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Peace: The Parting Gift

The Prince of Peace showed me early on that I have no reason to be afraid or have a troubled heart, but that it's really about the absence of something we consider unpleasant.

The peace that passes all understanding….well, let’s just say it took me a while to grasp it.

Two hours after law school graduation, I embarked on my journey into adulthood in a packed-to-the brim Cutlass Olds.

Destination: Miami

18 hours later, I walked to the front desk of the small, Art Deco-style Miami Beach residential hotel where I’d lived the previous summer.

The same building manager handed me the key to my efficiency unit and I walked up 3 flights of stairs. As I reached to insert the key, the unlocked door swung open and I was greeted by an awful stench and a floor littered with trash. I eased inside, peeked into the bathroom, and discovered the source of the disgusting odor.

Clearly, the wicked had not known peace (Isaiah 57:21).

The building manager didn’t ask why when I said I couldn’t live there after all.

I was a bit nonplussed, but I’d faced worse.

I am strong. I am invincible.

Chin up.

I drove across town, booked a room at the Holiday Inn in Coral Gables, and set out to find an apartment unlikely to have been squatted by drug addicts.

It was a quick search. Lease signed, I returned to the hotel and called home to explain the change of plans.

The next morning I reported to work—an eager legal eagle ready to begin my dream job as a corporate securities lawyer. Six new associates were ushered into a conference room, where we learned we would all be doing insurance defense work for two years.

My heart sank.

Fast forward one week. I felt less than invincible but still resilient.

I knew the Lord was in control, but despite a lifetime in church and a deep faith, I was a spiritual baby. If you grew up in a church culture that focused on fire insurance, you understand.

Peace was not flowing like a river.

Two weeks in, the AC on my car retired. I traded the Cutlass for a Suzuki Samurai thinking that would raise my spirits. Of course, things don’t bring peace.

Three weeks in, I was invited to accompany a junior partner to an early morning hearing at the courthouse. I’d worked on the case, so it seemed innocuous. Afterwards, he suggested we stop in at a nearby restaurant for breakfast. Who was I to object?

The Metro train back downtown was standing-room only, and we were scrunched in tightly in the middle of the car. The only place for my hand on the pole between us was at waist level—my waist. At first, I’d thought it was just the crowded train, but with the fourth bump and grind….lightbulb moment.

After this already auspicious start to my day, he invited me to his office, where I learned my new job also came with, as they say, fringe benefits. We could go out on his boat.

A few days later, I turned in my resignation and returned the signing bonus. It was the only choice I could make.

I am woman. With self-respect.

In that moment, I felt a brief shimmering glance of infinite peace in the midst of massive anxiety about my worldly future.

I think I made the right choice, although it changed the trajectory of my life.

As the Rolling Stones sang:

You can’t always get what you want, but sometimes you might find that you get what you need.

That month was life-altering for a 24-year-old, but the wisdom didn’t come quickly. Decades of refinement were required for diamonds to appear.

It turns out that peace really is about the absence of something—self.

When we let go of self, we make room for God to shine his light into our hearts and fill us with the Spirit in which we find true freedom. (2 Corinthians 3:1-6, 4:6, Romans 15:13, Galatians 6:8-10).

Simple, but not always easy. It requires daily practice.

A version of this post was originally published on

"And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how side and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,..." Ephesians 3:17-18. Sheree Martin

Grow Professional

I’ll Take West Virginia, Please

When I stepped to the front of the classroom, Mrs. Bowen already had the big, gray behemoth powered up.

I carefully positioned volume W of the World Book Encyclopedia into the image capture area and a state map appeared on the grayish white screen pulled down over a section of drab green chalkboard.

I gently lowered the arm toward the 45 until the needle rested on the spinning black vinyl.

A few crackles of static. Then the plunking strings of an acoustic guitar rippled across the classroom on College Avenue in Russellville.

“Almost heaven, West Virginia. Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River.”

That was John Denver singing, it was 1971, and I was 8 years old.

That’s how I began my first public multimedia presentation.

We had been given the assignment of doing a report on one of the 50 states. I picked West Virginia, not because I’d ever been there or had any particular connection to the “Mountain State.”

I just wanted to do my report on West Virginia so I could use the John Denver song, “County Roads.”

John Denver was one of my favorite singers at the time and I had the record. I envisioned using his music and lyrics to make my report on West Virginia more than just a boring recitation of facts about a state.

No one told me to include music in my presentation. I just instinctively felt like the music would help.

[Note: I wrote this back in 2013-2014 when I was doing my professional self-reflection work and then forgot what I named the document file on my computer. I just stumbled across it and decided to go ahead and publish.]

The Opaque Projector

As for the big behemoth projector thing, I’m not sure if other students used it. I seem to recall specifically asking my teacher to set it up for me.

Mrs. Bowen had used this big machine on various occasions to display images on the screen directly from books. Other teachers had used film projectors, film strips and transparencies, maybe even slide projectors.

Mrs. Bowen is the only teacher I remember using that big hulking gray machine that captured images on pages from books and projected them directly onto the screen. I suspect it was a big hassle to move around and set up.

I think it was known as an “opaque projector.”

I needed that machine for my presentation because I wanted to show the photos of West Virginia I found in books and the idea of putting photos on the screen seemed, to me, better than simply holding up photos, putting them on a poster or passing a book around the classroom. I didn't have slides or transparencies so that wasn't a choice.

I knew, instinctively, that my report would be stronger if I used music and visuals.

