What have fire-breathing dancers, shops and airhostesses got in common?

I wanted to be them all when I was a little girl. Yes. Really.

But this post is about talents. We all have them. Some of us are lucky enough to know our talents and are using them every day. But the rest of us are still searching. I remember when I was trying to sort my life out and I was mulling this one over for quite a while. And, out of all the exercises that I came across there’s one that stood out for me that really helped. And it was this.

Think back to when you were a kid and people asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up.

What was on your list? Now, the trick with this isn’t taking the answer to the question literally, but reading between the lines. What do I mean? Well, maybe if I shared my story it might help to explain what I mean.

When I was little I went through a few phases and wanted to be many things. Didn’t we all?

Of course, like everyone, I wanted to be a pop star. My mum sent me to ballet and dance classes and I loved doing all the shows we put on. My friends and I would diligently re-create the dance routines from Fame in the playground. As it happened, I was a professional dancer for while and loved it – but the money was crap! And I thought I’d better make good use of my business degree. But I will never forget the feeling I got from being on stage.

I travelled a lot as a child between the UK and Paris to see my family and was often the little kid on the plane wearing a big badge accompanied by the airhostess. I think it was this made me want to be an airhostess.

And finally, I wanted to have my own shop. I would spend hours working out what I’d call it but never got any further than “Chez Alexia” or “Alexia’s shop”. I clearly still needed to work on my creativity back then! I couldn’t tell you what I was selling in the shop, but it was MY shop. Now, again, I did end up working in the retail industry. I worked at a retailer and for brands that are sold in retailers. And I really enjoyed it; seeing an idea that you’ve come up with or a product you’ve created be distributed around the world is pretty cool. Especially when the press go mad for it and you see it in magazines!

Now you’re thinking so what? Well, the point is to look at what it was ABOUT those things that I liked. If we can work out what that is, maybe we can find a way of still doing that but in a slightly different way. So, looking back at my aspirations…

The pop star thing: well I can’t deny that being Leo I do like being on stage, but it was a specific moment on stage that I liked. I used to be part of a tribal fire-breathing dancing trio that would dance at music festivals and clubs (we were VERY cool!). DJ’s would hire us to help them get the crowd going, and that’s what I did – got the crowd going. And THAT is what I loved; when my actions on stage would bring about a massive shift in the energy of the crowd below. Playing with the crowd in that way was epic awesome-ness. Not the pre-rehearsed routines, but responding to the DJ and going with the flow. Being in the moment of it all. Of course doing that now would be a bit inappropriate. But what I can still do is to bring about a state change for the better in my audiences, whoever they are. If they come away energised and feeling great then I’m buzzing.

Now the airhostess bit is pretty obvious. No, it’s not the mopping up after people; it’s the travelling. I just love travelling and seeing the world. And have not done enough of it.

Now, onto the shop. It’s not so much the physical concept that interests me but the broader idea of selling my things, my ideas. Specifically selling ideas that were mine and not someone else’s. I guess that’s why I was never that happy as an employee; I wanted to do MY thing.

So, if I just finish by distilling these. I want to sell my ideas. I want to share my ideas with audiences in a way that leaves them feeling energized and buzzing. And, I want to see the world as I do it. And, that’s what I’m doing now and I LOVE it!

So, think back to what you wanted to be when you were a kid. What was it about those things that you really liked? And, are you doing them now?

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Finding your personal brand

There are lot of articles about on personal branding, with the majority talking about how important it is to have a personal brand. The rest of them talk about all the ways that you can increase the visibility of your personal brand in the online environment. But, before any work can be done to raise your profile, you need to be clear as to what your brand is. And working it out is not always straightforward. Well sure, it sounds straightforward when you talk about it

“… a personal brand is a blend of your strengths, personality, passion, values and goals….”

Working all that out takes quite a bit of time and effort. Let me just look at each one of these in turn.

Strengths
How many of us know our strengths? If you’ve been through corporate training, it’s likely that you’ve been subjected to a Myers Briggs profiling or similar. So, for you guys, it’s a bit easier. But for the rest of you, identifying your strengths can be difficult. Why?

  • We don’t always realise that we’re good at something, because for us, it’s natural. We don’t know what we know. Often, it takes someone else to spot our talent.
  • We’re usually much better at identifying our weaknesses.

It’s always worth starting a list on your own, but ask your friends, family and colleagues for their comments. You’ll probably have a few surprises: things that weren’t on your list, and those that were that are questioned. Be prepared for this

Personality
This is an interesting one. I bet that if we were to do a straw poll, we’d find that our ideas about our personality are not that close to the reality. Do whining negative people consider themselves to be so? You might think you’re confident, but others think of you as arrogant. You get the picture. This is one aspect of personal branding that is crucial to get some outside help with. After all, your personal brand is how others perceive you, and your personality is the crux of this. So, again, ask friends, family and colleagues for some hints.

Passion
What are you passionate about? Do you know? Understanding your passion is mega mega important! It could even be the key to your personal brand. If you spend more time than is healthy taking photographs of roundabouts, then you might have hit upon a niche. A niche whereby you could become an expert. Think of Gavin Pretor-Pinney who just loved looking at and taking pictures of clouds. He went on to form The Cloud Appreciation Society and is now a recognised expert in the cloud world. His book, The Cloud Spotter’s Guide, was a best seller.

Values
Your values are those things that are really important to you in life. Things like recognition, honesty, health, love and achievement. You probably have a clear idea of your values. If not, just ask yourself “what has been really important to me in my life?”. Some people find they have around 5 values, while others have five times that. If you have that many, you need to be clear about what the top ones are though, as these are the invisible drivers in your life. The things that control your behaviour, whether you like it or not. So you may as well be aware of them.

Goals
If you were to ask around, you’ll probably find that most people have dreams not goals. The difference? Goals have actions and timelines against them. The other thing about goals is that they are reviewed regularly so you can track your progress. The level at which you decide to clarify your goals is up to you. Some people give themselves a couple of goals to achieve over a few years, while others have 1, 5 and 10-year plans with goals for each sector of their life (financial, relationship, career etc). So, wherever you want to be on this scale, just make sure you’re on it. Because if you’re not, your personal brand is a going to have a great big hole in it.

Having said all this, the key thing to understand is that your personal brand isn’t what you want to project; it’s what others perceive. So a high level of self -awareness is important because no matter what, you will need to be consistent in the application of your personal brand. As with great consumer brands, consistency is key. Your brand represents the promise that you’re making to help others to understand what to expect from you. You keep changing and people won’t know what to expect, and they’ll go elsewhere.

So, have you figured out your personal brand?

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