- Who & Why?
Category Archive for: ‘Gratitude’
I remember graduating from law school and taking the Indiana bar exam. While I was waiting for my bar results, I couldn’t imagine what I would do if I didn’t pass the exam.
What else could I do? I had gone to law school so I could practice law and “be” a lawyer. Just the thought of not being able to “be” a lawyer freaked me out and it made me sad. A general sense of depression came over me as I waited for the test results.
These days within the practice of law, or when we discuss any professional exceling at work and working “hard”, we naturally (and unfortunately) tend to discuss the high incidence of depression in the workforce.
This depression can come about for other reasons, too. I was recently discussing this very topic with a lawyer whose spouse is in the military. Every so many years they must move as her husband gets new orders. Each move guarantees a high likelihood that she, as a lawyer, won’t be able to practice in that new state because she hasn’t taken that particular state’s bar exam yet. She noted how this situation causes so many lawyers in her position to go into a deep depression. I had never stopped to consider this fact. Yet, I totally see how that situation can cause depression.
Why does this sadness and/or depression happen to professionals regarding their careers?
I think this happens because we are too tied to our identity as a particular professional and career. We don’t identify ourselves as people first, rather we identify as our professions first.
For instance, when I was a securities lawyer in Washington, DC, whenever anyone met me and asked me about myself, I would automatically launch into a discussion of my legal career. Often, my response would start with, “I’m a lawyer”.
It wasn’t until the year I stopped practicing that I realized this costly misalignment in my thoughts. I remember the day so vividly. I was bemoaning to my sister how I was struggling with not practicing law, even though I had chosen to stop practicing and I felt it was right deep down in my gut. I remember declaring to my sister, “But if I’m not a lawyer, then who am I?”
This inquiry stopped my sister dead in her tracks. With a very shocked and sad expression she commented, “You are a human first and then a lawyer”.
What a wake-up call. That was the moment I really stopped and took inventory of who I really was and what I was about in this world. It took several years before I had real clarity.
I then realized that identifying so much with my career and/or profession had left me with a lack of my own identity as a human. Not a pretty or effective brand.
As such, it led to a sense of sadness and hollowness when I stripped myself of my title as a lawyer- an even worse brand.
What does this mean for you? Stop and consider:
- How often do you identify with your career, profession and job to the detriment of who you are as a person? Why?
- Does this identification help you be happy and balanced?
- How does this identification impact your work product and your brand?
- What would it be like for you to stop identifying with your career, profession and job?
- What’s one action step you can take now to have more self-awareness around who you “are” and what you “do”?
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About two weeks ago San Diego went through a nasty heat wave. The high temperatures were relentlessly in the 90s for that entire period of time. Normally, I would manage to get through it, but it was October. I yearned for Fall. I was sad and angry. Once again, I was rethinking living in San Diego, much to the chagrin of my family.
In that two-week stretch, all I wanted to do was to wear a sweater, pull a fleece blanket around me and snuggle under it with a cup of HOT tea. Without getting heat stroke and making my husband fear my sanity, I couldn’t bring myself to wear the sweater and cuddle under the blanket. But, I did have a cup of hot tea (well, more like tepid, but I pretended it was really hot) every evening. My husband was very kind and just looked at me funny from the corner of his eyes. Mostly because he knew how happy it made me to drink my hot tea and pretend like it was Fall outside.
So am I crazy? Why do I yearn for the coziness, hot tea and sweaters? Am I just an East Coast gal transplanted on the West Coast? I dare say not.
In developing peoples’ brands, I always preach the happiness factor: if you are not happy, you cannot sell happiness. Happy branded people are the only brands others notice and buy/hire.
So what does this happiness have to do with getting cozy? Well, for years I’ve had a theory that people who live in four weather climates are happier brands. Why? I now have the answer.
It’s called Hygge’. This is a Danish term for the notion of getting snuggly in the winter, spending time with family, relaxing, enjoying life- even if it is cold, dark and wet outside- much like it is in Denmark for about 5 months out of each year. As Suzanne Nilsson, a hygge’ teacher, explains the term hygge’ is “the absence of anything annoying or emotionally overwhelming; taking pleasure from the presence of gentle, soothing things.” These things include candles, tea, family/social gatherings.
These things are also all the things we would all tend to do more of in climates that have that fourth season of winter. My friend Pam is from New Hampshire. She has said on too many occasions that there was such a sense of community in New Hampshire, particularly during winter. Pam notes that in winter, neighbors just knock on each others’ doors, go in for dinner or for a cup of (get ready for it…) tea!
So could there be truth to my belief?
There are definitely many studies linking gratitude with happiness. Gratitude does not rely on material things. If you’re not yearning for more “things” to buy, then your gratitude cycle is more likely to continue meaning you are more likely to stay happy longer, making you a more attractive brand.
As if I needed more proof, I got it on Friday when I was having lunch with Ian McDougall, the General Counsel of LexisNexis. Ian noted that he had worked in New Zealand for a while and had noticed that despite the fact that people in New Zealand had higher cost of living with lower compensation, they seemed happier. Why? Ian noted that New Zealand (much like Denmark, perhaps?) was full of breathtaking outdoor life. It appeared to Ian that most residents found happiness, not in spending their money buying more things, but in spending time outdoors. So happiness is a function of “being”, rather than “having”. Folks in New Zealand sound much more likely than not of being happy brands (yes, I’ve met many of them and they were all much happier than the general US population, if I may generalize). That sounds like hygge’ to me.
