No, not the most nuanced of headlines and neither should it be.
There’s no escaping the fact that ever since Brand You was coined by Tom Peters in his seminal article in Fast Co. magazine, the world has been alive to the power of the personal brand. However, if I have an issue or two with the paradigm, it’s the fact that so often it’s mistaken for the pumped up, macho, self-aggrandisement movement that thinks the louder they shout the more successful they’ll appear. In my eyes, that’s no different to the wannabe – all noise and no talent.
If you can, stand back for a moment from Brand You and consider this. Before you layer on gobs and gobs of artificiality, whether in your work on your sales messaging, fundamentally, you have to dig deeper:
Who am I?
What’s my values?
What’s my why?
Few people get close to understanding these. However, absent introspection, you will end up in a cycle of recreation, never getting close to the ‘real’ you.
At least one way of understanding your core is through your work. And I don’t mean the monotonous, pay-the-bills type. I’m referring to work that speaks to the ‘art’ label i.e. doing something that resides deep in your soul.
Too many people think that if they follow a seven-step plan that their brand will come to life. For a while, it might do but over the long haul it will fade.
You true calling never fades.
It only gets stronger. At least that’s how I’ve felt for the last year or so. In that time I’ve forced myself to confront my biggest fear; namely looking at blank screen or piece of paper and creating something of (lasting) value. You see, for me, even though I’ve been involved in a few start ups (and I include starting new practice areas as a lawyer), I’ve known all along that it wasn’t my calling. I might have created a brand but it didn’t stick.
I’m not intent on building a personal brand but I’m clear that what I talk about no mirrors me and my values.
You might think it impossible to find a place where your work coalesces with who you are but you’re wrong. You know in your heart where your calling resides but you haven’t (yet) worked up the courage to pursue things. If you did, then you wouldn’t need spin to create a personal brand. It would create itself.
There’s a simple test you can undertake if you don’t believe me. Assume money was no object – either you didn’t need it because you were suitably well off or every need was already met – and ask yourself what you would do?
Write it down.
Now, ask yourself how you pursue it, even if you only do so one tiny step a time.
Of course, there will be some people who feel that a life’s calling has nothing to do with branding, but like it or loathe it, in these hyper-connected times, you have no choice but to manage at least the main aspects of your work or teaching for fear otherwise that others might lay the wrong trail.
In summary, you are a brand. But don’t waste your time building a multitude of platforms to showcase your work unless you’re certain that it speaks to the authentic soul that lives and breathes inside of you.