Welcome to the November edition of your “Year of Personal Branding“,whereI’ve broken down key branding concepts as part of a month-by-month guide to help you with each step of growing (and implementing) your personal brand. As always, I invite you to use these monthly Year of Personal Branding posts as a map that will allow you to navigate all aspects of Personal Branding.
For us Americans, November is the month of Thanksgiving, a time to reflect on what we are thankful for. Oftentimes what we are thankful for is also what we value the most in our lives.
This month, In true Thanksgiving style, we will be looking at your values.
Are you living in accordance with the values you uncovered this year? If you’ve identified discrepancies between your values and how you’ve been living, what needs to change? Of course, this values exploration requires putting aside some time for personal reflection.
But why bother looking at our values?
Here are my top four reasons.
Values bring purpose and meaning into our lives.
Identifying your values and living consistently with them can be a way of injecting purpose, meaning and passion into your brand.
Values lead to a sense of well-being and fulfillment.
Living in congruence with your values can lead to feelings of happiness, fulfillment and well-being. Inversely, when we are acting against our values, we can usually feel that something is off.
Values can be our greatest guide.
They are the leading principles that can guide us through life, kind of like a compass. If we follow our values to choose our jobs, our friends, even what we do in our spare time, chances are we will feel more fulfilled. What’s more, others will sense that we are living in accordance with our values and feel more comfortable in our company.
Values can motivate us.
Values can serve as a great motivator through life, particularly when things get difficult; they can make our hard work and struggle worth the effort. Furthermore, if we identify discrepancies between our behaviours and values, this realization can provide the motivation to help us take action to improve our lives.
To summerize, our values are at the very core of our brands. They embody what we want to be in this world. They represent what we want to stand for. They guide us in making decisions. They are highly individual and personal — and are what make us unique in this world.
For more on assessing your values, check out my blog. You may need to put a little time into contemplating your values, but what they will bring to your personal brand — and your life — will be well worth it. Just the thing to do on a dark November evening!
Each month I give my verdict on who has shown the world an interesting and distinctive brand. My latest personal brand of the month goes to…
The 89-year-old Japanese artist makes for a perfect Brand of the Month this October. After all, it’s Halloween time (and pumpkins are a bit of a thing of hers) and her sold-out exhibit has recently opened at the Victoria Miro Gallery here in London. The exhibition also coincides with the UK release of a film about her extraordinary life, entitled Kusama: Infinity.
Not to mention that her brand has been launching like a steady rocket over the past few years. Large-scale solo exhibitions have popped up around the globe, as well as major touring exhibitions in the US and Europe. Last year, we saw her open her own five-story gallery in Tokyo. Yayoi Kusama has become the biggest-selling female artist in the world, and certainly the most recognizable.
“Kusama with Pumpkin” (2010). Photo: Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/ Singapore; Victoria Miro Gallery, London; David Zwirner, New York; KUSAMA Enterprise
At first glance, it’s easy to see that her brand holds a certain magic. Her outer-branding is spot-on (pun intended!). Her co-branding of course is incredible (her 2012 collaboration with Louis Vuitton produced some of their most coveted bags). But there is a certain depth to her personal brand that makes it extraordinary.
Kusama posing with a bag from her Louis Vuitton collaboration. Photograph: Yayoi Kusama Studio
Authenticity is a prominent part of her personal brand.
Kusama has created much of her unique brand and fascinating works while living voluntarily in a psychiatric hospital over the past 41 years.
She knows herself, and indeed what she needs to take care of herself. She also doesn’t try to hide her mental illness or demons of the past, but instead works with them. She found a way to channel her manic episodes and allowed them to drive her creativity.
Kusama in her signature polka dots. Photo: Wikiart
The hospital offered art therapy courses. She explained, “It made it possible for me to continue to make art every day, and this has saved my life.” Kusama sleeps at the hospital and then works in her studio across the road six days a week. She has a small team of studio assistants and gallerists who look after her affairs in New York, Tokyo and London.
“I have been painting, drawing and writing from morning until night every day since I was a child.” explained Kusama. “When I arrive at my studio in the morning, I put on my work clothes and start to paint straight away, and I work right up until dinner time. I don’t rest. I am an insomniac. Even now, if an idea comes to me in the middle of the night, I pick up my sketchbook and draw.”
Kusama shares that when she was a young girl in a field of flowers, she experienced a hallucination in which the flowers started talking to her. She likened the heads of these talking flowers to dots that went on as far as she could see, and she felt as if she was disappearing (she calls it ‘self-obliterating’) into a field of endless dots. This episode influenced most of her later work.
Kusama in her studio, in front of her work “The Moving Moment When I Went to the Universe”. Photo: Yayoi Kusama Studio
Kusama’s art is very much part of her survival story. In fact, many of her trademark forms today were an effort to manage and make sense of her hallucinations over the years. The first pumpkin Kusama saw was at age 11; when she picked it up, it began speaking to her. She painted the pumpkin and won a prize for it. Almost eighty years later, one of her pumpkin sculptures (2007) sold for $1.5 million at Sotheby’s Hong Kong. Her “art medicine” as she calls it includes a compulsion to spread those forms in a repetitive fashion on every surface, walls, floors, furniture and even the clothing she makes herself, and continues today.
