While I was in college, I articulated my methodology for creating a successful personal brand (though at that time I hadn’t classified it into this brilliant acronym). I called it Fresh PASSION, a convenient acronym that stands for Preparing yourself, Aspiring to reach your goals, Staying laser-focused, Selling your value, Invigorating yourself, Omitting the negative, and Nailing the brand.
And of course all the passion in the world won’t enable you to achieve success if you employ an outdated, stale approach to your career, your business or your college matriculation which is why I make sure to put “Fresh” first!
However, this is not to minimize the importance of passion. Think back to February of this year, when the Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl despite suffering injuries to 15 starting players during the season, needing to win three straight road games in the playoffs leading to the Super Bowl, and having eight starting players miss most or all of the Super Bowl itself due to injury.
How did the Packers overcome these obstacles? By remaining passionate about the game of football, focusing on winning with laser intensity, and finding fresh ways to win when the odds seemed hopeless.
Now that we have reiterated how vital passion is to success in branding or any other aspect of life, let’s take a quick review of each step toward Fresh PASSION.
Brands are a lot like bread – fresh brands are more in demand and bring in more money than brands that are old and stale. People who achieve meaningful and long-term success personally and professionally understand the critical importance of staying fresh. You can’t just land your newly developed personal brand today, put it on a shelf and expect it to carry you throughout your career and life while you sit back and reap its rewards.
Or to use another analogy, in a few short months Major League baseball teams will begin spring training. For about six weeks before the start of the official season, teams practice, work out, bring in minor leaguers and possible free agent signees for evaluation, and play exhibition games.
Why do some of the world’s most highly-paid athletes subject themselves to this often dull and grueling annual routine? Because they realize that after a long winter away from baseball they need to sharpen their skills and improve their physical conditioning so they are fresh as possible once the season starts in April. If people who in some cases already earn upwards of $25 million a year can make the effort to stay fresh, so can you!
Preparing yourself helps you get a large part of the substance for your brand-building. Earlier in your career, this can be used to help you conduct stellar interviews with the best companies and have your pick of jobs. Later in your career, preparing yourself can help make you a top performer and obtain the promotions and accolades that will propel your career forward at a breakneck speed.
If you doubt the value of preparation, or perhaps feel you are already so good at what you do that you can slack off a bit when it comes to preparing, a brief look at the careers of pro basketball legends Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Michael Jordan will be instructive. They are undoubtedly two of the best players in the history of the NBA, and both were notorious for being the first to arrive at practice and last to leave, every single time. Both put in huge amounts of personal time in the offseason staying in shape and working on basketball fundamentals so they would be able to start the season at peak performance level.
It’s not a coincidence that both men have had highly successful post-basketball careers as business executives and corporate spokesmen. If Magic and Michael needed lots of preparation, so do you!
Aspiration means having particular ambitions and then setting out to achieve your goals. This is your purpose, to fly high and soar to greater heights! Knowing your aspiration allows you to tailor-build your personal brand; otherwise you run the risk of building a brand that doesn’t help you reach your aspiration, which is a huge waste of time and resources. Remember –aim at nothing and you’re guaranteed to hit it!
For a perfect illustration of following through on your aspiration, look at marathon runners. Much like successfully building, maintaining and expanding a brand, running a marathon is a grueling process that requires incredible discipline, planning, and stamina. Runners must dress in the proper race attire and footwear, constantly assess how they are doing in relation to both other runners and their own personal time goals, maintain a pace that will allow them to maximize their performance without tiring too early, adjust their race strategy to changing course and weather conditions, and maintain a positive mental attitude no matter what physical obstacles they encounter. And a marathon is not the same as a sprint; it takes a long time to distinguish the winners from the losers.
Staying Laser Focused
Laser focus is the key to every aspect of the Fresh PASSION formula. Without intently focusing on each one of these areas, you’ll miss the mark and not deliver your brand. Life has a way of tempting us to lose focus and become disillusioned, so it is your responsibility to maintain your laser focus on tailor-building a foundation for personal and professional success.
For a perfect example of how staying laser focused can help you achieve your grandest aspirations, let’s turn our attention to the world of professional golf. Despite providing the seeming advantage of hitting a stationary object, anyone who has spent any time trying to master golf knows how incredibly difficult and frustrating it is to hit a golf ball properly once, never mind approximately 72 (or many more!) times during the course of several hours.
