have you reached the summit?

Col du Galibier at 2645m

Last week’s post addressed the potential of your personal brand.

It was the first time I had written, at length, about the context of my blog. My apologies if it came across as self-aggrandising, but it was important for me to plant a stake in the ground for future posterity. As Hugh MacLeod says, it was my social object.

I know there are a lot of ‘brand you’ advocates in the market (please do read John Purkiss‘ book Brand You) but my flavour is, I hope, tinged with my own personal journey of desperately trying to self-express in everything I do. There can’t be many people who have gone from engineering to recruitment to law in the space of twenty years or so.

As to the weekly format of the blog (I have taken my lead from Steven Pressfield‘s format), I have enjoyed the creative experience of writing from a few (more) days out, rather than having to post every day, which I had been doing almost from the inception of my blog. That is not to say that I might not return to a more frequent format but I think if I do, it is likely that I will mix it up with sound and video. Also, there are other issues that I want to explore that perhaps are a little off the beaten track – simplicity, mindfulness, love, money, success, music, innovation and art.

I recognise that a lot of my income is derived from social media integration for professional service firms, but my previous blogging efforts cover a lot of this ground, and whilst there is need to keep refreshing some topics (strategy, innovation and content), nevertheless, I do not want to limit my offering just to social media.

I have made the point repeatedly: real artists ship. And whilst a blog is certainly a good place to start, I want to finish my book, collaborate on creative projects and build a legacy that is capable of establishing my brand. Doing too much on the blog, takes me away from the focus of my endeavours.

As to the core message of brand you – “To become what we truly are” – it requires a daily pursuit towards your summit – in life and your career. But much like Lance Armstrong wrote about in his first book It’s not about the bike neither should it simply be about one thing over another. The striving is just as important, if not more so, as the arriving.

In times past, it might have been possible, and perhaps the norm, to accept the status quo, but with the flux in the market, we all have to accept that our acquired skills are unlikely to carry us forward for more than a few years without the need to retrain, sharpen the saw or take on a portfolio of ‘projects’. Perhaps it is a generalisation too far, but my experience of professional service firms is that too few people accept individually or collectively the need for change. If anything it is the exact opposite. They cling on for grim death to the past in the vain hope that a tsunami of change won’t sweep them away. Dream on. Anyone with an ounce of entrepreneurial flair will recognise the need to show a lead, and where possible shape the market, rather than being shaped by it.

For many the idea of personal branding is any anathema to the ‘professional’ ethos where actions speak louder than words. And, of course, I couldn’t agree with that more but first you have to get found or be known for what you do. If you were one big fish in a very small pond then how different things would be but, of course, you are like plankton floating around in an ocean that seems to keep filling up daily. How on earth are you to be found if:

(a) you don’t stand for something;

(b) you see your work as routine; and

(c) you fail to differentiate your service.

To understand the real you, you have to work out the sine qua non of your personal brand. It’s not just a case of understanding what makes you tick, but focusing on your purpose, your values and achieving congruence between the outward manifestation and the inner soul. This for me is being self-expressed and living out a dream.

The idea of living a life true to our core is difficult. Most of us end up smoothing off the edges to fit in and espouse what people want to hear, rather than standing for something and speaking from a purpose centric position. That said brand you, lived to its max, shouldn’t leave you naked, vulnerable and exposed to a life of lack or self-consciousness but rather enable you to step out of your former self and be who you were meant to be.

This is not an easy concept.

Ask anyone “Are you the most of yourself” and very few people will admit to being completely satisfied with their life. This is not just because they have had to deal with the odd knock here and there but rather that they are not sure who they are and what would bring to bear all their wonderful, amazing talents. As I have said for as long as I can recall, no one is born to any job. Just imagine being delivered into this world and the midwife declaring: “There goes another [name].”

To come out of your shadows is tough. Fear very often stands in our way or at least self-doubt. Let’s face it if you have achieved a certain degree of financial independence, have a reasonably well-balanced life and enjoy some of what of you do, the temptation is not to rock the boat. I get that. But too few people can lay claim to that level of accomplishment. Perhaps we expect too much but in my view it is absolutely right that we should poke away, testing the limits of our tiny wants and needs. Why should we settle for a life half lived?

Personal branding is not a head in the clouds approach to life. It is grounded in working on your life and not in it. Without a clear plan though you will just as likely find yourself doing much the same from one year to the next.

I could go on but I think you get the point.

Going forward, it is my intention to get more systematic with the idea of brand you and focus on the tactics. Some of the issues I want to look at include:

1. procrastination and how resistance stops us from doing our best stuff

2. understanding the importance of career planning

3. the impact of social media

4. why thinking like an artist is not just ‘guru’ speak

5. making money without compromising on your values

6. focus, simplicity and changing your limiting habits

7. you are the company you keep

8. living a life without limits

9. finding your mojo

10. the difference between leadership and management as it applies to our lives

In amongst this ambitious list I will weave in some home truths about communication and listening. These get trotted out endlessly but as far as your personal brand is concerned they can change things more immediately than perhaps anything else I know.

You will see on the blog that I have added a few more bells and whistles (Google+ and Pinterest). It would be great to connect with as many people as possible on either platform. I think Google+ has tremendous potential, and I am tempted to put out a cheats guide in the next few weeks for those people that are thinking of giving it a go. Also, if anyone feels like starting a Hangout with me at any stage, then I would be delighted to use that as a fire-starter for any of the issues raised in this post or anything of your choice on which you think I can help.

In addition to the functionality, I will be starting to record some long Soundcloud posts and I will also be interviewing a few people who are interesting, have something memorable or useful to share and just to give greater insight into areas of interest.

I am also working on a Manifesto for The Power of Brand You which I am hoping to turn into a book. Of course with the digital market changing so quickly who knows where this project will end up.

If you do want to reach out at any stage please do drop me a line, send me a Tweet or connect with my on LinkedIn.

And if you want to get further insight and tips to leverage your brand then please sign up to my newsletter.

Until next week.


Picture by Fergus Clune from Flickr

[I have climbed the Galibier – it’s a monster]

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