Quote: Finding truth

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Today’s quote comes from Sir Winston Churchill, former British Prime Minister (1940 to 1945, and 1951 to 1955), prolific author, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature (1953), and one of the greatest orators of the 20th century.

Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened.

The Right Honorable Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill

(b. 11.30.1874 – d. 1.24.1965)

I found this quote to be particularly provocative from many perspectives:

  • The frequency of the encounter – Churchill suggests that we encounter truth only occasionally.
  • The serendipitous nature of the encounter – Churchill suggests that truth is “stumbled upon.”
  • Our unawareness of the encounter – Churchill suggests that we often don’t recognize truth when we see it.

Is truth so elusive?

Perhaps it’s not that truth is so elusive, but that we spend little energy in seeking Truth.

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What is “personal branding”?

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clown.jpgDuring a recent conversation, a friend started talking about a bad experience he had the other day with an overbearing and disingenuous salesperson. He felt like the salesperson’s persona — hair, smile, language, clothing, jewelry, etc. — was just an act only slightly less transparent than that of a circus clown. He described with great disgust how the salesperson was willing to “fudge the numbers” a little to close the deal.

Then my friend said something totally unexpected:

“It’s all this ‘personal branding’ stuff that just makes me sick.” [You can imagine two hands raised up with fingers making imaginary quotation marks in the air. You can also imagine some word other than “stuff”]. He continued: “This guy has probably been trained by some consultant to act this way because this is the way to make the sale.”

After listening to his passionate rant, I realized that he is not alone in his misunderstanding of personal branding. When I connect with job seekers, I discover than many are just as skeptical — albeit less vocal — about personal branding. Perhaps the term “branding” is too closely associated with the term “marketing” in a lot of minds. Whatever the reason, many people believe that personal branding is sort of like an “Extreme Makeover: Professional Edition” that turns you in to a completely different person.

Personal branding is about

  1. knowing your unique skills, talents, passion, and personality traits (i.e. your “brand attributes”), and
  2. proactively emphasizing those attributes to others

Seth Godin wrote an interesting post about personal branding today, in which he compares your personal brand to a caricature. He says:

A caricature falsely highlights various anomalies while diminishing the boring parts. So Jay Leno gets a ridiculous chin, or Jimmy Durante gets an even bigger nose (okay, he had a pretty big nose). The same is true for your brand, but even more so. The best brands are caricatures of their true selves.

I thought that summed it up pretty well. Personal branding isn’t about being something you aren’t or putting on a fake persona for someone else. It’s about promoting your “various anomalies” (the interesting things about you) and diminishing the boring parts.

First Friday Book Synopsis – December

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It’s hard to believe that November has flown by so quickly and the holidays are already upon us. Of course, the fast-approaching end of the month also means that the next First Friday Book Synopsis is just around the corner. Next week, to be precise — on December 7.

Randy and Karl have selected two intriguing books for this month:

If you are in the Dallas area, I encourage you to join me for this unique event. For just $22, you get a hearty all-you-can-eat breakfast, networking with area business leaders and MBA students, a printed outline and summary of the books, and a chance to win one of the books. Oh… and you also get to hear Randy and Karl present their summaries of the books.

The value of a consultant, Part 2

As a follow-up to my recent post about the value of a consultant, I wanted to share this related post I just came across from KnowHr entitled “10 Ways to Know It’s Time to Dump Your Consultant.”

clipped from www.knowhr.com

  • If he says “synergize” more than three times in 5 minutes.
  • If he’s talking about your business plan on his cellphone earpiece while boarding an airplane.
  • If he’s so full of himself that he takes his jacket off and tries to hand it to the pilot to hang up. (Sorry, sir, I don’t do coats, I just fly this thing.)
  • If he uses the phrase, “Fleshing out the business case is the critical path.”
  • If he says, “Ping him. We need to meet his expectations.”
  • If he says, “We need to debrief this puppy.”
  • If he talks about “the ultimate win-win solution.”
  • If he wants to “run it up the flagpole.”
  • If he keeps talking on his cellphone about your specific company and plans after they’ve closed the airplane door so that the flight attendant has to get up twice to ask him to turn it off.
  • If he’s sitting right behind me on Delta 973 last evening from Atlanta to Philadelphia and I could write all this down in Twitter.
  •   blog it

    Quote: You can’t do it all

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    One thing I’ve learned in life is that I am not designed to work alone. Two people working together can accomplish far more than those two people working independently. This is one of those truths that almost everybody readily acknowledges, yet quickly forgets. There lurks within me a streak of independence that loathes to ask for help, so I often end up spending too much time on a project, doing sloppy work on the project, or not completing the project.

    Trying to do everything myself not only robs me, but it also had a negative affect on those around me.

    • My stress increases, so I have less patience for those around me.
    • Other people have to work on or complete projects that I might otherwise be able to work on.
    • I’m not transferring skills to others.
    • I’m not building relationships with others.

    Yes, these seem like obvious points, but perhaps I needed a little reminder, courtesy of Andrew Carnegie. Carnegie founded and built Carnegie Steel Company (later US Steel) into one of the world’s largest companies, and in the process became one of the world’s wealthiest men. He was born 172 years ago today.

    No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself, or to get all the credit for doing it.