Also, well, I just wanted to use that projector. It fascinated me. The other projectors could transmit images, but not images from a solid page. The other projectors transmitted images from negatives or transparencies. I had a curiosity about how all this media technology worked and wanted to use it.

I’d already developed an interest in media, despite the rudimentary capabilities of the consumer-level audio/video equipment accessible to me in those days. I would sometimes try to “splice” audio by using two or three tape recorders and switching back and forth manually.

Compared to kids today, my early childhood years were in the technological dark ages. Over-the-air TV delivered 3 commercial channels and the “educational” channel. Over-the-air radio was still AM only until around 1970-71 in my home area.

CB radios were around and I got to play with those from time to time so I understood the notion that anyone could speak into to a radio transmitter and send a message to someone else. I understood that “radio” wasn’t simply a technology available to the select few licensees, but I also knew the license thing existed because TV and most radio stations signed off at dark or midnight with a message about some FCC license.

I had my own cassette tape recorder and I used to play records and record my voice, as if I were a DJ spinning tunes and reporting the news.

At my first career day–in second grade, I believe–I converted my big appliance box into a radio station and demonstrated my music mixing skills via the cassette recordings I’d made using my family’s limited-but-diverse record collection.

Some relatives had an old 8 mm film camera and every once in a while someone would have one of those home-movie screenings after dinner.

I wanted a movie camera so badly in those days. Never got one. Around the time I started junior high I got a Kodak 110 Instamatic, which I considered a major upgrade to my parents Polaroid Land camera. I also had to use my money to buy and develop the film, which wasn’t inexpensive. I used to send the film cartridges off in the mail to a development house because it was cheaper. Eventually I learned the film replacements they sent (as an incentive to keep users in the system) yielded pictures that had poor color and faded faster than the Kodak film.

All of this technology-reminiscing has a point. I like to think that my report on West Virginia in Mrs. Bowen’s 4th grade class reveals some of the core aspects of my personality:

I like to try new technologies and I’m always looking for ways to improve, to grow, to be distinctive. I’m willing to experiment.

My approach to the report also demonstrates an early example of resourcefulness.

I wanted to do more than stand up and read a report, so I asked to use the technology I needed to do the best I could do at the time.

I’d love to hear your stories about using tech at school. Even though the technology is constantly changing, it’s the willingness to engage with and learn through the technology that makes you stand-out.

Leave a comment and share a story about an experience you had with whatever technology was available to you at the time or, even better, how you overcame a challenge due to the lack of technology!


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A Letter To My Younger Self

In early February, while looking for another document, I found this file saved on my computer….It's an unfinished letter to my younger self.

The file metadata says this was written December 21, 2013. After copying and pasting here on February 11, 2014, and then scanning through it for typos, I'm posting it verbatim.

It's clear that I didn't finish it….Maybe I'll write the ending one of these days.


Everything works out.

Your first grade teacher said you “have great potential.” Your third grade teacher pronounced you “gifted.” Junior high achievement testing scored your IQ at x [intentionally omitted]. All that potential. The bulk of your adult life has been directed toward somehow proving to someone that you were worthy of those labels.

You’ve only recently realized this and started to return to a life that applauds your unique gifts, rather than climbing ladders toward some measure of success that’s defined by someone else.

Your instincts have always served you well, Sheree. When you’ve followed your instincts you’ve made forward progress. When you’ve ignored your instincts or been a bit too timid to act on them you’ve had to learn the intended lesson the hard way.

Your adult life has turned out quite different than you would have predicted at age 15. And that’s good.

For a while, in your 20s, you were self-absorbed, motivated by the prospects of financial gain. Not to the level of Ebeneezer Scrooge, but you were a bit too focused on your own self-interest and less on helping others.

Fortunately, your regained your heart and set out on a new path.

All of the things you dreamed of as a child but seemed out of reach are possible in 2013 and beyond. One example……Storytelling through mass media–You can do that now. You’re no longer subject to the gatekeepers and technology limitations of the 1970s and 1980s.

By your mid-20s you’d realized that you didn’t have the stomach for politics and political machinations. Surprisingly (or maybe not so surprisingly), the system was less messed up in those days than today. Nonetheless, your ambition to be the first woman president was put to rest before you turned 30.

And so ends the December 22, 2013 letter to my younger self…..

Grow Professional

When Things Don’t Turn Out As Expected, Part 2

Hard decisions are hard, usually because they are based on incomplete information. Even when the choice seems to be the right now, we aren't in control of all the variables that can impact that choice.

A better title for this post might be: When Integrity Trumps Common Sense.


I want to preface all of this by saying that I take full responsibility for my choices. I'm not blaming recessions, incomplete information, or other people's input, on the choices I've made. My purpose in writing these posts in such detail is to explain, as best I can, how I came to make my choices.

Ultimately, I'll also explain what I've learned from these experiences and how I've used them to grow, personally and professionally.

In the last post, I explained how I moved from Stillwater, Oklahoma and left what seemed to be the makings of a bright career in academia at Oklahoma State to return to law practice. The Great Recession disrupted my plans to build a new practice in advising tech start-up entrepreneurs. It didn't help matters that most of Alabama is, as usual, trapped in an old-economy mindset.

Perhaps I wasn't sufficiently patient in my second stint as a lawyer but, in any event, I made the proactive decision to move on and accepted an offer for a faculty position at Samford University in Birmingham.

