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This week, we examine the second “K” of Kaplan’s 10Ks of Personal Branding: Know what you want to be known for.

My senior year of high school, I was voted as having “best hair”. My resume at that time boasted some impressive achievements for a 16 year old: I was the valedictorian and President of my Senior Class, Secretary of the National Honor Society, and involved in Pep Club, Track & Field, Drama Team, Mock Trial, University of Colorado’s Pre-Collegiate Program, Conoco’s Community Advisory Council, and Homecoming royalty. But, it’s my hair that people considered extraordinary. I don’t remember ever thinking, “I will go down in the history books as having amazing, legendary hair.”

I’m pretty sure Sampson didn’t set out to be known as “the guy in the Bible with long hair,” either. Most people in the Middle East at the time the Bible was written probably had relatively short hair, but does that substantiate Sampson’s reputation despite all the other things we know of his life? God gave Sampson extraordinary strength and he battled with extraordinary temptations. Still, God loved him. As for me, I worked hard for academic and extracurricular achievement in high school, which served as a strong foundation for my professional career. All in, Sampson and I still got “best hair.”

And, such is the power of perception.

It’s pretty difficult to build an outstanding reputation based on a characteristic that is just like everyone else. Can you imagine wanting to be known as the guy with all the newest, raging technology, and you demonstrate it with your cell phone? In 1990, that would have been easy. All you’d have needed would have been a cell phone. In 2011, it’s laughable. So, what is that thing that is unique about you? Is it a timeless characteristic or a trendy whim? In what ways do you naturally stand out from the crowd? Do you want to be known for that?

It’s wise to consider how you’d like to be known in terms of style and composition because they are, in fact, complimentary factors. Looking the part is critical in being cast for the part you want so aligning these areas of your reputation – your brand – can amplify your results.

What you want to be known for and what you work to be known for should be the real you. Showcasing your unique gifts, talents, and abilities makes for a strong, sustainable reputation.

What people think of you is in part a product of their filters and experiences, but outstanding stuff stands out. When you know what you want to be known for, you’re better equipped to lean into those skills, draw on those strengths, and demonstrate those qualities that you most value. And, when it’s real, it’s sustainable over a lifetime.

What am I known for?

Last week, I asked a few friends to describe me. I am elated to report that none of them commented on my hair. In fact, I learned more about myself in their perspectives and am humbled that these are all qualities I seek for others to understand about me. Here’s what they said:

Words that describe BB: energetic, deep, loyal, articulate, particular, curious, effervescent, genuine, exceptional

Things that BB is capable of: building strong relationships, expressing herself and her ideas in ways others only dream of, persevering against challenges that she faces, running a Fortune 500 company, climbing Mt. Everest, changing the oil in her car, everything she puts her mind to, unconditional love, bringing [me] to tears

Things BB values deeply are: family and close friends, her sense of expression on paper, her ability to impact others, friendships, boundaries, human compassion, chivalry, equality, integrity

What makes BB stand out in a crowd: her amazing sense of humor, her contagious laughter, her sparkling eyes and deep conviction

Next week: What do Mr. Bean, Hitler, Las Vegas, and Mr. Rogers have in common?

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