Pumpkins, 2009, Outdoor Sculptures at Victoria Miro, London
Resilience is also a strong feature of her brand.
Kusama is a survivor. She not only endured an oppressive childhood in Japan and a lifetime of mental illness, but also survived (and thrived) as a struggling artist in the male-dominated art world of 1960’s New York .
YAYOI KUSAMA, HORSE PLAY, WOODSTOCK, 1967. Photo: courtesy of KUSAMA ENTERPRISE, OTA FINE ARTS, TOKYO/SINGAPORE AND VICTORIA MIRO
Kusama knew she had to escape her stifling home environment. She made the bold decision to reach out to one of her greatest inspirations, artist Georgia O’Keefe, writing to her for advice. O’Keefe answered her letters, advising Kusama to go to the US and show her work to anyone who might be interested. O’Keefe became a remote mentor of sorts.
Kusama in New York. Photo: www.fashionschooldaiy.com
Speaking very little English, Kusama arrived in New York City in 1958 with a few hundred dollars sewn into her dress and a stack of her artwork and silk kimonos to sell. According to her autobiography, she sustained herself by scavenging food like discarded fish heads. But through determination and passion, she managed to infiltrate the avant-guard art scene and had the first of many exhibitions there in 1959. She met and inspired important artists including Donald Judd, Andy Warhol and Joseph Cornell, and, alongside of them, made contributions towards pop art and minimalist movements.
She was also one of the first artists to experiment with performance art; she would create what she called “happenings” around New York, by getting people to strip naked in places like Central Park and the Brooklyn Bridge, and paint their bodies with polka dots.
Body-painting for Kusama’s Self-Obliteration. Photo: Photobuket
Although she did gain a degree of recognition, Kusama never reached the level of fame as her pop art contemporaries and seems to be largely excluded from pop art history. Kusama herself believes that her original ideas were appropriated by male artists in her New York circles (the film Kusama: Infinity seeks to expose that appropriation).But by the end of ‘60’s, she had managed to lay the foundations of the work we see today.
In the early ‘70s, Kusama returned broke to Japan and checked herself into the psychiatric hospital where she still lives today. Her work was rediscovered in 1989 when the Centre for International Contemporary Arts in New York put on a retrospective of her work. A slow, steady revival started to emerge. And now her resilient brand has become a global phenomenon.
If you’re not one of the lucky lot who was able to snag a ticket to her exhibition, you can still experience Kusama’s magical wonderlands for yourself on social media: #YayoiKusama or #InfiniteKusama
As far as unique personal brands go, Dame Zandra Rhodes certainly ranks up there. I’ve had the privilege of interviewing Zandra about her brand, and have experienced firsthand just how magnetic and inspirational this British icon is. Next year, Zandra will dazzle us with her 50th anniversary show, and to mark this milestone, a feature documentary about Zandra Rhodes is now in production.
Here, I chat with filmmaker and photographer Bridie O’Sullivan, a former student and personal friend of Zandra’s, to learn more about her documentary Zandra with a Zee, and how we can help make it happen!
Dame Zandra Rhodes. Photo: Times Higher Education
Bridie, you’re taking on quite an ambitious project at the moment. Tell us a bit about it.
The film will take us behind the scenes during the run up to Zandra’s 50thanniversary fashion show in 2019, showing us everything from the early stages of research as she forages through her vast archive and looks elsewhere for new inspiration, through to the nail biting last minute backstage changes at the catwalk show itself.
Along the way we will dive into Zandra’s colourful personal history and own archive as she recalls some of her most iconic designs for royalty and rock stars – from the Japanese state banquet dress for Princess Diana featuring cherry blossom, to Donna Summer’s dress featured on her album cover, Bianca Jagger’s glam Studio 54 dresses, Diana Ross’s after party outfits and Freddie Mercury’s white pleated Bohemian Rhapsody cape, and tells the often hilarious or poignant stories behind them.
The film will also take an intimate look at the person behind the brand, as she deals with life concerns about aging and legacy, witnessing how the threat of illness and familial pressures take their toll on her professional life. In the course of this journey we will examine Zandra’s history as one of Britain’s most revolutionary designers, and understand how she managed to maintain her single-minded creative vision for more than 50 years in the harsh fast-paced landscape of the fashion industry.
Bridie O’Sullivan in her documentary Zandra with a Zee
I’ve had the privilege of interviewing Zandra in the past about what an amazing and unique personal brand she has. What was it about her that specifically motivated you to do this documentary?
I have worked with Zandra since I was a 16 year-old student (so nearly 10 years in total now). The documentary is something I started four years ago when I was experiencing my own mental health issues. The process has been a massive journey of discovery and healing. In an attempt to understand Zandra’s own quirks and coping mechanisms, I have started to understand my own, so naturally the film has mental health aspects in relation to coping, ageing, family dynamics and survival with a lot of humour along the way.
