Informing Your Brand with your Inner Child
The Creative Adult is the Child that Survives” — Ursula Leguin
In 1955, Thomas Merton, the American Catholic writer, theologian, and mystic wrote: “The world is full of unsuccessful businessmen who still secretly believe they were meant to be artists or writers or actors in the movies. “ He asked: “Who is willing to be satisfied with a job that expresses all his limitations? He will accept such work only as a ‘means of livelihood’ while he waits to discover his ‘true vocation.’”
In many ways, Merton was a thought leader as he anticipated a generation of career advisers and bestselling books about the topic of finding your passions and living a purpose-driven life. Today, the topic of finding ones’ true vocation is reaching a boiling point; there is a growing disenfranchisement in a changing world, particularly as it informs our work futures. Further, many are also aware of the growing many success stories of those finding online success simply by following their passions. As a result of the current social atmosphere, there is a growing conversation around parlaying what you love into a personal brand offering.
However, as we get older, our these “hobbies” are often overwritten by adult responsibility. They are suddenly “past times” that we need to do away with so we can “grow up.” The irony is that today there is an industry built around helping us find our purpose; take a look a look at your local bookstore where many self — help books claim to get us closer to our true calling and living a purpose-driven life. Some call it vocation; some call it passion and some call it “superpowers.”
- What happens to these passions we nurtured as children?
- How can we keep them alive in adulthood?
- How can our passions inform our personal brand?
- And, also can all passions inform a personal brand, for profit?
Passions and Memory
As a child of the diaspora, education has always been a non-negotiable. In a family of three kids, West Indian parents have predetermined the destiny of each child — the first is a Doctor, the second a Lawyer, and the lucky third is to be determined, but nothing less than a Teacher. The pressure of growing up in a West Indian family had its adult causalities — a battling of traditional expectations and managing your authentic identity and doing what it is you love. My family is no different.
I was the first of four kids and knew at a young age that any job in the medical profession was not for me. I fainted at the sight of blood; needles terrified me and inflicted or receiving any pain was traumatic. To add to the pressure, every relative seemed trained to ask ad nauseam :
What do you want to do when you grow up?
My unimpressive response for years was a Teacher and later added a Writer, to somehow compensate for not wanting to be a Doctor or a Lawyer. To appease cultural and familial expectation, I considered, for lack of imagination, becoming a Chemist as the first boy I loved was a Chemist and it sounded like my name (Chem.
How cute would that be? But no — that would not be in my cards. The idea of working with chemicals and potentially dangerous chemicals, stuck in a lab, was not an option.
So needless to say I struggled, navigating expectations and remaining on an educational track, even though I didn’t know what I would be doing with that degree. Had I been lucky enough to have Steve Jobs remind me that: “the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking; don’t settle, “ I would have been better off; I didn’t.
Leverage passions into personal brands?
I eventually completed my undergrad in Liberal Arts, with a focus on Mass Media and Communications. I later went on to further studies in the space of Language & Rhetoric, with a focus on emerging technologies. During this time, my passions for writing found a space in academic papers and other works, including a book. However, I dream of a day when I can write and design gardens every day. These activities give me energy and are never far from my mind.
My other passion is people (yes, I love people); however, the challenge, as an introvert, is ensuring conversations are with tiny groups or individuals, to maintain my mental energies as large crowds can be overwhelming. My love of people found practices and development in my longtime job as a Product Designer and User Experience. As a Product Designer and User Experience professional, being empathetic to the plight of end users, and being an advocate for them in the design process, has been a fantastic journey. I also mentioned my love of gardening. Though product design is not garden design, many of the principles still apply and brought my essence to the design process, unique and different than other designers.
I say all this to say that sometimes the things we love to do can find a home cloaked in other work still giving you some level of fulfillment. Advancing those elements of our passions is the foundation to the process of informing a Personal Brand and showcasing the values inherent to the way you do things that are different than others, even in the same field.
Can all passions inform your brand?
Much of my writing centers on my post-corporate experience and enabling individuals and startups to find their passion and inform their brand. Everyone has a unique “Passion DNA” that is unique to them and them alone. I posit that a significant number of passions can be constituted in various mediums and be formalize to add your brand value, both at both a strategic and tactical level. Many people are stumped at how to move from the hobby state of their interest to converting it mostly for financial gain.
The process can be tiring to get to the core of what your passions are. Most people need to start with an honest assessment of their skills as well as their passions. Do not expect that everything you are passionate about needs to be popular with others — it is all about you. It took me a while to say aloud to my city friends, for example, that my passion was the messy art of gardening without shoes, even on manured soil. We need to get past the first step — being honest with you and what you love.
Secondly, making sure that you have the opportunity to practice, perfect, propagate and package them in ways that add value to others. The ultimate goal of the process is to articulate them in your mind and figure out how to sell them and profit from them over time, with consistency. We are in the era of Personal Branding and those who get it will survive many of the challenges of the new and changing economy.