Tell Me, Who Are You?

iStock_000023596130Large“I woke up in a Soho doorway / A policeman knew my name…” ~ Pete Townshend ♫♬♪

If asked to give a clear statement of who you are, what would you say? Like most people, chances are what you say will depend on the circumstances. In a job interview, you’d draw on one set of details. On a date, you’ll choose others. No surprise, really. After all, we are complex beings with various abilities, beliefs, interests, values, passions, experiences, and more!

Chances are you have, and convey, various stories that express who you are. But it’s unlikely you consider yourself to be fictional. [Tweet this]

Yet, as a commenter on one of my LinkedIn posts, pointed out, Professor Bruce Hood, author of The Self Illusion: How the Social Brain Creates Identity, argues that the self is essentially a fiction we create. Based on this, she asked, “…how do we be true to a self that’s fictional?”

She has a point.

Nonetheless, as a practical matter, I’d guess you don’t ordinarily think of your illusory self. Rather, like most people, you engage life with a sense of the essential being that separates you from others. When you think of being true to yourself, you typically mean staying aligned with your view of your unique character. [Tweet this]

Yet, based on my work on “personal brand,” I see story as critical to identity, and have long agreed with Jonathan Gottschall, author of The Storytelling Animal, who says, “This story that I tell about myself is only based on a true story. I am in large part a figment of my own yearning imagination.”

While I believe that we can uncover, and be true to, a core sense of self, I do know that story does permeate our being.

We Live In Story

Any time you relate a personal experience, you’re telling a part of your story. [Tweet this] And even if not crafted with the skill of an expert storyteller, your story gives the listener a window into your life and a glimpse of who you are. And when those views reveal shared experiences, they foster a bond or emotional connection.

For most of us, this process is so natural as to be nearly imperceptible. We experience the benefits of stories without a whole lot of thought about the nature of story, and why stories are so deeply woven into our every day experience. In fact, the science of storytelling tells us that we are “hard-wired” for stories. So much so that they have emotional and cognitive effects that shape our beliefs and our choices.

Stories You Tell Yourself

Stories are as powerful as they are pervasive. On some level, I think virtually everyone believes this. Yet, if I were to say, “Your story is powerful,” you, like most people, might become a bit self-conscious and tend to downplay that power. But you shouldn’t.

In a compelling blog post, Seth Godin discusses the power of narrative to keep our lives consistent and predictable. He points out that making a life change that could lead to more effectiveness and success is often so risky that most people will choose to double down on their current story. In his words:

“If you went to bed as a loyal company man or an impatient entrepreneur or as the put-upon retiree or the lady who lunches, chances are you wake up that way as well. Which is certainly safe and easy and consistent and non-confusing. But is it helping?”

He goes on to say:

“The truth though, is that doing what you’ve been doing is going to get you what you’ve been getting. If the narrative is getting in the way, if the archetypes you’ve been modeling and the worldview you’ve been nursing no longer match the culture, the economy or your goals, something’s got to give.”

Put differently, your stories can fuel your success. [Tweet this]

Controlling Your Narrative

While Godin’s intent is to challenge you to change for the better, his view may seem stern. Yet, as the craft of screenwriting suggests, a narrative – any narrative – is driven by selecting, interpreting, and arranging events to lead to a specific conclusion.  Of course, not all narratives drive frustration. The stories that successful people tell themselves support behaviors that make them effective. Sometimes, following a narrative can be intuitive, and seemingly without effort. Yet, for most of us, navigating on autopilot is a choice we can ill afford. [Tweet this]

Today, in our social media driven conversational world, people seek to connect, partner, and do business with people who “get it” and therefore “get them.” And the way they determine this is via the life/career story others convey! So, controlling our narrative has become critical. It’s a process that requires both external feedback and introspection. As creative writing instructor Robert McKee points out, “Self Knowledge is key – life plus deep reflection on our reactions to life. [Italics his].”

Hey! It’s Neuroscience!

As Lisa Cron documents, in Wired for Story, there is solid brain science behind storytelling. While her book is aimed primarily at writers, it actually makes a great case for uncovering and telling your story.

