Archive for May, 2010

Personal Brands: Are You a Job Addict?

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

1037355_a_sunny_day_napAddiction is pandemic, even though it seems to go against our instinctive desire to survive. Or maybe it’s that some of us are focused on surviving, and not thriving.


Our natural instinct to survive is so transcendent and ubiquitous; Mark Burnett made billions because he named a television show after it. We like to watch people battle to survive. Our brains’ mirror neurons fire as we lock into the adversarial challenges. We experience firsthand the tension, fear, triumph and reward; or the tension, fear, failure and loss.


That’s why certain sports, which most of us never engaged in, are so compelling. We like NASCAR and hockey, or anything where someone could get killed or seriously injured in an instant.  The hairpin turn and the body check make these “collision sports” as opposed to “contact sports” perversely compelling. We sigh with relief when the driver climbs out of his car, which is upside down and shooting flames. We cheer when the forward recovers from the blow of a defenseman’s elbow to the face. And we exalt their perseverance, when they return to the game – often to experience exactly the same injuries.


With so much of our brained trained for survival, you’d think our desire for well-being would be a reflex, like when the doctor hits your knee with a tiny hammer. Who doesn’t welcome that uncontrollable, gratifying little kick response?

Could be we’ve all watched too many crashes, because success is not a reflex or an instinct for most of us.


Success is a decision.

Success is not a spectator sport.

Success starts with your showing up ready to play. Batteries full with all the right cords and chargers on hand.

Success at work is a collection of success habits.


Go to bed early (or late depending on your shift). Do laundry so you have clean clothes. Think before you speak so you have a clean mouth and a positive outlook. Meet your boss or co-workers with a pen and pad so when people tell you what to do: you write it down. And, do it! Give instructions with kindness. Make sure you deliver support or training at a pace people can use to gain mastery.


You are building your personal brand with every step – and every mis-step.


As a career coach and employer, I’m knocked off my socks watching people destroy the chances they are given. And, in this economy one chance may be all you get for awhile.


Personal Brands: Are You a Job Addict?


Some people are addicted to a cycle of optimism, effort, carelessness and defeat at work. You are a job addict if your work history looks like a patchwork quilt of bright beginnings followed by dark swathes of being misunderstood, underutilized and shut out of all the good meetings.


Need a quick quiz to tell if you are a job addict? It’s simple.

Which response would your past employers say to a prospective one:

a) “All I can do is verify the dates of this person’s employment and compensation.”

b) “We were sorry to see this person leave, because they were such a terrific employee. But, we understand that they deserve greater opportunity than we can provide here.”

Consider you may need help. Whomever you get to listen, don’t let anyone tell you that it’s okay to do what comes naturally – if what you are doing is chronically self-defeating.

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Personal Brands: Get Naked

Friday, May 21st, 2010

NakedAre you playing “dress up” to match the expectations of others? Is there an ever thinning veil, between the real you and the ideal you that you’ve invented and are now struggling to project?

Are you still clenching to maintain the “first date” behavior code with recruiters, your boss or clients? Is your armor cracking (or scorching, if you saw Iron Man 2)? Is it becoming clear that the emperor (or whatever title you hold) has no clothes?

How did you get in this mess?

You pretended to be detail oriented, self-motivated and an early riser. You pretended to be an advanced user of Excel, Final Cut, WordPress and Spanish. You said you were willing, in fact eager, to work weekends, late nights or be on call 24/7/365.

Are you faking it in hopes that you will be making it sometime soon? Are you keeping the lid on your volcano of real strengths that are now screaming to be exploited while you ply your trade with your weakest suit?

Or have you simply outgrown the persona you still attempt to play by being underemployed or dys-employed or just phoning it in?

What is the naked truth about who you really are and what you really want to do?

The closer you can get to the true you, the happier and richer you will be. Richer: as in making lots of money. Happier: as in rich in every way: spiritually, mentally, physically and once again, financially.

