Growing a personal brand is straightforward. Produce a lot of content, and get a lot of people to consume and share it. That’s it. That’s personal branding.
The Beatles are a perfect example. They weren’t an overnight success. They slugged it out playing in clubs and dive bars, often playing two to three times a day, for little to no money.
The Beatles hustled, worked on their craft, kept writing songs, and promoted their music wherever they could. It took them five years of grinding before they signed their first record deal!
And The Beatles are not an anomaly. Countless artists have paid their dues before finding fame: Madona, Adele, J.K. Rowling, to name a few. The same is true in the business world. Seth Godin, Mitch Joel and Chris Brogan all cranked out thousands of words before they became recognized experts.
A brand is a commitment
A colleague recently asked me if I would help her to develop her personal brand. I told her she didn’t need me. Rather she needed to make a commitment to herself.
Would she commit to four hours per week to create and distribute content? That’s the minimum criteria.
She could write an article a week for her blog, she could create a podcast or a vidcast, or she could invest her time in social media. It didn’t matter which medium she selected. She just had to commit it.
It’s not a chicken or egg question, “What comes first the work or the brand?” The work comes first. It always comes first.
Cultivate an audience
“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Or, “If a blog post is published and no one is around to read it, does anyone care?”
Content on its own is not enough. You’ve got to build your audience. You can’t have a personal brand without an audience.
The Beatles worked diligently for five years cultivating their audience before they entered the recording studio. They played gig-after-gig and conducted interview-after-interview to reach new people and create a following.
Cultivating your audience is a question of marketing. You’ve got to market your marketing, because if you don’t blow your own horn, nobody will.
The Personal Branding Formula
Personal branding is not rocket science, it’s a commitment.
Create content. Market that content. Do it again-and-again-and-again.
There aren’t any shortcuts or workarounds. If you’re serious about growing your personal brand focus on content. Create more content, and get more people to consume and share it. The brand will follow.
Your desk is safe. It’s where you come to work every day. It’s where you keep your things, and where you get things done. But your desk is not a place of inspiration.
Strategies, insights and ideas hit you when you’re not looking for them. It’s the eureka effect. Moments of brilliance hit you while you’re in the shower, chatting with friends, taking a walk, or simply observing the world around you.
In an instance you find clarity, and the path unfolds before your eyes.
Create your own eureka moments
Your desk is normal. It traps you in routines and structures to help you be productive. But that structure can also stagnate your ability to create and find great ideas. Your creativity needs a spark or a change of pace to unlock its genius.
Eureka moments are all around you
Connect. Meet new people. Ask questions. Be genuinely curious to learn and hear other’s stories.
Participate. Get involved. Try a new activity. Help someone out. Volunteer your time for the simple act of being generous.
Read. Reading is one of the most effective ways to draw in new ideas and inspiration. Read everything. Explore authors and topics that interest you. Try books outside of your comfort zone. The more you consume, the more ideas you will find.
Observe. Find somewhere that interests you, and park yourself for at least 45 minutes. There’s so much to see. You can watch people, nature, art, or something else. Time is the key. The longer you observe the more you will notice things for the very first time.
Eureka moments happen when you break your routine, and expose yourself to new stimuli. You don’t have to look far for them. It just takes leaving the office, and exploring.
Untether your work
My iPhone is probably the most powerful work device I own. It’s changed my entire approach to getting things done.
Less than 5 years ago I was tied to my desk. I came to my office every day, because it had the tools I needed to get things done. My iPhone has changed all that.
With LTE connectivity, I have access to high speed internet anywhere. I can take my laptop, iPhone and notebook, and be productive anywhere. More importantly, these tools let me change my routine so I can be proactive in finding inspiration.
Your desk is a crutch. Real genius happens when you live in the real world.
How do you find great ideas?
Walt Disney was turned down 302 times before he got financing for Disney World. JK Rowling was rejected by 12 publishers before Bloomsbury took a chance on Harry Potter. Colonel Sanders pitched his secret recipe for fried chicken 1,009 times before he got his first ‘Yes.’
‘No’ is not a bad word, but we’ve been taught since we were children to fear it. Tom Hopkins explains in How To Master The Art Of Selling, “We get it pounded into us that no is rejection—and rejection is painful. No is bad.”
Hopkins advocates, “Learn to love No.” Walt Disney, JK Rowling, Colonel Sanders, and everyone else who has done something remarkable have learned to embrace ‘No’ to fulfill their dreams.
Every ‘No’ gets you closer to ‘Yes’
Rejection is part of life. If something is worth doing, you’re going to face obstacles. You can’t convert everyone to embrace your dreams. People will say ‘No,’ because they’re not prepared to change or they don’t share your vision.
Hearing ‘No’ from others is manageable and positive. Every ‘No’ you receive is valuable input. Listen to the feedback, understand the fears and doubts you’re hearing, and learn from the experience. The next time you pitch you can adapt your message and get even better.
And most important, keep moving forward. Hopkins teaches sales people to “Learn to love No,” because every time you hear ‘No’ you’re one pitch closer to ‘Yes.’
Quiet the ‘No’ inside your head
Internal rejection is far more insidious. It’s very hard to achieve your goals when the voice inside your head is derailing you.
Steven Pressfield describes internal rejection as “Resistance” in his book The War of Art. Pressfield explains, “Resistance cannot be seen, touched, heard, or smelled. But it can be felt. We experience it as an energy field radiating from a work-in-potential. It’s a repelling force. It’s negative. Its aim is to shove us away, distract us, prevent us from doing our work.”
