December 17, 2015

Reinventing Yourself? Tell People What to Call You.

Reinventing Yourself? Tell People What to Call You.

I was nearly 40 years old the last time my older brother said, “I’m telling Mom on you.” Here’s how it went down…


My husband, Jan, and I had decided to pick up and move from Newport Beach, California to Yuma, Arizona. We were relatively newly married, with a toddler. Real estate and living expenses in Southern California had reached an all-time high. My family lived in Yuma, and my father was ill and we wanted to be with him – and to catch a break from the hamster wheel on which we were running. So we thought: What the hell. We’ll give Yuma a shot.


I had already started my virtual ad agency, The Hook. We specialized in corporate branding and strategy. There weren’t a lot of corporations in Yuma – a southwestern Arizona border town driven by agriculture and military. But I managed to find some financial and home development clients in Yuma before we made the move – and worked out a way to manage my national clients – and I was excited about the new adventure.


On our first night in Yuma, I had dinner with my great friend, Carla Renee. She’s an amazing chef and an incredible amount of fun packed into a tiny, shiny package. As we drank martinis and played a little Yahtzee (which we were prone to do on many hot Yuma nights to come), I intimated to Carla that I’d like to start using my given name.


I was born Julia Hook. My dad called me Juju straight out of the shoot. (He also called me Fat Girl, but that’s a topic for a different blog.) My brothers called me Juls. My co-workers and clients called me Julie. But I had never been Julia. And I just felt, at nearly 40, that the name suited me. It felt more grown up. Sophisticated. Complex.


Carla, in the easy-breezy way she has of making everything OK, said: “I’ll call you Julia. I have no problem with that. Let’s start right now.”


And after 18 years of friendship, she just made the switch. And then she proceeded to suggest, since I was new in Yuma, that I should order new business cards the very next day and begin introducing myself as Julia. After all, no one knew me there. It wouldn’t be strange.


From that moment forward, I would just BE Julia.


I felt liberated. Unfettered. Fueled by anticipation. I thought I might wear higher heels and possibly even lipstick. It was a new beginning.


I ordered the cards and began, according to plan, introducing myself as Julia. No one snickered. In fact, the new me went off without a hitch. For about two weeks…


My brother, Ted, owns a business in Yuma. It’s a small town and it houses a large “good ole boys” club, and Ted was a card-carrying member. So, it seemed, were all of my new local clients. So one night, as the boys had beers at Jimmie Dee’s (the local watering hole), a banker named Bill who was my new client and Ted’s old friend asked him, “How’s Julia?”


To which Ted replied, “Who’s Julia?”


Bill was more amused than confused. “Your sister,” he replied.


“I don’t have a sister named Julia,” Ted said. “You got that wrong. Her name is Julie.”


I’m told a little argument ensued. Which Bill won, when we pulled out a business card with “Julia Hook” embossed in dark purple.


“Well I’ll be damned,” Ted said.


And then Ted called me from the bar. He asked me when I changed my name. And I told him I hadn’t changed my name. I was born Julia. I’d just started using it. And another argument ensued, where Ted told me this couldn’t possibly be true.


And then he said, “I’m telling Mom.”


“Go ahead,” I said. “Call her.”


To this day, every time Ted calls me, he says, “Hi, Julia. This is Theodore.”


I bring up my Julia story because I meet so many business owners who are stepping into new roles, and they’re not sure how to own them. Some are leaving corporate jobs and starting new businesses. Others are finding new professions later in life. Still others are younger, and just establishing themselves.


I so often hear, “I want to be THIS (insert expert position), but I just don’t think people will see me that way.”


Newsflash: People will see you as whatever you project.


I’m not saying you can pretend to be a doctor. Or groom someone’s dog if you’ve never had training. But if you have a role you’re ripe to step into, then step into it. Because what you may not know is that people pick up exactly what you’re putting down. (For more on this subject, see: How to Finance Your Business with a Briefcase Full of Crackersclick here )


I read an article years ago about a bank, I can’t remember which one, that gave every employee the title Vice President. It made the employees feel empowered. And it made the customers feel as though, each and every time, they were dealing with decision makers. The Vice President title changed nothing. But at the same time, it changed everything.


I once had a friend who had the initials HBIC after her name on her business card. It stood for “Head Bit*& in Charge.”


Freddie Mercury was born Farrokh Bomi Bulsara.


