Turning Points & Personal Brand

A personal brand is another way to differentiate oneself in the crowd ©

August is here. For many of us starting our MBAs, there are at least two turning points fast approaching us. The first is the thought of having yourself plucked out of everyday reality and crammed in with hundreds of other people from all parts of the world and all walks of life - restarting student life in quite a different place to where-ever we are now. Whatever gradual path we've been taking thus far will soon be batted into the stratosphere. The second turning point will come approximately 22 months later. At that point, our paths will again be smacked out to other parts of the stratosphere - in different directions. With the career goals essays that the schools mandate, I feel like I've been thinking about these turning points and my future life path for several years. Recently, with the first of these turning points fast approaching, I've been inspired to think about them in three specific ways.

Be the best at three things, not one. Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, suggests that to become to the very best at one thing, such as a NBA basketball player, is very difficult. Instead, he recommends picking three things that work in synergy to define your own niche. For me, I think this is media, entrepreneurship and technology. I've always been interested in media - from starting a school newspaper when I was 14 (a newspaper that never saw past issue 1, such is youth) to launching a online student new site (which I can't take full credit for, I admit). Entrepreneurship has come relatively easy in spits and spats - building torture devices (starting a public speaking club) and once running a hobby company organising embarrassing events (yes, speed dating). Technology was my undergrad education and has been the major part of my career to date. Maybe, just maybe, the MBA will give me the opportunity to properly fuse these together.

If you want to shine, put in 10,000 hours. Malcom Gladwell has written a book on this thought, and the gist of it can be found in many places. It makes a lot of sense that overnight success actually took several years of hidden effort. It also makes sense that perhaps the reason people never realise their true potential is because they give up before they reach those 10,000 hours. If media, entrepreneurship and technology are to be "my thing", I wonder - how many hours have I put in to date? Perhaps it is 10,000 hours that are required to start a business?... in which case, I'd still have lots more hours left to put in. The difference between success and failure is perhaps persistance. Do I have what it takes to put those 10,000 hours in? Because I spent a long time deriving my "three things", I think I do. Time will unravel if I will be right.

Personal Branding in the age of Google. Seth Godin points out that it's difficult to not have some kind of personal branding out there, on the Internet. He himself has built an unshakeable brand on the Internet. His three things are probably "hip marketing, author/blogger, thought leader/professional speaker". He has certainly put in at least 10,000 hours into this over at least the last 10 years - probably more. The culmination has been a personal brand that attracts for him the resources and opportunities he needs to be even more successful. Thus far, I've not proactively managed my personal brand on the Internet; a search for my name produces random things. There is barely any association to my three things - "media, entrepreneurship and technology" in what comes up. I'm now thinking about the kind of brand that I might be able to build for myself over the next two years, either side of the turning points, as well as beyond.