Of course, referencing neuroscience brings us back to Bruce Hood, who in a Wired interview, says, we are “…a complex system of evolved functions.” I agree. Yet, he also makes points that seem to me to support a stable identity over time. He says,

Our consciousness of the self in the here and now is the “I” and most of the time, we experience this as being an integrated and coherent individual – a bit like the character in the story. The self which we tell others about, is autobiographical or the “me” which again is a coherent account of who we think we are based on past experiences, current events and aspirations for the future.

Ultimately, we are who we tell ourselves we are. And it’s fair to say our sense of identity arises in story. [Tweet this]

Why Taking On Hard Challenges Matters To Your Success

Set A Bold VisionFrankly, I’m not a history buff. So, anniversaries of historic events often get by me unnoticed. Yet, I did notice that this July marks 45 years since Apollo 11’s historic mission to the moon. It made me recall watching the television broadcast totally mesmerized!

Yet, on some level, I think what marks this achievement as one of the most significant in history, is less about what happened in 1969, but what happened seven years earlier. That is, President John F. Kennedy’s “moon speech,” delivered in an address at Rice University, September 12 1962.  Here’s what he said:

“… But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?”

“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”

When you read this speech in it’s entirety, you see JFK’s clear and specific vision for one of the greatest adventures in history.

So, why do I bring this up?

Bold Vision And Determination

Make no mistake, Kennedy’s speech also provided a clear statement of determination, and framed the necessary execution to achieve the mission. And the biggest take away, I believe, is this: We become more successful when we set a bold vision and take on and accomplish hard challenges. [Tweet this]

Sure, I realize we tend to regard the tasks we face, whether at home, at the office, or at the gym as tough. Yet, for most of us, these situations are more often like a walk in the park. Sure, uncertainty can create some anxiety. Yet, there is in most of what we do a degree of safety. After all, what’s the worse that can happen?

So, let me ask you, when was the last time you took on something that was hard? So hard you wanted to just quit. But didn’t! Now, think about it. By digging deep didn’t you learn some great things about yourself, and your capabilities? And wasn’t that accomplishment worth savoring more than others?

Still, rarely do we push ourselves so far beyond our comfort zone that we end up feeling totally spent. [Tweet this] Maybe it’s time we did that more!

Learning To Embrace The Suck

Let me put this in the context of physical achievement.

In the culture of CrossFit, one popular phrase is “embrace the suck.” As you might guess, this phrase emerged not because workouts are easy but because they’re hard. These workouts go way beyond 30 minutes on an elliptical! Typical CrossFit workouts are structured to totally wipe you out!  In short, they suck. And that’s really the point. This is high intensity training that’s designed to provide maximum aerobic and strength conditioning.

It may seem like this is an extreme way to go about fitness. And certainly CrossFit is not without critics who point to its good, bad, and ugly aspects. Nonetheless, I believe this fitness phenomenon contains lessons that go beyond the workout to apply more broadly to success.

Turns out, there’s even more.

What Neuroscience Shows

J. C. Herz, author of Learning to Breathe Fire: The Rise of CrossFit and the Primal Future of Fitness, also points out that CrossFit’s “constantly varied functional movement, executed at high intensity, across broad time and modal domains” has benefits that go beyond physical training. Push Your LimitsIn particular, workouts engage the attention association area of the brain. This is what controls complex movements, like coordination, accuracy, agility, and balance. What’s more, Herz explains, it “…  is also the source of human will, goal-setting behavior, and purposeful organization of thought.”

More specifically:

“…the part of your brain that enables you to do pull-ups and squats – but isn’t engaged for a bicep curl or leg extension – is what gives you the discipline to study instead of watch TV, or to budget vs. rack up debt on a credit card. High-intensity functional movement requires will power, in no small part because will power itself is what’s being built in the nervous system during the workout, through the movements themselves. Every time you snatch a barbell from ground to overhead, the complexity of the movement reinforces the circuitry you need to formulate a goal.”

CrossFit, in other words, is built on the attributes of fitness that connect brain and body. [Tweet this]

How You Do Things

There is an inscription above one of the doors at the CrossFit gym at Reebok World Headquarters that reflects a part of their corporate philosophy:

“How you do anything is how you do everything.” [Tweet this]

It is a statement of moral excellence and leadership that reflects dedication to technique and execution. It about heroic effort in taking on things that are “crazy” hard. Sure, CrossFit may not be for you, but the discipline and courage that drives it can be harnessed to meet other challenges.

