Who Are You Really?

Tom Peters book “the brand you 50” is a great read. I often find myself revisiting the book for personal inspiration. The concept of the book is to provide guidance on how to transform from an employee to a brand that people want to engage with. Today, I decided to reread a few sections. I thought sharing some of my thoughts about Tom’s counsel would make a good follow-up to the post about Bob McDonald’s values-based leadership.

Tom is a big believer in the power of working on things you value. He challenges you to think about meetings you attend and to ask yourself if it is a good use of your time. Perhaps the most provocative question is – Was your yesterday a sleep walk, or did you make a distinct contribution consistent with the big things in this life that you value? Unfortunately, for many people the true answer is that it was more of a sleep walk.

Three Questions to Ponder

Got a Personal Mission Statement? If not, why not? If you do, do you use it to guide the choices you make? Like Tom, Bob McDonald is a believer of writing down what you value and sharing it publicly so you can get the support of your community to stay on course.

Who are you? This is Tom’s #11. Pretty simple question, but I suspect the answer is fairly complicated. Call it an elevator speech if you like, but everybody should have a pithy statement of who they are. It drives clarity of purpose. Another way to think about it is to view you as a brand. What is your promise? Remember, your promise should be relevant, competitive and authentic. Defining yourself through a memorable brand statement is a real personal challenge. But, the pay-off can be huge. Being aware of your image (today’s reality) and desired identity (tomorrow’s possibility) provides you with a clearer path to personal success. Of course, the other key is following through on that plan by continually developing the skill sets that make self-actualization possible.

How evangelical are you? Tom’s #12 challenges you to think about your personal commitment level. He encourages people to rewrite their titles to reflect who they believe they really are rather than the hierarchal position they may hold in an organization. He gives examples to illustrate the point like – “Raging Inexorable Thunderlizard Evangalist”. I admit that particular title doesn’t get my heart racing, but I do get Tom’s point. If you could write your own title to describe your passion, what would it be? Does it excite you? Can you see yourself being evangelistic about delivering the responsibilities of the title you’ve selected? If the title exercise doesn’t work for you, try writing a tagline for your personal brand. What would it be? Are you fully committed to living up to it day in and day out? Are you the pig or the chicken? [For those of you who may have never heard the story, when it comes to a breakfast of bacon and eggs, the chicken is a participant but the pig is fully committed.]


Setting a clear direction in life is not an easy task. Life is never truly predictable, and it passes faster than you imagine. Having a sense of who you are and how you can uniquely contribute provides some great guidance when the choices in your life are not black and white. In my experience, staying true to yourself generally leads to the best choice. But, like many things it is a journey. You change based on your experiences and your personal brand is enriched along the way. In my opinion, revisiting the exercise of clearly defining who you are and what you value is time well invested. I’d encourage you to consider carving time out before the end of the year to answer some of the questions Tom Peter’s raises. I think you’ll find the outcome surprisingly helpful.

Your Thoughts?

What has your experience been with personal branding? Any success stories you can share as encouragement for others starting their journey?

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9 Comments so far

  1. Robert Loggins

    November 28, 2011

    Briefly…I choose to be a little weird. Not aloof or offsetting, but just different from the norm. A little more wit. A little nicer. A little more knowledgeable. Sadly, due to the absence of black males in my industry, I already stick out for simply being able to present myself like the “majority”. So in a complex paradox of confusion, I am both “normal” and “abnormal’…which in an of itself is quite interesting.

  2. Daniel Hebert

    November 29, 2011

    Good post Ed! I like your point #2. I think it’s really important to take time and figure out who you are in order to brand yourself. I wrote a post about personal branding yesterday, and some aspects that I feel are important in order to have a good personal brand. Check it out: http://danielghebert.wordpress.com/2011/11/28/what-the-ufc-can-teach-your-about-personal-branding/

  3. Tina Lund

    November 29, 2011

    This is a good, yet personal question. Im sure we each has a different way. For me it is a promise that I have standards according to my education, culture, experiences and constantly reviewing them for errors and changes. However, it is not always bad to be a little stubborn and stick to my own set of values no matter what. Sometimes, I call it “having standards”!

  4. Michael Lin

    November 30, 2011

    Just like with any branding exercise, you must first know what your main message will be. Be clear on what you will stand for. What qualities do you want other people to associate with you? Are you a Rolls Royce? A Ferrari? A Toyota? A Casio or a Rolex?

    You also need to be aware of your industry and whether or not the above “Brand You” is appropriate. If your industry (and clients) is focused on convenience and accessibility, then being an exclusive luxury brand is self-defeating.

    Don’t try to sell everyone a Cadillac when they just want (and will be satisfied with) a VW Beetle. In fact, Beetle-buyers will be turned off by a Cadillac salesman/pitch.

    When you match your message with the cleint/industry needs, that’s where the iconic brands stand out and then repeat the message consistently. See, e.g., Prudential’s “The Rock.” Perfect for their industry – and even more so now that 20 years ago. You even see their logo when the webpage flash file is loading – awesome use of dead-time to reinforce their message. See: http://www.prudential.com/view/page/public

  5. Dimitry Korolkov

    November 30, 2011

    Hi Ed

    Thank you for the impulse to stop for a moment and think deeper. I guess “Who are you?” is truly a key question.

    The next step probably would be “What do I really want to do with my life?”.

    Of course, it is just the beginning of the long journey, but… I know personally a significant number of cases, when just writing down of the answers to those simple questions has finally changes the whole destinies!

  6. […] people talk about branding, they mention stuff about know who you are, be authentic, tell a story, and show your personality. And that’s all good and true. […]

  7. George Harben

    December 1, 2011

    Take great care, it may be the most important brand you will ever have or know. You need to brand yourself before you get branded by a less than kind individual. A brand is somewhat parallel to building a reputation. Focus on your strengths, try to overcome weaknesses through education and mentoring, and readily admit your shortcomings. And the journey never ends.

  8. […] Who Are You Really? […]

  9. […] people talk about branding, they mention stuff about know who you are, be authentic, tell a story, and show your personality. And that’s all good and true. […]

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