Dame Zandra Rhodes. Photo: Facebook
I was motivated to tell this story, as in the current global crisis it will bring the fantasy and hope of
Zandra’s work and teachings to a wider audience, along with showing the beauty of creativity and community. During my difficult battle with mental health, it was this very family unit of support, creativity and fantasy that got me through. This is why this story is so important for me to tell, as it is not just a film about the legendary designer’s life. It is a story of an unconventional family. Zandra’s slightly eccentric mothering/bringing together of people is at the center of everything. It goes beyond the constructs of what success is in terms of the industry and looks to the legacy of people she has taught to buck against the norm. The core of this film looks at the meaning of what it is to be vulnerable and human. It looks behind the fabulous chiffon armor we construct for ourselves.
What about Zandra do you personally find the most inspirational?
It’s definitely her fearlessness, in being herself and creating designs be damned what others think or say.
How has she specifically shaped your personal brand as a creative?
For me Zandra encompasses so much, especially when it comes to growing and finding my feet as a creative. Use of colour, texture and fantasy are definitely massive ones! But I think underlying everything is her teaching about truly looking at something when you’re drawing. I have brought this in to all elements of my film and image making.
Zandra and Bridie in action
In what ways do you feel the documentary will capture her unique and authentic personal
I feel the documentary will capture her unique hands-on approach to design from her travels and sketchbooks, revolutionary take on pattern cutting and her love of analogue. It will also capture her eccentric, youthful, transformative, gritty and humorous spirit, which is such a vital part of what makes Zandra Rhodes.
In what ways will the documentary reflect your own personal brand and story?
In a lot of ways this documentary will reflect more then I could ever say. It marks my journey from adolescence into adulthood, my battle with mental health into recovery. In regards to my brand the process has taught me to have a voice and not to be afraid of being vulnerable.
Last but not least, tell us about how others can get involved and help make this documentary happen!
Check out our crowdfunding page, where there is more information on how your donations will help complete the film. We are also offering loads of amazing one-off perks; from vintage signed and numbered posters all the way up to a couture dress and fitting with Zandra herself.
Welcome to the October edition of your “Year of Personal Branding“,whereI’ve broken down key branding concepts as part of a month-by-month guide to help you with each step of growing (and implementing) your personal brand. As always, I invite you to use these monthly Year of Personal Branding posts as a map that will allow you to navigate all aspects of Personal Branding.
You may not realise it, but there’s a whole team out there that supports your personal brand. As virtual assistant Natalie Guerin of pebble.uk.com pointed out in this article, your team can include a wide range of people in your network; your friends, your personal trainer, your answering service, your cleaner and, of course your team at work, if you have one.
This month, we challenge you to take a closer look at identifying your “A Team” (or “YOU Team”!) and evaluating whether you are getting what you need from them. Are they supporting your brand in a way that is in line with your brand attributes? Have you communicated your values to them? Does your hairdresser understand that you want to look a little edgier? Have you communicated to your cleaner how you want your office or house to be left?
You can also extend this to the people who surround you on a daily basis. Are your friends supportive…or at least provide fun and stimulation and take your mind off work and worries? Or, is one dragging you down with back-handed compliments or draining you with their problems to the extent that you are beginning to feel like their counsellor? Of course, it’s important to help and support people yourself, but if it gets to the point where you know you are being affected yourself, it is time time to draw up some boundaries and point them in the direction of a professional.
Don’t forget your significant other. A supportive partner can be a huge boost on so many levels, but they can also end up a liability! Just as politicians are also judged by their spouses, our own partners factor into how others see our personal brand. We’ve all come across the colleague with the questionable partner, whether they can’t hold their drink, dress inappropriately or just give off the wrong impression. Of course, it’s not all about being charismatic and confident. A quiet and supportive partner can contribute just as much to a personal brand as an openly extrovert and ambitious one.
Regardless of the relationship, it is when their behaviour holds you back or diminishes your own brand that problems emerge. First, collect data and observe how you work together over time. Second, make a decision on how you’d like to proceed with the relationship. If you notice a pattern, you have some choices:
Stay and change what you can, while building acceptance around the rest.But do realise that can be very hard to change someone else!
End the relationship. The most dramatic of the options but if you’ve been thinking this for a while this may just confirm what you’ve been feeling all along.
Do nothing. But the likelihood is that you’ll get frustrated and the situation will deteriorate.
Shift focus. Focus on developing your own personal brand and cultivating relationships with other “team members” as opposed to co-branding with that individual. This may include going solo to events or with someone else instead of your partner. This works for a lot of people!
So this month, spend some time developing and giving a little TLC to the personal and professional relationships behind your personal brand!
Each month I give my verdict on who has shown the world an interesting and distinctive brand. My latest personal brand of the month goes to…
As our first “Brand of the Month” following our #BrandTransformation campaign, Victoria Beckham is truly fitting. After all, who doesn’t know the story about her evolution from Spice Girl to sophisticated fashion designer? And her show during London Fashion Week earlier this month captures this sophistication. Not to mention it’s also the 10th anniversary of her fashion line.
