President Obama When the Cameras Stop Rolling

Excerpt from:
From Part Two: Telling Your Story
Chapter 4


Do you act differently when no one is watching? That’s a pretty tough question to answer honestly. How would you know?

But what if you could know? Think of the self-awareness that would occur if you knew how others saw you. And then how you could use that self-awareness to authentically tell your story in a way that could connect you to finding work.

In this story, the President of the United States—before he took office– is “off stage.” No cameras or speeches to make. The narrator is standing on the other side of a soccer field.

As you join the kids’ soccer game being watched by both the President and the narrator, ask yourself: “What impression do I leave when the cameras stop rolling?”

The Questions

•If someone watched me from a distance, how would they describe me?
•Is the description the one I’d want?
•Would refining the impression I make help me tell my story?
•How could improving my level of self-awareness help my work search?


LEAVING IMPRESSIONS. President Obama When the Cameras Stop Rolling.

Malia Obama probably wasn’t sure if her Dad would make it home from work to watch her soccer game this past Friday night.

He’s been pretty busy lately.

But her Mom and her little sister would be there.

The flow of the kids moving the ball down the soccer field, under the lights of a chilly autumn night. The families chatting on the sidelines. The starlight glow of downtown Chicago rising up from the north. Malia Obama at midfield shouts “Mom!” And the smile, grace, and presence of the woman whose eyes never once leave her daughter—no matter who else she speaks to, waves back and sends a radiant smile.

In that one wave and smile, you see hope come alive before your very eyes.

Then just a few minutes after eight, something like a shift in earth’s gravity occurs. To the casual observer, nothing in this scene has changed. That pull of the earth’s power must have been imagined.
The true city dweller will feel it first, before they even see it. Blink your eyes and the men appear.

Ringing the shadows of this soccer field are people with guns. Serious people with guns. Like oak trees that move. The phrase, “Not on my watch” flashes through your head.

You have to look hard to make sure they are even there. You never really see a gun. You’re not even sure they are moving. But when you blink your eyes, somehow their positions have changed. Something about the way they just appear calms your breathing.

Instinctively you know. These are the good guys.

With that feeling of true safety pressed firmly in your very soul; you can remember the real secret at the heart of the city: we of the city are just a million small town kid’s soccer game scenes all strung together. So the kids laugh and kick the soccer ball.

Then some skinny guy in a blue baseball cap walks out of the gym next door.

Hands in his pocket, face down, by himself. He walks over to Malia’s Mom, who has 3 conversations going on simultaneously with folks on the sidelines.

The quiet guy in the blue cap puts his arm around Malia’s Mom. Shakes hands with a couple of the people. Talks with Malia’s Mom for a minute or two.

Just then a small miracle occurs. The quiet guy in the blue cap who nobody in the crowd of really paid all that much attention to; scrunches down so he is face to face with Malia’s little sister Sasha.

She lifts up the brim on his cap.

And then, standing in shadows behind Sasha, you see what she’s seeing up close. You see that smile. That smile that resounds with the very power and the glory of the city lights behind it. That smile now almost ready to take its place in American history.

You can’t hear, and are happy not to hear, what he’s saying to his youngest daughter. But from your distance you do hear her giggle.

The father takes the daughter’s hand. The younger daughter. The one who is not in the game. The one was destined to not get a lot of attention tonight.

They move back deeper into the shadows, behind the sideline crowd. Still watched by that quiet show of force here to keep them absolutely safe.

Then the miracle: they have a foot race.

While the soccer game is still going on. Just the two of them. Sasha and her Dad take off together, both running at full speed, as fast and then faster than either of them could ever imagine. Sasha laughing, and laughing at the finish line. Her Dad swoops down and picks her up.

Then that smile. This time only for his daughter. It was just for her.
His youngest daughter’s giggle. It’s the music of a promise to make sure that everyone’s included.

And this past Friday night in Chicago: Malia Obama’s team won the game.


•Why is the awareness of how others see you so important in work search?
•Imagine watching yourself from a distance. Would your actions match your words?
•In the story, there was no dialogue. Yet there were at least half a dozen messages sent by the President just by what was seen from afar. If someone were to watch you from afar, what would you want your messages to be?
•How will you make sure they are in your story?

Notes on Connecting to Action

Try this experiment. Pick someone who will give you an honest opinion. Ask how you would come across in the first 10 seconds of a conversation on searching for work.

Would your authenticity come through in those 10 seconds? Would you come across as authentic no matter who was watching you?

What is it you have to do to make sure that your authenticity comes through when you are telling your story?

3 Responses to “President Obama When the Cameras Stop Rolling”

  1. Dale Says:

    Damn, but you are one fine storyteller. You just bowl me over every single time.

  2. Ted Schneider Says:


    This reminds me a little of what Tom Peters said regarding your ‘brand’. You need to clearly define what you want your brand to be, making yourself distinctive and standing apart from others. Just as important, you must defend your brand constantly to ensure it is what you want it to be (so when you are in a crowd or when you are alone – and in today’s electronic/virtual age when nothing really is private, assume you are never alone). It is a good idea to have someone you trust give you feedback on how you are perceived to fine tune your approach to your brand.


  3. paulhaider1974 Says:

    President Obama is a wonderful father. Of course, if I was married to Michelle Obama, I would be a wonderful husband and serenade her every morning with the song “Michelle” by the Beatles. Yes, I have a crush on Michelle Obama, and I am very jealous of her huband, the leader of the free world.
    Paul Haider, Chicago

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