The Only Question that Matters in Personal Branding

Managing A Personal Brand

My friend Robert D. Smith is a master of branding and a creative force. For decades, he has managed the career of best-selling author and speaker Andy Andrews.  In addition to his work with Andy, he is regularly sought after by some of the biggest names for his expert advice, creativity, and innovative approaches.

 

“Whether you think it or not, you are a brand.” @TheRobertD

 

Recently, I spent some time visiting with him in his home and office in Tennessee.  Most people know Robert as THE Robert D.  His energy is so intense that, to prepare, I downed a double espresso before our interview.  I shouldn’t have bothered because just talking with him is like plugging into an unending energy source.

In our video interview, you will hear THE Robert D’s advice on building a personal brand.

What’s the number one question that THE Robert D asks himself to know whether a person will succeed?  Drum roll….

Are you coachable?

Interestingly, when I hire an executive, that is also my number one question. Because if you are not teachable, it usually means you are arrogant. If you aspire to serve others, you are always trying to remain coachable.

 

“Winning is defined by the legacy you create.” @TheRobertD

 

Here are a few highlights from our discussion:

  • Anyone can have a personal brand. “Whether you think it or not, you are a brand.” How you look, dress, talk is part of your brand.

How to Envision Your Limitless Potential

Hand held medal against a stormy sky

Tune in to the Power of Blind Ambition

Many of us start a new year with a list of resolutions and aspirations.  Those goals can quickly disappear as we replace goals with excuses.  A regular diet of motivation helps me redouble my efforts, so I regularly look for inspiring people, books, speeches, and songs.

That’s why I was pleased to have the opportunity to speak with Patricia Walsh.  Talk about overcoming obstacles, pursuing dreams, and not letting an excuse derail goals.

At age five, she was blind from a brain tumor.  Later, fighting depression and hopelessness, she made a decision to reclaim her quality of life.  Now, she has written an inspiring book, Blind Ambition: How to Envision Your Limitless Potential and Achieve the Success You Want .  She has a successful career as an entrepreneur, a software engineer, and a professional speaker.  And I almost forgot to mention she is a champion athlete.

Don’t listen to the voice telling you to give up on your goals.  Don’t settle for mediocrity.  Don’t limit your potential.

Instead, tune in to the power of Blind Ambition.

 

“You can never go wrong by lifting someone up.” -Patricia Walsh

 

Shatter Expectations

I’ve interviewed another female Ironman, Chrissie Wellington.  Reading her book was the closest I’ve come to understanding what it takes to compete.  It’s a grueling challenge.  And you’re blind and you did it.  What motivated you to shatter expectations?

I stumbled into shattering: I think my friends and family assume that I set out with a determination to turn the world on its ear from the get go.  Truly the spirit of the initial events was more of a, “What could possibly go wrong?” to which the response was. “Everything could go wrong,” to which I then responded, “Even if everything does go wrong, this won’t kill me.”

My initial motivation was to reclaim my quality of life.  When this all began, I had a smoking habit, was the life of the party, and as a result was overweight and feeling lost in my own skin.  As my dad started struggling with his own health, I realized that my habits and patterns not only emulated his, in many ways they were worse than his.  I started running as an attempt to reclaim my health.  The result after months of trial and error and continuous improvement was not only a betterment of my physical health, but it had become a lifeline for what had been a shattered sense of self.

In completing my first marathon, I proved to myself that I was not and never have been damaged goods.  My sense of ability was through the roof.  When proposed the opportunity to take on ever increasing challenges I jumped at the chances.  After years of marathoning, a friend dared me to do an ironman.  When I took on ironman it was out of a curiosity and a wonder for my own capabilities.  I was in way over my head.  I had never swum or biked.  The amount of help and coaching I needed just to finish was daunting.

Walsh9780071833820It was after completing my first ironman, Lake Placid 2010, when I became the first blind female to have completed an ironman with a female guide, that I saw the opportunity to reclaim expectations.

There is a thriving prejudice of reduced expectations of persons with disability.  I feel it every day.  People are surprised when I am able to order for myself at a restaurant.  People approach my friends and congratulate them on their generosity for taking the blind kid out for an adventure. People do not see me as an accomplished adult.  The challenge for me every day is to fight the impulse to become a defensive person.  When faced with these reduced expectations, my want is to rattle off my resume.  My want is even to make that person feel lower, but what good would come of that?  I know better.  If I were to ever really have that honest reaction, everyone would walk away feeling awful.  I acknowledge my role has to be that of a gentle educator.  After my initial success in ironman, I had the opportunity to race with a hero of mine.  It was then that I saw the gleam of light that I could be a competitive athlete by any standard.

I believed that if I put in the time and effort to be among the top finishers for my age group, then I could offer up an example of appropriate expectations of the blind.  That is to say blind and disabled people are not lesser than, they are equal to, and in some cases even greater than those without disability.  Truly it isn’t about the comparison, it is about the assumption.  The efforts of persons with disability should be taken on their own merit, absent of the expectation of diminished value.

