No matter what the discipline, profession or the industry is, you need to know exactly who you are and why you are going out and presenting yourself as a candidate, corporation or a cause. Everything after that will be a natural extension of these core understandings. Because if you don’t know why you’re doing this and what value you hope to offer, it’s going to be very difficult to convince anyone else.
Start with a blank piece of paper and define yourself. For example, I’m also a musician, and when I look at all the lyrics that I’ve written over the last couple days, I can tell that one of the things I’m most fascinated with is the intersection between the individual and the community. That’s the central interest and fascination of my life. Knowing that I can look at the different opportunities around me.
Knowing that core truth about yourself, and knowing the message you want to express helps you to be knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and passionate which people pick up on a gut level. Because if you try to go out and present someone other than who you actually are, people can pick up on it.
Whether they realise it or not, it’s going to make a massive difference in whether you gain their trust. In the first five to 10 minutes of meeting anyone, you would have taken your measure of the person and in some ways made said, “This person is who they say that they are. They know what they’re talking about. Or, they don’t.”
What we think of as making a decision is just about rearranging the furniture of our minds around conclusions that we’ve already reached. Leaving a good impression on others comes from being authentic and honest with yourself first. The key to any personal brand is authenticity and sincerity.
As you grow, scale up, go into different markets, and mature, there should be a cohesive narrative arc to who you are. Even if you change and learn new things, it’s all based on that core honesty of knowing who you are and displaying your authentic self. On the other hand, if your foundations are built on some level of dishonesty, first and foremost to yourself, then everything you build up from there is going to inherit that fundamental structural flaw.
Throughout the process, you need to remember why you are creating that personal brand—why are you crossing the line between being a private individual and having a somewhat public-facing personality? Is it to get people to engage in a cause, raise awareness around an environmental issue, or increase the stock price? Once you answer that, then you at least know why you’re doing this. When things get tough, this answer will help you get through the difficulty.
If you want to refine your brand to reach as many people as possible, you need to be aware that there’s a fine line where you can easily cross over and begin justifying fundamental changes to who you are and your original value proposition questions.
If the reason you arrive at this presentation, lecture, or product marketing, is because you are decisive, you have sharp elbows, and you’ve made some enemies, then that probably means that your key values are putting your main attributes to use. You’re relevant to this marketplace because you have sharp elbows, you’re decisive, and you’ve made some enemies.
Balance that. Don’t lose yourself in the pursuit of excellence.
For example, one of the reasons people gravitated toward Barack was because of his oratorical skills. You don’t want to get to the point where you’re changing his oratorical skills. Self-regulate so that you're not rude, but if you lose who you are, then you start to look like all the other people that you’re competing against.
Of course, honesty doesn’t ensure success. The marketplace might still reject your product. Nothing guarantees success, but what honesty does offer you is that if there is success, and you move forward, you can continually scale and build on that success consistently.
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Former Senior Aide
President Obama Campaign