If you decide that you’re playing the game, the first thing you should know is that consistency is key. The person you are at 7:30 in the morning, writing a blog post in bed with an old cat curled up next to you, is the person you are on your internet platform of choice, and the person you are when you’re out in the world interacting with your fellow humans. Whether that interaction is for business or fun is irrelevant. What’s relevant is that you’re the same person, and have the same presentation, across all those different instances.
So to put it in words of marketing bullshit, your “personal brand” has no off switch.
That … might sound terrifying, so let’s back up for a second.
If I ask you, “What does success look like?” I know from experience that the most common answer is, “I don’t know.” We get so caught up in our day to day shit that it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture.
For me, I have a very simple guiding principle: I want to entertain everyone on the planet and make them laugh. Why? Because life is short. It sucks. It’s cruel, and it’s unfair. If I can do something to amuse my fellow humans, even if it’s just for a few moments, and help take some of that pain away? That’s what I’m going to do. That’s why I do what I do.
Luckily, I’ve now had my presentations and work translated across multiple languages, and each time without fail, regardless of where I am in the world and what language the audience speaks, everyone laughs right where they’re supposed to. So this is a guiding principle backed up by data and fact. I am very good at what I do. Unfortunately, I’ve always had more of a cult following than a mass audience, so at the moment, not enough people know I exist where I can do this routinely and get paid to do it.
I mention this because if you’re guiding principle in life is, “I want to be the next Lebron James” you might be in for a rude awakening. You should find your strengths and play into them. Or, if you want to be strong in an area you’re not, relentlessly pursue developing those strengths. Then, you should get your efforts validated, whether through data or experience. Preferably both.
I’m not saying it’s impossible to be the next Lebron, it’s just not likely. Besides, you never want to be the next anything. I spent most of my life wanting to be the next George Carlin, but I realize that I’m just as happy, if not happier, being the first B.J. Mendelson.
So, what does success look like? Well if you can figure out why you do what you do (shoutout to “Start with Why” by Simon Sinek, whose book will be getting the book notes treatment on this website shortly), then you can start to figure out the answer to that question.
I’m not the first person to suggest this, but a typical consulting trick is to ask the client to imagine what success looks like. “Take us 10 years into the future; you have everything you ever wanted. How did you get there?”
Then once the client has an answer to that question, you ask them to break down the process of how they got there into smaller, actionable steps. Those are then the steps you’re supposed to follow. Will things go smoothly? Maybe. Maybe not. Are you better off for following those steps then you are just randomly doing shit? Absolutely. So it’s dumb not to do this.
You should ask yourself right now what success for you looks like, and then ask yourself how you got there. Do it. Take like a minute or two and jot it down. “What does success look like for me?” And then ask, “Ok. How did I get there?” And if you get stuck, ask, “How do I think I got there?” It’s the same question, but there’s less pressure involved.
Because what you’re going to find is that consistency is important across all those steps. You, your product, you are both who you are at 7:30am with the cat, at 10am with your boss, and at 8:30pm with your pretty / handsome date. There is no off switch.
Dale Carnegie talked about this in the ‘30s, Simon Sinek said this in the late ‘00s. I’m pretty sure there’s at least one reference to it in “Meditations.” My point is, I’m not telling you anything new here.
The challenge is just following through on what you’re hearing and being consistent in your efforts. More often than not, we don’t do this. We have excuses. For the startup and tech people, it’s that obnoxious “That doesn’t scale” response, or their tiny little brains blow a gasket when you ask them to do something they can’t measure. For others, we’re afraid of taking risks and looking dumb. “What if we fail?”
Well, shit, you probably will, but even if you do, you’ll be better off for having to take steps to pursue the thing you want to pursue. For one thing, any and all bitterness and resentment for not having done so would never have a chance to take root in your mind. For another, even if you don’t get where you’re going, you may find you like where you wind up just the same. But you won’t know that until you make some effort.
That’s on you, though. I mean that’s the big joke with marketing and PR. The reason every marketing book sounds the same is that, after a certain point, it’s up to you to do shit. There’s only so much they can say. Not much has changed regarding how we communicate with each other. And I mean really communicate, not this superficial social media shit we’ve been obsessed with since 2008. So after a certain point, you need to put the advice that does exist to good use. Or don’t. That’s why I’m talking about all this to begin with. I can easily write a blueprint for you to follow, and I will, but if you’re not clear on why you’re doing what you’re doing and whether or not you want to do what it takes to win, what’s the point? You’re either playing the game or you’re not.
So if you’re me, and your vision is to make everyone on the planet laugh, you work on being funny, and you make sure everything you put out to the world is funny and entertaining. Everything. I wear funny t-shirts that don’t use a lot if any, words so that they’re funny to people of all backgrounds and languages. I try to write and speak in as concise a way as possible so that what I’m saying is clear and easy to understand. This is as true in my personal life as it is in my professional life because the two are one and the same. There is no off switch.
I don’t believe in the off switch. There’s no difference between you and your “personal brand.” You are who you want the world to believe you are, and you can’t achieve that unless you’re consistent about it.