 

“Excuses are a mask for fear and self-doubt.” -Patricia Walsh

 

Finishing my second ironman in 11:40 was groundbreaking for me.  In 10 months I had reduced my own time by three hours.  I had set an example of an athlete with disability who two years into the sport could be ranked among the top 10 finishers for her age group.  I was then recruited to compete at a different distance for the US National team.  My secret hope is to come back to ironman after Paralympics, as I left wanting more.  I know I could be among the top finishers in following my own fuel-fire-blaze hierarchy with the emotionally intrinsic goal of continuing to chip away at the reduced expectations.

 

Limitations and Excuses

50 Things to Drop Before the New Year

Eliminated Red Square Grungy Stamp Isolated On White Background

The Eliminate List

There are some things that we just need to eliminate.  Don’t take them into next year.  Here’s a few in random order of what we can all drop:

  1. Grudges
  2. Anger
  3. Toxic habits
  4. Clutter
  5. Negative thoughts
  6. People who drag you down
  7. Limiting language
  8. Bitterness
  9. Extra weight
  10. Unrealistic expectations
  11. Self righteousness
  12. Meanness
  13. Rudeness
  14. Partially hydrogenated anything
  15. Hatred
  16. Swearing
  17. Excuses
  18. Distractions
  19. Blind spots
  20. Frivolous spending
  21. Busywork
  22. Being cheap
  23. Drags
  24. Texting while driving
  25. Lateness
  26. Limiting beliefs
  27. Road rage
  28. Time wasters
  29. Doing it all alone
  30. Too much screen time
  31. Laziness
  32. Jealousy
  33. Stress
  34. Old clothes
  35. Gossip
  36. Debt
  37. Correcting others
  38. Perfectionism
  39. Self-sabotage
  40. Roadblocks
  41. Procrastination
  42. “Um” and other filler words
  43. Junk food
  44. Worry
  45. Sense of entitlement
  46. Thinking the worst about people
  47. High blood pressure
  48. Empty and false promises
  49. Seeking the approval of others
  50. Some money in an envelope and send it to your favorite charity.

How to Live a Life of Thankfulness

Freedom Woman On Sunset Sky

A Way of Life

Thankfulness, gratitude, and gratefulness:  three words to describe a characteristic, a personality trait, and a way of living.

People who live with an attitude of gratitude are known to live longer, sleep better, and have increased productivity and happier lives.

For much of my life, I would have told you that people are thankful when they are happy, things are going well, and life is good.

But then I met people who seemingly unraveled a mystery:

  • The elderly woman in a nursing home who was in a great deal of pain. But you wouldn’t know it.  She couldn’t stop smiling and thanking me for the visit.
  • The middle-aged man who recently lost his job, his home and his family. Instead of bitterness, he was focused on thanking the people who offered him food and a place to stay.
  • The up-and-coming leader I hired who thanked me again and again for the job. Instead of an egotistical response, knowing his qualifications, he must have thanked me a dozen times for the opportunity.

As we think about gratitude, I think of the spirit inside these people.  I realized that I could not predict someone’s attitude based on circumstances.  I would meet someone who was wealthy beyond belief, but that person was miserable.  Someone else would win a major award and shrug off compliments, grumbling that it was not good enough.

Did thankfulness allow the woman to live longer?

Did the middle-aged man end up more successful based on his attitude?

Did the up-and-coming leader create success in his life because of his thankfulness?

Does gratitude help fuel success?  My opinion is that it does.  It seems to play a major role in happiness, health, and prosperity.  The order is more often gratitude first, then success and not success first, then gratitude.

 

“A spirit of thankfulness attracts others to your cause, ideas and goals.” -Skip Prichard

 

Here are a few tips I have learned from those who are truly grateful.  These people are thankful:

 

Always.

That means in the morning and during bad weather.  It seems that losing our health makes us more grateful if we get it back.  Losing money makes us thankful for a small savings account.  The death of a family member causes us to savor the sweetness of the surviving members.

“In everything, give thanks.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

 

With small things.

It’s not the major accomplishments; it’s the smallest, almost unnoticeable daily events.  It’s being thankful for the smell of a flower or when your football team wins a point.

Leading Culture Change Starts At Home

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It Starts at Home

We talk about corporate and organizational culture every day.  The culture of an organization can make or break a company.  “Culture trumps strategy” is a quote attributed to different people, but the idea is clear.

“The strength of a nation derives from the integrity of the home.” -Confucius

 

If success at work is rooted in culture, why do we ignore it at home?  All homes have unwritten rules, social mores, and patterns of behavior.  In fact, the behavior at home may be much more difficult to change than at work.

How would you define the culture of your home?  Safe, encouraging, and positive?  Or critical, tense, and exhausting?

Take the time to think about your environment at home and whether it is contributing to your family’s success.  And think about how your culture at home impacts your work.

 

“Culture trumps strategy.” -Unknown

 

Assess it.

Sit down with your family or roommates and define the present culture.  This may not be easy.  It requires listening.  In many cases, a third party may be required to gain an objective view.  If it is too challenging, skip this step and focus on what you want it to be.  If you live alone, you’re not excused.  You still have a culture to describe.

Determine what you want it to be.

What type of culture you want to create requires thoughtful planning.  Define it together.  This should be a positive exercise.

Develop plans to close the gap. 

You will immediately see where there are gaps between the current and desired cultures.  Spend time thinking about ways that will move you in the direction you want to go.

Set rules.