When I said yes to that offer, I thought I was doing the right thing, given all the facts available to me at the time and my own attempt to “read the tea leaves” (metaphorically speaking) about the direction of the economy and where opportunities existed. In hindsight, I realized that in 2008-09, I was also stuck in something of an old-economy mindset, at least in terms of opportunities in internet business. More on that in a future post.

This post focuses on the events that transpired during June and July of 2009, when I ignored my gut instincts and plethora of messages from the universe.

Bad Signs

Within a few days of accepting the offer from Dean Chapman for a position as assistant professor in the Journalism & Mass Communication Department at Samford, I got a call from the department chair Bernie Ankney welcoming me to the department.

I don't recall whether it was the first or second conversation with Dr. Ankney that we began to discuss which courses I'd teach in my first semester. As I remember it, the first conversation wasn't too unsettling, even though I was surprised to learn that I wouldn't need to learn Photoshop and InDesign yet. I was told not to worry about teaching any layout/design courses in the Fall. Early on, I identified several courses that I was interested in teaching: Media Law, Feature Writing, Applied Communication Research and PR Communication.

Over the next  week or so, however, the conversations shifted heavily into the direction that I would be teaching mass media writing and, possibly, labs associated with the basic reporting/writing course. That did not make me happy–at all. I knew I'd be bored to tears and I'd never taught the courses. I couldn't understand why I wasn't getting to teach media law.

I almost didn't sign the contract when it arrived in mid-May and waited until the last possible minute to sign it and send it back in.

Then I discovered that one of the new faculty benefits that had influenced my decision in accepting the offer was not even available to me because I'd earned my Ph.D. before the cut-off date. When I asked the Dean about this discrepancy, I got a reply to this effect: “That's why I said to talk with the benefits office to confirm what I told you.” Not exactly a response to inspire confidence.

By early June, I was experiencing serious “buyer's regret.” But I had signed the contract, given my word.

Ask And You Shall Receive

Then one night I received a phone call. It came in the early evening on a day filled with a series of developments that included a literal cry to the universe to “Get me out of this state” (Despite the positives, living in Alabama can be quite frustrating at times, mainly due to inept governance).

It was as if God had heard my plea and delivered.

Plymouth State had an unexpected opening to teach business law and, in light of my interview for the business communication faculty slot, they were interested in talking with me about the business law position. Was I interested?

I explained that I had accepted Samford's offer, but I was definitely interested and wanted to learn more.

That initial conversation led to several more and, within a few days, I had an offer from the Provost of Plymouth State for an assistant professor position to teach business law. I had more credit for prior service, better benefits, higher salary.

Everything about the situation screamed “this is made for you, Sheree.”

And yet I couldn't accept it.

I wanted to accept the Plymouth State offer. I spend days talking with a real estate agent and trying to find a place to live. The then-chair of the Business program, Dr. Trent Boggess, went above-and-beyond to help me locate a home to rent.

Integrity or Fear?

But each time I started to say “yes,” I had this voice in my head saying:

“You've signed a contract. You've given your word to Samford.”

Everything about the Samford position was turning out bad for me. My gut instinct was saying I'd made a mistake in taking the position and that I'd just accepted it by default, that something was wrong.

But this other voice in my head was screaming about integrity, being true to my word. And the lawyer in me was concerned about legal options if I backed out at such a late point, after signing the contract. I knew specific performance of a professional services contract was not an issue in Alabama but damages might be.

I spoke with a couple of mentors from the College of Communication & Information Science at UA, where I'd earned my Ph.D. They said it wasn't unheard of for someone to back out of a contract in my situation.

But I couldn't bring myself to call Samford to discuss it. I wish I'd felt comfortable enough to speak with Samford's Provost at that time because I think I'd have received good advice from him. But I didn't feel comfortable raising the issue with the Dean or the department chair at Samford.

No Decision Is A Decision

I kept postponing my decision, continued to research housing options, weigh the pros and cons. I wavered.

My family had a 4th of July weekend vacation planned for Gulf Shores and so I decided to use that time to make my final decision, free of pressures from the workday.

My heart said I should go to New Hampshire.

One evening, while sitting in The Oyster House in Gulf Shores having dinner with my family, I received an email from Bernie Ankney listing my teaching assignments for Fall 2009. I would be teaching mass media writing and two sections of the lab associated with that course. Applied Communication Research rounded out my schedule. Four courses. The only course I cared to teach was Applied Communication Research and that was the only one I'd had any experience teaching before. I'd taught a variation of research methods for undergraduates one semester as an adjunct at UA in Spring 2000.

My heart was broken.

I sat at the dinner table and cried in front of my family.

My head and my heart said I had to go to New Hampshire, take the job at Plymouth State where I could teach courses I cared about. My dream had been to live in New England and I could now make that dream a reality.

The next day I mentioned to my mom during a walk on the beach that I was probably going to New Hampshire. I heard a litany of reasons why I should not move there and why Samford was the better choice.

That conversation from my mom led me to waver again in my resolve to get out of the Samford contract, even though I left that vacation and returned home with the intention of accepting the Plymouth offer the following Monday.

I must conclude this post now. I'll pick up the story after Thanksgiving.

Grow Professional Professional Portfolio

When Things Don’t Turn Out Like You Expected, Part 1

In the early Fall of 2007 I returned to the practice of law. At the time, I hoped to build a new practice focused on internet issues, intellectual property and start-up ventures growing out of research at The University of Alabama.

I rejoined Rosen Harwood, P.A., in Tuscaloosa, where I'd been a shareholder before leaving for my 10-year stint as a writer/academic. Back then it was known as Rosen, Cook, Sledge, Davis, Carroll &  Jones, P.A.

