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Who do you want to be?
If you don’t have an answer, think about it for a couple minutes and I’ll check back because it’s important.
Everyone agrees that to be successful today, a company must develop a brand. It is much more than a logo – it’s a corporate persona, a feeling you want to convey, and the role you want the firm to play. It’s a presence that (hopefully) instills confidence in your audience and makes them receptive to your message and products. So branding is huge.

But these days social media has created individual superstars, people that are often famous for rather curious talents like applying makeup (Bretman Rock), making 6.5 second videos (DeStorm Power), or creating a multi-sport, trick shot nirvana (Dude Perfect). And that’s my point. If Bretman can rock his five million Instagram followers with a “sparkly eye makeup tutorial,” is it really any different from people tuning in to CNBC for a Jim Cramer lightning round? If DeStorm can empower his six million Vine followers to be active, laugh, and lose weight, isn’t this the same as Oprah reassuring her legions that it’s OK to love bread?

Yes, Brian, it is.

The lesson here is this – unless you already have assistants helping to put your pants on, the path to notoriety begins with who you are. And you can’t tell me who you are unless you know who you want to be.
I’ll give you an example. Let’s say there’s this guy – he’s a snappy dresser, wears the finest designer scarves, loves to write and (survey SEZ) is a very effective leader. Oh, and did I mention that he has been blessed with badass barbecue skills (and is an expert marketer?)

So, what does he want to be? A writer? A wedding planner? A bartender on Vanderpump Rules?

Wrong, wrong and wrong. First off, it’s impossible to tell from this information. And second, you do not want someone to have to guess. Ever. You must tell them what you want to be, and then live it (at least professionally). This is your personal brand. If you want to be a lumbersexual, grow a beard and wear Kevlar-lined boots to compliment that plaid shirt. Fancy yourself an edgy, technoid hipster? Move to the north side of Brooklyn and shop in Williamsburg.

Me? I came back to Texas and worked on rethinking the content licensing model. So I call myself a concept architect, and I support my brand by blogging, doing licensing deals, mentoring, media planning, and by driving sales as COO at Wright’s Media.

I know. I’ve taken almost 500 words to get to the point. Here it is – how do you establish your personal brand?
First, assess your skills – what are you good at? And be specific (handsome spokesmodel won’t cut it.) If you are an excellent cook, that’s a talent that not everyone has. Maybe you are persuasive and a natural salesperson, or a gifted singer. And don’t forget – your skill doesn’t have to be in the mainstream. Maybe you’re exceedingly and grotesquely limber, or like to eat baby bees. Or, perhaps you possess the Guinness World Record-holding longest tongue and decided to, I don’t know, paint a beaver with it. Whatever, Lickasso. Now you know who you want to be.
What’s next? Promotion. Of course, these days promotion starts with content. As soon as you have an attractive and functional website, establish your presence on the appropriate (for your business/skill) social media channels. Establish it how? With your sparkling wit, scintillating prose, and mad creativity. It’s called content. Publish your videos, e-books, case studies, blogs, public presentations, how-to lists, original art, testimonials – whatever you got that tells people who you are.

If done correctly and relentlessly, this will eventually establish you as an authority, a subject-matter expert, a trusted presence.

Congratulations – you’re on your way to becoming a brand. But how successful a brand will you be?
That depends on the company you keep – your network.

Your network is your mouthpiece to greatness, but building it takes work and time. Name one thing that every exclusive club in the world has in common? To have the slightest chance of gaining membership, you’ll need someone to vouch for you. This is what your network does – gets you access to the coolest clubs in town, and in other towns too.
How do you build a network? Here is my four step process:
Publish/produce great stuff
Find people who can benefit from your great stuff
Comment and engage other people on their great stuff
Establish relationships and repeat
I know I’ve oversimplified things, but building a business network is basically those four steps. The beauty of a network is that a variation of Moore’s Law applies – as your network grows its power will increase and the benefits to you will compound. In this context, a new relationship is just like a new sale because it further elevates your personal brand.
The value your network brings to your personal brand cannot be overstated. It is your business card, your secret handshake, and your key to the kingdom all rolled into one. Your network knows who you are, and all members are happy to vouch for you and your skills.
Congratulations again – you now have a sales force. Your brand has arrived.

