Both you and your organization have a brand, whether intentional or not and developing that brand successfully is a good part of our time on earth. [more]
It’s the 80’s. We have three little ones chasing their babysitter Craig around the house. Sometimes Craig’s good friend Patrick would stop by for a game of basketball with Craig. In later years, my boys and I would get into the game and mix it up with Craig and Patrick. Still later, we’d go have a beer and talk about life.
Patrick went on to Notre Dame and then to have his own career and wife and kids, as did Craig. Now, some 20 years later, Patrick and Craig work together at a well-heeled boutique called Marsh Berry doing insurance company mergers and acquisitions. Craig’s a financial and marketing guy and Pat’s an EVP.
When Craig called me a year and a half ago and told me that Patrick had cancer it was pretty hard to believe since he was not yet 40. Stranger yet, he had a very rare form of cancer that my sister-in-law, Jan, was diagnosed with in 1985 called epithilioid sarcoma. There are only about 50 cases a year in the USA, usually terminal, usually sooner rather than later.
(They gave Jan two years. She decided she wanted to see her 7 year old youngest child graduate from high school and so she did – 11 years later.)
So, when I heard, I wrote Patrick a note and sent a book. I still call Craig every month or so to see how his friend and colleague is doing. Craig usually tells me some crazy Patrick story such as him getting on a plane to see clients only weeks after the doctor’s had amputated his arm.
Last year, they took half of one of his lungs. Again, weeks later, he was back on the trail enjoying the consulting work he’s become very good at and loves doing.
A few weeks ago, Craig sent me a column Pat wrote for their company journal (Click here to read the column). It’s a little long and has some insurance-speak, but to me it’s awe-inspiring.
The article is about differentiating ourselves in business and in our personal lives. He tells his own stories, beyond his life-changing diagnosis including an incident with an employee where he learned “you are what you appear to be to those around you.” He calls it your “personal brand.”
He opens the article with these words:
“Some people need to experience a life changing event before they really “see” the world around them. Or before they commit to change. We know what we want to do or need to do, but we fail to execute. We ultimately fail to find the time. And thus, we fail to see the importance of change.”
And so I thought about that. My mother always said, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Patrick’s words seem even more powerful though because he is eighteen months into a reverberating change he didn’t choose.
He says later that life should not be only about dealing with changes you don’t choose, but even more importantly, we should choose how to change. He suggests that whether we recognize it or not, we all give off an aura of personal and career commitment that we are differentiated by.
He takes his readers through a four step process he suggests for understanding your personal brand:
- Understand what makes you different
- Know how to articulate it
- Be able to show it
- Ask others to share it
Toward the end of the article he brings this all home very personally:
“I have come to intimately know pain and pain no longer hurts. Rather, it is a daily discomfort that I manage. But while I have become virtually immune to my physical pain, I am noticeably more susceptible to mental pain as I reflect more and more on the discrepancies between who I want to be and how others see me.”
The pain he speaks of is one I’ve felt when I realize that I see myself different than how others see me.
After some internal debate, Patrick concludes that he “is now proud to identify himself as both an amputee and a cancer survivor.” He says it will help him give and take from his situation, personally and professionally.
And so he says we might all ask ourselves:
“How do I see myself?
Have I created a brand and differentiated myself?
Does my brand fit my intention?”
Using Patrick’s questions, I’m reminded that I know clearly what I’d like to become – the challenge for me is executing that intention.
Patrick’s article also asked that we learn a little more about sarcoma so that this rare disease is less a mystery. A good place to start for me was www.sarcomahelp.org.
Mostly this article is to tell you and him how much I respect and admire and love him. He’s directly facing a reality we will all face sooner or later. And whether I’m around a week or years more, my ambition is face living as he is, with energy and faith and flair......
and a personally differentiated brand.