We live, today, in a turbulent time where success often requires becoming comfortable being uncomfortable. [Tweet this] And while success may be achieved in a series of steps, it nearly always starts with a larger vision. In fact, setting a bold and specific vision for accomplishing great things, you set in motion a process of personal development and achievement, even if you need work to master discomfort.

So, challenge yourself in a big way. After all, why the moon?

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What bold challenges are you taking on? How do expect these challenges to change you and lead to greater success? Just leave a comment. I’d love to know.

Reclaim Your Future: 12 Practices To Help You Own Your Life

Note: This is the second of a two-part series about reclaiming your future. In Part 1, I described the increasingly surreal, matrix-like climate that government seems to be creating, and touched on some reasons for taking charge of your life. In this part, I provide an overview of actions you can take to begin to own your life, and exercise more control over your destiny. To go deeper on any point, just follow the links.

Reclaim Your Future (2)Have you ever found yourself saying about another person, that they ought to get a life? Yeah, me too. And if you’re like me, on occasion, you’ve probably found yourself admitting, “Man, I need to get a life!!” So, my question is, when do you say that? [Tweet this]  

Well, again drawing on personal experience, I’ll bet you’ve been most prone to feel a need for big change when:

        • You’ve felt like things were slipping out of your control.
        • Things beyond your control were negatively affecting you.
        • You’ve felt obligated in some uncomfortable way.
        • You faced too many competing demands, and felt overwhelmed.

Too often, people feel the biggest need for change when they’re trapped in circumstances that cause pain. And there’s no bigger source of pain, than a feeling of overwhelm that makes you feel helpless. It’s even more painful when you see things you can change, but you’re afraid to give yourself permission. [Tweet this]  

Well, stop it! Instead, get ready to take action!

I won’t claim to have an answer for your specific circumstances. Owning your life and reclaiming your future is ultimately up to you. [Tweet this]  Still, here are 12 ideas to get you started:

1. Journey Inward.

Since the time Socrates first uttered the injunction “Know Thyself,” countless others have chimed in with the same advice. So, I’m betting you’ve heard this. Yet, I’d guess you haven’t really done the kind of deep dive of introspection that leads to genuine insight. If not, why not give it a shot? And if you need an easy way to get started you may want to check out, Kerry Pastine’s nifty little book.

2. Establish Your Quest.

It’s very likely that one of the biggest challenges you’ve ever faced – or need to face – is making a conscious decision about what you want out of life. Yet, counterintuitive as it seems, you’ve probably been trying to achieve it for a very long time. You see, I believe we decide pretty early on, and often unconsciously, what we want our lives to be about. It’s a big reason, why I’m such an advocate of uncovering your story. I’ve coached lots of people on doing this, with great result. But I know for some, this retrospective exercise is tedious. So, alternatively, you may want to invest effort in some visioning work to figure out your quest.

3. Understand How Others See You.

Having worked with lots of people on their “personal brands,” I can tell you that many have only a faint idea about the real value they deliver to others. Maybe that’s you too. So, how do you find out? You ask. You can ask others directly, or you can choose to do an anonymous 360 survey. However, you do it, you’re likely to validate things you already know, but also to uncover a few surprises. Still, if you are opting for the red pill, this provides a unique reality check.

4. Be Authentically You.

As you probably know, we’ve crossed a threshold into a value-driven world. It’s no longer sufficient to define yourself in terms of a title or professional category. Instead, you need to answer a prospective employer’s question, “What can you do for me?” So, you need to position your unique value. Yet, who you are and what makes you worth knowing is a question that will be on the mind of everyone you meet, whether you meet them at a social function, at a community event, or at the gym. And when you meet others, it always helps you to connect when you’re being your best self.

5. Seek Belonging.

Of course, it’s easier to connect with others when you’re tuned in to the needs, wants, values, and beliefs of the communities you seek to belong to. People tend to gravitate to people they resonate with. And if you’ve ever experienced the magic of discovering shared interests and experiences, you already know this. Now build on it. Because the possibility of becoming known, liked, and trusted by others can often hinge on the perception that you’re “one of us,” and that you “get it.” So, find your people in all parts of your life, and make yourself visible to them!