I hadn't anticipated ever returning to active law practice, but the opportunity arose when I contacted Sydney Cook in May 2007 about a recommendation letter for a law school position I'd applied for. When I'd explained to Sydney that I wanted to leave Oklahoma, the question was put forth: Why don't you come back and join us? Within 2 or 3 weeks, I'd said yes to this new opportunity.

My Future In Tech

I was thrilled, envisioning all of the ways I could combine my knowledge of internet technology, IP law, and business transactional law to assist what I anticipated would be a growing community of start-up entrepreneurs in Tuscaloosa.

One of my first actions was to attend a tech start-up event at Innovation Depot in Birmingham. Another attorney with the firm, Andy Jones, drove with me up to Birmingham and he seemed very excited about the possibilities to expand our firm's practice areas and grow our client base through tech start-ups.

I knew there would be a bit of a transition period, as I developed my reputation in this new practice area. But as we approached the end of 2007, I was less-than-thrilled to find myself spending more and more time working on the same types of transactions and preparing the same legal documents as in 1992-97. My excitement over the return to law started to dim a bit, because I was not interested in estate planning or simply restructuring businesses to save taxes. But I soldiered own, not giving up hope.

The Great Recession

My future in tech was not to be, at least not then……

In 2008, the economy imploded. Everything in the legal world shifted to a focus on business restructuring and wealth preservation.

What I'd found when I arrived in 2007 is that Tuscaloosa wasn't yet producing the types of research-driven tech start-ups that I'd anticipated. Alabama's tech start-up community (such that it was) seemed to be based in Birmingham around UAB or in Huntsville around UAH. And the big Birmingham firms had already locked-up that most of that work.

And so, with no end to the recession in site, I began to lose any hope that I would ever get to do the type of legal work I'd envisioned when I said “yes” to the offer I received in June 2007. All of the optimism I had in September 2007 was, by October 2008, shifting into something of a sense of resignation that my law practice would just be more of the same. I couldn't see a light at the end of the tunnel. Perhaps I was just being short-sighted. Who knows.

At that point, I'd been out of academia for just over a year. I had taught media law as an adjunct at The University of Alabama in the Spring of 2008 and was scheduled to teach it again in Spring 2009. I really enjoyed teaching the class and the students were great. No attitude problems and most were engaged with the course material.

I started have doubts and think that I'd made a mistake in leaving Oklahoma State, where I had a successful academic career underway. The only reason I left was to pursue a new opportunity in a place where I had more friends. I loved my colleagues and classes at Oklahoma State and solid-to-great evaluations from students.

I thought perhaps that my return to law practice was a transition because of an unexpected family crisis that had been unveiled upon my return to Alabama in August 2007. I thought perhaps I'd been brought back to Alabama to deal with that problem and, once I'd solved that problem, it was time to move on again—sort of a real-world Dr. Who.

I took a look at the academic job postings in the Chronicle of Higher Education and sent off a couple of applications.

A New Door Opens?

One day, out of the blue, I got an email or phone call (I don't remember which) from Jon Clemmensen, a faculty member at Samford. He'd seen my picture in an Alabama Sierra Club newsletter and wondered what was up. Jon and I had become friends during the year I taught CA classes at Samford in 2002-2003. My office and most of my classrooms were in his building.

I explained to Jon that I was contemplating a return to academia and he mentioned an opening at Samford. After finding the job listing on the Samford website, I sent off my materials.

At that point, I'd only applied for a couple of positions. I was being quite picky about the locations and the subject matter. I wasn't desperate and not looking to simply leave law practice. I wanted to move into the “place” where I would be able to pursue one of my interests and make a major, substantial contribution.

The Samford position was described as “visual and multimedia communication.” It sounded like a great fit, since I'd taught visual communication theory at Oklahoma State and was a big user of multimedia technology. I had thoroughly enjoyed teaching CA at Samford in 2002-03. I had no experience with Adobe software, but knew how to code websites without Dreamweaver and edit video using other software, so I figured I'd explain that and see what happened.

In light of Jon's phone call, completely out of the blue and unrelated to academia, it just seemed like one of those situations where “a door opens” just when it is meant to open. I figured that it would all unfold as it was supposed to unfold.

My Preference

I was really interested in another position, at Plymouth State in New Hampshire. I wasn't familiar with the school, but I liked the location and liked what I'd learned about it through my research. I was especially attracted to it because it was a communication position with a business department.

I've always known that my strengths are more focused on business and strategic communication, rather than journalism. [I'll explain another time how I ended up in a Ph.D. program in the College of Communication at UA, rather than a business program.]

In February 2009, I had a couple of phone interviews for positions that didn't seem to be a good fit for me and I ended up withdrawing from both searches, just as I was getting an invitation for a campus visit.

In late March I was scheduled to visit Plymouth State for an interview when I got a Saturday night call from my airline that my Sunday flight had been canceled. There was no way I could get another flight there and still make the meeting schedule on Monday. They kindly reworked my campus visit for the following week.

I loved New Hampshire. I really liked the campus and, more importantly, I really liked everyone I met who might be a potential colleague. The campus visit and interview seemed to go well. I seemed to connect very well with the department chair, Dr. Trent Boggess, as we shared a common fondness for Ford vehicles.

I returned home, hopeful and optimistic.

The Other Search

I hadn't heard anything from Samford as of mid-to-late-March, so I assumed that I was out of consideration for that position.

