- Who & Why?
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”.
As humans, we are not very good with change. Of course, we all know why. What’s known is comfortable. Anytime we have to give up our comfort zone, we get stressed and scared.
Looking back on my change in career, it was scary. Once I knew that I wasn’t meant to practice law anymore, but to do something else with my natural talents and abilities to be of service to professionals, it still wasn’t a fast and easy change/transition. It too me so long to really “own” that I wasn’t practicing law anymore- and that I didn’t want to practice law anymore. It required me to give up identifying with being a lawyer. It was like someone had stripped my identity, not to mention my cushy income stream.
If I wasn’t a lawyer, then who was I? It wasn’t until the day that I stopped identifying with what I did for a living, and started identifying with who I AM, that I started to love the change. It took several years to get there, though. You know what they say about overnight success.
Brands that are open to change and flexible with change are dynamic brands that endure. These people also have brands that draw in others to them for this very same reason: if someone fears change, they’ll love being around those who are braver than them.
What does this mean for you, your brand and your business/career? Stop and ask yourself:
- How often do you face change and just move forward, trusting your gut that you are on the right track, instead of living in fear?
- How often do you implement change at work? If you have employees that respond to change by saying, “are we changing that again?” or “we liked the old way”, then you need to rethink your employee pool. Either re-train them or get new employees that are more flexible and can go with the flow of change.
Have you ever had those days when you felt less-than attractive? You know what I’m talking about. I’ve had many of those days. It’s not just about bad hair, but bad everything. Or is it?
In developing your brand, we always look at the notion of attraction. Attractive people have attractive brands. And I’m not talking about looking like a super-model. What exactly do I mean by “attraction”?
Here’s how Merriam-Webster defines, “attraction” in part:
- personal charm:
- the action or power of drawing forth a response :
- a force acting mutually between particles of matter, tending to draw them together, and resisting their separation:
Personal charm may sound fluffy and crazy, but not really. I’m not asking you to go to charm school. Think of all the people you like, and have, as your colleagues. How many of them would you say you found “charming” and drew you to them?
The definition even includes a scientific component involving particles and matter. Why? Because there is true science to the law of having a brand that attracts. When your brand has attraction, it’s as if there is a certain undeniable “force” pulling others to you and keeping them mesmerized by you. And I’m talking about in the business setting.
I remember when I went from being a lawyer to running a personal branding company. That was over eight years ago. I was in utter shock at how people would flock to listen to what I had to say. ME! The same person who as a lawyer drew nowhere near that many followers and fans. Over time, I learned it really was this “force” that made my brand work.
The last part of the definition is about appealing to peoples’ desires and tastes. If this wasn’t true, the products industry, including Coke, Starbucks and Zappos, would be bankrupt. Effective personal brands understand that we are emotional beings and operate by being emotionally drawn to other people and their brands. This attraction happens by knowing what I like (my tastes) and what I want (my desires).
I remember my days of practicing law. I never ever consciously focused on anything other than being a good securities lawyer. If you would have told me to work on my brand, focus on emotions and being more emotionally attractive, I would have thought you were crazy. Back then, there was no focus on these concepts, sadly.
What was true, though, was that I naturally operated this way. I liked my clients and colleagues and enjoyed interacting outside of the substantive work. Operating this way as a lawyer got me seen, heard and promoted regularly.
I realize the hard part here- as professionals, we do our substantive work and believe that is all that it takes to be seen and heard as a great brand. After all, we’re professionals with thriving careers. We are not experts on how to win over others with our charm.
Nothing is further from the truth. I think in order to gauge our attractiveness as a brand, we need to take the entire definition above into account.
Stop and think for yourself- how could your brand have more attraction power:
- How “charming” are you? Where can you do better? If you have no idea, be self-aware of how your brand goes over.
- Does your brand have power to elicit a positive response from others? How can you be better? Consider each and every meeting a practice ground.
- Are you irresistible and draw people in? What’s one thing you can do to be different in this regard? Remember, slow and steady wins the game.
- Are you aware of others desires and tastes? Do you take others into account at work? If not, how can you be better?
As the statistic goes, 78% of everything we buy is based on how we “feel” about it (product or service) and NOT the content. When I think back to any of my current purchases (for products or services), I’ve bought over 90% of them because I “liked” them.