Victoria Beckham at London Fashion Week September 2018. Photo: Victoria Beckham Instagram
On its shiny surface, there’s something quite magical about Beckham’s brand transformation. But let’s take a closer look at how this was achieved (perhaps it’s not that superhuman after all!):
Driven by passion and inspiration.
It all starts with a movie.
In her first autobiography, Learning to Fly, she wrote, “I was a girl with a dream. It all started when my mum took me and my sister to see Fame, the Alan Parker film about the Manhattan school for performing arts. It was 1982 and I was eight.” From there her passion grew. She studied ballet as a young girl and then pursued her interest in dance at the Laine Arts Theatre College in Surrey.
In 1994, Beckham (then Victoria Adams) auditioned for an advert in The Stage, looking for girls who were “street smart, extrovert, ambitious and able to sing and dance”. Her dream soon became a reality; she found her fame as “Posh Spice” in the all-female pop group, the Spice Girls.
The Spice Girls performing live on stage at the 1997 Brit Awards. From left to right: Emma Bunton, Melanie Brown (Mel B), Melanie Chisholm (Mel C), Victoria Adams (Beckham) and Geri Halliwell. Photo: JMEnternational/Redferns/Getty Images
Add some spicy co-branding.
We know that with the right co-branding, each respective brand’s strength tends to remain stable, even through various transitions. And Beckham has achieved some fantastic co-branding through the years.
Just as the Spice Girls were at their peak, Beckham began a relationship with David Beckham. Co-branded by the media as “Posh and Becks”, the couple’s celeb-status seemed to become instantly magnified. As a result of their partnership, Beckham’s brand was also elevated and appeared everywhere, from tabloids to the very fashion glossies that would soon be dripping with her label.
“Posh and Becks”. Photo: Valerie Macon/AFP/Getty Images
More recently, she also co-branded herself with UNAIDS, highlighting a socially responsible dimension to her brand. In 2014, Beckham was named a UNAIDS International Goodwill Ambassador. “This is the beginning of an important journey for me,” she explained at a United Nations General Assembly event. “As a woman, and a mother, I have a responsibility to support other women. I am proud and honored to be working with UNAIDS in this new role to help to raise resources and awareness, to support and empower women and children affected by HIV.”
Beckham with UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe at the UN headquarters in NY, 2014. Photo: Agencies
Mix in hard work, risk-taking and smart brand positioning (and re-positioning).
After the Spice Girls reign came to an end, Beckham started a short-lived solo career, during which she was signed to Virgin Records and Telstar Records and had four UK Top 10 singles. Beckham soon abandoned her music career to pursue her real passion: building her fashion brand.
“It’s what I’ve always wanted to do,” she shared during a Q&A at Saks Fifth Avenue (via InStyle). “There was a little detour because I was in a pop group, but it was the fashion that excited me. I felt like I had a point of view. And I love women and I want to make women feel the best version of themselves. I always say it started with girl power, and now, it’s about empowering women through fashion in a different way.”
Note that even while repositioning her brand from the music industry to the fashion industry, the core of her brand – values, passion, purpose, vision – remained true: to empower women.
Beckham promoting her jean line at Saks Fifth Ave in Boston, 2008. Photo: Michael Blanchard
She positioned herself in the fashion world through modeling, fashion mag editing and some
high-profile collaborations with other brands, including a limited-edition fashion line for Rock & Republic. In 2006, Beckham created her dvb Denim collection and launched it in New York’s Saks Fifth Avenue the following year, alongside of an eyewear collection. Her US launch proved to be some savvy brand positioning, given her brand there was less associated with her former pop persona.
By taking risks, working hard, and positioning herself with the right people, she launched an eponymous label in 2008, and a lower-priced label in 2011. The Victoria Beckham label went on to be named designer brand of the year in the UK in 2011. Since its launch, her brand is stocked in over 60 countries internationally. A hit with celebs, her label consistently makes an appearance on the red carpet.
Just some of the celebs who are fans of Victoria Beckham. Photo: Getty Images; StyleBistro
Victoria Beckham’s SS19 10th anniversary show at London Fashion Week included model Stella Tennant (middle). “This season I wanted it to be about women as well as girls. I wanted to have women on the catwalk who my customer can relate to.” – Victoria Beckham
Finally, she owns her transformation.
Beckham doesn’t bury her past. In fact, quite the opposite; she brilliantly uses it to add humour to her personal brand. I think this recent “Victoria Beckham: A Decade of Elegance” video by British Vogue says it all:
Over the past decade, Beckham has recreated her brand as an internationally recognised style icon and fashion designer. This month, we watched her shut down London Fashion Week with a stunning show, as her children and husband David sat FROW. And what a perfect way to mark her decade of fabulousness.
