Personal Brand Transformation: How simple is it to change who we are?

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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.

However, there were those who had brand transformation thrust upon them, like vocal coach Angela Durrant who had to step up to become the main breadwinner when her husband was diagnosed with cancer. Likewise, Dawn Yvette still struggles with chronic fatigue that has forced her to revaluate every part of her life, and former wealth coach Nicola Cairncross who reinvented herself as an online trainer after the double blows of the recession and a bereavement.

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!

Lisa

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Your “Year of Personal Branding”, September Edition

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Welcome to the September edition of your Year of Personal Branding“, where I’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!

Lisa

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Threshold Moments: Transition points in the story of YOU

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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!

Here’s Stacia:

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

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To find out more about Stacia and her fabulous work with storytelling, check out www.storyprez.co.uk! 

Lisa

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Transforming your Personal Brand: Meet Jess

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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!

Thanks for such an inspiring interview, Jess!

Lisa

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Transforming your Personal Brand: Meet Hanieh

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Welcome back to our series of inspirational interviews as part of our Brand Transformation campaign! Today we meet Hanieh Vidmar, who transformed her personal brand after having a child. She now helps clients develop the skills and confidence they need to become outstanding public speakers.

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? 

After I left uni, my main roles were speaking and presenting. I opened a salon with my sister in 2012 (completely different to what I was used to apart from the business aspect)  and then sold it due to various reasons. After I had my son, I decided to launch a mummy vlogging channel. I have always done my own thing, I’ve always wanted to be and for the majority of the time I always was, in charge of my own time and had my own businesses. I’ve always been known as someone who wants their own business and as a go-getter. In my previous “jobs” I still had my business on the side and I’ve won various awards for my presenting and business.

Tell us where you are now and how your brand has changed?

Today, I relaunched my old business but with a bigger plan and bigger goals. I’m a speaker and trainer with a goal to help people over come their fears of public speaking, help them sell from stage or to deliver investment pitches. I love everything to do with public speaking – always have done!

What made you think you needed to change? Was it a bolt of lightning moment or did it happen over time?

I sold the salon after a long think and careful planning:  this is following a car accident and falling pregnant. I wanted to keep my salon and open more but this unfortunately couldn’t happen. Being a new mum inspired me to share my stories and experiences with other new and new-to-be mums but it phased out as I wasn’t enjoying the topics as much! I just wanted to get back to my old topics and use that as content for my new, yet old, business venture.

How did you set things in motion? Did you leap in or make the change in increments?

Unfortunately, mummy vlogging just stopped. I wanted to do more with my time. So I stopped it abruptly, then took a break to plan my next move and that’s how haniehvidmar.com came about.

What was the reaction of others? Did they support you or did they resist the change?

To be honest, I didn’t tell anyone of my plans. It just ended and my conversations and plans had changed to so my family knew that something new, bigger and better must be coming as once I make up my mind, there’s simply no going back nor influencing me.

What was your most valuable resource/what kept you going? 

Enjoyment and excitement. I think if you want to do anything, you need to be excited about it and enjoy it. There’s simply no point in doing something that fills you with dread (unless it’s public speaking of course 😉) and something that you simply don’t enjoy. You won’t give it your all and you’ll soon fall into a trap and wonder how to get out. That’s why I changed my role and plans. I want to enjoy everything! I want to plan tasks I enjoy and plan tasks that I’m excited to start on.

How do you feel now that you’ve made the change?

Great! I feel productive, I’m enjoying my tasks and I am excited for future projects and next steps. I feel like I give tasks my all and eager to learn more too.

What’s your advice to anyone contemplating something similar?

Do what you love! If you don’t enjoy it, plan ahead and make changes. But don’t allow yourself to feel depressed or anxious about it. Seek help, seek support, ask questions and make changes – even if it’s one thing a day or even a week. Set yourself a task to gradually make a change, or if you’re like me, and are able to, pull the plug! Life is short and most be enjoyed.

Thank you for such an inspiring interview, Hanieh!