Why? To have phenomenal success in any field or even with any project, you have to have unstoppable, intrinsic and sustainable motivation. Problems have to appear as puzzles that you are delighted to decode.

A deep vein running through you must declare: I would do this even if I won the lottery. I might wear better shoes or drive a cooler car and take way better vacays, but I would still be doing “this” for work, for this company or my own company, and my clients, or whatever the “this” and the “who” are for you.

A lot of us have names for your Highest Goal (Michael Ray), your Sweetest Fruit (Laurel Mellin) or Ultimate Outcome (me). These are just labels for your IT. What is IT? IT is the thing screaming to get out of your mind or body and put onto this planet. It is the truth you may be hiding from yourself, as well as others.

Here’s my embarrassing truth. I am someone who needs other people’s dreams and ambitions in order to be self-actualized. I am meant to help, encourage, find the right way, take the first bullet, stay up all night to get it done on time, and make the most money possible for the people I work for.  I respond so easily to the red light on the camera because I believe I am helping the audience. I teach for the same reason. In fact, it’s why I write to you each week.

My clients often write “thank you” in the memo of their retainer checks.

If I were a dog, I’d be a golden retriever – a working dog that loyally runs into the rushing waters of a cold river to get the stick and get it back to you. Simply put, my personal brand is this: I am a helper, with vision and grit.

If we stripped away all the varnish (and that’s the nice word for it), what is your naked truth?

Planet Earth is 71% water. Take a skinny dip into it, baring your real personal brand.

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Personal Brands: The Testicle Defense

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

Anger“I have testicular cancer,” the late flooring supervisor told me. I don’t mean late as in dead. I mean late as in 4 weeks overdue to put the last bit of my office floor in, and now at 10 PM on Saturday night, culminating three days of “I’ll be right there,” just arriving at my office. That kind of late.

To woo me and blow smoke at me over the last 4 weeks, the supervisor had spun tales of putting in Tom Cruise’s floor, being called to an “emergency job” in Oregon and the ever popular refrain in this town: the “traffic is really heavy on the 5 (freeway, I’m in LA).” He has just arrived: angry.

Why he’s angry, I shouldn’t know because I’ve already paid him and it’s just the last 300 feet in a 6000 square foot job that went undone because he failed to measure right. But, I actually do know why he is angry at me.

When people make a mistake they have two choices about whom to hate: you or themselves. Statistically, it’s not a coin toss. The odds are rigged against you.

The biggest fear I have in business is someone else not doing their job, not because it won’t wind up done by them (or me or someone else I pay double to do it on a rush), but because they are very likely to get angry rather than apologize and do the right thing. In fact, that scenario is pretty much the only time anyone is angry with me.

So if you’re angry, I pretty much know you didn’t do something you promised.

However, the testicle defense? Very original! At first, I thought perhaps his testicles in some way kept him from showing up this morning. It so happens that I’m a woman so how would I know? I’m not a doctor.

In fact, it turns out he had another job also unfinished, located in Palm Springs (probably due to finish last year) and he thought he’d “get that out of the way” before driving up 5 hours to see me.

So what time zone was the “I’ll be there a 8 AM Saturday” zone when in reality he planned to be 400 miles away from me? It wasn’t the US Pacific Time Zone. I was here waiting for him in no special time warp; just 8 AM Saturday. And, as the clocked ticked away time? No supervisor. No flooring. But throughout the day, lots of calls to negotiate a new arrival time – hence he shows up at 10 PM.

Here’s what happened. The supervisor was angry that I failed to greet him like a conquering hero bringing me chocolate and parachute silks. When he read my tired face as: “I’ve been up for 15 hours today and now will be up another 5 while you finally do your job,” he said: “It’s not even worth it for me to put in the floor. You are already unhappy. And, I have testicular cancer.”

