"What do you want to order?" my husband always asks me at the Chinese restaurant.
After fifteen years going there, we know the three lunch specials among which we rotate but imagine it is always a choice.
"Oh, I'll just have what you're having," I always say. Because no matter what you order there, it always tastes the same.
* * *
"What do you want to be when you grow up?" my grandmother asked me as a kid.
"A lawyer," I answered - because there were only four professions that existed in my world - doctor, lawyer, accountant and psychologist.
And I had watched The Paper Chase on TV, and liked it.
"Good girl," she said to me. "Hang out a shingle, don't ever depend on a man."
* * *
"Do you want to get married?" I asked my husband. (This was 25 years ago.)
"No, I've only known you for two weeks." In his world, people got to know each other first.
"So what? That's enough time." In my world of origin, that is to say the traditional Hasidic world, by the sixth date it's either on or it's off.
* * *
We make so many major decisions in life before we even know what we're doing.
We box ourselves into corners. Because somebody gave us a set of cardboard boxes. And each one tells us what the outer limits of our choices are.
- How to act like a man or a woman: check.
- What we ought to believe about G-d: check.
- What a respectable career consists of: check.
- ...And on and on and on.
Before we know it, we've lost our freedom, all the while telling ourselves that every choice we made was free.
I remember that it took me four decades to sign up as a Libertarian. Four decades! And that was only because a new friend started talking about her views.
All my life I'd been friends with liberal Democratic progressives, and challenging those ideas seemed like challenging...air.
* * *
Personal branding is a personal cause.
It is not your career, or only your career, though that may be the way people have used it.
No - it is a journey that you take to:
- Discover who you want to be in life;
- Map out how you plan to get there; and
- Measure progress along the way so that you can adjust.
You can use a lot of tools to figure out your brand, and then give yourself permission to pursue it.
- Admit that there is a need to improve; that you haven't done a perfect job so far of fulfilling it; and that you need to embark on a journey to improve. This is the first step in all successful change initiatives, breaking through the denial and making the commitment.
- Take a personality test; take two, take three. There is no one instrument that will tell you exactly what you need to know; it's the confluence of several, together. Try Now, Discover Your Strengths. Try astrology - Vedic and Western. Don't be shy about this, you need to hear whatever it says.
- Look back reflectively on your relationships, your career. When were you really happy? When were you so sad and stressed you wanted to wanted to crawl under a rock and hide?
- Ask your family, friends, and peers to help you. They want to help you. Are you ashamed or afraid to ask? Listen to the feedback you get from others - really listen, don't just sit there and wait for your turn to talk.
- Enlist professionals. Therapy has a bad rap, plus it takes a long time to get a psychology Ph.D. or even an M.S.W. so you can do counseling. This is why so many people are coaches nowadays. Whatever you call a support person, find one who is qualified to help you grow into yourself. If this is too daunting or you lack time, join a support group, either in person or by telephone or online. I know more than one person who has found strength through in Overeaters Anonymous. Join a fitness club. Whatever it takes - the key is to get outside your little head, your little world, and do something, hear from someone, who is paid only to help people grow.
At the end of the day, personal branding offers a kind of freedom that you cannot find in religion or life prescriptions from others. It is a roadmap you create and are accountable for, it is unique and it is moral for you.
At The Brand Consultancy, my former boss Mark Morris used to call it "a decision filter" for business and it works the same for you as a human being.
Choosing your brand means deciding on who you are. It empowers you to "break the script," as the Audi commercial implores us, and make the right decisions for yourself.
More importantly, it stops you from making stupid ones. As so many of us - including myself - are wont to do. Over and over again.
Disclaimer: This blog is written by Dannielle Blumenthal in her personal capacity. The opinions expressed here are the author's own and do not reflect the view of the National Archives and Records Administration, or the United States government. Photo by me.