What Do You (Want to) Stand For?

“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

Today’s wisdom message is all about branding, but not in the traditional sense. I am not talking about popular brands like Nike, Starbucks, or Gillette, but rather the brand of you: your personal equity. The brand of you is critical, yet many tend to overlook it. So let’s dive in.

First, what am I talking about when I say “the brand of you?” Think about your personal brand in the very same way you would a product or company. We form opinions about the brands we buy based on the marketing messages we hear, the experiences we’ve had buying & using the product, or what others have said. Based on these opinions, brand equity can be very high, very low, or anywhere in between. You may be willing to spend a lot of money on a brand you believe has a strong equity, or provides you with great value. The same is true with you, me . . . everyone. Your personal brand encompasses everything about you: the values you showcase when dealing with others, the quality of work you do, your tone of voice, how you deal with challenges, how you allocate your time, the clothes you wear . . . everything that others have experienced or know about you. The time or money others are willing to invest in you is an outcome of your equity. Importantly, this is a case where perception is reality.

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 Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net/Stuart Miles

Only your interactions with others will formulate their opinion about your equity, or the brand of you. For example, I consider myself to be very spiritual. I read a religious-based message at least once a day, I start & end every day with a prayer, and thank God throughout the day for the countless blessings he has bestowed upon me, and continually ask for His guidance. However, this article is really the first time I’ve shared that about myself. I have a tendency to be somewhat private on the religious front. Therefore, this very important aspect of my life is not part of my personal brand. Rather, anyone who knows me at all knows that exercise, nutrition, and health are central in my life. I spend a lot of time exercising, talking, & writing about these topics, and as a result of this outward focus, they have become part of my brand, or what I’m known for. Similarly, a former colleague of mine built up a very strong equity for himself around the idea of story-telling. While he was a traditional market researcher, he dedicated much time to developing and leading training on the idea of story-telling as a way to influence others. This became part of his brand, and set him apart from his peers (His name is Paul Smith, and he recently got a book published called “Lead with a Story” if you’re interested in learning more.)

So why do I write on this topic? It’s important to understand that with any of your goals and aspirations in life, your personal brand will be right there beside you. It can be an enabler to you reaching your goals, or it can hold you back. It’s also important to understand that each & every interaction with someone, whether it be a client, co-worker, or family member, your personal brand is on display. Each interaction is an opportunity for you to build your brand, or detract from it. If at every interaction you have with someone, you communicate in a positive, motivating, solutions-oriented way, you’re going to build an equity of being someone who is great to work with & generally be around. Opportunity will follow. On the flip side, if you get caught up in office or neighborhood gossip, or tend to be a bit of a drill sergeant with clients, not as many doors will likely open, even if your work-product is strong.

So my question to you is this: have you spent any time thinking about your personal brand? If you asked your family or a close friend what you stand for, would they play back the qualities you want to stand for? Or, is there a gap between your desired equity and how others perceive you today? Decide what you want to stand for, align your time & energy against these things, be consistent, and strengthen the brand of you!

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