Around the time as my rescheduled trip to Plymouth State, I'd been invited for an interview at Samford and was given essentially two choices for dates, never of which offered much advance notice. The teaching demonstration was scheduled to be on Photoshop. I had purchased the software, but had no time to learn it.

In light of my optimism about Plymouth State, I attempted to withdraw from the search at Samford. I sent an email the day before my visit and said I was withdrawing.

withdrawal email

I received a reply from the department chair Bernie Ankney asking me to come anyway and do my a teaching demonstration on beat reporting. I didn't want to leave them hanging with my last-minute withdrawal, so I said OK. I put together a lecture and demonstration activity and went for my interview.

Nothing felt right about my Samford visit except for the teaching demonstration and conversation with the Provost. Everyone was cordial but I sensed something was off. I kept thinking it was just me and my distractions. I asked about the teaching load and was told it was a 3/3. I was assured that it was fine that I didn't yet feel competent to teach Photoshop. I didn't get any sense that the courses I'd be teaching were print journalism and reporting labs, rather than mainly visual/multimedia communication and media law. I interpreted the beat reporting teaching demonstration to be a simple “gimme” to make me feel comfortable. I didn't really expect to get an offer, quite honestly.

I left with understanding that they had one more interview to complete and then I'd hear something.

At that point, I continued to think that Plymouth State was still a possibility, although I didn't think I was a sure bet. I had gleaned from the campus visit that there might be an inside prospect, such as a regular adjunct who'd taught the course before.

The Offer

About a week or 10 days passed. I received a notice from Plymouth State that someone else had received and accepted an offer for the business communication position. I was bummed, but accepting of the outcome. The same week, I received a call from offering me the position at Samford.

My gut was unsettled, but I accepted the offer from Dean David Chapman to join Samford in the JMC department as a tenure-track assistant professor. I was given 2-years credit for my 4-years at Oklahoma State.

I simply assumed everything was working out as it was meant to work out.

In my first phone conversation with the department chair after verbally accepting the position my unsettled gut became much more unsettled. Something seemed wrong. I keep telling myself it was just a bit of anxiety over a big decision about my career.

Little did I know how much that decision would change my life.

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The Magician Goes Exploring

According to The Storybranding Group's PVSI assessment, I am a Magician AND an Explorer, thanks to a tied score.

I'm nearing the end of this research project in which I've been reviewing the results of various personality, strengths and values assessments I've taken through the years as part of my effort to figure out how to more effectively tell my own story.

In my final sweep through computer files looking for any remaining data to consider, I ran across the results of the PVSI I took online in mid-October 2013.

The Personal Values Story Index “illuminates professional assets, values and gifts through a story-based lens.”

Based on the 12-archetype model created by Dr. Carol S. Pearson, the instrument provides a holistic way of looking at who you are professionally by measuring how much you identify with the attitudes and behaviors of 12 mythical or archetypal characters (called story types on this website).

The Storybranding Group website

My results revealed a tied score, placing me in two archetypes: Magician and Explorer. The Explorer label has come up before, in pretty much all of my assessments. The “Magician” label is new, but the underlying themes are not.

PVSI Story Type: Explorer

Stop me if you've heard this before:

Naturally independent, authentic and curious, they're able to follow unique paths and motivate others to explore unchartered territory. They're usually excited and challenged by the opportunity to blaze a new trail.”

Email of results from The Storybranding Group PVSI assessment

Subtypes of the Explorer archetype include:

  • Trailblazer/pioneer: Sees or scouts for new opportunities/possibilities
  • Adventurer: Emphasizes adventure and/or new experiences
  • Seeker/wanderer: Searches for a unique path or solution
  • Iconoclast: Places great value in being different and/or independent
  • Individualist:  Maintains personal integrity and authenticity in all endeavors

Email of results from The Storybranding Group PVSI assessment

Caveat for the Explorer: “Watch for an unwillingness to settle down or commit to a course of action; forgetting to coordinate their others; and overlooking the needs of others.”

PVSI Story Type: Magician

“Naturally intuitive, insightful and inspiring [Magicians] are able to see and appreciate multiple perspectives and motivate others to believe that anything is possible. They're usually excited and challenged in times of great transformation.”

Email of results from The Storybranding Group PVSI assessment

Subtypes of the Magician Archetype include:

  • Catalyst/Change agent: Sees opportunities for change or provides impetus for innovative transformation.
  • Envisioner: Sees possibilities and develops a clear vision of the future
  • Healer: Effects individual or group healing
  • Intuitive: Uses synchronicities/hunches/serendipity to set a course
  • Wizard: Has a talent for unexpected, serendipitous results

Email of results from The Storybranding Group PVSI assessment

A caveat for the Magician type: Don't “lose patience with those who aren't as visionary as they are.”

The Magician archetype makes me think of all the reasons I love Harry Potter.

What's the Meaning?

I'll be pulling together all the common threads in the final post of the series. But clearly the most significant finding, I think, is the consistency of the results across the years and across the various assessment methodologies.


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Work Values Assessment

When I re-took the MBTI in late August along with students in a course I'm teaching, we also had the chance to complete the Work Values assessment.

I finally found the PDF of those results and wanted to include them in this series. If you're following along, this is another in a series of posts I've been writing over the past month or so. I'm looking back at the results of various personality, communication styles and strengths assessments I've taken over the course of my adult life.

Work Values Clusters

This particular assessment is based responses to 20 statements. These responses measure work needs based on importance and yield results which are classified into six core work values: Achievement, Independence, Recognition, Relationships, Support and Working Conditions.

