So in our brand playgroup, we're talking about how to define brand. We're talking about how to make a little you-shaped dent in the Universe. What do you think we're focusing on? Logos? Nope. Tagline? Nope. Colour palette? Not really.
No, the answer is this: we're focusing on how as a business owner, whether you like it or not, you are a leader of some kind. You have a vision for how you want to show up. You have a head and heart full of passion and cultural markers, a story to relay, and you have a totally unique lens through which you see the world. There are others out there who totally 'get' you. They want 'in' because they share your outlook, your aspirations, your sense of humour, your taste in graphic novelists.
So let them in. Build a virtual home for them. Welcome them, love them, honour your front door and know when to open and close it. We all have a fundamental desire to go 'home', wherever that may be. You're not a brandbuilder really.
You're a home maker.
Marcus Romer shared a tweet which, in one day, got retweeted over 7000 times.
I think it struck a chord.
It goes like this:
The Creative Process:
1. This is awesome
2. This is tricky
3. This is shit
4. I am shit
5. This might be ok
6. This is awesome.
This cycle is so familiar to me that I go through it several times a week, a month, a year. This week, I've looped the loop of shittiness to awesome (and back again) twenty seven times. So believe me when I tell you that I understand. We all understand. It's a universal problem, faced by just about anybody over six who ever made anything.
So, what's the tricky bit?
Why do we go from 'this is a great idea' to 'this is tricky' so deftly?Read more
Exams were over.
I'd graduated with a first class degree in Nothing Really and I'd a cushy job offer at a tech firm in London.
It was all Yellow. At least, it was on the radio at my temp job: I was matching, batching and coding invoices at Virgin Media HQ, where Coldplay held sway.
Returning from micronapping off a weeknight hangover (reckless!) in the loo, I'd have to pretend to my line manager that I was keen on working my way up the accounts payable ladder.
Except I wasn't. I liked the job; it was fun. Coldplay played. There was banter.
But did I want to do that when I grew up?
I wanted to have a cushy tech job riffing C++ in London Town.
Except, I didn't. So I went to France. I wanted to manage a ski resort.
Except, I didn't. So I went to New Zealand. I wanted to...
be a software tester
an office girl for a winery
a lab technician
a features writer
a fitness teacher
Except, I didn't. Even when I did five of those things at once (and I did, and I was pooped.)
I went to Spain with my baby daughter and husband, who worked long shifts making wine. Suddenly, surrounded by people whose language I didn't understand, I was stripped of all my 'I ams.'
I was alone, and the only 'I am' I had during long days was 'mum' to my daughter. And she was too little to chat.
I felt like the bottom had fallen out of the earth. I was in grief.
You see, I kept on trying to define myself by what I did.
And if you're multipassionate, like me, that's exhausting. Not just to you, but to those around you who just think you're flaky and shallow.
My daughter is eight now. And it's taken me all these years to work out something that seemed obvious when I was that age.
When I was eight, I wanted to be a potter-artist-writer-actress-mermaid.
Why? Because it would be fun. Those were all the things I liked to do.
Because you get to go underwater and see things like the bottom of boats from funny angles. Because you get to play with squishy things that feel nice. Because you get to make up stories and make beautiful things from colours. Because sometimes you create things you weren't expecting. Because you get to make something look like another thing and it's strange and people laugh.
Do you get where I'm going with this?
Multipassionate minestrone souls like me freak out when we have to put ourselves into convenient little pigeonholes and define ourselves with whats.
But you know what? Those people who are drawn to you, who are out there, just over the horizon, waiting to fall in love with your work?
They don't fall in love with your job title.
They fall in love with how you do things. They fall in love with the unique, brilliant, kooky, refreshing, polarised lens through which you offer them a shared glimpse of the world.
And, in the words of the well-known multipassionate business badass bard-ess Marie Forleo: how you do one thing is how you do everything.