Lisa

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Transforming your Personal Brand: Meet Rachel Daniel

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Welcome back to our Brand Transformation series of inspiring interviews. Meet Rachel Daniel, who transformed her personal brand by taking her executive and career coaching to the next level.

Tell us a bit about who you were before the change? What was your personal brand? What were you known for? 

I have had a few personal brands over the past 10 years. I was Rachel Daniel, Regional Director for the Athena Network, offering a business consulting business called Improved Results. Then to Aperture Coaching both were the same career coaching offer.

I believe that I have always been seen as a warm and approachable person, and professional in my approach. I was known for connecting people and supporting others in their businesses. Improved Results was possibly a harsher version of me and Aperture Coaching a softer version of me. I’m hoping Rachel Daniel Associates is more aligned with my values and personality.

I would say that I’m still the same person, but now my focus is much more on my own business rather than other peoples’ businesses. I am also a more experienced coach with high level qualifications and accreditations. I am also more focused on leveraging myself and my brand.  So now I do things that are profile building – eg, Board Director for International Coach Federation, having a brand that sounds more like a company with other associates who can work for me (this is a medium term aim), developing a niche market for professional burnout and resilience building offerings.

Tell us where you are now and how your brand has changed?

I am now Rachel Daniel Associates – an executive and career coaching offer for individuals and organisations.

The branding is designed to be business-like, mid to high end offer, exemplifying professionalism and expertise as well as approachability and trust.

RD Associates offers:

  • Executive coaching – mainly for corporate leaders who are going through leadership development programmes, who want coaching for specific leadership challenges, or are high potential talent being promoted. I also coach entrepreneurs and business owners
  • Career / transition coaching for individuals and employees who want to manage their own career development strategy or who are looking to career change
  • Burnout reversal programmes
  • Team coaching for businesses

The branding for Improved Results was more impersonal and results focused. Professional but maybe a little male. The offer for this business was around strategic HR and talent management. Aperture Coaching went for a different look and feel. The fonts were rounder and there were a range of more female style colours. The aperture in a view finder is what changes the perspective or a view and I marketed my coaching approach based partly on this. The offer was mainly career coaching for individuals and employees who want to manage their own career development strategy or who are looking to career change

What made you think you needed to change? Was it a bolt of lightning moment or did it happen over time?

I changed from Aperture Coaching to Rachel Daniel Associates for a number of reasons:

  • I felt the Aperture look didn’t work for more corporate audiences. The font and colours started to feel a bit clunky and unsophisticated
  • I wanted to market myself as an executive coach first and a career coach second and felt the RD Assoc’s look and name was more suitable – I had also benchmarked this against my competitors
  • I wanted a brand I could add services and offers to, and which could grow with me
  • I wanted to use my interest in and Masters’ research on professional burnout as a potential niche offering
  • I didn’t want ‘coaching’ in the name as this limited my service offerings and put people off
  • It felt like a bolt of lightning when I decided to make the change – I did the research and made the decision on name and branding after deciding to change

How did you set things in motion? Did you leap in or make the change in increments?

I made the change all at once when I made my decision, and found website designer, copywriter etc all at once.

What was the reaction of others? Did they support you or did they resist the change?

As I am a sole trader, there was no one to resist the changes. However, I did then set up my business trading as part of a business I own with my husband for financial reasons – and he supported me with this.

What was your most valuable resource/what kept you going?

My most valuable resource was my network, to whom I could turn to for recommendations, ideas and honest feedback at the time.

How do you feel now that you’ve made the change?

I feel great about the change. I can really develop my business now because I have a strong and focused brand with which to work.

What’s your advice to anyone contemplating something similar?

View your business strategy as a journey and as a learning  and development process. Have regular conversations with your customers and peers as you strive to improve your service and what you offer then, staying open to feedback and aware of what your competitors are doing.

Thanks for such an inspiring interview, Rachel!

Lisa

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Transforming your Personal Brand: Meet Rachael McGuinness

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Meet Rachel McGuinness, our next inspirational interview as part of our Brand Transformation Campaign. After years of feeling unconfident and unhealthy, Rachel took control and transformed her brand to a healthier 2.0 version!

