- Who & Why?
When I was a practicing securities lawyer, I had a very particular notion of what it meant for me to be a success. Being successful for me meant to either be a high-salaried employee, meet and exceed my billables each month and/or get promoted or find a new and better job within my industry. That’s it, I’m sorry to say.
As I always say, branding is a marathon with many iterations. We are never broken or “need” anything. We choose to see things differently and then grow and change. Dynamic brands that are open to change succeed.
Looking back on my previous career and life, I feel sorry for that iteration of me. I truly was “Version 1.0” of my brand. I wasn’t really open to change because I didn’t know what I didn’t know.
Until one day I wasn’t happy anymore as a securities lawyer.
That was the day I opened my eyes and was ready for change and growth. That was the day I decided to be truly successful. Was it easy? No. Change is never easy. Was it worth the ride? Heck yes!
As I look at the definition of “success” as a brand and as a person, I’m reminded of something I heard at Sunday service once at the Unity Center here in San Diego. “Success” is defined as a) continued happiness and b) reaching for worthy goals. In looking at what are your worthy goals, we were told to look for i) what are your longings in life? and ii) where do you come alive in your life? This really struck me as a healthy view of success.
Looking at it from a client-facing perspective, if you believe my premise that a great client experience is based on each and every employee having a great brand (having their values in hand, having empathy, knowing who they are), then a successful and happy employee MUST lead to a great client experience and higher revenues for any organization.
In life and at work, we put up such resistance. We fight the norm, we fight the establishment, we fight our boss, we fight our colleagues and we end up fighting ourselves. The result? Unhappiness.
All of this leads to so much friction and negative effort. We exhaust ourselves and leave others looking away from us. Our brand is spoiled.
At that Sunday service, I was reminded that the word, “Affluence” comes from the derivative, “to flow with”. So what if you let it all flow naturally? I guarantee you that you would be happier and more successful.
What does this mean for you?
Stop and consider:
- Are you happy? If you hate my question, there’s something really great for you in this query. Stay strong and be brave enough to look at it.
- Are you reaching for worthy goals? Stop and question your goals. Looking back, my billables were NOT my worthy goals in life.
- What are you longing for in your life?
- Where in your life experiences do you find you really come alive? Why?
- How are you nurturing happiness within your employee pools’ brands?
- Where can you give up resistance in your life and go with the flow towards affluence?
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I mentor a young woman who is getting her undergraduate degree. She recently interviewed me for her entrepreneur class. One of the questions she asked moved me very much.
Her question was, “What does it mean to you to think about yourself as an entrepreneur?” I haven’t sat down and thought about this question in a very long time. I sat back to reflect in order to give her an honest and sincere answer. Instead what I discovered is that I became quiet emotional at the privilege I had to be an entrepreneur.
As I reflected on the last ten years of my life in running this company, two things stood out as themes to my answer: honor and responsibility.
To be an entrepreneur for me means to be a pioneer and a trend-setter while helping people and organizations choose to see things differently and excel. It is an honor and a privilege to be an entrepreneur and it is clearly NOT for everyone. Everyday is exciting and fun. Others may see risk and instability, I see a promise to be better and impact the world in a positive way. I see it as my responsibility and an honor.
Every day it is my privilege to be allowed into our clients’ lives and hearts and minds. Rarely is there a day when a client doesn’t drop their guard and become vulnerable with me in an effort to be better and do better. What an honor and a privilege it is to be me and to have clients trust me in this way.
What does this mean for you?
Even if you are not entrepreneur, this line of thinking will serve you well in your work and career and personal life, too. Stop and consider:
- What is an activity in your life that is exciting and fun for you?
- Can you take your current career and/or job and choose to see it from the vantage point of an entrepreneur- as fun, exciting and a true contribution to others?
- If you answered “no” to the question above, can you take just ONE aspect of your current career and/or job and choose to see it that way?
- In your life and career, have you stopped to listen to feedback from others regarding what you do that can be seen as: a) a privilege and b) a way to be of service to others?
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Just the other day a client gave me a compliment by letting me know how our work had made such an impact on their personal world and in their business culture. I was touched. I was also proud. I had to take a moment and step back to check in on my mentality. Was I buoyed too much by the compliment and patting myself on the back? If so, was I running the danger of letting my ego run away with the compliment and hijacking it to my brand detriment?
In brand development, I always say that everyone must be able to receive and distill compliments well. The practice serves so many various purposes.
However, there’s a fine line between taking compliments well and taking those same compliments and becoming arrogant as a result. The former is so attractive to your brand. The latter is awful for your brand.
The trouble: It’s so easy to run the risk of the latter.
As my mentor, James Espey, says “Confidence without arrogance” is the goal in life and in business. He’s certainly lived that humble and successful life for years.
What’s a person to do? The number one rule is to stay self-aware. Much like I do my best to do, stop and think to yourself:
- Did I really hear the message that was meant to come with that compliment?
- How can I use it in a humble way to boost my self-confidence?
After all, self confident brands win.
If you’d like to discuss this topic or any related topic regarding how to market and sell yourself in a healthy and authentic way, please drop me a line. I’d love to connect and discuss.
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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Back in the days when I was a practicing lawyer in Washington DC, I used to straighten my very curly hair. Every day. I used to get up early, forsake sleep or a work-out, and stand there and sweat it out. Pulling. Tugging my hair. Struggling. Resisting my natural curls.
I thought that in order to be seen as a competent lawyer, I had to be serious. I assumed curly hair meant I wasn’t serious. Straight hair equaled serious and competent.
One day I woke up and changed careers. What followed was a return to my natural curls. No more waking up early to straighten the curls. My morning options opened up: I could sleep, meditate longer, work out more often.
Does that mean I am not as competent or serious anymore? Not necessarily. I’m definitely competent and you better believe I’m serious about my work as a brand strategist.
I just stopped taking myself so seriously and decided to lighten up. That meant accepting who I was naturally- curly hair and all. I stopped resisting my natural tendencies and started to “own” them.
You know what happened next? My curly hair became a part of my brand. Used wisely, I was able to balance curls as a complement to my branding strengths and talents. That meant in part that if my hair is curly, I made sure I offset the fun and free nature of the curls with a more smart visual brand (ie, no low cut tops, etc).
My curly hair is now part of my values and signals my creative and fun nature and expertise. No more resistance.
Yet, I regularly hear from so many of my clients that they want to seen as competent so they are working on being more “serious”. What does serious have to do with competence?
Being serious does not sell your brand.
Emotional resonance in brand development is what sells your brand. Emotional resonance is crucial. The only emotion that sells is happiness. So if you are telling me that your serious brand signals happiness somehow, then go for it.
Unfortunately, none of us really intend for our serious brand to be giving off a vibe of happiness. So our brand fails AND you are unhappy and confused, too.
Consider that our need for others to see us as competent is really our desire to be respected by others. It has nothing to do with being serious. Gaining others’ respect means we respect ourselves first. But do we respect ourselves enough first and foremost to own our own strengths (and curly hair)? No one can respect us otherwise- whether we are serious or not.
So what does this mean for you and your business, career, and your business brand, too? Stop and ask yourself:
- Where in your life and career do you think you need to be more competent? Why?
- Do you respect yourself to consider yourself competent?
- How are you trying to achieve this competence by being more serious?
- Where in your life and career could you show up more happy and sell more happy?
- What would your own brand and your business/career brand look like if you were more happy and less serious?