research evolved it showed that our future is intersectional and complex.
Being a multi-hyphenate is increasingly becoming a requirement in today’s economy and world. It’s not been easy being a multi-pi person in a world that wants to pigeonhole me. It’s taken some time for me to distill down my brand essence, or as I said it to a friend today, my “Eau de Amy.”
The Evolving Workplace
Last week, I wrote about how I’ve spent my career imagining (or reimagining) all the facets of a modern workplace, and how the people inside it work and face challenges together. Our spaces and interactions have been designed — intentionally or not — with outdated mindsets and thinking. And, most of the time they aren’t working out for the modern worker who is facing uncertainty, complexity and rapidly evolving technology.
As I dove into my practice and research on the intersection of Empathy & Change since I started my book almost four years ago (pre-pandemic), the work life we used to know seems unfamiliar. We’re worn down, low energy, underpaid, and burnt out. The research has certainly proven this fact over and over again. We are going through a great reset, and I’m optimistic and looking forward to changes that are coming.
Emotional intelligence, mental health and well-being are becoming even more important in our dialogue while many others are working to extinguish the flames of Social-Emotional Learning, Diversity Equity and Inclusion or “woke” culture. We have to grow so big that we can no longer be denied, and we need to build a bigger movement for change. We need practical empathy that leads to positive change to move us from the concept of empathy to action.
I know this in my bones: transformations at scale require empathy and compassion. Empathy is central to the mission of every organization we have today. Beyond just understanding and caring for each other, we use empathy to do three things in our workplaces:
- Understand challenges and opportunities for their customers and employees
- Design work with compassion: it is collaborative, equitable, evidence-based, and adaptable.
- Deliver excellent services, programs, and products while being effective, efficient, ethical, and communicative.
Beyond the news cycle, I’ve seen my practice, research, and writing I’ve done these past few years evolve, and it was time to step into the spotlight. To stop hiding behind my book and self doubt and actually move closer to action. Welcome to the new and improved Amy J. Wilson. As always thanks for being on this journey with me and appreciate any love, ideas or leads you can offer ❤.
My Brand Story
Growing up, I was moved by the beauty of the people and places around me, while also isolating myself from an overwhelming home environment. It felt like all my senses were on high alert while all my emotions were magnified. Sadness was a deep sorrow, and joy was pure ecstasy. I had a rich and vivid inner world; I cared deeply about others and empathized without limits. I was permanently linked with everything around me.
What I didn’t know at the time was these traits would give me superpowers. Later, I was given language to talk about my experience: I was an empath and a “Highly Sensitive Person.” An empath is someone who can literally feel and take on other people’s feelings as if they are feeling it themselves. Empaths have been found to have hyper-responsive mirror neurons in our brains that help us share another person’s pain, fear, or joy. Highly sensitive people (HSPs) are a portion of the population that have heightened physical senses, which has allowed me to see the world in unique ways as I often see and feel things other people do not pick up on.
I evolved to be an empathetic adult that put value in relationships and connecting with others. Later, I would found out that my biggest strength is Empathy according to the Clifton Strengthsfinder test:
“…you have the ability to sense the emotions of others as if they are your own. You are able to accurately put into words how they feel, and this gives great comfort to others. With you, they feel heard, understood and supported. You are someone others love to be around, they confide in you, knowing that you will listen and not pass your own judgment.”
This result was a bit of a gut punch as I’ve found myself in professions that were unkind to people like me: a tall, fat, queer, awkward, highly sensitive empath who was a first generation American and first generation in my family to go to college. That realization lit a fire in me, and explained how I had always been driven to caring for and helping others achieve their vision.
With that great realization came great power. I brought my whole self to a series of organizations and projects, which I call my “supernovas,” — powerful and luminous explosion of stars in my galaxy of life. I:
- Joined AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps as a team leader to “get things done for America…to bring Americans together to strengthen our communities.” My first taste of social entrepreneurship happened when I was asked to design and lead the St. Bernard Rebuilding Project, a project to build 50 homes in four months with few resources but a wild imagination.
- Reimagined and “Build a Culture of Innovation” at a 100-year-old, 25,000-person worldwide management consulting firm. This was a time of rapid growth, experimentation, and iteration, where I learned the theory of innovation and transformation, moving from concept to action. We wrote the Innovation Blueprint, Playbook, and designed an ecosystem to surface, incubate, and fund great ideas.