Tell us a bit about who you were before the change? What was your personal brand (i.e., how other people perceived you)? How would you compare today’s version of you to the one before? 

Back in the year 2000, I was in a corporate role in the telecoms industry – I was overweight, unfit, unconfident and a little bit introvert probably because I was overweight. My dress size from the age of 17 to 37 fluctuated from a size 14 to an 18, I briefly hit a size 12 for a couple of weeks in 1992!

I guess friends perceived me as fun, with a good sense of humour and zest for life. In a work environment I was very much a behind the scenes person organising events, very efficient at what I did.

Comparing Rachel 1.0 to Rachel 2.0 – completely different. I’m slimmer, more confident, extrovert, very sociable and loving life. I don’t mind being in the public eye and love delivering talks and workshops to clients.

Tell us where you are now and how your brand has changed?

Today, I’m Rachel 2.0 due to several changes to my life over the past 18 years. I now have my own health business inspired by a transformation in 2000. Last year I decided to reboot my life and split from my husband of 30 years to do the next phase of my life on my own terms. It was also an opportunity to restructure my business too. My business is called Wake Up With Zest, so I try an embody what living with zest is all about which is following the 80:20 rule – 80% healthy and 20% have fun and do what you want!

What made you think you needed to change? Was it a bolt of lightning moment or did it happen over time?

In the year 2000, I was on business in Barcelona, and I woke up one particular morning after too many cigarettes, eating too many tapas, drinking far too much Rioja and feeling sleep deprived. I hauled myself out of bed and on the way to the bathroom, I caught my reflection in the mirror. I looked pale, my skin was spotty, I had bags under my eyes and I was fat and out of shape – in other words I was a mess.

I decided that it was time to get healthy as I was 3 years away from being 40.

How did you set things in motion? Did you leap in or make the change in increments?

I stopped dieting and started eating healthily, I stopped smoking and joined a gym and cut out my week day drinking.

I’m a bit of an all or nothing person. I leapt in and did all of the above the same time and it worked.

What was the reaction of others? Did they support you or did they resist the change?

It was mostly positive. Lots of people kept asking me about my transformation and how I did it, which in fact inspired me to start my health business

The ones that didn’t support the change would say, “Don’t lose too much weight – you’ll look haggard”. People’s reactions are funny. When you’re looking good and feeling good, they want to sabotage your best efforts!

What was your most valuable resource/what kept you going?

Being fit and 40, and not going back to my old ways.

How do you feel now that you’ve made the change?

I’m now 54, I feel amazing, confident and am more extravert. I feel fitter, healthier and have more energy than I did as a teenager.

What’s your advice to anyone contemplating something similar?

JFDI – life is too short!

Thanks for such an inspiring interview, Rachel!

Lisa

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Transforming your Personal Brand: Meet Dawn

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Welcome back to our Brand Transformation Campaign, where we’ve interviewed inspirational women about their own personal brand transformation. Meet Dawn Yvette, who has been transitioning her brand to blogger and photographer after being diagnosed with a chronic illness.

Tell us a bit about who you were before the change? What was your personal brand (i.e. how other people perceived you)? 

I set up my own career and training consultancy in 2004, where I specialised in career management with a focus on self-promotion and business communication skills. I had a lot of ambition and a passion for helping improve their success in the workplace. I was fearless and found much joy in creating a business that was from my own vision, using my design skills as well as a newly found entrepreneurial drive.

I had a wide range of clients, from students to successful professionals. As I became established, coaching directors of large corporations and being asked to run training sessions and speak at seminars and events. I wrote articles for online magazines and industry publications. I was known for my passion, creativity and my expertise in career development, self-promotion and communication skills.

What made you think you needed to change? Was it a bolt of lightning moment or did it happen over time?

The health condition that changed my life did not start overnight, it crept up on me over the course of a year, I was so busy with my ambition I didn’t have time to listen to my body. It started with me feeling exhausted most weekdays especially after I’d do a corporate training session or travel to see a coaching client. I’d find myself waking up from ten hours sleep still exhausted. My weekends were spent in bed or on the sofa, where I would try and recover but a weekend of rest was never enough.