My top two work needs are: Independence and Achievement.

Work Values Assessment Sheree Martin

Work Values: Independence

Independence encompasses three needs:

  • Creativity
  • Responsibility
  • Autonomy

Work Values: Achievement

The top needs associated with the Achievement value are:

  • Ability Utilization
  • Achievement

I'm excited by what seems to be a consistent thread that's evident across all of these results and I can't wait to finish up my evaluation of all the data.


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My Fascination Archetype

In the last post I introduced Sally Hogshead's The Fascination Advantage and explained the basic premise of her system to analyze and classify communication styles and personality traits.

If you're following along, this is another of a series of posts where I explore the results of various personality and strengths assessments I've done through the years.

My official Fascination Advantage Archetype is Trendsetter. That's the focus of today's post.

My Fascination Advantages

Yesterday I revealed the results of my two Fascination Advantage assessments:

Primary Advantage: Innovation

Secondary Advantage: Prestige

Tertiary Advantage: Mystique

So what does this mean? Quite honestly, I'm not entirely sure. But when I dive more deeply into the description of Innovation, Prestige and Mystique Advantages I can see how those measures correlate with my MBTI and StrengthsFinder results and even the Strong-Campbell Interest Inventory from way back in 1980.

The Innovation Advantage

My primary advantage is Innovation.

The Innovation Advantage

According to the Report that came with my Fascination Advantage results, Innovation is all about creativity, vision, adventure, exploration.

The Innovation type in the Fascination Advantage system is someone who:

  • “Quickly solves problems with fresh solutions”
  • “Generate[s] ideas that surprise people with a new perspective”

Both of these statements are consistent with the results from my other assessments.

The Prestige Advantage

My secondary advantage is Prestige.

The Prestige Advantage is all about excellence, execution and accomplishment. This certainly correlates with the Maximizer and Achiever StrengthsFinder typology.

Someone with Prestige as the secondary advantage is:

  • “Conscientious of the smallest details”
  • “Motivated by a competitive spirit and determined outlook”
  • “Constantly envision[ing] ways to improve and upgrade'

Language of Fascination Advantages

The Mystique Advantage

I call this my tertiary advantage because I had the same score for Prestige and Mystique in my results from the second time I took The Fascination Advantage assessment. According to the report for those results, a tie-breaking question revealed Prestige as my secondary advantage. That would be consistent with the results from the first time I took the test.

Mystique is the Advantage I know the least about. Mystique is briefly described in in my reports:

  • Someone with the Mystique Advantage is described as the “solo intellect behind-the-scenes.”
  • “Mystique is the language of listening.”
  • “Mystique communicates with substance”

It wasn't until I found this video that I understood how I could score strong strongly on Mystique, the point of being one question away from having Mystique as my secondary Advantage.

As Sally explains here, someone with the Mystique Advantage is unlikely to self-promote. As I've said before, I never felt the need to promote myself but I've come to realize that it's absolutely necessary that I tell my own story, not to brag, but simply to communicate what I can offer. That is how I embarked on this project.

In the light of this explanation, Mystique makes a lot of sense.

Dormant Advantage: Trust

The labels used in The Fascination Advantage are not intuitive and Trust, in particular, is the one that is most confusing to me and seemingly the most mis-labeled.

The Trust Advantage refers to a preference for stability, normalcy, routine. The “dormant” aspect of this refers to my desire to avoid “falling into a rut” or “performing the same duties every day.”

When I think of trust, I think of trustworthy, not stability or a preference for routines.

The explanations about my “Dormant Trust Advantage” make perfectly good sense:

“You have an entrepreneurial approach to your career….You appreciate variety and actively seek new ways to solve a problem.”

“You love to explore….People are attracted to your expressive and curious nature. You are unlikely to be seen as boring.”

“You intuitively know how to persuade others through your self-expression and enthusiasm. You typically find it easy to brainstorm ideas.”

Each of these statements is supported in the results from my other assessments. I just wish this was labeled something other than “trust” because a “dormant trust advantage” makes it sound like (to me, anyway) that someone is not trustworthy. Yet the Trust Advantage has nothing to do with trust in the ethical sense.

This sentence, perhaps, best sums up this part of my Fascination Advantage results:

“If you do not naturally enjoy repeating the same process over and over, you will never reach your full potential in a job that forces you to follow a rigid path.”

Fascination Advantage Results Pie Chart
This pie chart is from the report accompanying my first results. I took the test again a few weeks later and the order of results were the same, but the percentages were slightly different.

The Trendsetter Archetype

When you combine the Innovation Advantage with the Prestige Advantage you get the Trendsetter Archetype.

Cutting-edge, Elite, Progressive, Imaginative, Edgy

“You're good at sensing what the next big thing will be.”

“You're competitive and ambitious.”

“You're a trailblazer who guides others in often uncharted territories.”

“You impress with your intellect and inventiveness.”

“You are able to see opportunities where others see only threats.”

“You implement change with determination.”

“You get the most out of developing and implementing your unique vision.”

I certainly feel like these describe me. The question is whether this is really how OTHERS see me, since I'm the one who answered the questions that yielded these results.

Advantages Correlate with Strenths

It's pretty clear to me that my Fascination Advantages directly correlate with the results of my StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessments and MBTI personality type. I'll be pulling all of this together soon, in a post that brings everything together.