What does this mean for you? Consider, if you want to be an effective brand that attracts others to you emotionally:
- Take time to just “be” and do nothing. When was the last time you sat around with a cup of hot tea and spent time with friends?
- Perhaps not buying so much in terms of material things, but consciously look to create opportunities for yourself to be with others in situations that require more of you “being” rather than “doing”.
So we finally got some real rain here in Southern California over the weekend. I mean rain that soaked everything and caused flash flooding. Yay, I say!
We don’t get rain very often in San Diego. We’ve had a drought advisory for a long time. Grass was no longer green, but brown dirt. I mean 24/7 sunshine is great, but it brings about its own set of issues.
So why do you figure that when we finally got rain over the weekend, the response was not absolute joy from everyone?! Don’t get me wrong- there were lots of grateful and happy people like me. However, I interacted and saw lots of people who were less than happy. They were grumbling about getting wet, having their weekend activities ruined, etc. Some of them were talking about the unfairness of it all. The unfairness of rain- really?
As we’ve all heard, variety is the spice of life. Without variety and change, things get stagnate. So what does rain and variety have to do with your brand? Good question.
Climate can say a lot about the residents that live there. I grew up in Indiana, lived in Washington DC for many years and now live in San Diego. I travel a lot. Over time I started to notice that those people living in four season climates were generally very different than those living in tropical climates.
I remember growing up in Indiana how much fun the change in seasons brought for me. We used to gear up for Fall- raking leaves, bobbing for apples, getting our costumes ready. We used to rejoice as Spring arrived. We really looked forward to the warmth and sunshine and appreciated the Summer heat and fun. We prepped for winter by sealing the deck and driveways and getting the car “winterized”. We got our sweaters out and got our sleds out of the garage.
I’ve discovered people living in four season climates are usually more adaptable and resilient in life. They tend to go with the flow and are more “prepared” for life, shall we say. I believe it has to do with the fact that the change in seasons brings about the mentality of change. Change is about variety and requires us to adapt and grow and stretch ourselves.
In brand development, the goal is to be a creative thought leader that people remember and are emotionally attracted to. Creative thought-leadership comes about when we access our right-brain more often. If you don’t like variety and change, then odds are you are not using your creative mind as much as you could be. Odds are you are using your left- brain more. This leaves you linear and analytical, but not as creative and dynamic and memorable. People tend to remember your brand much better if you are dynamic, flexible, and creative.
So what does this mean for you? Stop and consider:
– Do you live in a climate that promotes change and variety? If not, stay extra vigilant in exercising your creative side. Try painting, writing poetry or fiction, or singing.
– Where in your life are you stagnating and not open to change or growth? What’s one simple change you can make to today?
No one says personal brand development is a walk in the park. After all, we have to stretch ourselves, choose to see those ways of being that aren’t working out and then develop new ways to make them work- for ourselves and our clients and businesses.
On the other hand, personal brand development doesn’t have to be difficult or painful either. It all depends on how we choose to view it all.
Take me, for example. If you think I have it all figured out, boy are you wrong. I’m learning as I go, just like you. The difference is that I have a deep faith that I’ll find my way through my brand and business. I also have strong self-awareness around what’s not working and what changes I need to make to BE and BE SEEN as a strong and effective personal brand.
There are plenty of days and minutes and hours where I decide to be angry at myself for not doing better when I know better. For instance, I have come to learn that the one true thing that matters most in personal brand development is feeling good about myself- regardless of what is going on around me. So my circumstances don’t dictate how I should feel. In this way, I’m not being reactive, but in charge of my life and brand perception.
That’s all well and great. You have no idea how often I lose sight of this reality and find myself in a less-than good feeling state. Then I decide to be angry at myself and condemn my mentality. Of course, this never helps, right?
So what I’ve learned in those moments are ways to pick myself up and dust myself off:
– I work hard to stay self-aware and conscious of the nasty thoughts that I don’t like. You know the ones that ego thinks for us to keep us feeling down;
– I then take several deep deep deep breathes to clear my head and body. I instantly feel better with the increase flow of oxygen. Maybe I yawn a few times, too, to increase oxygen;
– Lastly, I think of one thing I’ve done in the past day or so that was really fun and/or exciting for me. This doesn’t have to be a big activity, but something small that made me happy. So for instance, I had a fun time sitting and watching the Oscars last night.
Take these steps to pick yourself up and dust off your brand.
While getting business and making a sale is great, I find that most of us miss the fundamental reason WHY we get business and make a sale. In my world, your brand is about all the actions and perceptions you create BEFORE you get to the sale.
I remember as a lawyer in my previous career, it was very easy to fall off the mark and forget about the human interactions behind business. I would get so involved in the substantive work I was doing as a lawyer, that there would be no time for the human element. It was almost as if there were no people operating behind the business.
As Dale Carnegie said it best, “When dealing with people, remember we are all creatures of emotion and not creatures of logic”. If you keep this quote in mind, your personal branding development will come with more ease and be more effective.
It all boils down to a much more fundamental concept when we stop to look at business and sales from an emotional level and not logical level. I liked the way Oprah Winfrey put it when she was being interviewed by Barbara Walters. Oprah, in addressing why she used being on television as a means of being of service, said, “when you see what you offer the world, your world shifts”.
So what does this mean for you? Well, stop and think:
– What do you really offer the world with your work?
– What fundamental human need do you serve?
– Do you get the reality of those you serve?
– Do you emotionally resonate your brand with your audience? You’ll know you do so when you see sales go up, business increase and you do it all with ease and have fun, too.
If you are unsure, email us and we can talk about your strategy.