I believe it was French author André Gide who wrote:
“There are many things that seem impossible only so long as one does not attempt them.”
Hmmm.
Coming from a Nobel Prize winner, I have to say that his statement leaves me somewhat underwhelmed. Sure, if I never tried to tie my shoes or blow my own nose I might think these were impossible tasks, but I’ve been on this rock for a few decades now and have a good feel for what I can do. Or do I?

Am I falling into a trap here?

By admitting I have carnal knowledge of my own Force, am I limiting my potential accomplishments?
(I’m taking a moment to smirk, as I was just about to ridicule those who don’t aim high, making the irony a 12 on the Alanis Morissette scale.)

So let’s think about this – is there really any difference between blowing my nose and hitting my sales goal? I’ve done both, so I know each is possible. Maybe a more relevant question would be about something I’ve never tried, like can I bench press 500 pounds? Just to be sure, I will try it right now (ouch – no way.) So it is clearly not possible for me to bench press 500 pounds. Today.

What about next week, or next year? Yes, no, or maybe so?

In life, almost everything can be reduced to a math problem. Work done equals force times distance. Obviously, to lift 500 pounds as I’ve described, I’ll need to move the weight a couple of feet. But I’ll also need to apply considerable force, and I’ve already discovered that I’m not yet strong enough to generate that force. Like Captain Kirk said more than once on Star Trek, more power will be needed.

And what is the definition of power? Power = work done/time taken

After consulting my trusted personal trainer, I learned that in order to build enough muscle to create enough force to lift 500 pounds, I’ll have to spend three hours every day for two years lifting increasingly heavier weights. Only then will I be able to reach my goal. It will be very difficult, require unyielding discipline and personal sacrifice, but it’s not impossible. What about lifting 750 pounds? How about 1,000? It’s still a math problem, just with different inputs.

So what is possible? If you can turn it into an equation, everything is possible.

Let’s revisit the sales goal example. For 2016, my target is 50% higher than the previous year. How can I possibly increase my sales that much? Again, it’s a math problem.
If “work done” is my total sales, then distance is the number of business days in one year, and force is the sales per day needed to reach my new goal. Obviously, the number of business days can’t be changed, but sales per day is variable. How do I increase sales per day to reach my new goal?
You guessed it – more power.

In reviewing the math, the secret here is to squeeze more sales out of each business day, thus increasing power and the ability to generate the necessary force to hit my goal. There are about 240 business days every year, and I’ve got to make every minute count.

This is how I do it.

Decide What I Want – This is an essential component to anyone’s success. In this case, the goal is to hit my new sales target. Not try my best, not get close, not work hard and we’ll see – hit it.

Make a List – Every night after work, prepare a list for the next morning. Include everything you need to do, even if you don’t think you’ll get to all of it. There is nothing like the satisfaction of completing a task and crossing it off a list with a flourish.

It takes lots of small victories to win the war.

Don’t Waste Time – When I sit at my desk (home or office), I am ready to engage and work. I have my coffee, my phone is charged, laptop is running, non-essential material is put away, etc. If those little duties are not done they are not distractions – they are excuses.

Organize your desk, clear your mind, and focus.

Create Time – If the number of business days can’t be increased, the only mathematical way to pump up your sales is to be more productive. One way is to create new work time. If you need to walk to your car, take your phone along and make a call. Driving somewhere at lunch? Use the time in transit to firm up a couple of appointments. If you find yourself waiting in a lobby for a meeting, fire off a few emails. Standing in the kitchen waiting for ice? Ask your colleague that question you keep forgetting about – you’ll probably avoid the time-suck of a meeting later.
When you increase sales using the same amount of business days, you increase power, and so forth and so on.