In the meantime, here's Sally Hogshead on MarieTV talking about The Fascination Advantage. It's interesting to see that back in 2013 she was using some different terms for the Advantages. Innovation was once labeled as Rebellion, or something like that, even though it was still focused on creativity.

Have YOU taken The Fascination Advantage assessment? I'd love to hear what you think about the results. Leave me a comment! I'd love to hear from you.

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The Fascination Advantage

Last summer (2014), I discovered Sally Hogshead's How to Fascinate book and analysis through the many podcasts I listen to. I couldn't NOT look into it. Like I've said, I think it's a lot of fun to take these tests.

In fact, it's the results from The Fascination Advantage that prompted me to go back and start looking at other tests and to even retake the MBTI in September. Why? I was intrigued and wanted to explore the validity and reliability of this new way of assessing personality traits.

The Fascination Advantage Explained

The terms used and the structure of the report can be a bit confusing because the labels are new, but as I've reviewed the results and watched some of her videos explaining the system it started to make sense.

The Fascination Advantage emerged from Sally Hogshead's interest in learning what makes people fascinating.

The basic marketing message to promote The Fascination Advantage system is that MBTI, StrengthsFinder® and DISC explain “how you see the world.” The Fascination Advantage is supposed to reveal “how the world sees you.” I'm not sure that's exactly what it reveals, since “you” are the one answering the questions, not your colleagues, peers or friends. Despite that limitation The Fascination Advantage does provide a new way of looking at personality styles, strengths and communication preferences

Here's my plain English explanation of the The Fascination Advantage: You answer a series of questions about preferences and how you would handle or relate to a situation. These questions identify certain personality characteristics and traits.

Advantages & Archetypes

Based on your responses, your dominant personality traits and communication styles are classified into themes called “Advantages.” Your results reveal a dominant Advantage and a secondary Advantage. When you operate and communicate in ways that are consistent with your Advantages you're more comfortable, more influential, more “fascinating” to the rest of the world.

When you pair your dominant Advantage and secondary Advantage on a matrix you get a an Archetype. The Archetype is supposed to reveal “how the world sees you.”

The system is designed to provide keywords you can use to explain your dominant and secondary personality traits and modes of communication to the rest of the world. Essentially, these keywords are the adjectives you can use in personal branding and showing how you add value and contribute when you're being true to yourself.

In other words, you might say that your Fascination Advantage is tied to your authenticity, to being authentically who you are, not trying to be something else.

My Fascination Advantage Results

I took the Fascination Advantage assessment twice over the course of 6-8 weeks, using two different codes and email addresses and got nearly identical results.

In both versions, my results placed me in the Trendsetter Archetype, which is a combination of Innovation as the primary advantage and Prestige as the secondary advantage.

Innovation was my strongest advantage, with a 20% “score” both times.

Prestige was also my strongest secondary advantage in both assessments, but there was a bit of variation in the Prestige score. July results: Prestige was 18%, while in late August Prestige was reported as 19%. The late August version, also reported the Mystique “Advantage” at 19% with a caveat that a tie-breaker question put me into the Prestige category for the secondary Advantage.

So, I think it's pretty clear that the ranking of my Advantages in this system would fall like this:

  • Innovation
  • Prestige
  • Mystique

Now, what do these labels mean? I'll cover that in my next post.

Have you taken The Fascination Advantage assessment? If yes, what are your thoughts  about it? Are your results consistent with your MBTI and StrengthsFinder results?

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I Am A Perceiver

The Judging vs. Perceiving dimension of the MBTI is designed to measure how a person responds and relates to the outside world. Officially, it measures”Temporal and Structural Orientation.”

This is the one dimension where my type is clearly and strongly defined:

I am a Perceiver.

This post is another in my on-going series where I consider the results of various personality, skills, strengths and related tests looking for common themes.

According to the MyPlan Report provided with my September 2014 results, I scored 93% Perceiver. My MBTI results from 1996 also placed me clearly into the Perceiving side of the scale, although not quite as strongly.

Characteristics of the Perceiver

Key adjectives used to describe the Perceiver, according to the 2014 MyPlan report include:

  • Spontaneous
  • Flexible
  • Free-spirited
  • Genuine
  • Relaxed
  • Unorthodox
  • Impulsive
  • Laid-back and calm

Spontaneous, Flexible & Impulsive

This is me. The best examples come from the travel and vacation context.

I'm one of those people who will make an unplanned 25-mile detour to have a look at something called Toad Suck Park—a state park in Arkansas.

I once made an unplanned stop to check out the Capulin volcano in New Mexico and had to spend an extra night on the road. I knew I might not have another chance to see it, conveniently, so I changed my plans.

I have no problem with a last-minute change of plans. In fact, I much prefer to travel without a detailed itinerary.

Sheree at Capulin Monument Entrance 2010

Calm and Relaxed

I'm definitely laid-back, calm and relaxed. I've always been this way in public. I remember a high school classmate once saying to me something along the lines of: “You never seem to let anything upset you.”

Although I forgot the exact words, the message stayed with me because I realized it was true.  Growing up, I faced some challenges that “tested my mettle,” so to speak, and the result was that I developed a resilience and the inner confidence to know that I could handle whatever came my way.

I am human and I do experience emotional stress, but I am pretty good at processing it. I dislike traffic jams and unnecessary waiting, but as I've matured over the years I've worked to develop patience and found ways to reframe my response to situations that are beyond my control.

Unflappable: To the extent that something does ruffle my feathers or unnerve me, I almost always keep my composure.