Resistance, the ‘No’ inside your head, is the hardest to overcome. But it’s essential. You can’t get anyone else to say ‘Yes’ until you do.
‘No’ is a measure of success
Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work. I am not discouraged because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.”
Every time you hear ‘No,’ smile a little. You’ve just passed another milestone, and it’s time to try again.
The best marathon running advice you’ll ever get is “Start Slow, Finish Fast.” Lots of people don’t heed this advice. They start out with a goal, and run hard.
Starting out fast feels good. In the first mile their legs are fresh, their energy is high, and they’re exhilarated to be working towards a goal. Then the second mile hits, and they’re already struggling to catch their breath. In the third mile their legs feel like Jello, and each step requires willpower to keep moving. All the fun and excitement is gone.
New Year’s Resolutions are no different. They’re initiated with excitement and commitment, but if you take on too much too soon they aren’t achievable.
Small Steps, Consistent Effort
You can’t achieve a year-long goal in a month, but that’s what many people try to do. They join a gym, start a diet, improve their communication skills, or whatever their goal might be, and then they try to achieve the whole thing in January.
The operative word in New Year’s Resolution is “year.” You’ve got a year to work towards your goal, and a year to instill the necessary habits to achieve it.
A year is a marathon—52 weeks to make your Resolution a reality. Break it down:
- Small steps
- Consistent effort
If you’re serious about achieving your Resolutions this year, break them down into small steps that you can consistently execute every week. That’s it.
There are lots of time management and productivity systems available. Use whatever works best for you. I combined David Allen’s Getting Things Done approach with Seth Godin’s Pick Four books to create my own system.
Each of my Resolutions are executed on a weekly list. On Sunday afternoons I plot out the actions I need to complete through the week that will move my Resolutions forward.
I never leave it to chance. If I don’t push the actions every week, then it’s very easy for me to fall off the pace and derail my progress towards my Resolutions.
Start Slow, Finish Fast
This year is different. This year is your year to follow through and achieve all of your Resolutions.
Take the runners’ advice, “Start Slow, Finish Fast.” By the end of the year, you’ll be sprinting.
Happy New Year! I wish you many successes in the year ahead.
2013 is around the corner, and the annual prediction season is in full swing. Every time I turn on Google Reader or Facebook, I’m coming across a new set of predictions.
Predictions for the economy—oh no, the fiscal cliff. Predictions for consumer electronics—what will Apple do next? Predictions for publishing—the printed book is still relevant. Predictions for social media—something will be the next Facebook. Predictions for everything.
I’m already tired of these predictions. Unless Nostradamus has started blogging, I doubt anyone can accurately predict the future. But you can control your future.
The prediction posts are a distraction. What are you striving for? What impact do you want to make in the New Year? This is your guide.
You will create your own success by being clear about what you want to achieve. And chances are what you want right now is what you’ll want on January 1st. You don’t have to wait for an anniversary to get excited about your goals.
The harder you work the luckier you get.
The more time and effort you put towards your goals, the more likely you’ll achieve them. This is not rocket science. We all know we have to work hard. The problem is hard work gets boring, tedious and well, hard, pretty quickly.
Take hard work to a new level. Focus on sustainable hard work. What can you do every single week to move your goals forward a little bit? Most New Year’s resolutions fail, because they’re not sustainable.
The best way to sustain hard work is to have fun with it.
Some activities will come naturally to you, and be obviously fun. And some activities you may have to teach yourself to like. For example, children do not enjoy the taste of alcohol. We have to acquire a taste for it. The same can be done with almost any activity.
Find an activity you have to do, but don’t enjoy. Break it down, pull it apart and figure out what you like about it. Do it purposefully and consistently for a few weeks, and you may just find there is something rewarding in that activity.
Everything that’s worth doing can be made fun.
Be of Value
Einstein said, “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.”
These are great words to live by. Success is a result. If you put your mind to it and help others, you’ll be guaranteed great results in 2013.
(Image: John Carleton)
What are you known for?
What do you strive for?
What impact do you want to achieve in your career?
Impact is another way to think about purpose. But I like the word ‘impact’ more, because it’s action oriented. A lot of time and energy is wasted on finding a mission, vision or purpose, when usually it’s as clear as day.
Purpose does not have to be complicated. It has to be clear and actionable. So ask yourself, “What impact do you want to make?”
Build upon your strengths
I’m willing to bet you’re already making an impact. It could be great, or you might not even recognize the good work you do every day.
You make an impact every day whether you want to or not. The challenge is to focus in and accentuate your impact.
You will make the most impact by building upon your strengths. The activities that come naturally to you and the areas you gravitate towards are likely where you can achieve the most. These are the traits, skills and competencies that you possess that make you unique. But they’re also the capabilities you can leverage to help others.
Choose a result
As you understand your strengths and where you can deliver results, make it a goal. What kind of impact do you want to make? How will you measure success?
Achieving impact requires a goal. Without a goal you won’t be focused enough on your actions, and the pressures of day-to-day life will distract you from really achieving the level of impact you want.
- Who am I serving? Who are the beneficiaries of my talent and efforts?
- What will they gain?
- How will I measure my impact?
- Who else needs to be involved to maximize the impact?
Clarify your goals, and you will automatically amplify your impact.
Get others involved
The final question, “Who else needs to be involved to maximize impact?”, is essential. There’s only so much you can achieve on your own.
To amplify your impact choose to grow from a doer to a leader. Get others involved. Empower them to achieve their best. Recruit, support and encourage others to assist you in your goals.
When you shift your efforts from what you want to what you will deliver, your impact grows exponentially.
What’s your take?
(Image credit: David Ian Roberts)
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