- Served my country again as a Presidential Innovation Fellow for the White House, an entrepreneur-in-residence working on the Nation’s biggest challenges. I studied and wrote a shared language and principles of government innovation (housed on Innovation.gov). I created the Better Government Movement with thousands of public servants in hundreds of agencies to scale these mindsets and practices to governments far and wide. We launched the Design Challenge to create a repeatable model for public servants to learn, apply, and practice new skills on government-wide problems. The movement ballooned to 5,000 people and 200 volunteers.
- Established the Transformation Center of Excellence at the General Services Administration to create a Blueprint for how to build and transform Executive Branch agencies into modern organizations. The frameworks, lessons learned, and energy from that work was channeled into further research and exploration.
In each of these supernovas I was driven by purpose, but didn’t always have a clear mission of my own. I sought to change that on a journey to detach myself from what was expected of me, my own mental anguish and conditioned thinking. Beginning in 2018, I tried on the label of solopreneur (aka a solo entrepreneur), and experimented with a number of entrepreneurial projects before researching and writing my book Empathy for Change: How to Create a More Understanding World.
That was nearly 3 years ago. After dozens of clients, podcasts, talks, keynotes, and workshops I feel more confident than ever in who I am and what I want to bring to the world. Over the past eight months I’ve been working with a design team to hone my brand essence, messaging, and look and feel.
After years of allowing others or the systems I’m in to have power over me, I’m stepping into the power within myself to be an actor in my life and pursuing the types of projects and research I want to work on, resulting in the energy and goodness I want in the world. Never before has something felt so right while also being terrifying at the same time. I feel like this is a great marriage of all the skills I’ve developed to date, and it will serve me and the clients I touch in the coming years and beyond. Grateful that you’re on this path alongside me.
My Brand Essence
Tagline: Empathy in Action
I believe in the power within each of us to shape the future we want to have — a future with more compassion, awareness, connection, and love.
I use my strength of empathy to help others heal from their past and hold change. I feel with people rather than for them (an empath) and have more developed senses than a majority of the population (a highly sensitive person, or HSP), which has proven to be helpful when reimagining the future and redesigning systems. I bring clarity to complexity to build ecosystems centered on growth, learning, and belonging.
I exist to build modern organizations that reimagine our connection to people, place, and purpose.
I transform self, organizations, and society through compassion that serves the wellbeing of all, celebrating our whole selves. I co-create with intention, and accelerate from intent towards action, owning our impact.
Our world is getting increasingly more complex, volatile, uncertain, and ambiguous. We’ve changed our environment more quickly than we know how to change ourselves, leaving many of us burnt out, disconnected, and lonely.
Through self–compassion and mindful awareness, Amy helps us understand ourselves and each other to create systemic impact and reconnect with our shared common humanity. She designs ecosystems of belonging that are open, participatory, and peer–driven, where power and agency are shared and built on empathy and trust.
I believe in a future where every person gets what they need, the power to achieve what they want, and the agency to do what they love.
I dream of a world where we have a deep understanding and awareness of ourselves while being more connected to the people around us, have organizations that feel like communities, and have a system that works for everyone instead of the few.
- Compassion. I lead with empathy and equity: I seek to understand before I am understood. I set empathy into action, leading to compassion.
- Curiosity. I am curious about the world and question our place in it. I listen and act with intention.
- Action. Through awareness and understanding I take participatory action, and change course with feedback. I build communities over networks and seek spaces where we see each other as whole humans.
- Cooperation. I take action through shared understanding and common benefit. We go further, together, and realize we are more alike than we are different.
- Fearlessness: I do what’s right, despite the odds being against us. With cooperation I determine what’s right and pursue it relentlessly.
- Courage: I do the hard things because that’s how we change for the better. I have the courage to be disliked because we serve a higher purpose.
Brand Essence Adjectives
Compassionate, Authentic, Trustworthy, Cooperative, Curious, Cutting Edge, Intuitive, Experimentation, Entrepreneurship, Intentional, Impact, Engaging, Equitable, Humble, Open-Minded, Passionate, Sustainable