The Beckham family. Photo: Instagram @romeobeckham
We know in personal branding that one’s personal brand is the entire perception of a person. However, oftentimes, the particular style used by creatives such film directors can dominate their personal brand. They become known for their distinct cinematic style, which in many cases, becomes synonymous with their reputation.
Our guest blogger this month is Felix Hockey, film student, blogger and freelance writer, who talks about how directors use the unique style associated with their personal brands to build a reputation with their target audience.
Woody Allen’s ANNIE HALL
For many, the director of a film often helps us guess whether or not the film will appeal to our tastes, or not. Often seen as the authors of their work, many directors are known for a certain aesthetic or thematic style throughout their career that becomes an integral part of their personal brand. For example, when one thinks of The Grand Budapest Hotel and Rushmore’s Wes Anderson, pastel colours, symmetrical shots and deadpan dialogue are likely to be some of the first things to come to mind. David Lynch, on the other hand, inspires a completely different expectation; a dreamlike quality, Noir-ish storylines and general confusion on what is actually going on.
With directors becoming known for specific elements, this allows for fanbases to accumulate around them. For instance, there are many eagerly awaiting the upcoming film Once Upon A Time in Hollywood simply because of the involvement of Quentin Tarantino. Yet expectations around the consistency of a personal brand can be a double-edged sword. In 1997, Tarantino followed up his massively popular Pulp Fiction with Jackie Brown, a slower paced crime film based on the novel Rum Punch by Elmore Leanard, rather than one of his original screenplays. With many expecting something more like his previous work, the film’s achievement was both critically and commercially disappointing. In recent years, however, Jackie Brown has been frequently championed as the director’s finest work. Tarantino has not made an adaptation since, however, and has arguably never strayed as far from the style that became associated with his personal brand again. Similar issues with personal branding expectations can be seen in the response to Martin Scorsese’s Silence, with many reviews pointing out the film’s lack of swirling cameras, and whip smart dialogue one would expect after seeing his various films set in America, like Taxi Driver and Goodfellas.
There are some directors who have been able to change their style and keep a strong personal brand, however. Woody Allen began his film career with sketch-like comedy pieces like Bananas yet, over time, he branched into making more narratively structured comedy like Annie Hall. And then even fully serious dramas such as Match Point. Whilst Allen still often makes comedy pictures, however, Kathryne Bigelow has completely abandoned her place as a creator of eccentric genre pieces along the lines of Strange Days, in order to pursue films that have far more political and social themes, leading to her winning the best director Academy Award for The Hurt Locker. Other directors don’t seem to have a defining style at all. It could be argued that one wouldn’t be able to tell if a film was directed by the likes of Robert Zemeckis if one wasn’t aware, as his work is so varied, spanning everything from Back To the Future to Forest Gump to animations such as The Polar Express.
This all ties in to ideas about auteur theory in film studies, an idea that came to force around the 1960s but is still widely contested. Brought forth in post-war France, the auteur theory allowed focus onto the director as the main creative force rather than the writer, producer or studio. This has been disputed by a number of critics, however, as film is usually a much more collaborative medium than literature or painting and therefore it can be argued that the end product cannot be attributed to just one person.
In certain instances, its still not the director who is seen as the main creative source. The films Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Adaptation are directed by Michael Gondry and Spike Jonze respectively. Both these men are well known directors with decades of work behind them yet these two films are more widely known as the works of the screenwriter Charlie Kaufman. Similarly, Richard Curtis is also often more recognised than the directors of his screenplays, due to his staple of writing romcoms like Notting Hill.
Certain studios also seem to maintain a consistent brand irrelevant to the director. Marvel have allowed themselves to achieve success after success by keeping to a certain aesthetic and tone. This can also be seen in smaller studios such as A24 who are beginning to be known for the horror films they release, such as Get Out and Hereditary.
The idea of a director as a tell-tale sign on whether it will meet people’s tastes, however, remains a strong point in both reviews and advertisements. Perhaps it is easier to see an individual as an author more than a collective; one can have a more personal connection with a person, or at least the illusion of one.
To learn more about what Felix does, you can connect with him here.
If our personal brand is largely what others say about us when we’re not in the room, then how easy is it to change it and get them to say something different? As a personal brander, it’s a question that has intrigued me for some time. So we decided to launch a Brand Transformation Campaign and interviewed a collection of 15 diverse women to find out exactly that. Here’s what we discovered.
Photo: Native Branding Int’l
Each of our interviewees has transformed her personal brand in the last few years. Some of the women we interviewed decided to actively steer their personal brand in a completely different direction, such as Sarah Haran, who gave up a career in IT to launch her own handbag range and was recently cited as one of 100 women to watch in Cranfield University’s FTSE 2018 board report. A handful of others added a transformative dimension to their existing brand, such as interior designer Dee Gibson, who decided to renovate a luxury villa in Sri Lanka to enhance and add to her personal brand as a stylist. Or Paula Gardner, who went back to University to study for a Masters in Business Psychology and move from PR to business consulting.
The stories of these women are quite diverse, but many are connected by a common thread; most took steps to transform their brand after some trigger or life event served as a catalyst. These women chose to take control of their circumstances by transforming their personal brand.