If I'd asked my inner potter-artist-writer-actress-mermaid how her life should feel when she grew up, she might have said this:
I have 34 promises of secrets unlocked
from that bloke who says video marketing rocks
in my inbox
I have fifteen plus ones and a whole bunch of pokes
I'm not sure what twerking is n'anyway
I don't think it matters
I'll make goals through to christmas and hold the fixed grin
I'll handcuff my muse and invoke
the goddesses of editorial calendars
surrender because there are matters of consequence
and Tim Minchin
I'll fish out my dark side from the box sealed with tape
under the bag for life stiff with odd socks
who await transfiguration into puppets who
look like fraggles
are sad like us
because yeah, I have a dark side too
(if you want me to)
yeah I do
I'll tell you your pain and I'll sell you your struggle
you'll cry and
you might look like a fraggle
I'll be your peace angel
I'll mend all your undies
I'll untangle the haywires and
stuff like that
even if I have a dark side too
(yes, I do)
and even if you do too
(yes, that makes us strangely compatible)
I might possibly,
my sweet internet-and-also-we-might-possibly-have-met-in-which-case-I'd-certainly-like-a-reprise-or-two
I'm not going to show it to you
there are rainbows and ladybirds with yellow not red and snowflakes and trumpets and crumbs in my bed and
people like you
who do all that you do
even on days when you look like a fraggle
// p.s. I wrote you a manifesto: want to work with me in a small group to create your own? Excavate your awesomeness? Show up whether you're a fraggle or a yogini or a punk rocker? Good: the Brand Playgroup is open - come see.
When you click, like, reshare, plus one, retweet or whatever the hell else you're supposed to call it these days on social media, do you stop and listen to your internal (or external) commentary?
What kind of words, sounds or thoughts arise when you see something that just compels you to add your own seal of approval, of flag-worthiness?
Perhaps it's 'Hell, yeah!' or 'I cannot believe she said that' or 'OMG that is SO cute' or soft, silent tears or pant-wetting laughter or that feeling that you want to reach out and hug the person who just gave opened a window for you to hope, joy, inspiration, alternative realities or companionship.
So, let's have it: when you are moved to hit the 'reshare' button, what are your own reasons for doing so?
Can you guess why this might be a good question to ask yourself if you seek to make those very eye-heart-head-click connections around your own work?
This is one of the topics I'll be chewing over with our special not-in-pyjamas panel of fellow entrepreneurs-just-like-you: care to join us for a live video hangout? Well then mosey over to the Google+ event here: kicking off at 1pm British Summertime, Mon 30th Sep. You're SO welcome. Bring joy, playfulness and a nice pencil. Hair-brushing totally optional. I don't much care for it myself.
At primary school I was shy. I didn’t exactly fit in. I was. In. The chess club.
I had a handful of good friends to hang around and write terrible comedy skits with. Put me in a big group of kids I didn’t know, though, and I became She Who Never Spoke. I mean, I didn’t have a Kylie and Jason teeshirt. I had crazy leather brogues and floaty jumble sale dresses twenty years before they came back into fashion and ten years too late. I wanted a tracksuit, and shiny new trainers, and fluoro socks.
What was a girl to do?
You try to join the gang, but...
It’s hard when there are loud, popular, smart and funny voices out there and you feel small and insignificant, huh? And you build up the courage to contribute, to add a comment, to pipe up with your wobbly voice and, you know, join the party.
And nothing. And you feel you might as well be talking to yourself. You might as well be invisible. So you skip home, lock yourself in your bedroom and escape into small, safe worlds of fiction. Or TV. Or bad Australian soaps where the school uniform consists of shiny teeth and incredibly short skirts.
Before you quit and go back to cubicle hell
And today? Beavering away at Getting The Word Out about What You Do. It’s incredibly brave of you. You’re amazing! You’re in business, making a difference to the world...but nobody’s listening and you wonder why. You wonder how long this can go on before you have to give up.
I don’t want you to give up. I don’t want you to be invisible. And no, you don’t need a Kylie and Jason teeshirt.
