When you uncover and start to live your personal brand, you bring forth your personal power.
EVERY PERSON is born with a personal brand. It is that inner image of yourself – that person whom you know yourself to be – made manifest. It shines forth in children. They are it. As we grow older the outside forces of life – parents, minders, teachers, peers – rub up against that image, sometimes polishing it, sometimes wearing it down. No matter how polished or worn down the outer version becomes, the inner version continues to want to shine. It never lets us go. What we experience as our life purpose is the drive to create an outer image of ourselves – a personal brand – that most closely matches that inner image.
In his New York Times bestselling book The Soul’s Code, author and Jungian analyst James Hillman talks about that moment when one’s inner image announces itself: “[It is that] signal moment in childhood when an urge out of nowhere, a fascination, a peculiar turn of events [strikes] like an annunciation: This is what I must do, this is what I’ve got to have. This is who I am.” He gives the example of Yehudi Menuhin, who was considered one of the greatest violinists of the 20th century. When, at the age of four, Menuhin’s parents answered his requests for a violin with a toy version of one, he threw it to the ground in a fit of rage. He wanted a real violin. According to Hillman, this was his inner image making itself known and demanding its outer expression.
I recently interviewed Manny Rivera, the founder and CEO of the Planet Fitness chain of gyms in South Africa, for Leadership magazine. Manny grew up in the Bronx in New York City, and he told this story: “I was one of those kids who sold lemonade on the side of the road. I remember driving with my dad once and noticing that the department stores were not just in one place, but all over. I thought that was a good way to make money and I somehow knew I’d do that one day. I had no idea it would be a chain of gyms.” That was his moment, and he has created the chain of gyms as his representation of that inner image he had of himself as an entrepreneur.
For me personally the moment occurred when I heard the Biblical story of King Solomon, whose request for wisdom above all else struck a chord by which I recognised my own inner image. Wisdom became my quest and today the outer form of that image is my career as an executive and life coach and human motivation specialist.
Of course not everybody is going to have such a clear and defining moment. For some, it emerges more slowly over time. Either way, we do know it, just as we know what outcome we really want when we toss a coin in the air to make a choice. If somebody – or life – pushes you far enough, your true inner image will reveal itself.
What is a personal brand?
That inner image has been named differently by the various traditions: your daimon (Greek), your calling (Plato), your genius (Roman), your guardian angel (Christian), your Self (Jungian), your character (modern secular) and, in the social media age, your personal brand. In its default setting it houses your blueprint and carries your destiny. Hillman called it your acorn, because the acorn is “a fully endowed embryonic plant. The essence of the oak is all there at once.” In other words, the acorn is whole and complete from the beginning; the entire structure of the oak tree is contained within it, and it’s job is to take root and expand. To become its expanded self on the outside.
Creating an outer version of your inner image is the aim of uncovering your personal brand. Why bother? If you have to ask that question it’s probably not worth sticking around for an answer, but I’ll give one anyway: If you don’t, you end up with what Hillman calls the “dissatisfied frustration of unlived life”. The payoff of uncovering your personal brand is authentic success, the kind of success by which we are not only wealthy, but healthy and wise – happy and fulfilled – as well.
There are other reasons to uncover your personal brand.
Your personal brand contains your true power
One day when my son Luke was four years old he asked me to help him paint his face. He wanted to be a cheetah. We painted his face and for the rest of the day he did not speak, but only growled his responses. He became the cheetah completely. Cheetah energy spoke through him. Today he’s a teenager, and teenage energy speaks through him. He’s mature and confident, and like all teenagers, does his best to be cool. That’s the current version of his personal brand. The possibility of so completely being the cheetah is gone, lost in self-consciousness. This is right and natural, so there’s nothing wrong. The point is, if he ever wants to be the cheetah again, he will have to consciously reclaim that ability.
What would be the benefit of that, you might well ask. The cheetah example provides an example of how over time we become ashamed of our personal brand, of who we really are. We hide more and more of it. The less supportive our upbringing, the deeper we bury it. In my own life I took a long, circuitous route to get to the point where I could even begin to express my personal brand. This shame is also why people find it hard to market themselves and end up working for others instead of living their dreams. If they could recover their personal brand, they could live fulfilled lives and serve the world in the way of an Oprah Winfrey, a Bono, or a Nelson Mandela. As the mythologist Joseph Campbell said, “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”
To uncover your personal brand is to uncover your power and potential, your genius, your unique gift to the world. It is to become the person you know yourself to be, beneath those layers of shame. Notice the use of the term “uncover”. The inner image is already there, whole and complete. It only needs to be uncovered. And its counterpart in the world will always be imperfect. While we are perfect inwardly, outwardly we are always becoming, and so it’s never too late to start.
Unleash your personal brand power today. Contact Neil.