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Personal Brand vs Identity - The Non-Celebrity Death Match

Should your Personal Brand and your Identity be the same?

How many posts have you read that talk about the importance of having an AUTHENTIC brand? (I read 3 just today)… It makes sense right?

It is also widely accepted that your personal brand IS your reputation. Which leads us to consider our audience when we shape our personal brand. So the balancing act between tailoring our brand to suit our audience and maintaining authenticity with who we are begins.

Hold on to that thought for a moment while I set the stage. I recently attended a talk based on a principle from 30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans. (Great book by the way – it compiles THOUSANDS of elderly people’s advice on living a fulfilled life.)

This particular topic was on our IDENTITY. The claim was that most of us base our identity on these three things:

  • I am what I do – What you do is definitely part of your personal brand story.
  • I am what I control – Branding yourself is an attempt to control how others view you.
  • I am what others say I am – Wow! Sounds a lot like reputation to me…

Here’s a little story about a man.

He Failed in business.


A year later he was Defeated for State Legislature.


The next year he had his second Failure in business.


Three years later he Suffered nervous breakdown.


Two years after that he was Defeated for Speaker.


Again, two years later he was Defeated for Elector.


His luck changed three years later when he was Elected for Congress.


Back on track he was Defeated for Congress three years after that.


And again he was Defeated for Senate seven years later.


A year after he was Defeated for Vice President.


And two years later… yep you guessed it… Defeated for Senate.


I’ll give the guy his due credit… He was PERSISTENT. Regardless, it is a great example of a personal branding FAIL. Put yourself in this guys shoes for just a moment…

How are you feeling about yourself? I mean what you do is… get defeated at every turn. You display an inability to control anything that matters year after year. And let’s face it…you’re not going to win a popularity contest anytime soon.

His personal brand is shot, right? And his identity…well it’s a wonder he didn’t have more nervous breakdowns.

At what point do you give up?

Well in 1860 he was Elected President of the United States.

Personal Branding by Abraham LincolnThat’s right. You might find him wearing a top hat on that copper penny in your pocket… He’s Abraham Lincoln, arguably the most significant president this country has ever had.

Just take a moment to consider how different our country would be if this man HAD based his identity on what people thought of him.

For One – He would NEVER have made it to the presidency in the first place… by failure number two he’d have changed careers.

Two – Assuming he did make president, you might recall he was the MOST HATED president during his time in office in the HISTORY of the United States. Ask yourself, would a man who based his identity on what others thought be able to make the hardest decisions the United States has ever had to make?

So what the heck does this have to do with YOUR personal brand and YOUR identity?

The trouble with basing your identity on what you do, what you control, or what others say about you is – what happens when

You’re defeated, fired or you have a terrible boss?

Things break the mold of what you think you control?

Someone or everyone doesn’t seem to like you?

According to the wisdom of the elderly… and I’m inclined to believe them… it leads to a less authentic and thus less fulfilled life.

But wait. Isn’t your personal brand your reputation?

I think the people with enough experiences to have a vote in the matter would say, “Don’t forget what it truly is that makes you tick.” Base your identity on that story, and USE your personal brand as a tool to pave the way to your dreams.

If you enjoyed this post, share it with your friends:

Check out Superhero Branding for Ordinary People for steps on how to apply that very concept.

Who wins in your Personal Brand VS Identity Death Match?

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  • http://www.panache-studio.com Tanvi

    I totally enjoyed your Article Schuyler, Thank you for sharing the story of A. Lincoln!
    Very Inspiring indeed….

    I too truly believe, You are what you believe you are; and it is your and only your responsibility to make the world believe in you!

    • http://www.purposecompass.org/blog Schuyler

      Thanks Tanvi!

      I really appreciate the comment. To inspire is the best compliment.

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