Personal Writing

Appropriate horn tooting

I have spent much of my free time this past week working on my credibility statement for the Recognized Expert course I’m taking online. It’s been a challenge.

I grew up in a household where you didn’t “toot your own horn.” One of my mother’s favorite things to say is, “If you’re really something, you don’t need to tell it. People will discover it for themselves.”

That’s always felt like an “easy for you to say” kind of thing from her because she has this freakish ability to play anything she hears on the piano, in any key, at any time. And she’s been able to do that since she was about three, so she’s always been able to “show, not tell.”

I can’t say the same for me. I don’t have any particularly clear talents, and a lot of people view my strengths with a wary eye. In fact, growing up, my mother tried valiantly to wring out many of my best traits: my Mt Vesuvius temper (fast and furious eruptions that seem to come out of nowhere and are over before you know it); my aggressive walk and talk; my insistence on expressing my opinion on everything.

In looking at that list, perhaps “best” is not the best adjective. But whatever. When used correctly, those traits have served me pretty well over the years.

But because I grew up in the shadow of her magic piano show, and because I have spent my entire life answering this basic question, “Do you play piano like your mom, too?” (Do I even need to answer that for you?), I struggle to articulate my own credibility, to name my own value.

My first iteration was this:

Dayna Del Val is married to Dr Mazz Marry, a spectacular man who happens to be, in addition to a great big brained professor of Biology and all-around excellent human being (with a dreamy accent to boot!), an alcoholic enjoying sobriety. She and Dr Marry were together as he fell into his alcoholism, and they went through the crucible of that as well as hospitalization and treatment together to come out on the other side. Today, Dayna and Dr Marry share their lived experience, both the extreme lows and the spectacular highs, in an effort to help other couples battling addiction realize there is a glorious life to be found together on the other side.

I knew, unconsciously, when I uploaded this that it was garbage. I mean, the only credit I give myself is basically having the good sense to attract and keep someone with an accent.

But I’m so conditioned to “letting others discover me for themselves” that I couldn’t even own myself in a class I am paying to take to do this kind of work!

One of my course mates suggested I ask Dr Marry what he would write about me—that was really helpful, and he gave me a much better direction for round II. Then some of my course mates stepped in and provided not one round, not two rounds but four full rounds of feedback–helpful, tough love, where-are-you-in-this-statement? kind of feedback.

What I ended up with is this:

Dayna Del Val was born with tenacity and advocacy in her DNA. She sharpened those skills as President & CEO of The Arts Partnership (TAP) where she consistently and successfully advocates for the enduring power and value of the arts across every facet of the community. In her tenure, TAP has received the Governor’s Award for the Arts, The Differentiator Award from the Governor’s Main Street Initiative, the Pineapple Award from the FM Convention & Visitors Bureau and Dayna was awarded the Emerging Leader Award from the ND Association of Nonprofit Organizations. With a vast portfolio of publications, including a multi-year, monthly arts advocacy column for The Forum and more than 10 years writing the reflections end page for Inspired Home magazine, as well as TEDx, Creative Mornings Fargo and Ladyboss talks and a commencement address for MSUMoorhead, Dayna is equally at home in front of a screen or a live audience.

Dayna has recently turned her advocacy efforts to inspiring people to pivot from failure and find joy on the other side. She weaves stories and insights of being a young, single mom, of lessons learned in her professional role, of the complexities of middle-age and, most importantly, of the shared journey her husband Dr Mazz Marry and she took to joyfully restore their marriage and their lives after his near-death experience from alcoholism. A life-long fighter, both for herself and of those in her sphere, Dayna’s core belief is that there is always more for anyone who’s willing to pursue it, and she’ll help you do it! Dayna holds a Master’s degree in English Composition as well as a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre.

Huh. There I am.

It took a lot of work to own this statement. And what’s so stupid is that there’s nothing in there that’s not true or even hyperbole. It’s two fact-based paragraphs about who I am and what I have done or earned to prove I am who I say I am.

I’m pretty happy with it.

And I want it to help me launch to bigger things, to expand my content out–way out–to reach larger audiences.

This morning I’m up early reading (and enjoying) Seth Godin’s Small is the New Big. This particular post is titled “Sharp Needle, Big Haystack“:

People are buying only one thing from you: the way the engagement (hiring you, working with you, dating you, using your product or service, learning from you) makes them feel.

So how do you make people feel?

Could you make them feel better? More? Could you create the emotions that they’re seeking?

As long as we focus on the commodity, on the sharper needle, we’re lost. Why? Because most customers don’t carry a magnet. Because the sharpest needle is rarely the one that gets out of the haystack. Instead, buyers are looking for the Free Prize, for that exceptional attribute that’s worth talking about…

What’s your Free Prize?

I’m standing at the the intersection of my credibility statement and your free prize. This is who I am and the proof you need, but why should you care? What’s in it for you? How does reading my content make you feel? What is your takeaway? Your “ah ha!” moment?

That’s my next task. I’ve kind of settled on me; now I need to focus on you.

I hope you take some time today to think about your own credibility statement. Who are you? What evidence proves that who you say you are is true?

Whether you need this statement for your professional life or not is not the point. The point is to lay out what you have done, but show it with proof, not tell it with adjectives and fillers. And then get comfortable with it. It’s not bragging; it’s simply who you are.

Dammit, my mother was right…again.

Photo: The Music Man Trollwood Performing Arts School 1991. Stephanie Blow, my little brother Evan and me.

Dayna Del Val is on a mission to help others (re)discover the spark they were born with through her blog and newsletter, her professional talks and the (re)Discover Your Spark retreats she leads. Dayna works with people to help them not just identify and articulate their dreams but to develop a framework to get going on the pursuit of those dreams—today, in the next few months and for the years ahead. She's at the intersection of remarkable and so, so ordinary, but she knows that pretty much everyone else is, too. She's excited to be sharing this extraordinary journey with you.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *