Your weirdness is your brand
Updated: Oct 27, 2019
A successful architect talks about nearly drowning as a kid. His Dad was looking away when it happened and throughout his life he’s had dreams about venturing out into the deep ocean.
This “kind of weird,” share came up when a group of professionals were discussing milestone influences in our lives.
The emotional story was surprising from this quietest member of the group. It made more sense when he started talking about his struggle to venture fully into the creative design projects he craved – often playing it safe within the ‘shallows’ of more predictable government planning work. Did this childhood trauma wire him to believe his survival would be threatened if he tried something too adventurous? Rather than viewing his cautious disposition as a disadvantage, he went on to create a hybrid professional world which balances risk-taking with security – introducing distinctive new approaches to public sector work. His cautious instincts have schooled him in the art of navigating the risk-averse world of government to negotiate visionary outcomes. Today he is responsible for creating some of the most unique and dynamic public architecture in Australia.
Courtesy of Shane Stagner, Unsplashed
A confident young woman I work with tells how she had her dress ripped off her and eaten by a goat when she was six – leaving her naked and ashamed in front of her classmates (and phobic of goats). The story sounds hilarious at first— yet there were other childhood issues that enflamed that experience for her. She had health concerns, wore an eye patch for years and had wild unruly hair that left her feeling weird and ugly as a child. Which is hard to believe because as an adult she’s stunning, sophisticated and highly fashionable. It’s no accident she’s ended up with a passion for work within the health and beauty sphere and has quickly become a humble but sought-after identity within this space.
I HAVE LEARNED TO LISTEN CLOSELY TO THE “WEIRD” AND OUT-OF-PLACE STORIES – THEY ARE OFTEN A HUGE CLUE ABOUT WHAT DRIVES A PERSON AND THEIR TALENT LATER IN LIFE.
Here is my own monument to weirdness. I grew up in a cult (you can read about that here) — and by the way the weird goat picture relates to the above story, not the cult story!). It took me years to talk about that — until I realised that back story has been one of the driving forces in my current professional life and now helps define me in a positive way.
I grew up in an environment where nobody was allowed to stand out and everyone behaved in a uniform way. Freedom of identity was denied. So it makes total sense that I would go on in my career to help people have visibility, profile and an authentic, original voice (personal brand). I also am a great champion of entrepreneurs because they have the courage to break out of the mold and dare to do things differently. I was denied my uniqueness, I now celebrate it in others.
WEIRD IS A WINDOW INTO THE GREATNESS IN PEOPLE
Your personal brand, like any brand, won’t ring true or attract people if its not built on authenticity. So it’s important to get under the skin of who (or what) drives you in business and in life. Why did you start? What’s your backstory? Why do you care about what you do?
Check: Is the message you are taking out into the world authentically aligned to what you care about? It takes time to have a message resonate with an audience. Do you care enough about that message to stick with it?
WHAT’S YOUR WEIRD? ASK THESE QUESTIONS…
Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to help identify some life themes or your area of subject matter expertise. Be deadly honest; there are no ‘shoulds’ here. When answering, don’t discount your full life experience. If you are just starting out on your career — these experiences, even when we are teenagers, can offer big clues about our enduring areas of passion and expertise.
Listen out for anything unusual that pops up — particularly things you are tempted to dismiss or push back into the background. That’s often the biggest clue about what makes you different.
1. Is there a message/experience in your life you have felt driven to share with others? 2. What are the defining moments in your life or career so far — and why? 3. What are the greatest contributions you feel you have made to other people? 4. What are some of your favorite quotes (or common expressions) in life and why? 5. Who is the celebrity or business person you most admire, and why? 6. Who is the celebrity or business person you relate to the most, and why?
Bonus question: If you created a music playlist for your life what would some of the linking themes be across your favourite songs?
Did any recurring themes emerge from this exercise? Within these themes there’s a clue about your authentic personal brand.
For more on developing your personal brand — my book The Business of Being YOU is available on Amazon and in all bookstores.