How To Leverage Big Things To Power Your Personal Brand

To those of you who have known me for most of my 40 years, the two words you would NEVER have used to describe me were “distance runner.”

Me included, especially the morning of Thanksgiving 2009, when I sat on my fat ass watching Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.

That’s when I starting seeing tweets coming in from all my local twitter friends who were celebrating their finish in that morning’s Atlanta Thanksgiving Day marathon and half-marathons. I suddenly felt lazy, too comfortable, boring, and well, unchallenged. And I didn’t like it one bit.

On the spot, I decided that I too would compete in next year’s Thanksgiving Day half-marathon.

Long story short, I ultimately decided to run in a half-marathon much sooner, and just this past weekend, I completed my first at the Nashville Country Music Half-marathon. You can read about my journey HERE.

Trust me when I tell you that my performance will not go down in the annals of Olympic lore. Guinness won’t be calling anytime soon. But despite that, it was a most important personal accomplishment. And made me feel like I can accomplish most anything. Most satisfying were the endless notes of encouragement, support, well wishes, and compliments and expressions of “wow” and respect.

Which brings me to the point of this article. I can’t imagine that competing in this half-marathon didn’t have a powerful impact on my personal brand. I continue to be surprised at the people who come up to me at events and ask how the “marathon training” is going. What has this really gotten me?

a. Exposure to a whole new network of people.
b. New found respect in a market place niche.
c. A new way for people to talk about me and what I am up to.
d. A means to live up to my “intrepid” brand – demonstrating the accomplishment of a difficult physical task and pushing the envelope.
e. More opportunities to help and serve people.
f. A new way to start conversations with my community (you can never have enough).

Now, I am not writing this in the context of “Wow, look at me!” I am coming from this perspective: if an aging, knee and back-creeking, out-of-shape, overweight guy like me can accomplish this…ANYONE CAN.

That is my real message here…that YOU can set audacious goals…and use the story of your journey to power your personal brand.

Here are the lessons I learned from this experience, and the things I want you to think about and apply:

1. My big goal was to run a half-marathon. That said, I think most people were less interested in the actual task, and more respected that I set an intrepid goal, and accomplished it. You don’t have to run a half-marathon, but set a bold goal, and make it happen (and understand it is achieved in small, daily, easily-accomplished steps). The doing, is what earns respect.

2. While you don’t have to run a half-marathon, your goal needs to push the envelope. If your goal is easily attainable, it won’t mean much…to you, or your audience. Set a goal that is out of your comfort zone, and something you have NOT achieved before.

3. Without bragging, you have to tell your story. In my case, I wrote a specific blog about it. But people have to know about it, and why? Not because you are showing off, but because people are interested in what you do, and want to learn from your experience. To repeat – don’t gloat – teach. Share.

4. If you are sharing your story on the social web, be sure you are encouraging and participating in the conversation about your journey. People want to follow your story. And if you are engaging, they will want to personally question, challenge, and learn.

5. You will have bad days. Don’t be afraid to confront them publicly. That makes it real. That makes it human. And that makes it powerful, and something people will talk about – and remember.

6. Remember this key concept – you just can’t create a brand out of thin air. You have to earn it. You have to live it. You have to breathe it. In my case, I love having people know me as a distance runner. But I had to earn that. Decide what you want people to talk about and know about you. Then achieve it.

KEY TO SUCCESS –> Remember this quote:
If what you did yesterday seems big, you haven’t done anything today. | Lou Holtz

Lesson here? Don’t rest on your laurels. If you achieve your goal, don’t assume you can coast on the personal branding boost for long. You have done something remarkable, and people are talking.

This is NOW the time to leverage your new found gravitas, and make something BIGGER happen.

Now go to work.

  • Robyn

    I’ve enjoyed reading about and encouraging you on your journey. I’ve just finished reading Donald Miller’s book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years and it talks about how we need to choose to write a better story with our lives and the importance of being a character in your life and getting off the sidelines. You are definitely doing that and I admire it! I hope others will be inspired!

  • Todd

    Oh! I have so wanted to read that book. I cannot wait to read it. And thanks for the very kind comment. I appreciate you…

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  • Pawel @ Minimalist Business

    Brilliant and encouraging post Todd. And I agree, setting bold goals helps with expanding your contacts zone.

    I guess many of us live similar lives. We go to work, we watch TV, read books, worry about our mortgage or car payment or our kids. But how much can you talk about those things? Having a goal means that suddenly people have something outside of the typical subject range to talk to you about. And in most cases this itself makes them to do so.

    Oh, and well done on the marathon!

  • Todd

    Thanks Pawel, kinda like boldly changing the subject no?

  • Pawel @ Minimalist Business

    Not really. I think people are genuinely interested. It’s just there are not that many people who make their goals known. You probably heard this advice many times: don’t let anyone know about your plans or goals – zealots will laugh you off.
    I think too many people take this seriously.

    So if you make your ones known, people are genuinely interested. it also breaks the routine.

    Dunno, maybe I believe in people too much … ;)

  • Todd

    Yeah, too many people are still wigged out by the forced transparency of the social web. Still hard for most to get out of this closed comfort zone…