In the case of director of a printing company, Vicki Beauman, it was being involved in an accident and being told she would never walk again that prompted her use of yoga as a rehabilitation tool, leading her to train as a yoga teacher. In the case of coach Caroline Pankhurst, it was a feminist play that opened the doors and led to her to a journey that has involved her adopting the surname of her heroine; a literal change in personal brand if ever there was one!
So, how do we make that transformation possible?
Our interviewees also shared suggestions for brand transformation. Sarah Haran recommends that you “just take the leap,” whilst Nicola Cairncross advocates the use of journaling and meditation. Wendy Kendall, a psychologist who had to extricate herself from a working partnership that threatened to swallow up her personal brand, cautions “nurture the people who say you can do this and drop the others.” Caroline Pankhurst suggests investing in a coach to help you along the journey. Some of the interviewees talked about the short-term sacrifice involved, especially those whose transformation involved studying, but they all agree it was worth it in the end.
Here’s a summary of what we’ve learned from our inspiring women who went through this transformational journey:
* It’s important to listen to that trigger. As we’ve learned, it could be internal or external. What is it guiding you to do? If the trigger is a life event, what can you do to reclaim the reigns and begin to move things in a direction that feels right? See if you can start to form an initial plan (however loose) from there.
* Don’t buy into that inner critic that says you can’t do it. You can have that thought and still do it anyway. Share your thoughts with supports, even if not fleshed out, to hear opinions and ideas from those you trust outside of your own head.
* Initial sacrifices can pay off. Remember that short term pain may very well lead to long term gain!
* Keep reminding yourself that very little changes inside your comfort zones…outside of it is where the magic happens!
* Recruit support from others and surround yourself with the people who believe in you and can rally you on. Almost everyone interviewed had support from their family and friends, which just goes to remind us not to let the fear of what others think stop us.
At the end of the day, it’s quite simple: it’s usually us standing in our own way!
Welcome to the September edition of your “Year of Personal Branding“,whereI’ve broken down key branding concepts as part of a month-by-month guide to help you with each step of growing (and implementing) your personal brand. As always, I invite you to use these monthly Year of Personal Branding posts as a map that will allow you to navigate all aspects of Personal Branding.
Even though our school days may be long gone, there’s something about September that evokes a back-to-school, start- all-over-again feeling. We’re going to harness this feeling to get “back-to-school”, so to speak, ourselves.
If you’ve been following the Year in Personal Branding posts month-by-month, you should have a good idea of where your personal branding is heading (if not, you can always visit previous posts for a little catch up!). Looking back to both the personal brand audit and the 360 degree exercise you did earlier in the year, are there specific areas of your personal brand that might benefit from some development through formal course? This doesn’t necessarily need to involve enrolling in a degree programme; it could also be something like an evening or online course, or even some professional training, such as presentation training (bonus if you can persuade your employer to pay for it!). Speaking of which, here are some great tips on presentations for anyone that needs a little help in that area.
Perhaps looking at core branding attributes such as passion, purpose and values might also point you in a specific direction for personal development. For example, is it time to embark on a new approach to your lifestyle? Perhaps a new yoga or mindfulness class or a consultation with a dietician will help your personal brand come across as fitter, stronger and healthier? Along these lines, be sure to take a look at my previous post on developing a healthy personal brand here.
With a little research, I’m sure you will find countless classes and programmes that will likely be suited to developing a certain aspect of your personal brand. So your personal brand challenge this month is to have a think about (and investigate!) opportunities to get “back to school” and develop your brand! September is a great time to take advantage of these opportunities, and let’s not forget all the side benefits of stimulation, making new friends and networking!
In personal branding, we know that behind every strong personal brand is an equally powerful narrative. Our guest blogger this month, Stacia Keogh, founder of StoryPrez, is a master storyteller. Stacia teaches clients how to use the power of their voice with the tools of metaphor to create a vivid picture in the minds and hearts of their audience. Here she talks about how to use something called “Threshold Moments” in life to create a rich and powerful brand story. And as we just wrapped up our Brand Transformation Campaign earlier this month, where we interviewed 15 inspirational women about their personal brand stories of transformation, we couldn’t have asked for a more fitting guest blogger!
THRESHOLD MOMENTS are those turning points in your life when you faced a difficult decision, life event or a surprising pivot which changed your life forever.
Your standing at the cross roads – literally – trying to decide which way to go. To the left the path of needles to the right the path of pins… that was Little Red Riding Hood’s choice. Or those the watershed moments when you agonize over your options as in the 1990 Indigo Girls song of the same name:
Up on the watershed
Standing at the fork in the road
You can stand there and agonize
‘Til your agony’s your heaviest load
When I was 18 I packed up my little 1979 Gremlin car headed out to Colorado with my them boyfriend who’s brother lived in Evergreen. And so I was off to seek my fortune! And climb mountains and get the hell out of boring Ohio, flat and dull. Big sky but no air. I was going where the air was rarefied and mountains snow-capped. After 3 days and nights of monotonous driving it started to get interesting and then really cool and amazing, and then we topped this ridge and framed in an overpass, like a picture, was the Colorado Rocky Mountains. I’d really done it! I was really here and on my journey and I got there in my own little car. I’ve moved to several places and crossed oceans and time zones and always my mantra ‘Bloom Where Your Are Planted’ has been my truth, sometimes out of necessity rather than fertile soil.