Yet the world’s top professional golfers do just that on a routine basis, often coming in several strokes under par while playing the most challenging courses in the world. Mastering golf at this level takes almost unimaginable laser focus, spending hours a day practicing dull, routine shots like hitting out of a sand bunker until they become second nature. And during a long, slow-paced game, pro golfers must solely focus on the task at hand and nothing else.
Selling Your Value
Selling your value means understanding your return on investment (ROI). You have confidence in your fullest potential, and you are constantly searching for new opportunities that will help you meet and potentially even exceed that potential. Whatever the opportunity may be; forget the advice about opportunity knocking. You have to go out knocking on doors, as many as you can find and at all times.
For a perfect example of someone who always sold his value and never kept his mouth closed, let’s a take a look at the world of boxing. Muhammad Ali in his prime was as great a boxer as you will ever see, and he would be the first one to tell you that. Ali’s combination of exceptional athletic talent and outlandish behavior and egotistical statements (always delivered tongue in cheek) turned him into of the world’s biggest celebrities. Post-retirement, he has strengthened his brand even further through numerous charitable and goodwill endeavors and the courageous way he has publicly battled Parkinson’s disease. Ali’s eggs truly produced the world’s best boxing omelet, and nobody since has come close.
One of the key reasons I have been able to pull myself out of poverty and into a life filled with personal and professional success is that I have always maintained an extremely high level of vigor in everything I do. Staying invigorated will give you a huge leg up in making the all-important “three-second impression.” In the three seconds it takes you to walk through a door and extend your hand to someone for the first time, that person has already made irreversible judgments about you.
Think about the example of vigor set by Olympic athletes. These remarkable achievers often dedicate most of their lives to the most intensive, physically and mentally punishing training and preparation imaginable. All this time and effort is dedicated to maximizing their performance in an event held once every four years that may literally last a few seconds. The intense vigor required to compete at that level comes not from money, but from a richer and deeper motivation of personal satisfaction and knowing you did your very best, which ultimately is at the core of every successful brand.
Omitting the Negative
When you encounter a negative experience – learn from it. Don’t spend a lot of time dwelling on it, you don’t need to let it consume valuable real estate in your head; you have so much more ahead of you. Omitting the negative does not happen by itself, you will need to make some effort to truly banish negativity from your life. But it can be done with highly impressive results. Take the experience of the George Mason University men’s basketball team in the 2006 NCAA championships as an example.
Although the George Mason Patriots won an impressive 23 games during the 2005-06 season and even were ranked in the top 25 for a week, the experts all agreed they were lucky to reach the championship tournament and had no chance to win even one game.
However, George Mason players and coaches continued omitting all the negativity surrounding them and reached the “Final Four” round of the tournament, finally losing to eventual champion Florida State but proving there is no limit on how far omitting the negative can take you.
Nailing Your Brand
After developing the substance of your personal brand and landing it, you need to nail, package and market it to your audience (employer, group, organization). Answer these questions: Who am I? What do I want to be? How do I want to be perceived? Most of us don’t think of ourselves as “a package,” but all of us are packages. Here is the trick; you want to make sure that you control your packaging (the look, feel, and experience) and the message that illuminates from it.
If you still doubt the importance of nailing your brand, consider the recent experience of the National Football League, which underwent what could have been a brand-destroying four-and-a-half month lockout. While resolving the contract issue a month before the start of the regular season surely helped avoid fan backlash, the fact remains NFL TV ratings and game attendance, as well as merchandise sales, appear to be unaffected. This is due in no small part to the amazing job the NFL has done of creating its brand as “America’s Game.” The NFL did this by capitalizing on the drama inherent in what is often a violent and brutal game, emphasizing pain, conflict and personal sacrifice in the pursuit of victory. Also the many colorful characters who play and coach this unique sport were brought into the foreground. By nailing its brand image as America’s premier sports league, the NFL brushed the lockout away like a bad dream.
So now you can see how each step of the Fresh PASSION methodology is crucial to successfully building a brand. It will be interesting to watch how the National Basketball Association tries to rebuild its brand in the aftermath of the just-ended work stoppage which will delay the start of the season until Christmas Day and shorten it by 16 games.
The NBA has not built a brand as strong as that of the NFL, so hopefully owners and players can utilize Fresh PASSION tools to win back the hearts of fans and dispel whatever damage has been done to its popular image. I can tell you that even with Fresh PASSION, the NBA has a long road toward brand redemption ahead!
With that, I wish you a safe, happy and prosperous holiday season and 2012. I hope you, too, can apply Fresh PASSION to your own life and career to achieve maximum personal and professional success. Like most worthwhile things, Fresh PASSION is not always easy, but the end result more than justifies the effort.