6. Open Yourself Up To New Relationships. 

It’s said that variety is the spice of life, and this is ever more true of relationships.  So, seek out friends from a diverse array of ages, genders, ethnicities, and locations. Interacting with people from around the world can broaden your perspectives, and enrich your human experience. Diverse FriendsThis is much easier than ever because social media allows you to put yourself out there. So, jump in. And when you do, be a proactive conversation starter. Often saying hello and making a relevant comment often launches relationships! Do this in face-to-face meet ups too. In fact, forget the script, and dare to engage in conversations without a net.

While you’re reaching out to make new friends, don’t forget to cultivate relationships with people in your work-related communities. You probably already know lots of people who matter to your work life. Still, there is real benefit in growing that community beyond geographic and industry boundaries. Again, think variety! There is some evidence that you become more valuable as you grow a wide and diverse network.

7. Run Your Career Like A Free Agent.

The world of work has changed. Forever. While it’s true that there are still people who fit the traditional model of employee, the trend is toward free agency. Most often, this means you’re a contractor, and probably short-term. You make a valuable contribution to projects for as long as you’re needed. Then you move on. So, even as you deliver value to one client, you always need to be looking for that next opportunity. Being a free agent requires skillful self-management as well as clarity about what matters to you in finding happiness at work. Yet, more fundamentally, it means choosing yourself! Because if you don’t, you risk becoming a career zombie.

8. Learn New Things.

You probably already know that in a rapidly changing world, it’s important to keep up. Lots of people don’t, but it doesn’t mean you have to join them. If you want to reclaim your future, you need to do the learning that makes your career portable across time. Determine what you need to learn, then put yourself in charge of making sure it happens. And if you need a little extra motivation to start, see what one of the most challenging fitness systems can teach you about success.

9. Take Care of Yourself.  

Owning your life means you’re responsible for regular maintenance.  So, dedicate time to the self-care that will sustain your personal vitality. As you know, it means investing time in proper nutrition, exercise, and other wellness practices. Still, there are ways to fire up your resilience by adding other successful living practices.

10. Forget About Reinventing Yourself.

Many people, maybe even you, often face life’s disappointments with the resolve to reinvent themselves. It sounds pretty attractive, actually. Perhaps because of the promise of a fresh start. Problem is, self-reinvention is a myth, and can lead to an illusion of change. Better to engage in the kind of critical self-assessment and learning that allows you to bring out your best.

11. Decide To Be Happy.  

How do you attain happiness? Well, if you’re like a lot of people, you might be waiting for some magic event or set of circumstances that will make you happy. Decide To Be HappyThe truth is, though, happiness is less a matter of circumstance than personal choice and daily practices. And there is some significant happiness research to back this up. Turns out, there are eight happiness practices that work. Find out what they are and start applying them right now!!

12.  Give Yourself Permission To Keep Trying.

It’s pretty amazing how often people who need to make some positive change will announce their bravery or say they’re giving themselves permission. Declarations are great! But change only lives in action. And mastery only results when you move through feeble your first steps to eventual mastery. Sure, we all know what Nike and Yoda say about doing and trying. Forget all that, and keep trying. Let’s face it, you don’t learn, and you don’t get better, if you don’t try. On the road to reclaiming your future, you will stumble and fall. Yet, if you truly want to own your life, pick yourself back up, and keep trying.

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Was this helpful? If so, do you want more? Let me know the challenges you face, and I’ll address them in future posts. Just leave a comment. Or, if you’d like to privately share a challenge for me to address, use my contact page.

Your Quest Is Your Story

Your QuestOkay, let’s face it. If I were to ask you to tell me about your quest, you’d probably give me a funny look and walk away. Well, unless you’re into online game experiences like MMORPG. But even then, we might quickly end up talking past each other.

What’s Your Story?

I bring up the idea of quest because I’ve been thinking about ways to help people tune into their personal stories. Despite the nearly incessant advice to tell your story, many people find it daunting. [Tweet this]

In fact, in recognizing the need to get story telling advice to more people, my friend Jeff, recently invited me to appear on The Next Step with Jeff Rock. He wanted to discuss several personal brand story telling tips I’d once blogged about, and to go into a little more depth. While you may want to listen to our radio chat, or read my original post, I wanted to offer you new perspective on story.