Create Your Own LuckI blogged about this a while back. According to research, people who are lucky share four traits:

An awareness of their environment

The ability to listen and trust their intuition

A generally positive life outlook

Resilience and the ability to learn from hard knocks

As I pointed out last April, luck can be learned. And in sales, an edge is sometimes all you need.

Be the Man (or the Woman) – I will apologize in advance for this paragraph, but it will be full of catchy phrases and buzzwords. Great salespeople are always on stage. Even if you’re not talking to anyone, someone might be deciding whether to come talk to you.

If you’re great, you’re confident.

If you don’t project confidence in yourself and in your products, what message are you sending into the universe? And for this last nugget, I turn to Mike Damone, last seen back in 1982 at Ridgemont High School. He said, and I quote, “Act like wherever you are, that’s the place to be.” People will drive out of their way to do business with knowledgeable, confident extroverts – they are everyone’s ice breakers, lemonade makers, and favorite neighbors.

It’s near the end of Q1 and I’ve successfully generated enough power to crank up my average sales per day to hit my target. I’m feeling pretty good, and with two weeks left in the quarter, I ain’t done yet.

So in addition to bitching and smoking, it turns out the French are also very profound.

If you’re at all like me, I’m sure that your journey through life creates many opportunities for distraction.

Over here, Brian – talk to me!

Please Brian – what’s your sign?

Hi Brian, didn’t we meet last year?

Brian, you will love this.

Click here if you enjoy Brazilian food, Brian!

Now, don’t get me wrong – distractions can be refreshing and productive. Weirdness or chance can become brilliance with a glance and the cooperation of a synapse or three. Some of the greatest discoveries in our world were total accidents. Percy Spencer melted a chocolate bar in his trousers and discovered microwaves. George de Mestral’s dog provided the inspiration for Velcro. Constantin Fahlburg forgot to wash his hands one day and discovered saccharin, the first artificial sweetener (he was also scolded by his mother). And my personal favorite – Leo Baekeland created plastic while getting frisky with small Asian insects.

This is my favorite because in addition to creating a substance that changed the world, he also gave all men an alternative to watching Sunday football (as long as Amazon still ships bugs overnight).

But I digress. The point I’m trying to make is that distractions can be earth-shatteringly, mind-blowingly great. The problem with distractions is …. they are, by their very nature, distracting. And this is not productive.

So how do I use random experiences to enrich my life, rather than slow it down or derail it? Easy – I filter them, and my filtering technique is probably the same as yours. Think of it as the Texas Two-Step Method of Time Management:

1. Consider the source
2. Consider the topic

Now I may flip the order from time to time, but the steps remain the same. Let’s say I’m looking at one of the billion emails I get every day, and the subject line is:

“A Message from Davey Crockett, President & CEO”

My filter kicks into overdrive and asks (among other things) why, if I’m so important, didn’t Davey send this email himself? A message from “Me” would have been preferable to getting a message from Davey’s assistant. Second, I know neither Davey nor his assistant. Third, I’m already bored. This email so far is the equivalent of getting a phone call and having the caller announce with great pageantry that he is calling you. Duh. The first rule of Brian at work is don’t waste my time.

OK, so maybe I’m feeling benevolent. I decide to read the first line of the email, which invites me to attend a conference in Washington, DC. Unfortunately, I don’t work with the industry this conference is touting, so I hit delete.

What happened? Two strikes and you’re out. I don’t know the sender, and the topic is not applicable to me. Filter processing complete.

Now that you know what fires me up, it’s only fair that I show you what would make me pause and seriously consider a message on its merits.

That same week I received another email, this one from Jebbit, a marketing technology company based in Boston. The subject line was “Extra #awesomesauce?” Good one Jebbit – that’s a topic near and dear to my heart. The sender obviously creeped my pages before writing – I appreciate the effort. So I read on.

