In the digital marketing world, one of the most difficult tasks we face is determining our own personal brand. Much has been made of promoting it, of sharing it with the world and being known for being remarkable, but much less has been made of actually finding it within you.
How do you know what story to tell about yourself?
One of the ways to find your story, to find your brand, is to look for threads that are consistent throughout your life. Take the time, as Mitch Joel urges, to write out your own life story.
Once you’ve written out your story, look for common themes. Look for the ways in which you’ve helped other people, made contributions to their lives. Chances are, you’re going to find some threads that run throughout the tapestry of your life.
For example, when I was 7 years old, I was in the local bowling alley youth league. The bowling alley was run by a retired ex-Marine who loved his sport and his business, but was deeply averse to technology. That year, in order to stay competitive, he had installed automatic scoring machines on his lanes which caused him no end of trouble. Each Saturday morning, I’d help him get his scoring machines up and running. In return, I’d usually get a slice of pizza and some soda for my time, making it my first paid technology gig.
This is a theme that would recur over and over throughout my life. I earned money in college working at the help desk, built a persona reputation for knowing what I was doing with technology professionally; heck, at one point my graduate school created an award (The Boston University MS/MIS Outstanding Technology Service Award) to acknowledge the work I had done in my program.
That was one thread. There was a second thread running through the years of my life. I vividly remember giving many speeches throughout high school and being fairly good at convincing people to follow a course of action, so much so that I ended up being class president, which for a nerd in a school with a popular and strong athletics program was no small feat. Along the way, I helped a few other like-minded nerds work on their “election” campaigns, doing everything from copywriting to graphic design. For one year, the various student bodies at my high school were all run by nerds.
This thread continued throughout college and graduate school as well. I remember being one of the first students to make use of the all-school email list (much to the annoyance of the system administrators), setting up one of the very first web sites for my martial art on the Internet in 1994, running discussion boards, doing banner ads, and much more. This thread of marketing runs through my life fairly constantly as well, showing up over and over again.
It’s no surprise, then, that I’m finding happiness in using these two recurring themes together professionally and that I’m fairly good at doing so. The story of my life indicates that these are core strengths of mine, things that have been with me since my earliest years. They’re the things I’ve been doing for longer than nearly anything else, so it makes sense they’d be strengths.
What are the common threads that run through the tapestry of your life? What is life constantly tapping you on the shoulder about, reminding you of the compelling message of your life, indicating and pointing, perhaps even shoving you towards the work you’re supposed to be doing?
Your life is not an accident!
Look at it again through this new perspective and see what life keeps telling you that you should be doing!
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Another way to develop this… create a matrix and add Spiritual, Emotional, Intellectual and Physical into different columns.
Then you can see that patterns repeat across all of these and sometimes intersect, which gives the lovely feeling of deja vu 🙂
As always, great post! Reminds me of Steve Jobs speech at Stanford where he says “Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college, but it was very, very clear looking backwards 10 years later. Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards, so you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”