On some level, I suppose today’s emphasis on uncovering and telling your story can seem like so much hype. It seems trendy.  So, you may think emphasis on story will simply pass. Only it won’t: Because we live in story. [Tweet this]

Stories are at the very core of our humanity. Stories are how we make sense of the events of our lives. As Seth Godin points out, it’s the power of narrative that keeps our lives consistent and predictable. Or, we can harness that power to change our lives for the better!

Controlling Our Narrative

Godin notes that too often the stories we tell ourselves get in the way of more effectiveness and success. They create a comfort zone that holds us back. I think this is especially the case when we navigate life on autopilot. We lose control of our own narrative when we operate without self-knowledge. As a consequence, we fail to make choices that let us live in a way that’s personally meaningful and fulfilling.

Controlling our own narrative means shaping our own story. [Tweet this] And that requires having some sense of what we’re seeking in life. It helps us build on experiences that have significance to us, as well as direct our efforts toward achieving what we most want for ourselves. Ultimately, our narrative is about finding and achieving our own personal vision of success.

How Your Quest and Your Story Are Related

Our lives are filled with many ups and downs. We succeed. We fail. We trip and we get up. Yet, the reality is that while many things happen to us, only some experiences factor into our story. So, the question becomes how do we identify the experiences that fit into our narrative and move us forward toward success. [Tweet this]

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Don’t Become A Career Zombie: How To Survive the Apocalypse

For my last post, I drew on some Halloween inspiration to help you avoid the fate of The Invisible Man in managing your online presence. I promised a second installment to share how a career lesson from the zombie apocalypse of World War Z applies to you. So, read and learn.

Apocalyptic retro poster. Sunset. Grunge background.I love it when I gain perspective from unlikely places! This is probably not so surprising. I’ll bet it’s the same for you.  Yet, for me, the more unlikely the source of insight, the bigger the impact. So, stick with me, and I’ll show you what I mean.

Lately, I’ve been reading, Max Brooks’ World War Z. What’s amazing is that it has offered what I think is a central lesson for career management, today. Yeah, I know. Zombie war? Career management? You’re probably thinking, “Give me a break!” [Tweet This]

Not A Zombie Crisis But An Economic One

Frankly, needing to survive a zombie crisis is highly unlikely. Yet, we have, for several years, been living through economic crisis – with clear impacts on careers. This is not news. Yet, what may surprise you is that this jobs crisis has deep roots. [Tweet This] In fact, writers like Charles Handy and William Bridges, long ago predicted the demise corporate positions. And despite the fact that people continue to pursue full-time spots, Dan Pink has correctly characterized our nation as a free agent one – and it continues to evolve.

So, what does this have in common with surviving a zombie war?

World War Z character Arthur Sinclair, Junior, in describing an effort known as the National Reeducation Act, talks about how careers like executive, analyst, consultant which were viable in the prewar world became totally inadequate in the time of crisis. The world no longer needed people to talk on the phone to broker deals or to review contracts. He then makes an astute observation:

“That’s the way the world works. But one day it doesn’t. No one needs a contract reviewed or a deal brokered. … For some, this was scarier than the living dead.”

By contrast, the people who did well were

“… people who knew how to take care of themselves, how to survive on very little and work with what they had.”

This is as true in our real crisis as it is in Brooks’ fictional one.

Choosing Yourself

While it’s important to have specific strategies, I think this suggests a fundamental capacity for self-direction. Over the years, I’ve tended to think of that as making choices that allow you to own your life. Yet, there is another slant on autonomy that’s offered up by James Altucher who calls characterizes it as choosing yourself.

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Hiding In Plain Sight

The Invisible ManAh, it’s that time of year! You know, beer fests and Halloween. I don’t know about you, but it’s actually Halloween that most fires me up!  Not only is it good fun, but it also offers rich symbolism and abundant metaphor. So much so, it inspired me to write a couple of posts that apply eerie – and even ghoulish – themes to career success.

This first post focuses on avoiding the fate of The Invisible Man in managing your online presence.

Meet Griffin

In the classic novella by H.G. Wells, the main character, Griffin, is a man consumed with his greed for power and fame. As a scientist, he believes that “…if a person’s refractive index is changed to exactly that of air and his body does not absorb or reflect light, then he will be invisible.” Of course, he decides to carry out this procedure on himself. And voilà! He becomes invisible. But there’s one small problem. He can’t reverse the process. This, of course, leads to mental instability and his ultimate death!