As the business began to grow and become more demanding, I struggled to keep up the pace but continued to put all my energy into my work. Then one month in 2008 I got a flu virus that I couldn’t recover from, I became mostly bed/sofa ridden for many months feeling seriously unwell. I struggled day to day with even the simplest of tasks that as healthy people we take for granted, eventually, I had to close my business. After having many tests to find out what was wrong, I finally got diagnosed with condition the Fibromyalgia.

How did you set things in motion? Did you leap in or make the change in increments?

With no understanding or support from my GP, through sheer determination I managed to recover significantly from this chronic illness, this was done with the help of private specialists. I made it my full-time job to get well, working holistically with mind body and soul. I changed my body with nutrition, acupuncture and for my mind I had meditation, and for the soul, I practised restorative yoga.

I used the little energy I had to work on myself, to find meaning out of the situation. I had a strong belief that I would eventually come through the other side of the illness with a greater knowledge of myself and started journaling, which lead me to rediscover my love for writing. I began to do online writing courses learning about ‘life writing’ studying memoir and personal essay, this fed my soul and allowed me to find some purpose.

What was the reaction of others? Did they support you or did they resist the change?

My business colleagues and clients were mainly surprised to learn of my condition. I did as best I could to keep in touch as I recovered, and many continued to request my services and ask when I would return to work. I had some very supportive friends and family throughout my illness and recovery. I found many of my friends who I would socialise with didn’t understand the illness and got frustrated with me for not going out or being my usual energetic self.

What was your most valuable resource/what kept you going?

Yoga was the most valuable resource for my recovery; the lack of mobility weakened had my body. It wasn’t just a form of exercise, the practice of restorative yoga allowed me to focus on physical and mental relaxation. Once I began to find balance through regular practice, my body started to heal itself slowly. When I had a peaceful mind and stronger body I was able to think more clearly about my lifestyle. When I began reading about Yoga’s ancient philosophies, it gave me a deeper understanding of why in Western society we are getting more of these often ‘stress-related’ illnesses.

How do you feel now that you’ve made the change?

I didn’t choose this path; however, it lead me to reevaluate what success meant to me as I moved ahead into a new way of life. I had to let go of some old beliefs, I could no longer allow my career to define my self-worth.

Two years after I was diagnosed with a chronic condition I felt I’d recovered well enough to the point that I could start a family, I was in my mid-thirties and realised I had a choice to make, to start a family or go back to my business and the career I’d left behind. I ended up having two children within a space to two years, it the best decision I could have made.

After I had my second child I realised I wouldn’t be able to return to the career and business I had before my illness. It took me a long time to let go of my past vision for my life and recognise that I was fortunate to I have an opportunity to be with my children during their early years.

The quote ‘Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.’ is one that now I make sure I remember, I am a driven person I now have to learn a way to have a healthy work/life balance.

I am currently enjoying taking some time to work out what my new ‘mid-life career’ will look like. I am starting by reworking my blog ‘Dawned Upon’ and it feels a great place to start.

What’s your advice to anyone contemplating something similar?

If there were one piece of advice with or without a chronic illness or disability, it is to honour yourself, take time to rest. Create a place in your home to relax and then practice self-care, this can be mindfulness in some form or yoga, meditation, mindful colouring, or listening to music. Also get outside, be with nature, take up gardening, walk the dog do anything to regularly help you to pause the mind and get back in touch with to your true self.

 © Dawn Yvette and Dawned Upon

Thanks for such an inspirational interview, Dawn!

 

Lisa

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Your “Year of Personal Branding”, August Edition

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Welcome to the August edition of your Year of Personal Branding“, where I’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.

Lazy summer days are a great time to day-dream and this month is all about that – day-dreaming! Even if you’re not going away, day-dreaming can give our mind a much needed break and make room for inspiration for your personal brand.

For one, it’s a respite from devices, electronics and being at everyone else’s beck and call. This is your time with no pressure to be somewhere else or do something else. Daydreaming can be thought of a mini mind holiday, one with similar benefits to mindfulness.  Watching the ocean, an aquarium or clouds float past or listening to music on your headphones while your mind wanders is extremely soothing and relaxing, and can allow for a “reset” from the day’s grind. And when you let go of the need to be productive, you may at the same time be improving your productivity, as experts have found.