Let’s have a look at what’s really causing this icky case of invisible-itis...Read more
Question: if you went to a graphic or web designer tomorrow and asked her to create a graphic or logo for you, what would you tell her? Could you answer the questions in the image below? Lots of people would struggle, but getting clear on the answers is critical. A lot of what designers do is to somehow intuit or gauge your brand position from what you DO say, but, from experience, it's all too common for brand owners to be really rather fuzzy about all this. Do you know what happens then?
Your designer has to make a stab at it. And you might get something you love, but without getting clear on your foundational values, beliefs and positioning, you won't understand WHY you like it or which boxes it ticks.
Imagine how much clearer and resonant the process would feel if you actually had a clue about all of this.
Now, since it's Monday, it's time to play. Ready?
This is a story about showing up despite fear. It has two angels, lots of scaredy cat bits, and a point. But you have to read to the end to get there (and to watch a video). I drew you some pictures so it would be easier. I procrastinated for weeks to write it; that’s why it’s so long.
It wasn’t a big deal. Just a presentation to my class of science journalism buddies in a poky room on Gordon St. I was twenty. The topic was some physics theory (I can’t remember anything other than it being dull), and I had to stand up and tell everyone about it. I’d spent hours preparing, quite confidently, together with the others in my threesome, and I didn’t want to let them down.
So I stood up, and began to read. I read and read, and forgot to breathe. I felt a stinging surge of heat in my cheeks and pure fear choking my chest. I couldn’t see the words. I couldn’t see anything. I couldn’t finish. I had to sit down.
I felt terrible for letting the other two down. I felt ashamed. This clearly wasn’t my milieu.
My mind helter-skeltered back to all those incidents which would prove me right. That birthday when I was too shy to be at my own four-year-old party. That teacher who wouldn’t give me a reading book in case it made me cry. That time I was new at school and, too scared to ask if could be excused to go to the toilet, soiled my knickers (I still remember going home in borrowed, itchy navy-blue nylon). That time I was desperate to be Charlie, but was lucky to scrape through as Ooompa Loompa.
Ho hum. Getting up on stage was patently not my gift or even my right. I knew what to do: I would just stay under the radar. Keep away from that type of situation. Put my tongue on ice, conform and be a goddam Good Girl and Stay Out of Trouble Thank You.
So I did. I used my highly-sensitive empath-voodoo to write other people’s stories. To paint beautiful worlds for other people. To never vehemently disagree. To feel things, acutely, quietly, and in small, sad, private spaces. Oh, I ventured out, for sure. A beautiful friend cajoled me onto the stage to team teach a bodybalance class. For the love of the material, and the tribe, I couldn’t NOT learn. But, sweet Jesus, how I quaked. I shook. I could hardly look them in the eye.
It was enough, though, to capture a shadow of a different, performer-me. And I liked her. I remembered her from when I was ten and once felt bold enough to do impressions with my best friend in front of the school. I didn’t know how to coax her out from under the bed. I suspected she wasn’t to be trusted.Read more
It's Bank Holiday Monday in the UK, where I come from. I'm not there right now, I'm writing this from my place in Bulgaria, where it's 34 degrees of hot-and-bother and the kids are restless and still on summer holidays.
But bank holidays are traditionally days for getting stuck in traffic jams and pretending you're enjoying yourself. For trimming the hedge and drinking warm beer. For catching up on that important task you've been struggling with and beating yourself up about.
I'm reading Brené Brown: Daring Greatly at the moment; I was hooked as soon as I saw her mind-blowing TED talks on vulnerability and shame.
If you think that, as an entrepreneur, you need to be seen to have all your shit together before doing, launching, sharing or shipping anything, then... you'll never do anything.
We're entering this age where, after decades of flashy push-marketing, it's okay to be a person again.
And people have dramas, hangups, people procrastinate, hide and, every day, people like you do things before they think they're ready.
The two most powerful words, according to Dr Brown, when we're in struggle?
What kind of struggles do you or your clients have? And how does empathy fit in with this, do you think?
Love to know. And keep an eye out; I'll be upping my own vulnerability ante this week when I share what it feels like to overcome fear of public speaking to get more visible and more useful. Yikes!
And yup, I've been procrastinating over writing that one...