Avoid Using Camouflage

Being able to hide oneself does not, of course, require becoming invisible. Actually, the ability to hide in plain sight is built into nature. It’s called camouflage. It’s a protective adaptation that allows organisms to blend in with their surroundings.

Camouflage may provide survival advantages in the wild. Yet, blending in is a huge disadvantage in the world of work. [Tweet This] In fact, if you’re a consumer of career and business advice, you know the emphasis is not on fitting in but on standing out. In today’s competitive world, the thinking goes, you need to discern and leverage your personal brand across a range of media – and especially on line.

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Living Successfully: Five Lessons from Traveling in Cuba

JoyfulIsn’t it amazing how travel can change your perspective? This probably applies no matter where you go. Yet, I think observing the daily routines of people in another country brings unique perspective. Having a cultural benchmark can focus your thinking on what’s important in life. [Tweet This]

Recently, my wife and I went on a Go Eat Give educational / humanitarian group tour of Cuba. It was a truly unique and amazing experience! While there, our group had the opportunity to learn about the country from the Cuban perspective. We also had the opportunity to roll up our sleeves to work on several volunteer projects, including weeding at an urban organic farm, planting trees at a large metropolitan park, and participating in a community art project.

Overcoming History

Having had this opportunity to observe work and social life, I was amazed by the incredible resilience of the Cuban people. They continue to be vibrant, despite the hardships their post-revolutionary history has brought their way. I was also struck by the degree to which meaning and fulfillment seemed to pervade work and life for so many Cubans. [Tweet This]

Sure, it was clear that some people worked in stressful occupations. In particular, people who worked in the highly individualized production of Partagás cigar factory. They did not look happy, despite having one of the most prized jobs in the country! Yet, many others seemed to approach their daily routines with a sense joy and fulfillment. Musicians, performers, artists, farmers, and (yes) even some retail and service workers seemed genuinely engaged and happy in performing their work. Yet, in Cuba, nearly everyone, it seemed, found a way to inject some fun into work time! [Tweet This]

Live Now

Still, by and large, my observations supported the view that true career and life success goes well beyond the narrow money and power measures we typically apply. In fact, if you’re like a lot of career-oriented people, you may think that success means working hard, socking away lots of money, and delaying gratification until retirement!

Well, snap out of it!!

According to Ralph Werner, if you don’t invest in a full life today, that goal of happy retirement is likely to be a huge disappointment. Even more so, if you haven’t figured out what would bring you the most joy!

So, I’d propose you turn your ideas of success on their head, and pursue that fuller, richer life now!! [Tweet This] To that end, consider acting on these five life success lessons, drawn from the Cuban experience:

Make Your Private Enterprise Personal

Perhaps the most successful people in Cuba are the ones who are able to approach work as creative and personal expression. Certainly this includes artists who translate their creativity into revenue. Yet, even more striking, I think, were the owners of Cuba’s paladares, that is, privately-run restaurants that provide home made food in a personalized atmosphere with attention to guest satisfaction. Success lesson: Bring who you are to what you do, so you can give your clients a more personalized experience. [Tweet This]

Enrich Your Life with Social Engagement

One of the more interesting observations we made was the nightly gathering of groups of people along the Malecón, or Avenida de Maceo. While it was easy to quip that this represented Facebook, Cuban style, it revealed the deeper and universal truth that our communities sustain us. Success lesson: Make time for daily social interaction, be it via social media or in person – or both!! And don’t think of this face time as networking, but as sharing stories and dreams that deepen your connections with others. [Tweet This]

Actively Manage Your Whole Life

Among of the things we learned during our visit to an organic farm was that the sustainable fertility of the soil required active management, including weeding, pest control, and rotation of crops. Success lesson: Actively manage your life, including eliminating clutter, avoiding toxic people or situations, and cultivating new interests. [Tweet This]

Practice Your Dance Steps

While in Cuba, we noticed our tour guide practicing her dance steps during short wait times. She was not the only one we noticed doing this. Clearly, becoming a better dancer takes drill. Interspersing practice into your day, as time allows, helps you improve while adding enjoyable diversion. Success lesson: Invest time daily, even in small increments, in practicing whatever it is that you enjoy and aspire to master. [Tweet This]

