Hello again good people,
It’s your boy with the most back at it again. I really think I should find time to write more frequently, or else I run the risk of being forgotten – like the third Hangover movie.
Okay, on to the good stuff. One of the best summers in Ireland is almost at an end, which means I get to spend more time indoors. This also means that I have more time to fiddle around and think of things to write about. Which is what my good friend Brian, helped me do.
Not too long ago, my friend sent me a video of the rapper, singer, producer, entrepreneur and philanthropist Akon at a YouthConnekt summit in Kigali, Rwanda sometime last year. I had watched this video already sometime last year. But watching it again gave me an idea to write about.
In his speech, Akon, amongst other things, stressed the importance of Branding. And the extent to which excellent or shitty branding could make or break how outsiders perceive a country. Branding basically means using various means to distinguish yourself from the competition.
He talked about how the USA was the world’s leader at image branding. And that by doing such a great job over the years advertising itself as a paradise and a place where dreams come true, it had managed to prevent the world from actually seeing the flip side. Which is the dire, shitty reality of things in the country.
This is still true to this day. Ask most people (especially in third world countries), what their first choice destination abroad is. And I can assure you that a ridiculous number of people would mention the USA. I am not trying to single out the USA in this regard. Every nation, developed or underdeveloped, has its own fair share of both the good, the bad and the ugly. But I am just using this in reference to the video below.
Watch. It… Now.
Are You Done Watching?
If you are, then I will move on to the real reason why I decided to write this article. Akon did mention some very important points on how the Africa can improve its outside image through positive branding/marketing. But what I want to discuss is on a much smaller scale. And has very little scope compared to what Akon was talking about.
I am talking about Individual/Personal Branding.
Is there something about me that distinguishes me from every other person? How do my friends, relatives, strangers, colleagues and passers-by perceive me? Is there something about my image, skill, personality, etc, that makes such an impact that it turns heads at every turn? Am I standing out? Or am I lost in the sea of blend-ins? These are the type of questions I started thinking about after watching Akon’s speech. At the end of the day, what you think about yourself matters far more than anyone else’s. I also understand that it is important not to worry about what anyone else thinks about you but yourself. But that is not entirely true. In reality, my experience is that it is important to consider how other people perceive you. Unless you’re Batman obviously.
You have to learn to consider enough to allow yourself to improve, and not allow yourself to fall into depression. Learn to Find your Balance. Second opinions are important, for the simple reason that they might be very different from your own opinion about you. And thus provide insight you can work with. Some people are so worried by the negative opinions of others that they fail to recognize their own strengths. Of course, you will come across a lot of personal bias and non-constructive opinions from people choking on their own mediocrity. Despite that, you need to be able to sift between constructive and non-constructive criticism. For me to be able to do this, I have learnt to put my insecurities on the shelf for once. This allows me to be far less defensive and able to listen to criticism more objectively.
Redefining and improving my ‘brand’ is something I have been working at steadily for some years now. This journey started at around the age of 20 or 21. I am 27 now. At that time, I was a far less confident person compared to what I am now. I’ve always been a very shy person. I still am. But the friends I’ve made in the last few years refuse to believe that. The only people that can confirm my timidity are my parents, siblings, and high school friends. To be honest, if some of them saw me now, they would not believe I am the same person now. They would look at me and ask for the ‘real’ Derrick back.
I know, right? Throughout my elementary, secondary and high school days, I had always been more or less popular. But I don’t mean like the cool-kids-popular. I was the Nerd-General. You know that little kid that topped the class for 21 semesters straight? That was me. But that didn’t matter much to me. The top nerd didn’t get as much respect as the resident ‘cool kid’ of the class. I always envied that in some way. They may not have been very book smart, but damn, they were so much more fun to be around, more charismatic and people always wanted their attention. Throughout my teenage and early adult years, I always wanted to be known for these things. And I always wondered. Why did I not possess even half the charisma or confidence they had? And will I ever be able to crawl out of my shell?
But then here is the best part. I realised that Charisma, Attraction and Style are not talents.
They are only skills! What this means is that you don’t have to be born that way. You can LEARN these things. And learning and practicing these things have an incredible effect on your everyday life. Be it at home, at work, on a night out or in situations where you feel down. When you build enough self love and self-confidence to be able to turn yourself into a brand, you’d be surprised at just how less scary everything around you actually is. Granted, if you are a naturally shy person, like I was, gaining a certain level of confidence is going to take a lot of trial and error. But you have to be willing to shake off that crippling fear of failure and rejection. Because like it or not, you are going to fail anyway… a lot. But how you recover from such failure will be a true indicator of your mental strength and potential progress.
Back then, I was not entirely happy with the fact that the things I really wanted weren’t happening to me. So I decided to do something about it. Despite the fact that my needs were more superficial at the time, I’ve now developed a mindset that is not entirely just about me, but also how I can create a positive impact on others. No matter how small. I always wanted to improve my image/brand. This meant I had to become better at interacting with people. These included but not limited to – How to talk to strangers. How to improve public speaking. How to flirt. How to initiate and hold conversations with individuals and groups. And so many others.
