Dani Hayes is from New Zealand, we met in New York and we’ve managed to stay in contact ever since. I am very happy to feature her interview in my project since she is as close to an expert on experience as is possible for the subject. I asked Dani a handful of questions about her take on what personality is. Below is a fragment of our conversation via email and skype:
First off I wanted to get a feel for her own description of what personality is. She answered that it’s “the characteristics or the lively engaging qualities of someone that makes them distinctively unique. Influenced by others with whom you engage with daily and the environment that you're in. Therefore personalities do differ from people who live in the country to people who live in the bigger cities.”
Dani's got that ‘cool factor’ that so many people strive for. In the model world we’re told to show personality - and Dani has owned that even if she laughs at the idea of it. It’s something that clearly comes from an exposure to many environments, people and situations. “Most of my influences come from my family and my closest friends. Anyone basically who can influence me to think differently and experience differently.”
Experience is essential to personality, in fact it nearly is personality, since we are an expression of our surroundings. It’s an idea I’ve put forward in my project intro. Dani explained it as: “From the get-go everybody has been put into a system of some sort and has been taught a way to learn etc. As long as you can break those barriers and put yourself in different situations you learn to appreciate people in a different way.”
I asked Dani to think back to a time when she experienced a personal evolution, and then to describe how or why her point of view was changed.
“Earlier this year I experienced a great loss, a very close cousin of mine had passed away in a tragic accident. I was in Paris when I heard of the news and as fast as I could I packed my bags and got to the airport. I jumped on the next flight home. It took me two days to get back to New Zealand, just in time for Poroporoaki (usually held the night before burial day it consists of eulogies, or farewell speeches to the dead, and contains beautiful songs and stories told).
“My cousin was one of the most influential people in my life, she taught me about life and what it has to offer. She taught me Confidence, she helped me grow into the person I am today and yet I felt I still had much to learn. When the news of her broke it felt as though my entire world had changed, in which it did, so quickly. Someone who had meant so much to me was no longer here. It changed me in a way that I realized I could no longer be influenced by her, I had to adjust to life without her.
“Since then, I have evolved myself into a better me,with all the same qualities, it's a process of time and redevelopment from within. Building that personality back up and regaining the confidence, it's always been there it’'s just that grieving took more control over me than I thought.”
Dani’s level of positivity is one thing that has influenced me since we’ve met. She makes an important point - it’s not just change that’s important, it’s understanding how that change changes you. Without this understanding we go blindly forward and are unable to adjust to the world around us. Sometimes those changes can make us feel like we have become a different person than we were before. I asked about how she views personal evolution. She comments that “it’s always healthy to change. Always. You always need to evolve. I mean, you think back to the time you first started walking, and then to the time you first started running... It’s a process of evolution from the day we are born.”
“Keep learning. Put yourself into different situations. Different experiences. Different scenarios. Put yourself into situations where you have to think outside your own box.” I asked for a specific example, and she offered one thing that we can all try.
“Let’s say you brush your teeth with the right hand - try for 2 weeks brushing your teeth with your other hand and you’ll begin to see how your brain will start to think differently.”
So, you see? Simple as that.