- Who & Why?
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?
I’m not sure what is harder; working towards my goals or trusting that I’m making good progress to that goal. I mean, how much effort should I be putting in? Am I on even on the right track?
Take my efforts toward health and fitness. Around this time of year, everyone is into more health and fitness. For me, it is a life-long journey. But how am I supposed to know if I’m doing “enough”? Is it a weight loss goal? Is it inches lost or muscle mass gained? Or maybe both?
It can be maddening. Or does it have to be that way?
Judging our progress on business development and self-growth can be challenging. Self-doubt is a nasty habit that keeps us in self-sabotage mode.
I have plenty of clients wonder if they are making progress along our journey together. Sometimes our branding work is so seamless and painless, that clients wrongly attribute their growth and progress to something outside of our branding work together.
So how can we know if we are growing and if our brand is shifting and growing?
Simple. It’s all about self-awareness. Do you have some degree of inner peace that you didn’t have before? In other words, do you feel you are being more transparent and authentic in your business and career? Do you have less fear- fear of success, fear of failure, fear of not doing the “right” thing? Does whatever you are doing feel “right” deep down in your gut?
Try it on and let me know. This is all a process. Just stay self-aware and you can’t go wrong.
Right around this time of year most of us go into a bit of a panic. After all, it is a new year. What did we not do so well in 2016? How can we be better in 2017? Will it be painful and how can we ensure success?
I am guilty of this line of thinking, too, at the end of each year. Over the years though, I’ve fortunately managed to shorten how long I stay in the grips of fear.
First, I stop and realize that just because it is a new year, it doesn’t mean I necessarily have to do anything differently if I don’t want to do so. It’s a bit hard to get motivated in the dead of winter in January. I’m better motivated at the beginning of Spring. After all, Spring signals re-birth, the earth coming out of winter hibernation and fresh starts.
So does this mean you get a free pass for the next three months until March? Not necessarily, if you can help it. You can choose to see things differently at any time of the year.
As a personal branding expert, here are my top 3 tips to keep top of mind in 2017 in order to shine. Once you master these three areas, then your brand is more solid in general.
- Self-awareness– in my world the only brands that succeed are those with self-awareness. First and foremost, just be aware of: a) how you come across and b) how you want to come across to others. Is your real message coming across and resonating with your audience? If not, just step back and take a good look at what is coming across. Don’t feel compelled to change it yet. The first step is to just observe what is NOW. After all, if you don’t know what is and what isn’t working, how can you become better and improve your brand resonance with your audience?
- Clarity– There are “two Cs” in developing your brand for your audience in general. The first is clarity: are you clear about who you are? This includes who you truly are outside of work and how you want to be of real service to others.
As emotional beings, we only engage and buy from those with whom we connect. That emotional connection only comes when we, as your audience, really “get” the authentic you. Without being clear with yourself first, there is no way you can come across with clarity to your audience at all.
Finding and defining your brand with clarity may start off somewhat painful. Why? Because I’m asking you to go into the truth of yourself. This part really has nothing to do with your career or profession. That’s what makes it hard. The spotlight is all on you. I’m asking you to remove the cobwebs and search your memories to find the real you.
- Consistency- once you have clarity around your brand, now you need to share that brand with your audience consistently. We are all over-texted, over-tweeted, and over-caffeinated. That means our recall capacity is lower. So you need to ensure that you share your one true message with your audience with consistency. Consistency increases our feeling of safety with you. It means you are going to deliver what you said you would. It helps us trust you. In turn, this will help ensure I remember you.
Does that mean you say the same things over and over again the same way on your videos? No, not at all. That means you understand that we need to hear your true core message and meaning many times in order to have it trigger recall of you. Then I will be moved to act and follow up with you, engage with you, hire you, etc.
So what does all this mean for you and your brand? Ask yourself:
- Are you genuinely motivated to choose to see things differently in 2017? If not, then no worries. Relax, take the stress off yourself until you are ready.
- Do you have self-awareness around how you: currently come across AND want to come across with your personal and business brand?
- Do you have clarity around who you are as a person?
- Do you consistently share your clear personal brand with us.
As my business grows and I’m blessed with new opportunities, I get new titles with each new position. Just last month I was on a site visit of various hotels in order to book a hotel venue for a conference I am chairing. The hotels put all the spotlight on me, since I am the decision-maker. If I say “yes”, the hotel stands to gain lots of business from my members attending the conference.
In all of this, I had to stay focused. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the moment and get an over-inflated sense of myself with each visit to a new hotel. I had to keep in mind the wise words of my mentor, James Espey, who brilliantly says, “it’s not about you, it’s about your title”. He should know. After all, James Espey spent many years leading the creation and building of some of the world’s greatest brands including Baileys, Johnnie Walker Blue Label, and Chivas Regal 18. He’s been recognized by the Queen of England for his achievements to the spirits industry.
Wow, is James Espey correct as I learned and continue to learn each day. In my case, the hotels were not treating me like royalty because they liked me or respected me and my brand. The hotels were behaving in response to the title I carried. They would have treated any person with my title in that way. Kind of hard on the ego at first, and then it is very liberating to know who you are as a human is NOT your title.
Wealth is also not tied to your brand. I think many of us strive for wealth in order to get respect. However, once again I think people aren’t necessarily respecting YOU, if you are wealthy. They are attributing things to you based on your wealth- they may not even know you and your brand.
Just last weekend I was at a party- well over 100 people in attendance. Here’s what I noticed.
There were three very wealthy couples/families at the party:
Couple #1: Self-made uber wealthy people. Very down to earth and have worked very hard for their huge accumulation of wealth. They share it with others. People love to be around them and acknowledge this couple. Why? Because the couple is not just wealthy, but fun, easy going and humble. Their brand commands respect because they give respect.
Couple #2: They started out with lots and lots of family money. However, they worked very hard at two separate businesses to add to their wealth. In other words, they didn’t just eat mom and dad’s money. People acknowledge them and notice them at the party because this couple has worked hard to stay successful. They are also humble and never flaunt their money. They seem to recognize their wealth is not who they are. Others see this, too.
Family #3: This family is comprised of three adult children of a very wealthy father. Their father accumulated his massive fortune working with his brothers running a very reputable and honorable business globally. Their father has passed on. Unfortunately, the three adult children (now well into their 50s) have never done anything to “earn” their fortune. To my knowledge they have spent daddy’s wealth. As a result, the siblings show up “demanding” respect because they are their daddy’s children. It’s really sad to watch. One of them even raised her voice to me once and said I was rude to not go up to her and acknowledge her and say hello to her. Really very sad. This person was clearly wrapped up in her wealth– actually in her daddy’s wealth. People do recognize the three adult children. However, it is not because people respect these three children. It’s hard to respect someone who has never worked for their wealth and who demands others to respect them. I’ve come to realize if people recognize and respect the three adult children, it may only be out of respect for what their father achieved and not for their own brand values.
So what does this mean for you? Stop and consider:
- How often are you wrapped up in your title or monetary status?
- Do you find your real brand shines through at these times? Or does it feel fake and forced?
- If you are considerably “wealthy” (define it however way you wish), do you allow your wealth to be a “silent wealth” where you show up humble and down to earth? If so, this is the only way you can garner real respect and positive attention from others. This is also the way to be a role model for others.
- If you have an important title (define “important” however way you wish), stay aware to distinguish when the limelight is on you, the real person, and when the attention is directed at your title only. There’s a big difference, as James Espey so beautifully points out.