By Rashida Jones, senior vice president for specials at NBC News and MSNBC, and Gracies Ambassador
O Hampton, we never can make thee a song,
Except as our lives do the singing,
In service that will thy great spirit prolong,
And send it through centuries ringing!
At 17 years and seven months, I first sang this phrase with hundreds of other students who matriculated to my alma mater, Hampton University. It is part of our school song, a song students learn as Freshman and never repeat again until they walk across the stage at graduation.
The concept is a weighty one. Build a profile that represents who you are, so people have a clear picture of your brand without you having to utter a word. At 17 years and seven months, I had no idea what song I wanted my life to sing. I had no concept of what mark I wanted to make in my field or in my community.
But I learned early on the importance of this philosophy and it’s one that has stuck with me decades later.
Your daily actions color how people view your work ethic and character. Volunteer for a work project and your bosses see you as ambitious. Go out of your way to acknowledge your colleagues on their big wins and others characterize you as gracious and kind. The opposite can be true-get caught up in office gossip and your peers see you as petty and unprofessional. Show up to meetings late and unprepared and colleagues may think you are lazy and don’t care about your work.
It is not all about impressing others. In fact, it’s not at *all* about impressing anyone. It is all about choosing to make decisions that reflect the best version of you that you can offer. Are YOU happy with the story you tell? Do YOU feel like you are being your best self? Does YOUR life pay homage to those who have sacrificed for you to reach certain heights?
As you think about the song your life is singing, it’s important you maintain a sense of authenticity while creating purpose. Do not create an artificial version of yourself. You will never be able to sustain the caricature and it’s demoralizing to not be authentically you. You just have to own it and be purposeful in how you represent yourself.
We’ll treasure the dear happy days
We’ve spent here in life’s preparation,
Yet go with brave hearts upon our chosen ways,
Of service to God and our nation.
The ode ends with a charge to each of us to serve. When painting the picture of who you are and what you represent, if your greatest accomplishments do not reflect what you have done to help others, then you still have a lot of work to do. As women, it is our responsibility to ensure we are doing everything we can to help others find their purpose and help script the songs they want their lives to sing. It is our responsibility to bring someone else along for the ride.