Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Personal branding tip: Use mistakes to your advantage

A common misconception about branding is that total perfection is required. The equivalent of fresh white snow. You can't have a single dirty footprint on your lawn.

Untrue!

Some really cool personal brands have made a career of messing up:

* Comedian Jerry Seinfeld made a mint from his neurotic obsessions and inability to keep a girlfriend - by turning these problems into a show of the same name. Result: He doesn't have to work for the rest of his life.

* Career blogger Penelope Trunk regularly writes about her personal problems, most recently smashing a lamp over her head during a fight with her husband. Comments - read "sticky site traffic," folks - are through the roof.

* Decades ago, Albert Einstein made famous the saying, "If we knew what we were doing, it wouldn't be called research, would it?" Today, his visage is instantly recognizable anywhere.

Numerous others who have admitted their flaws or recovered from serious mistakes have found forgiveness by the public. Don't want to embarrass anyone by listing their name here. But the publishing industry lives and dies by these folks' recoveries.

I'm not saying to go out there and make a fool of yourself all the time. That's not strategic. But I am saying that nobody is perfect. No one. So you don't have to try and pretend to be. 

More, perfection doesn't even exist. We are all SUPPOSED to be different. We are supposed to fall before we walk, get teenage acne, choose the wrong major because we think we're supposed to, and in general take wrong turns on the path of life.

So. Your unique personality is actually just fine the way it is. Whatever mistakes you've made, or life circumstances that have been foisted upon you, they're just a part of your special story. That's fine too. All of it adds up to your real, authentic personal brand.

Nobody is going to be successful at everything they do. Nobody is going to fit into every organization they seek acceptance by. But if you accept yourself, you will find that you are more relaxed, and able to shift from formality to "being yourself" appropriately as per the situation.

Being yourself makes you honest. Being honest makes you trustworthy. Being trustworthy makes you a valuable personal brand.

Mess up a little more. You'll be glad you did.


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