Now you may think, who buys toothpaste outside necessity of content? Everyone. Otherwise, there would only be one brand of toothpaste instead of so many of them all competing for your dollars.
Same thing for professional service providers. There are so many professionals doing the same thing out there. The name of the game isn’t how great you are at your job (you’ll have to prove that to me after I hire you), but whether you “move me” to want to hire you. That’s actually good news and it’s all based on your individual brand- as a human being.
I remember the days when I practiced law. Towards the end of my 14-year career when I no longer wanted to practice, I was an entirely different brand. I don’t think I could have moved anyone to want to hire me, plain and simple. How could I- -I didn’t want to be a lawyer!
So here are three ways to move me to buy your brand as a professional service provider:
1. Be likeable– You can’t count on your intellect and ability to do the work to get you clients and a magnificent brand. Would I want to be your friend? Would you want to be your own friend? Stop and think, how like-able are you?
2. Create emotional resonance with me– I remember when I practiced in Washington DC, the common small talk question was, “what do you do?” I was a victim of asking that question, too. It was just awful and left the conversation very dry and cold. Now it seems people have stopped asking that question. However, we still talk too much about our work. Stop telling me how great you are at what you do for a living. Start telling me about yourself as a human and then I’ll emotionally connect. From there, I’ll buy anything from you.
3. Find your happiness– It’s becoming more common to have dialogue on being happy these days. But do you really own it? I know it is hard. I consciously practice being happy each day. Some days it is really hard for me to find that happiness for myself. So I get mad at myself, then sad and then come back around to give it another go. If you can’t be happy, then you can’t emotionally move me with your brand. Why? Because happiness is the only emotion that sells. It’s contagious and leaves your brand unrivaled.
I recently took to reading the Tao Te Ching. It is known worldwide as The Book of the Way, which is really a guide to the art of living. It was written by Lao-tzu, said to be a contemporary of Confucius (551-479 B.C.E.).
In the Tao Te Ching, Lao-tzu insists on the concept of “doing not-doing”. What this means is doing less that is forced and allowing life to just flow. How often have you experienced the situation where you kind of “gave up” trying so hard and did less? Did you end up seeing/getting better results? I am guessing so.
In this concept of “doing not-doing”, Lao-tzu does not mean being passive. Unfortunately, that’s what we all seem to think it means to sit still and let life happen.
I remember in my practice as a lawyer, I was always “busy” doing things. If it wasn’t the active practice of law, it was something else: teaching yoga, running, reading, other appointments. My list was endless. I used to think I had to be a certain way as a lawyer. This left me very rigid and blocked so much of my creativity as a lawyer. One thing was for sure: I wasn’t going with the flow of anything in life. I was unhappy a lot.
As I shifted professions, I realized that the end was not my goal. I had no real “end” I was shooting for anymore. After all, I no longer cared to make partner in a law firm or to be General Counsel somewhere. Been there, done that.
This reality freed me up to just “be”. That’s right. Just sit still and do less. Now, I’d be lying if I claimed to be in perfect mastery of just “being” and not running around thinking I have to do so much. I’m working on it. I’m a work in progress. I’m proud of myself for even having self-awareness around the concept.
Here’s what I have learned: strong brands do less and “be” more.
No where was this clearer to me than watching the finals of American Ninja Warrior the other night. The final challenge, on the road to being the winner of $1,000,000 and the title of American Ninja Warrior, was to climb a 30 foot rope in under 30 seconds. When they interviewed the winner and asked him how he mentally was able to achieve this amazing act, he said, “I became one with the rope”.
Now you may think this is cheezy or crazy. Fair enough. But consider, what he was really saying was the same thing Lao-tzu said: he was being and not doing so much. He was finding his rhythm and groove with the rope instead of fighting against the rope to climb it and conquer it. He wasn’t resisting life, but flowing with it. Resistance leaves us tired and unhappy. That’s a bad brand.
Effective brands that resonate emotionally with their audience have certain magic to them. To do less, is to be more adaptable, flexible and go with the flow.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying to sit around and be passive and lazy. Strong brands also have conviction, drive and a purpose to be of true service to others.
What does this mean for you? Stop and think:
- How much do you take on in any given day?
- How does it make you feel when you don’t cross off everything on your list? Do you consider yourself a failure?
- How do you come across to others when you take on so much and are constantly “doing”? Do others see a flexible, happy brand or a rigid, tired, stressed and unhappy brand?