Fire Up Your Curiosity and Entertain Other Points of View

Needless to say, relations between the United States and Cuba have been tense for well over fifty years, and we Americans have been treated to a relatively negative view. Yet, every story has two sides. With a more complete picture, we arrive at different conclusions and a better mutual appreciation. Success lesson: When you take time to understand the differing views of others, you can gain fresh perspective that will enrich your life. [Tweet This]

How To Be Everything Other People Aren’t

Dare To Be YouHave you ever thought about what makes you truly different? I have, and I’m betting you have too. Of course, the bigger question is the extent to which you can translate those insights into more success in your career and business life. One way, of course, is to develop your personal brand. Yet, in pursuing a recipe for branding yourself, you risk being just like everyone else.  [Tweet This]

So, what to do?

I have some ideas. Before I get to them, however, I want to give you a little context. It comes from the work of Harvard Business School professor Youngme Moon. In her book, Different, she tells the stories of brands that have broken the mold, in some way, to stand out and attract loyal followings.

I don’t know about you, but I love the idea of upsetting the status quo! Frankly, it can be risky, but it seems those who do, reap some very nice rewards. [Tweet This]

Take Cirque du Soleil, for example.

It is one example of what Professor Moon calls “Idea Brands.” That is, brands that challenge limits and assumptions. They are brands that break away by disrupting our consumption classification patterns with new frames of reference. It’s what Cirque du Soleil accomplished in its careful positioning as “being everything a CIRCUS is not.”

As she points out, idea brands are “…not perfect brands. … They are polarizing brands. They are lopsided brands. …[yet]…they make perfect sense…” Actually, I think the unique imperfection of idea brands, offers some clues for how to be more attractive to the people we want to serve.

Okay, now for some ideas: [Read more…]

Should You Work on Your Personal Brand or Your Personal Attraction?

Cool EggHave you ever noticed how some ideas or activities can get caught up in the causality dilemma? Not sure what that is? Well, you probably know it as “the chicken or the egg?” Certainly, it’s not often that we need to ponder what came first. Yet, there are aspects of our careers and business lives that can benefit from considering causality. Personal branding is one of them.

As I would frame it, the causality dilemma for branding is this: Does “your brand” find its grounding in the carefully crafted word picture you present to the world, or in the way you engage the world every day?

The Brandwagon

As personal branding has become mainstream, there’s been a flood of advice on how to create, or build, yours. These days, it’s not just brand strategists who promote the importance of branding, but also career coaches, resume writers, social media strategists, and other experts. Lots of people are jumping on the “brandwagon.”

As you might expect, the spectrum of advice ranges from on-target and useful to misguided or superficial.  Even detractors have offered advice; namely, personal branding is loathsome, so don’t do it. Yet, the consensus is that you need to have a personal brand, leading more and more people to buy in.

And why not? Building a brand is generally perceived as the hallmark of success in business. It is believed to offer a differentiation that supports competitive advantage. But does it really?
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Be Yourself, Only Better

goldfish jumping out of the waterHave you ever noticed that a lot of people simply aren’t comfortable in their own skin? Of course you have. I have too. I think it may be true of all of us at different times in our lives. Ultimately, however, we learn and we grow. So, most of us seem to find a level of self-acceptance allows us to have rewarding and successful lives.

What Authenticity Is

Frankly, though, there are some people who translate their discomfort into a quest for self-reinvention. Others, it seems, translate it into an obsessive concern with authenticity. Regarding being authentic, a friend of mine once made the interesting observation that “The people most concerned with being authentic, usually aren’t.” [Tweet This] Perhaps this sort of façade is what prompted Gapingvoid cartoonist, Hugh Mac­Leod, to call one of his e-books, Authenticity Is The New Bulls**t. In it, he lays out a pretty simple success philosophy:

“i. Work hard.

ii. Be nice.

ii. Have great product or service.

iv. Don’t suck.”

I like it. Yet, I think a rewarding and successful life can be even simpler, and may only take trying to be just a little better every single day. While I’d love to claim this insight as my own, it’s actually something I discovered quite by chance. So, let me tell you a little story…

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