In all my work life, I can think of one time when I got visibly upset in public. I'd experienced a series of frustrating obstacles that I did not understand. I could not figure out why everything was seemingly set up to be a roadblock. One day, after yet another incident, I slammed my office door, seethed for maybe 60 seconds, and then let it go.

Later, as I learned more about the situation and what was going on, it all made sense. So, once I understood what was happening, I just let it flow through me, like water under the bridge. Completely chill with it all.

Unorthodox, Free-Spirited

The one that I would least likely choose, if given a list of adjectives to describe myself, is unorthodox. I don't think of myself as particularly unorthodox. I'm fairly conventional in my values, but the reality is that I'm a never-married, childless heterosexual female. I suppose that's still a bit out of the mainstream. I never set out to remain single and childless, it just worked out that way.

But I do have a free-spirit. Not in the sense of being avant-garde or some ephemeral, flighty wisp who blows with the wind. My free spirit is more in the sense of just wanting to be myself—not trying to fit in by being just like everyone else.

I've always wanted to stand out a bit, put my own personal spin on things in my life, whether it's style or substance. In high school, I remember a few of us bought these unstructured overalls from the Army Surplus store and created a mini fashion-trend. They were a type of painters coveralls that had string-ties, but they were really cool looking. I wasn't SO out of the mainstream that I started this trend on my own, but we were definitely “fashion forward” with that look.

I tend to be a very early adopter, more than a first-mover. I still have my circa 1989 Doc Martens and wore them earlier this year to the first Instigator Experience.

Perceivers in the Workplace

The report I received in 1996 listed some of the ways a Perceiver likes to approach work. These three describe me very well.

  • Perceivers “enjoy flexibility in their work”
  • Perceivers “adapt well to changing situations and feel restricted without change”
  • Perceivers “tend to be curious and welcome new perspectives on a thing, situation, or person”

As with my commitment to the quest for truth, curiosity is a driving force in my life.

I believe curiosity explains why I need flexibility and change in my life—I need to be in situations where I can continually learn and grow. Once I have reasonably mastered a certain skill I'm ready to learn a new one. I love figuring out ways to connect unrelated skills to do something I haven't done before.

I decided to make academia my career focus in 2002 as freelance writing opportunities disappeared. The academic environment has, historically, been dedicated to learning, discovery, growth and new perspectives. What I've discovered is that someone with multiple interests and skills (like me) doesn't always have an “academic home.”

Case in point: In my doctoral program, I took classes in management theory and research, communication theory and research, film studies and information. As a result, I don't have a body of research in a narrowly-defined discipline. And, according to the traditional structure of academia, I don't have place where I “fit.”

On the other hand, I am a great fit for today's world where leaders must be multifaceted to connect-the-dots across disparate technologies and systems. The challenge for me comes in finding ways to show this through stories, not simply tell it on a laundry list of skills and accomplishments on a CV.

Strengths of the Perceiver

According to MyPlan, 2014, Perceivers:

  • “Adapt well to change”
  • “Are fun to be around”
  • “Can be entrepreneurial”
  • “Are not afraid to take risks”
  • “Work well under pressure”

Perceivers are all about flexibility. MyPlan 2014 says Perceivers “abhor strict hierarchy and prefer to work to the beat of their own drum.”

But just because we like flexibility and spontaneity, doesn't mean we aren't focused and prepared. In fact, the best squirrel chasers are always prepared for unexpected contingencies. That's why we thrive on change. We prepare for and embrace it.

dog sees squirrel copyright 2011 Sheree Martin

Desire to “Be Prepared”

Although I'm not a structured person, I am the person who anticipates contingencies and is ready to deal with them.

In spite of my preference for spontaneity and openness to change, I have a strong tendency to always be prepared and ready for whatever might come my way.

package of toe warmer heat packsI'm the person who keeps a pair of running shoes in the car, just in case I need to walk somewhere. And last winter, during Birmingham's Snowmageddon, I was the person who had running shoes, foot warmers and an extra jacket in my car–making it easy to walk home from work 7 miles, uphill in the snow.

For me, the unexpected Snowmageddon was a fun adventure because I was prepared. I live-tweeted my trek.


In other words, I like to know how to do things so that if I get in a jam or some type of emergency arises, I'm prepared.

I'm not sure where my emphasis on preparation fits into the MBTI, but I mention it here because it really is a big part of who I am.

Characteristics of the Judging Orientation

MyPlan describes the Judger as someone who “prefers order to chaos” and has “little tolerance with the free-spirited ways of the perceiver.”

Judgers want:

  • Order
  • Planning
  • Tidiness
  • Schedules
  • Control
  • Decisiveness
  • Structure

I like to be in control of myself and my choices, but otherwise I don't have much in common with the Judging side of the spectrum. My desire for control over my life sort of feeds my desire for flexibility. I want to be flexibility, which means I need to be in control. If that makes sense.

Applying the Results

One of the biggest takeaways I have from my review of the Perceiving vs. Judging dimension is a much better understanding of how my desire for flexibility and spontaneity can be at odds with the preferences of those who need structure and rules.

I had already begun to figure this out. But I was really astonished to learn that the strongest Judging types can find it difficult to relate at all to the flexible nature of the Perceiver. As a Perceiver, I think I'm pretty open to trying to understand others. Maybe that's just the nature of my type.

What is YOUR orientation to the Judging vs. Perceiving scale? Have you considered how your approach might be impacting your daily life?

I'd love to have a conversation about rules and structure vs. flexibility? Which do you prefer?