Daydreaming “on demand” may feel a little unnatural, but you’ll soon find that you can drift off at will. Whilst many of us daydream countless times daily, allowing for a more structured time for reflective thinking, without distractions, can reap the most benefits. Great places to daydream include long train journeys, soaking in a hot bath or while you are sitting comfortably and listening to music. If sitting still isn’t your thing, you can also get into the day dreaming groove whilst you are walking, swimming or running. Darwin would have a stroll down a designated “thinking path” to contemplate his ideas, and Nietzsche retreated to nature walks for hours spent in deep thought.

This is when you can get swept away with fantasies about the future or musings on the plot of that novel you may one day write, or the business you’ve contemplated starting. Daydreaming can be more serious or emotional in content, or it could be hugely fun as you plan how you are going to spend your lottery millions. Even if your dreams are totally random, neurologists have found that this “brain brake” can boost your creativity, productivity and complex problem solving skills.

If that novel or business idea dominates our daydreams, then perhaps it’s time to do something about it. Daydreaming can point us towards potential personal branding “core attributes” such as passion, purpose and vision, or a cause that touches our heartstrings. Or perhaps it may guide our “outer brand”, pointing us to an alternative part of our self-image, such as a need to reveal our inner flamboyance. We can also use mind wandering to discover ways to enrich our lives, such as with recreation or relationships. We may be drawn to a particular film or book that keeps popping up in our minds, or even a person that we feel drawn to.

Regular daydreaming sessions will help your brain consolidate memories and create “non-linear” neural connections that allow exciting things to happen right there, in your mind. If you think about it, any great novel, work of art or piece of music probably began as a daydream…

Lisa

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Transforming your Personal Brand: Meet Sarah

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In our next inspiring interview for our Brand Transition Campaign, we meet Sarah Haran, who transformed herself from “Corporate IT Lady” to a fabulous luxury handbag designer!

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? How would you compare today’s version of you to the one before?

Previously I was known for being a corporate IT lady managing up to 400 staff and sitting on a PLC board. My brand was very much about being seen as being in control continually, on top of things and reassuring at the same time. A person that would get things done for my customers.

In comparison to myself today whilst I still get things done I approach things in a different way as I do not have the same sort of job role. I am more creative than I was before in my new role which is a complete change.

What made you think you needed to change? Was it a bolt of lightning moment or did it happen over time?

It was more of a change over time as I wanted to make a career change. After 18 years of IT I wanted to develop both myself and my hobby into running my own business.

How did you set things in motion? Did you leap in or make the change in increments?

As a natural planner I set things in motion over a period of time. I always knew I had to get my role in the IT company to a certain point and at the same time I was building up my handbag business. Then a year ago the timing felt right so I decided to resign from the board and make my leap. I am a firm believer that you have to put 100% of yourself into something and running two businesses wasn’t really possible.

What was the reaction of others? Did they support you or did they resist the change?

My family were very supportive and in the end my IT company were happy for me to make the change. This was done over a 12 month period as part of a notice period. Even today if they need something I will still assist them so they have my support if required.

What was your most valuable resource/what kept you going?

What kept me going was knowing that the product that I was developing was actually liked by my customers. Knowing that you have developed something that people like is what keeps me going when I am feeling challenged by the business.

How do you feel now that you’ve made the change?

Whilst I miss the staff from my old company and the friends I made there I am pleased I made the change. I feel more passionate again about my day to day job and I am enjoying the challenge.

What’s your advice to anyone contemplating something similar?

Take the leap. No one is on this earth that long and if you have lost the passion for what you are doing then definitely find something you love to do. Be prepared to learn lots (every day is a school day) and I always think – what is the worse thing that could happen, figure that out, decide if you can deal with that outcome and then go for it!

Thanks for such an inspiring interview Sarah! 

If you’d like to learn more about Sarah and her gorgeous bags, you can find her recent guest post for us here!

Lisa

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