Remember when KFC was Kentucky Fried Chicken?


What do you call yourself? How do you introduce yourself? How do you write your bio and present yourself to your network? Are you in control of your own image? Or is it something that happened to you? How well developed is your personal brand… starting with your name and your title?


If you’ve got someone you want to be, I’m giving you permission – the same way Carla Renee gave it to me.


Right here. Right now. Pick it up. Put it on. Own it. Rock it.


To this day, when my friends from Yuma or my current clients meet my family or childhood friends, they register a look of surprise when someone calls me Julie, or Juls, or Juju.


I’ll hear, “That’s so strange. I only know you as Julia.”


Are you reinventing yourself for 2016? Who do you want to be? Share in the comments, below.

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16 thoughts on “Reinventing Yourself? Tell People What to Call You.

  1. Bobbie Lee Miller says:

    LOVE this!!!!! Such a solid article. Thank you Julia Hook 🙂

  2. Noleen says:

    Great Topic! I think of myself as Noli B, but, to everyone except my husband, I’m Noleen – my given name.

  3. Hey Julia – great article. It reinforced my decision to call myself The DivaStyle Coach. Why that name? Well…I attended a self-discovery workshop many years ago that encouraged attendees to develop a four-word description of themselves. My words were Dynamic, Intriguing, Vivacious and Audacious – DIVA. I was already committed to working with women to help improve their self-esteem via coaching, so I then became The DivaStyle Coach.

    I’ve held onto it for over 10 years – with more success at other times than I’m experiencing right now, but while others have told me I need to change it, I keep coming back to it. I’m sticking with it!

  4. Cat Volz says:

    Empowering story of choosing yourself. The best part is that we can start today. Many thanks, Julia. I’m hooked.

  5. Steve Smith says:

    From one of the good old boys that has called you all of the names laided out in your post. Love the story and your family. Julia it is!

    Smitty, Stevie, Steven, Mad Dog, Dr. Jekyll, also known as Steve Smith

    PS. You can get the details from your brother Theodore. lol

  6. Cat Volz says:

    @Dianne– Love how you define what it means to be DIVA, in terms of qualities that draw others in, as well as having this intrinsic confidence that we are enough. Conveying the true meaning and how it creates your clients’ identities and success could be central to your messaging to dispel stereotypes that divas make unwarranted demands. Not everyone can be DIVA, but we certainly need some, and it’s a tool every woman should have in her arsenal.

  7. Julia says:

    Hey, Dianne. I love the DIVA name and brand position. And anything you’ve held onto for 10 years has equity! So protect the value in that. It’s like gold. Good for you, you DIVA!!

  8. Julia says:

    Love seeing you here, Cat Voltz. And I love that your recognize the wold needs DIVAs!!

  9. Julia says:

    Thanks, Bobbie Miller!!!

  10. Julia says:

    I hope it’s Ok if I call you Noli B!! I love it! It’s got serious spunk!

  11. I am – moving to Shanghai from Melbourne. I now have a Chinese name!

  12. Julia says:

    Jessica Watson..:: what is your Chinese name?!

  13. Loralei says:

    For the last couple of years, I’ve been Lost Arts Cafe (and also the face behind Back On Track Massage Therapy ).. I’m a bookbinder – I like to say that your job is to make beautiful memories, & mine is to make gorgeous, hand bound books to keep them in… I chose Lost Arts Cafe because the art of bookbinding is a lost art, & I refuse to enter my studio without coffee … that’s who I am, & that’s what I do.. and I own it! ?

    1. Julia Hook says:

      Lost Arts Cafe is a gorgeous name. And the fact that your coffee turns your studio into a cafe is just brilliant. Way to go, Loralei. (Back on Track is pretty clever, as well.) Thanks for sharing. And for reading along.

  14. Georgia K says:

    Georgia K Transformations™ is my brand and Georgia K is the name I’m going with 🙂 even though I’ve been Gigi, Georgie, Γεωργία, Γωγώκα, Georgina, Porgie lol, and since Kontogiorge is my last name -a Greek one, and people always say: Ummm how do you say it???
    Thank you for this article!
    I love the way you write Julia – and your name has always been one of my favorites!

    1. Julia Hook says:

      Thanks so much, Georgia. And I do love the Georgia K brand. Isn’t is great that we have so many names — so many ways to see ourselves? Such good stuff.

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