So what did I do?
I decided to take action. I asked the people that were better than me what made them so good. And I did not stop bugging them, despite how desperate and embarrassing I may have looked. I decided to read books. I decided to go into Google and type in, ‘ how to be charismatic’, ‘how to be be the cool kid’, ‘ how to hold a conversation,’ ‘how to flirt,’etc. There isn’t a confidence building question that I haven’t asked Google. And guess what?? I got access to a wealth of information I didn’t know existed. But I was willing to improve myself as an individual, so no level of personal embarrassment was enough to prevent me from trying.
…okay maybe some. But I digress.
Reading always makes me feel smart. And feeling smart makes me feel confident. Reading also makes me feel like I’m doing something productive with my free time. And whenever I finish reading something educational, to me the new knowledge is a reward in itself. I sometimes allow myself a brief moment or two to feel smug about it… in the privacy of my basement obviously. Listening to, or studying the theory to anything is always the easy part. Cultivating the balls to actually go out and try them with real humans is another thing altogether. My fear of failure at the time was crippling. But I had to choose between a lifetime of mediocrity and a possible future of some good shit happening to me. So I chose the latter.
So what else did you do?
I started speaking to random people on the streets. On nights out. At work. There were a lot of classic awkward moments! But no one ever tried to kill me. So I tried again and again and again. And then things started to change. I would never have believed that the job I hated doing the most (door-to-door salesman), would play such a massive role in helping me build my self esteem. It also became the stepping stone to building the ‘brand’ I’m still building for myself. My shy personality started to subside, little by little. And was gradually replaced with confidence. A confidence I have always tried to keep in check. Lest it evolved into arrogance.
The result is simply a happier existence. Thus far, I have been able to make strong professional connections. I have been able to meet and keep some very awesome people as my close friends. I have been able to maintain good pro relationships with coworkers, subordinates and superiors alike. I have learned to listen to understand, and not listen to respond. I have learned to be far less judgmental of people and their circumstances. I have learned to analyse and pick fights I am absolutely sure of winning. I have learned to spread positivity in gloomy environments. I have learned that people are unique in their own way, and that one way of interacting with one person would not necessarily work on another person. Also, I daresay my love life and relationships have been quite interesting too. None of this would have been possible if I chose to just sit back, complain, and let my fear of rejection prevent me from taking any risks or action.
Building self esteem is different for different people. For some people, get them a new pair of Yeezys and they’ll transform. For others, all you need to tell them is ‘I believe in you.’ For people like myself, it is the power of information. Books, knowledge and constant practice of the theory. Doing something over and over it becomes a mere reflex. My improved self esteem has allowed me to fully appreciate the extent of what I can achieve. It has allowed me to say ‘I am awesome’, and actually believe it. It has even allowed me to love myself fully. Strengths, shortcomings and everything in between. In my experience, only when you love yourself first, can you allow yourself to fully love somebody else. Without the expectation of a reward.
Another important thing about a high self-esteem is how it affects those around you. A positive attitude lights up a room because it is very contagious. It allows people to feel comfortable around you. It also inspires other people to want to get things done. This is the type of effect I want to have on people. Another aspect I’ve decided to add to my brand lately is style. As superficial as it may seem, looking good makes you feel good. And if you feel good, chances are that that feeling may transfer unto the next person. Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to break the bank just to do that! A little online research will bring you in contact with several fashion items that are ridiculously affordable. Now I just experiment with different colours of clothing just because I enjoy the feeling of standing out.
Like the saying goes, Why blend in when you can stand out? 🙂
At the end of the day. I want my personal brand to project several things. Generosity, charisma, sex appeal, empathy, adventure, style and good sense, amongst others. But whatever my full potential turns out to be, I will always want my brand to project Positivity.
My journey to completing my brand is still long. This isn’t even my final form, and I know the best is yet to come. All I need to do is maintain my child-like curiosity. But I can say without a doubt that I like the person I have become now. And I cannot help but ask myself, ‘How much better can I become?’ ‘How much more can I experience?’ ‘ How much more can I learn?’ ‘How much more of an impact can I have on others?’
The questions are as endless as the possibilities. And by now you’ve probably forgotten that this article started with us talking about Akon. But that’s besides the point.
If you are a timid or reserved person, just know that people are not as scary as they look. And unless you have an obvious ulterior motive written all over your face, most people will simply say ‘Hi’ back at you when you say ‘Hi’ to them. That is all it takes.
I’m done :).
So guys, let me know in the comments how you are working on your personal brand. Do you know any people who have such an impact that you do a double-take whenever you see them? If you envied or aspired to be someone, who would that be? And why?
Thank you guys for entertaining my random thoughts thus far. I tend to write a lot when I’m drinking wine. But the 11th commandment says ‘Thou shalt not judge me’. Despite that, I am grateful for you keeping up with this every fortnight.
Thank you and stay tuned for the next article soon