Knowing What You Want


This weekend while on the way to go mountain biking, a friend told me that he was trying Christmas gifting differently this year. Normally, you pick a gift for a friend or family member and have varying amounts of thought, shopping frustration, and success involved. Adults often go buy what they really want on their own and trying to be inventive can be painful. So, figuring he knows what he wants best, he declared it a Narcissistic Christmas. Each person buys themselves a couple reasonably priced presents which they’d want to receive, wraps them, and puts them under the tree. Then everyone else gets to watch them unwrap something which will make them happy. This year I actually made a wish list for my in-laws who always give me books – and it’s what I got.

The Narcissistic Christmas Present
The Narcissistic Christmas Present

During the same drive, we also talked about personal branding because the group he’s in asked me to participate in a webcast on the subject. I’d also just written a blog about it on LinkedIn and this site. He challenged me to write about the Narcissistic Christmas and I told him that I’d connect the two seemingly unrelated topics. There’s one strong thread between them: Knowing what you want.

If you buy yourself that narcissistic gift, take the time to wrap it, put it under the tree, and wait until those close to you can watch you open it, then there’s some thought, work, and pride which went into it. That present to yourself was stalked while you waited for an excuse to buy it. It’s valued over something someone else would buy you and it’s true to who you are. That’s exactly what the first step in personal branding should be: uncovering what “true to who you are” is going to be. I phrased that carefully. Future tense is there for a reason.

You should identify what traits, skills, and attributes you want to have as the identity you’re known for. You could be known for specific knowledge, abilities, outlooks, empowerment, empathy, or nearly anything. It may be something you don’t even know or do yet which will require work to achieve. It will certainly require work to be excellent at it and known for. Also, it should be all-encompassing. Work skill alone isn’t enough to get it done. An expert who’s a jerk or quirky to the point where they’re tough to work with has a crappy brand. Personal growth is a key component, it’s “personal branding”.

The best brands are unique, special, have a few core elements, and embody an emotional response the instant you see a logo or name. It all starts with that narcissistic present you give yourself. There should be something joyful for others when they see it and what it represents about you. Take the time to get real introspection on who you are, how you want to be known, and understand what work it will take to get from Point A to Point B. Actively being creative is a great path to help you understand and fulfill that journey.

Building/shrinking skills
Building skills over time may strengthen a current interest and mean you do less of things which aren’t aligned to your future you.

This year, I gave the other members of my team one of the books I had my in-laws get me. If you want some light reading to help you get started, I highly recommend Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon. Get it in paperback and flip through it with some chill tunes, plenty of time, and a glass of something. The first line in it is “All advice is autobiographical. It’s one of my theories that when people give you advice, they’re really just talking to themselves in the past.”

So here’s my advice: Pick an aspirational goal of who you want to be and how you’re thought of – and work from there.

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