“Noticed that you’re following Jebbit on Twitter – hope you’ve found it useful!

In fact I have, and the sender goes on to say he researched my employer and believes our companies could work together on several, plausible fronts. I see the possibilities, and direct my marketing people to give them a test drive and report back.

So what was different this time? I don’t know the sender, but he made the effort to know me. It didn’t look like a bulk email, so I flipped the filter and considered the topic. Jebbit nailed this – I follow them because I see applications in my business for their technology. They did some research and saw them too, then pointed them out to me. Well done – I have engaged my staff based on your email. Because of the extra effort, that email slithered through my filter and presented me with an opportunity – one that I am now researching. We did a blog about personalized marketing recently – this email is a great example of well-crafted, personalized marketing. It’s great because it worked.

Hopefully I didn’t just let the cat out of the bag. Crap, what if every marketing grad now starts Googling me to determine how to pierce my finely-honed defenses? I’ll help – my name is Brian, I’m a Libra, and I like zydeco music, playing cornhole, and I smoke Macanudo Cru Royale Poco Gordos.

PS for you clever marketers out there. I actually hate Macanudos. Unless I don’t. If you’re good you’ll figure it out.

So what do the Baltimore Ravens, Indianapolis Colts, Washington Redskins, Chicago Bears and New Orleans Saints have in common?

The funny thing about blogging is that 99.9% of the time, I know more or less exactly what I am going to say when I sit down to type. Oh sure, I don’t have the precise meter and syntax worked out, but I know my message and how I’m going to deliver it to you. This time, not so much.

Until last week, when this struck me – it’s October!

For 2015, we are in the 4th quarter of whatever race you are running, whatever game you are playing, whatever life you are living. So I asked myself a question. I’ve got three more months to make my indelible mark on this year – what am I going to do? I could…

Go on a cruise. After nine months of toil, there is nothing like kicking back with a tropical punch and a good book while drunken tourists split their pants attempting limbo for the first time. Seriously. There is a time to work and a time to recharge, and standing on the prow of a one thousand foot long floating city of steel with the wind in your hair, toothpick jutting jauntily from the corner of your mouth, and a seething cauldron of E. coli just beneath your feet, you can’t help but do your best Leo DiCaprio.

On the other hand, why not…

Engage the autopilot. Look, let’s say you’ve killed it all year to this point, and if you continued to slay everything in sight it would actually look bad. Your comps for 2016 would be tougher, and your less talented, less fortunate, less endowed co-workers would be resentful. This dynamic would quickly spin into a maelstrom of corporate crankiness that would sap the spirits of everyone, including the good workers. You’re taking one for the team so the team can remain a cohesive whole, and this is very unselfish of you. In the eloquent words of 21st century poet and board aficionado Lupe Fiasco, “Kick, push, kick, push, coast.”

I know you’re just waiting for the punch line to all this, so here it comes.

It’s the 4th quarter of the game we call life, and I’ve made my plans. I know who I’ll be calling, what I’ll be studying, where I’ll be traveling, and who I’ll be visiting. I know who I want to do business with, who I’d like to meet, whose brains I’d like to pick, and who I plan to avoid like the plague. And you know why? It’s like the day after Thanksgiving and no one is in the office. Don’t you think that’s a great time to get things done? Yep. The whole 4th quarter is like that – some folks check out, but that makes it easier for the rest of us.

But Brian, what about all that talk about recharging? Me, I’ll do a reverse vampire and recharge at night like God intended. But I encourage everyone else to take it easy. After all, what can you get done at the very end of the game?

Almost forgot! I owe you an explanation about the five NFL teams I mentioned about 550 words ago. Every one of those teams scored enough points in the 4th quarter of last week’s games to either win or push the game into overtime. And the three teams that went into overtime all won. Momentum, my friends.

Always finish strong. Who’s the boss, dammit?