Personal Brands: Stick Together

ActorI spent the weekend in bootcamp at UCLA with dozens of amazing people who all were wrestling with their personal brands.  I was their wrestling coach. I was also, at times, their opponent, referee, fan in the stands, hot dog seller, beer purveyor, mother, sister, aunt, and confessor.

I could not be more humbled by their bravery and vulnerability – and their affection for each other, and me.

All of us were strangers on Saturday at 9 AM. All of us were planning our first reunion by Sunday at 4 PM.  This is evidence that the opportunity for collaboration can result in both our finest and oddest moments.

Finest in that we find our true purpose in life when we are group goal oriented. Really odd, in that personal branding seems by nature to be a solo – not team, sport.

What we each accomplished for ourselves is developing personas that are “different in a good way” from our competition. This is the pure play definition of positioning – the marketer’s dream in a competitive environment.

I told everyone to keep a “key learning” journal during camp – a way to capture the “aha!” nuggets that erupted, leaked or somehow emerged as the exercises, lectures, examples and interactions widened our focus and narrowed our legitimate claims on space in our professions, industries, sectors and so on.

The greatest aha moment for me came after I drove off campus early Sunday evening, to dash over to the big, empty space that by May 3 will be my company’s new headquarters. This is now: gaping holes, half-finished walls, primer instead of paint put up and the detris of construction activity – like tools I don’t know the name of. As I sat on a stack of wallboards waiting for my partners so we could make some decision about paint colors, I was the one thing I had not been for days: alone.

My “aha” moment is this: you and I need a safe and nourishing place to ask and answer the really big questions in business. When the defining nature of the business involves personal branding, I am surprised that meditating alone or any type of navel-gazing isn’t very effective. What I now know is this: there is something magical or primal about real human contact. Being with our tribe magnifies our intentions. We seek to make meaning when we take on the responsibility for making ourselves clear to our tribe mates.

This is true even when our tribe is formed ad-hoc, without our qualifying each other, judging each other or knowing anything about each other except that we are all here to do this one thing. In our case, it was defining our personal brands on day one and then tactically planning our brands’ social media campaigns on day two.

How could we each have accomplished so much in such a short time? Is it immersion? Is it competitiveness? Is it the sense of other people in the dark, seeking light?

I think amazing self-revelation demands an audience to share it. Only when you hear the sounds of other earnest voices, the rustling of other’s thoughts been scratched onto real paper with pen, and see others picking out color chips in combinations that would never come from your mind’s eye, do you understand yourself.

I cannot let it go unsaid that having world-class examples and experts as guest lecturers took us all to the summit. Thank you @KarlKasca, @MollyJoRosen, @FrugalDivaAlert Susan Kessler and Jon Weiss Torerk at as well as all the personal brands that came and were made.

You made “camp inward-bound” in a lecture room at UCLA as exciting as the “outward-bound” one that has legendary status. We did not just survive the challenges, we thrived because of them and each other.

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