I recently completed writing the expanded and updated version of Be Your Own Brand (to be released in January 2011). So for the last few months I have spent time reflecting on how my perspective on personal brand has evolved since writing the first copy of the book.
There is a certain amount of irony when you discover that after writing a book your learning on the topic accelerates. The richest learning comes from the community of readers and those experiencing the attendant workshops our firm has conducted around the world. Another thing I learned is how tethered an author can become to the topic he writes about. This connection to the topic may come in the form of being asked for advice about someone’s personal brand or being drawn to people whose actions and stature qualify them as strong personal brands. Since writing the first edition of the book one indisputable conclusion that I have drawn is that strong personal brands come in many different forms, as varied as the human race.
At the core of the revised version of Be Your Own Brand is the importance of making a difference. The first paragraph of the Introduction of the new book best summarizes my point of view on making a difference to strengthen one’s personal brand.
Everyone has a brand, and anyone can be a strong brand. It doesn’t involve changing your personality—you can be an introvert or extrovert. And it’s definitely not about trying to be something you’re not. The difference between one personal brand and another is that the person with a strong brand utilizes his or her special qualities to make a difference in the lives of others. Read that last sentence again, because it is the foundation upon which a strong personal brand is built. Using one’s values and distinctive qualities to make a difference for others is the core ethos of strong, thriving personal brands.
The standard for making a difference can be small or huge. The feeling of making a difference is universal for the person on the receiving end of the difference and the person making the difference. Making a difference by being more of who you are is one of the most empowering parts of striving to become a stronger personal brand.
Making a difference is a relative concept. Many people would like to know that they made a difference that changed the world. The truth to the matter is that relatively few of us will ever achieve that status. Individuals who make outstanding accomplishments, whether it’s creating a game-changing business technology or discovering the existence of DNA, are truly special people.
These people are special not just in their accomplishments, but also their character. There is a plethora of books written trying to explain the special qualities of highly accomplished individuals, no matter their field of endeavor. One take on this subject that I have found interesting is based upon the concept of hypomania. I found the material contained in the book The Hypomanic Edge by John D. Gartner to be a very approachable take on hypomania. In his book Gartner describes a number of individuals whose achievements are legendary and relates their successes to their hypomanic tendencies. His book is a worthwhile read.
In a nutshell, people who are known to be hypomanic are described as having restless energy channeled into wildly grand ambitions, a tendency toward euphoria and a feeling of being destined to change the world. In addition these types of people: thrive on very little sleep; speak fast; have racing thoughts and are not patient with others who cannot keep with their racing thoughts; short attention spans; are outgoing and competitive; and enjoy activities that have risky consequences.
Not sure you want these types of people as your best friends? The truth is that these people with hypomanic tendencies are not your average neighbors and may even turn most people off.
But hypomanic people use their “grand ambitions” to take on big challenges and develop BIG ideas. Their tendency to believe they are “destined to change the world” keeps them focused on using their talents for a purpose larger than themselves. Their comfort with “risk taking” is a driver of accomplishing what many others dare not attempt. Their “high energy, need for little sleep and competitive nature” supports their zeal for making a difference beyond what others have accomplished.
Does one have to be hypomanic to be a strong brand? Of course not!
Learning from the individuals on the extreme end of the spectrum of making a difference can illuminate the core concepts of being a strong brand. In the revised version of Be Your Own Brand I emphasize three important concepts that anyone can apply to becoming a stronger personal brand: the strength of authenticity, the power of alignment and the importance of making a difference. When one examines the people in Gartner’s book and other cases of highly accomplished individuals it is easy to see that these people clearly made a difference; they thrive on their authenticity (some might replace authenticity with a brand style that borders on the fringe) and they align their talents and energy (one might also characterize their “alignment” as obsessed) to make contributions that are important to many others.
I am convinced that anyone can be as strong a brand as they want to be. Start today by holding yourself accountable to making a difference no matter how small or large. Everyone around you will benefit and so will you.
Posted by Karl D. Speak