Holley M. Murchison: the path to accurate and artful self-definition

How do you truly define yourself and what you do? Our on-stage host closed out NEXT18 with a workshop helping us do just that.


One of the very final sessions — the end overlapped with the begging of the closing drinks – was held at Uberquelle by our on-stage host, Holley M. Murchison. She ran a workshop on the best way to artfully — and accurately — describe and define yourself. It was a fascinating, if sometimes uncomfortable, experience. 

Your legacy is formed by the stories you leave behind, Holley told us. “Think about the stories you consume – in media, in social media,” she says. “Which ones move you? Which ones give you hope? Which ones excite you?”

“Not all of those stories are good ones. We live in a moment laced with uncertainty and fear. Which stories help us extract our own values, that help us understand who we are? Before we can get to the digital fix, we need the human fix.”

Holley gets people in the room to pair off, and start sharing experiences with each other. They’re personal experiences – like concerts, or food, or travel. People start exploring the other through the things that excite them.

And then, she makes them push it further, by talking more personally:

  • Who are you?
  • What are you most excited by in this season of your life?
  • Why did you say “yes” to this conference?

NEXT18 attendees talking about themselves.

People start getting appreciably more nervous as they move into the more personal discussions – but they still happen. Some people found the discussion easy – but not many. Those who did tended to like the clearness of the list – the vaguer questions bothered people.

The people who went second found it easier, but Holley noted that people’s body language was more closed up than in the first round of conversations. People close up as questions get more personal.

Becoming your true self

The process of becoming takes time. It took Holley 13 jobs to figure out what she wanted to do, but those jobs helped her on that journey. The fusion of our beliefs, values and passions is where our identity lies. We get to decide how useful we are, and it’s a fun journey to go on…

What isn’t fun is doing public speaking with no experience. Holley got a group of friends together, and they suggested she teach that.

Holley talking to NEXT18 attendees

Four spaces of discovery will allow you to start defining yourself well:

  • Background and interest – How does where you’re from influence who you are? What are your hobbies and interests? What piqued your curiosity in them?
  • Values and beliefs – What core values and beliefs do you live by? Why are these things important to you? Are your current endeavours in alignment with your values and beliefs? If so, how?
  • Passions and aspirations – What are some of your passions and aspirations? How are you pursuing them now? If not, what’s stopping you?
  • Skills and achievements – What skills and talents do you bring to your work, your relationships and your teams? What are you most proud of completing or starting this year? How about in the last three years? Why are you proud of these things?

How do you thread these together to tell a story of who you are? When someone ask you who are you are and what you do, there’s an intersection of those things. The more you lean into your quirks, passions and beliefs, the more you attract similar people. This works for both good and bad – make it work for good. Become who you are, because there’s something unique about you that can bring change.