    Andrew Carnegie (b. 11.25.1835 – d. 8.11.1919)

    Practicing gratitude

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    In yesterday’s post, I wrote “As Thanksgiving approaches, this seems like a perfect time to start practicing gratefulness and honing that mindset.”

    But how to we “practice gratefulness?” It sounded like a good suggestion, but it also felt a little incomplete without some sort of practical application. And to be honest, I didn’t have any great ideas.

    Later in the day, however, I came across this excellent suggestion from Keith Ferrazzi. While driving out of town, he used the time in the car to scroll through contacts in his cell phone, and call them to tell them how grateful he was for their presence in his life. In the process, he realized how truly blessed he was.

    Can you imagine getting a phone call from someone just to say “I am grateful for you”? How much would that brighten your day (week, month)?

    I thought this was an excellent — and very practical — way to “practice gratitude,” and wanted to share it with you.

    Don’t forget to say “Thanks”

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    Sending a Thank You note following a job interview, an informational meeting, or a networking event is a simple way to stand out. I always thought this was a common courtesy, but I discovered last spring just how uncommon it really is. Then I recently attended a meeting where a panel of recruiters agreed that receiving a follow up Thank You note is so rare that it makes the candidate really stand out. One of the recruiters said:

    I get so few Thank You notes that if you send one, you automatically stand out. And if it is handwritten, you really, really stand out.

    This is both exciting and troubling to me. It seems incredible to me that I could “automatically stand out” just by doing something as simple as writing a Thank You note. Thus it is exciting because it seems almost like winning the lottery — getting so much return for such an easy investment.

    And yet troubling because it is so uncommon. If writing a Thank You note is so easy and yields such a great return, why isn’t everybody doing it? Have our collective manners eroded to the point that we have we have forgotten how or (worse) don’t care to be gracious?

    Why handwritten?

    Sending a Thank You note by email may be better than no thanks at all, but there is great value to a handwritten note. In her recent excellent blog post on this topic, Ruth Sherman writes

    A handwritten note rises above the clutter of email so effectively. Think about it: You may not respond to most of the hundreds of emails you get each day. But I’ll wager you immediately open a piece of mail with a handwritten address and that doesn’t come in a #10 envelope. I know I do. I love getting these thoughtful notes.The act communicates so much: The writer took time, she or he cares, the receiver is important. When was the last time an email made you feel that way?

    Handwritten cards are better because they stand out. Not everyone will open and read your email, but you can almost guarantee that they will open a hand-addressed envelope received in the mail. And it communicates a thoughtfulness that can’t be captured in an email. Handwritten notes are more heartfelt.

    True Gratefulness

    And that leads to my final thought about Thank You notes. Sending a Thank You note simply because it is a good job-search or networking strategy seems disingenuous, so I hesitate to advocate it as such. I know I’m guilty of writing Thank You notes filled with empty platitudes simply because I know it is a good strategy. Or maybe because it’s what my mom taught me to do. And maybe I wasn’t even that grateful, but was just pretending to be (ouch!).

    Instead of writing something bland and staid like “Thank you for taking time to visit with me yesterday blah blah blah,” perhaps we should try to express what we are truly grateful for. Did the person share some particularly useful information or wisdom with you? Did the person challenge you in a positive way? Did the person go out of the way to do something special for you? Was the person unusually patient in answering all your questions? If so, try to express that in your written note.

    This requires a little more thought, and I suspect is not as natural for most of us. As Thanksgiving approaches, this seems like a perfect time to start practicing gratefulness and honing that mindset. And perhaps our future Thank You notes will be expressions of true gratefulness instead of just a strategy.

    Informational Interviews, part 2

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    A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about conducting informational interviews. Today, I noticed that Marci Alboher added a different perspective to the topic by discussing her pet peeves about informational interviews in her New York Times blog.

    In her article, Ms. Alboher (she called me Mr. Wilson) specifically mentioned 4 pet peeves:

    1. Never overstay your welcome. Whether it’s lingering too long in person or on the phone or engaging in too much follow-up, it’s important to read signals and respond accordingly. I’m currently being stalked — by e-mail, IM, and now Facebook, by someone who wants me to be his mentor. He’s blown it. Never, ever IM someone you don’t know, unless there is some odd situation in which they’ve made it known that’s an appropriate thing to do.

    2. Always think of how to give back to those who give you time. It may take years to do it, but if you keep it on your mind, one day you’ll figure out how.

    3. Be prepared. It means something different in each context. At minimum do a Google search. Make a point to keep up with what’s going on in that person’s world. If the person’s employer has just had a managment shakeup, for example, read about it and try to understand what it could mean for that person.

    4. Don’t presume anything. I’ll never forget when a young lawyer e-mailed me asking if he could drop by my office to meet and talk careers the next week. First of all, my friends don’t even “drop by” for meetings with me, so there’s no way that was going to work. Second, I work at home, which made the request a little creepy.

    It’s important to think from the interviewee’s perspective. I haven’t been approached for an informational interview, so I can’t speak from that perspective. So thanks to Marci Alboher for adding her very important perspective.

    “A Brand You World” recordings now available

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    brandyou.jpgGreat news! A few weeks back, I encouraged you to sign up for the Personal Branding Telesummit on November 7. If you missed this excellent event, you can still listen in by downloading the session recordings. These sessions are loaded with great information. And best of all, they are free! Enjoy…