I’m at another threshold now. After over 10 years as a lone parent, my two are teenagers are striking out on their own and I’m so ready to move on but yet… all the years of catering for children and running around trying to make ends meet and now coaxing a business into life has left me wondering what now what next. Although uncomfortable I’m reminded of other choices I’ve made and how I’ve pulled though other tough situations, and I know that this is where the story gets interesting. I’m about to reclaim my life again. What to preserve, what to compost, what is growing green again. The landscape is different but the move feels somehow familiar; it’s time to cut loose and dive in.
It’s always with dogged determination, and the best results that have come from going with my gut and feeling my way through, making it up as I go along and definitely always going for it! In the story of the Firebird the young man in the story picks up the Firebird’s feather even though he’s been warned not to and of course it leads him to the king and what was good luck turn to bad. When faced with the impossible situation the young man cries into the neck of his trusty horse and the horse says “…why cry now, the trouble lies before you…” finally after many many trials and tribulations the young man is condemned to die. The horse says “…cry now as this is truly the end. But you still have options. You can be dragged kicking and screaming towards the inevitable or you can walk with pride and when you see your death run straight for it and jump in.”
Think of the turning points in your own life; a major event or a separation moving from one place or state to another. Pivots! Where Life turns on a completely around. Shedding and Shifting moments. What did you do? Drag your feet? Consult with trusted friend? Choose the easy quick way or the interesting longer ‘scenic’ route? These are the Threshold moments where how we handle them reveals who we are and we learn where our gumption lies. We will always come through wiser.
The word Threshold is an agricultural word where on the threshing floor where the harvest was separated grain from husk, there was a ‘hold’ or a raised piece of wood which contained the grain. These thresholds can be found at doorways today to stop draughts. So a threshold is used to separate what is useful from what is not. Of course, there are thresholds in life like birth, puberty, marriage, death…even to this day new brides are carried over the threshold to mark the change from single to married state. Or ‘she stood on the threshold of a new discovery’. So threshold is used to delineate one placed or state to another.
Think of the turning points in your own life. What were the emotions you experienced? Build a visceral picture of what your world was like before the change. Then the inciting incident that tip everything over the edge, the surprise that woke you up or disrupted everything. Maybe there was a gradual transition or a lucky break. Sometimes what seemed like good luck turns out to be not all it was cracked up to be.
When you have things like “time or place” changes or a BIG event, how can you bring these to life as examples of your leadership ability? Your grit and resourcefulness? Or even how when all was lost you were able to survive or turn it around; rising from the ashes to get where you are today.
Emotions work at a slower pace than thoughts so telling these tales with impact takes a bit of skill and practice. What kind of Thresholds are Beginnings or Endings? They may require you to pick up speed or slow down and let things sink in.
What do you think would be the effect on the listener of skipping over internal thresholds or using these places as opportunities for emphasis or rising tone to indicate excitement or urgency or fear.
3 Basic Threshold Stories You Can Tell
Turning Points: These are the life events the births, deaths, marriages, moving into new phases in your life
U-Turns & Pivots: When you turn around and either double back to reclaim or go in a totally new direction surprising even yourself!
Shedding & Shifting & Separations: Who are you? Who were you? Who do you want to become?
These stories will contain the raw material for three basic stories:
ORIGIN STORY: How the idea for your business came to be. Did it evolve over time or hit you like a bolt from the blue? Maybe it came about to solve a problem you had.
PURPOSE STORY: Why you do it! It’s more than just to pay the mortgage or for my family or ‘to help people’. What is the passion that drives you.
CHARACTER STORY: Who are you? A personal story reflects your grit, creativity, sense of adventure & humour.
Storytelling is your power.
A good personal story is inspirational, builds relationships, creates dialogue and invites vision and establishes your unique-ness!
Stacia Keogh. Photo Credit: Yolande de Vries
To find out more about Stacia and her fabulous work with storytelling, check out www.storyprez.co.uk!
Welcome back to our Brand Transition Campaign. Meet Jess Baker, an independent Business Psychologist and Women’s Leadership Coach who discovered her authentic personal brand when she moved from a fast-paced London life to a rural dream in Shropshire!
Tell us a bit about who you were before the change? What was your personal brand (i.e. how other people perceived you)? What were you known for?
When I was living in London, I’d spent the last 3 years trying to set up a skincare business, and was living and breathing skincare. It’s a very competitive industry, and as a psychologist I realised that I wasn’t operating in my zone of genius. I was already starting to think about the juxtaposition of cosmetics and body image: how we feel about our appearance is fascinating to me. As a psychologist, I wanted people to feel better about themselves but the whole cosmetics industry preys on people’s insecurities.
