In her search for souls, Laura Naughton starts with stories.
It’s there, inside her clients’ anecdotes and memories, that the Albuquerque consultant discovers the patterns, the snapshots of meaning to be translated with her guidance into an idea to transform lives.
She calls it a lifemark.
“Your lifemark is exactly what you were born for,” Naughton says. “In one’s lifemark, we have a composite of your unmistakable identity – what distinguishes you from others. It’s basically our soul’s purpose.”
Since 1995, Naughton has been helping entrepreneurs understand what makes them unique, then use those qualities as the basis for building their businesses. The approach encourages the creation and operation of companies – rooted in people’s unique personalities and experience – that grow and offer products in a way as natural as a tree bearing fruit.
Terri Norvell, a consultant in Denver who turned to Naughton for help with focusing her entrepreneurial efforts, says a lifemark allows you to see where your work fits into the big picture.
“People are starved to know that they’re making a contribution and what they do on a daily basis matters,” she says. “What I do is from the inside out. That’s what Laura helps bring to her clients.”
Norvell’s lifemark was teaching people about self-trust, a feeling she says is key to success in almost any undertaking. With the theme identified, her endeavors now serve that overriding concept. She says it helped her avoid making sidetracking decisions.
“She really helps you define what the essence of what you want to do is,” Norvell says. “She raised my consciousness of why this knowledge is important, and how I can use this personal information in my work and in my life.”
The process of elucidating a lifemark starts with 15 hours of intense interviews. Naughton asks for stories and experiences from her clients’ lives. She’s looking for qualities that person consistently demonstrates. Those give a picture of who the person is and what he or she is meant to do.
Once a lifemark is identified, Naughton and the client work on incorporating it into a business.
It’s an approach that most entrepreneurs avoid, Naughton says.
“When we’re looking at business, everybody talks about your skills and talent, not the qualities you carry,” she says.
But in her method, building a career based on skills and not qualities can be like trying to produce oranges if you’re an apple tree.
Even if oranges are in demand, she warns that going that route can leave you unfulfilled and unsuccessful. It’s better to figure out how to sell apples.
“All these people keep trying to mush themselves into a business plan that had nothing to do with them,” she says. “I don’t think we can reinvent ourselves. I find that when I get to be just who I am, either people are going to be really attracted to that because there’s something I have to offer they’re interested in, or not.”
Naughton’s job history includes a stint as executive director of the Oakland East Bay Symphony. For more than 20 years, she was a consultant, often working with major corporations on how to communicate better.
“I have an uncanny way of helping people bridge different ideas,” she says.
Isabel Parlett says Naughton’s help was key to getting her where she is today.
Parlett is the founder and owner of Parlance Training in Santa Fe. She helps businesses choose the right words to market their goods and services.
Before she met Naughton, she considered herself more of a personal and business development coach.
“She (Naughton) wanted me to see what I brought to the table that was different than anyone else,” Parlett says. “The thing she really saw in me was that I really have a feeling and understanding for language and communication, how people express their value to the world.”
That insight meant clarity for Parlett.
“I don’t have those questions anymore about: `Is this what I should be doing? Am I on the right path? Why am I here on this planet?’ ” she says. “With Laura’s help, I’ve gotten pretty clear about that, and now it’s just a question of how do I create an effective business vehicle that will let me bring that to the world.”
Ten years later, Parlett still consults with Naughton. Norvell has been working with her for roughly the same amount of time. Both say Naughton keeps them coming back by keeping them focused on their lifemarks.
“When you come to understand you are here for a unique purpose, something really vital will be lost if you don’t do the work to bring what you have forward,” Parlett says. “It’s coming to an understanding . . . on a spiritual level of what you’re here to do.”