Is your brand the ultimate narcissism? My grandmother, who is 86 this year, always told me, “Humility was for people who could afford to be humble,” and when I was 10, “I couldn’t afford it.” She wanted me to be more confident, brag a little bit. I’m sure she was just a proud grandma, and I love her for it. It was only after years of corporate experience that I finally understand what she meant. Of the many cold hard facts of the work-world, one of them is, “You have to ring your own bell.” I can hear some of you chuckling already. I’m sure you had a kindly boss, like I did, who might have seen your potential and wanted to motivate you. Maybe she or he was just giving you career advice as a mentor, or adviser. Whatever the case might be, my lesson was clear, don’t be afraid to brag a little bit. After all, no one in this 60,000 person organization is going to look for me under the carpet or hiding in my cubicle. Perhaps you feel that way when writing your resumes. I know I did. I thought, “Wow, that’s one hell of a claim to make. It was our team who brought in the sale, not just me.” But my HR side said, “Yes, that’s true, but you can’t afford not to ring your own bell.” I watched Julie and Julia the other day and something occurred to me. The movie is about a sad government secretary who embarks on a mission to cook all of Julia Child’s 540 recipes in 364 days, and blog about it, each day. After awhile, she becomes completely self-obsessed. Soon, her marriage is in jeopardy and she wallows even deeper into narcissism. But soon, her idol Julia Child inspires her to take a second look at how she is treating those around her. As the Dalai Lama said, the more you focus on yourself, the more miserable you will be. So, what is all this talk about “Brand-You?” Isn’t that just the epitome of self-obsession and unhappiness? I believe there is a delicate balance, a middle way, between how much we ring our own bell and how much we focus on giving. After all, we don’t live in a vacuum. As we build our brands online, writing articles, taking the voice of authority, commenting critically on blogs or LinkedIn groups, remember– We may not be good enough to be humble, but a bell that rings too loud get’s silenced.
May 24, 2013