When both my parents died it provoked a massive cleansing period for me: de-cluttering so that I could move on. I shut up shop on the skincare business, returned to what I know best, helping to empower women via corporate work and running workshops for women in my community, which I had already started running back in London. Moving from London was part of that cleansing, resettling to a more rural environment.
Tell us where you are now and how your brand has changed?
Living in London was fast paced and exciting. I was a member of Sister Snog which was an inspiring and uplifting group of women who were ambitious and supportive, but not competitive. We lived in central London for our last year so it was a very high energy, diverse community. I then transitioned to the least populated county in the UK where our street has an average age of 65! Two third of them are retired people: eccentric sometimes, certainly educated. We have a labour life peer as our neighbour, together with a former Harvard professor. It’s a liberal arts based community and life is a much slower pace. I catch myself having to plan an extra half hour to get to the bakery up the hill as I always have to stop to talk to neighbours who want to know what I’ve been up to. They’re not nosey, just genuinely interested.
The most dramatic change for me, is me, they way I see myself and the way I want others to see me: I used to be very careful to put on a polished façade, I’ve totally let go of all airs and graces. I now talk openly about things that used to give me a sense of shame (feeling flawed, and unworthy of love) and I shine a light on the inner critical voice – we all have one, it’s natural, but if you don’t know how to manage it, you can learn to believe what it says is real. So this is the real me. I’ve even renamed my Instagram as the Real Jess Baker. I talk about the nitty-gritty bits of life; how it is to be human.
What made you think you needed to change? Was it a bolt of lightning moment or did it happen over time?
This happened over the last five years as a lot of it was about my needing to recalibrate my relationship to my mother who had narcissist personality traits. My mother saw me as an extension of her, so I was never asked what I wanted or needed. Leading up to 2013 she had always called me five times a day and I would not only jump, but ask her how high. I wanted to please her to gain her approval. Our relationship was always tense; while she loved me she wasn’t capable of showing it in the conventional way. It’s probably why I got into psychology: I wanted to solve our relationship, fix it so that it could be better.
Then, later on, she had dementia before she passed away. Although deeply tragic and very upsetting for everyone, this was also a very healing time for me. I learned more about myself through forgiveness, compassion and acknowledging myself as separate from her. Suddenly, I was allowed to be me and the only person I needed approval from was myself. I want to inspire other women through my work, but how could I do that if I wasn’t inspiring myself?
How did you set things in motion? Did you leap in or make the change in increments?
My partner always planned to sell the family home when his son went to University and we had always planned to go to Sussex or the south coast. We have lots of friends there, it’s easy to commute, so it was a logical place to go. Then, one weekend we were invited to a weekend in Shropshire to stay at a lovely house owned by John Osborne and we were gobsmacked at how beautiful the landscape was; truly shire-esque, with its soft rolling hills and tiny pubs.
We played with the idea of living here in an original cottage or a rural croft where I could hold retreats on empowerment. Eventually though we chose a cottage in town which we can lock up and go. And while this wasn’t our original countryside idyll, it’s perfect for us. We can zip down the high street on our mobility scooters in 30 years’ time!
What was the reaction of others? Did they support you or did they resist the change?
We planned a one year transition period. This gave me a chance to get my head around the move, and to plan where I’d spend my time week by week. It also allowed us time to tell people. I went six months thinking about how I was going to maintain this high energy London life (my partner is older than me so it wasn’t same for him). I think that was just about six months in denial! I had bought this beautiful furniture: every item handpicked to fill up our new home, and suddenly wanted to be there. We also got to know the local community so well. It was inevitable that I would end up here full time. One of the main things was realising that although I met a lot of people in London, they didn’t all live in London either. It was a place where we convened. I already did a lot of chatting on Skype and Zoom so used that more. Of course, people are always welcome to drive the four hours to see me!
What was your most valuable resource/what kept you going?
My partner, who knows me extremely well. He’s a psychologist too so together we analyse and pick things to pieces. We take long walks together to clear our heads, and it’s during these long walk we plan our next ventures. It’s a precious time.
How do you feel now that you’ve made the change?
I have a quality of life I didn’t realise was possible. Weirdly, we are in the middle of Cardiff, Birmingham and Manchester which means I have access to corporates in more areas than when I was confined to London. I’ve also raised my profile locally, running events and workshops, and one woman drove for over an hour to get to one. That’s very special.
What’s your advice to anyone contemplating something similar?
Take your time and consider your location, we did it over a four year period. We had already seriously contemplated Sussex. It was more practical but after someone pulled out of the chain when we were due to exchange we asked our self where would we really love to live if we could live anywhere? We both said Shropshire. It made no logical sense, but it works.
Think about what you will gain not just what you might lose. What can open up when you get there and what can you open up? I’ve been running workshops around confidence and assertiveness with chocolate meditations for instance. I get to serve my community and contribute and become part of that community, rather than rock up in a wheelchair when we’re ready to retire!