So he threatened to withhold my flooring while waving some kind of testicle defense. My response? Remember, I have an unfair advantage in these circumstances: I communicate for a living. I teach people how to communicate with difficult people. Here’s my response:

“You and I are dying before each others’ eyes, aren’t we?”

He let a tear drop out of his eye and silently (hurray!) went to work (finally!).

Personal brands: what excuses are you giving yourself to underperform?

What happens to the personal brand you are trying to build, when you pull out a dopey, lame and TMI (too much information!) response to someone’s well deserved rebuke of you for what havoc you wreaked in their business or life?

We all are living to die. That’s the deal here. You get to make the reality you live in. You get to choose from an infinite spectrum of behaviors and words to describe what you are doing right, and what you are doing wrong.

It’s your choice that matters; it’s what defines you as a personal brand. Not some myth called reality. It’s all perception of you and by you.

Here a tip as you lay the foundation of your personal brand.  Lay down a track of self-talk that soothes you when you make a mistake and gets you back the self-control that saves you from yourself.

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Personal Brands: Play Hurt

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

HairTieOn Saturday afternoon I visited a posh salon in Los Angeles. The place and the people were way cooler than I am but hey, a friend gave me a referral card worth $25 off a haircut there.

It was a lot like I imagine heaven must be. There were endless cappuccinos, people speaking French and an air that everyone is fabulous in that West Hollywood-Beverly Hills kind of way.

In fact, Meryl Streep was being adored next to me, and she deserved it. She emanates a lightness of heart and liquid grace that previously I associated only with crème brule. Creamy goodness.

And, because everyone in the salon was fabulous, someone recognized me from CNBC and told me how fabulous I am. I suspect they Google you before you come in to make sure that if there’s even a hint of celebrity in your body of work, you are celebrated for it. The woman stopped short of asking for my autograph and I stopped short of asking Ms. Streep for hers. My “fan” did press her contact information on me, actually onto my iPhone.

I came away from the experience with my hair several shades lighter and much, much shorter. My bank account was clipped just under $500 (with the $25 off). C’mon, I had to buy the products, because everyone there was doing it, and they are fabulous. I was thinking for a moment that I was fabulous, too.

Here’s where the story takes an ugly turn.

Swinging my shiny new do, I drove to the new building we’ve renovated with just 20 hours to go before the soft opening and about 100 hours of work to do on it. There was paint on coving running around the perimeter of the space, sticky stuff on the bathroom floors, six thousand feet of recycled rubber flooring to vacuum and mop. At 6 PM, it was just the CEO who’s launching this business and me. All the workman, sub-contractors, even the cleaning people had called it quits before it was quitting time. That is if quitting time means the job is complete and the deadline met.

In one last desperate SOS, I offered $50 to two workers scurrying away. I only did it because we needed two ladders to put up the sign, and without theirs, we had just one.

MonjaSo at 3 AM on Sunday, I dragged myself home and finished the welcome packages, lined up everything to go, and wrote myself a checklist. At 5 AM I crawled into bed. My mind raced back through the day – did I have everything we needed for the opening just 5 hours away?

And in that mental back tracking, I remembered the posh salon, Meryl Streep and the moment of fabulousness.

I doubt Meryl went back to a building and scrubbed floors. Even the woman who played the part of my fan must have enjoyed a more elegant day. Almost everyone had, I felt sure.

But, no matter where they dined or wined or went for amusement, I don’t know that anyone had a better day than I did.  There is something life affirming about digging deep when you are so tired it is impossible to go on, and go on. There is something outstanding about finding the one person, and he’s your partner, who works alongside you and does all the heavy lifting (literally).

Personal brands: don’t quit before quitting time. Stay and get it done. Then, double check your work. Don’t go to bed without making a checklist for the next day. In front of the door, line up all your files and briefcase. Locate your keys.

Successful personal brands much like all star athletes: play tired, play hurt and play as if it’s the last game of the regular season with a championship tournament slot on the line.

That’s how Meryl Streep does her craft and career. I just build companies and wash floors.

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