The start of 2012 has been intense, as I have traveled coast to coast and back too many times. As I sat on countless airplanes, waited in too many airport lounges, and contemplated the meaning of life, the sheer number of negative people I encountered along the way struck me. Could it be a coincidence? Was the universe sending me a sign via negative Nancy and pessimistic Paul?
Each conversation was a one-way ticket to the land of “impossible, too hard, not now and maybe”. Normally, I would attempt to exit these conversations ASAP to avoid being dragged into the room of misfit toys. These trips were different though because I so desperately wanted to understand the psychology of people who are in the habit of waving the white flag before the battle actually begins. Much like Indiana Jones, I was now on a quest to find new civilizations where everywhere felt satisfied to criticize, complain and condemn. In the middle of all the chaos running between flights, I had many opportunities to live vicariously through the eyes and experiences of people who see the glass as permanently half-filled. After a while, I lost my appetite for this sandwich filled with pessimism, heartache and bewilderment. Is it too much to ask to be genuinely optimistic about the future? I hope not for your sake.
As I reflect back on my travels this year, I am reminded of a valuable lesson learned many moons ago amidst all the chaos and one that I will not forget. In case you happen to be selling, discussing or presenting something tomorrow, please do not forget that your personal brand often begins and ends at hello. The quickest way to damage You Inc. is to spend too much time on Interstate Impossible. Building your personal brand on an island is okay if your name is Gilligan. Otherwise, I might suggest that you spend some time talking about what you can do and less time, what you cannot.
Amongst all the clutter in the marketplace, something as small as being optimistic matters more than some might suggest. It is easy to discount the small stuff in our race for more, more, more…. Your mission is to make everyone feel valued that you meet online and in person. Take some time to understand and work with all sorts of people who cross your radar screen.
Now that I have stuck my finger in your Cheerios and have your attention, let us discuss what you can do in 2012 and beyond to be a digital rock-star:
- First, make sure you are extremely comfortable in your own skin and are able to articulate what you do, how and why. Take some time to really think about this one, especially the “why you” piece. Ideally, you should be to describe your personal value proposition in a tweet (140 characters). Longer than that and most people are bored and will begin to tune you out.
- Second, people no longer have an interest in buying things but do have an interest in joining things. Are you building a community that offers real value to people? You must bring others with you. If not, get a clue or do something else.
- Third, if you can create an authentic experience that pulls the Band-Aid off a few wounds, people will stand up and notice. Sit on the sidelines and regurgitate the same rhetoric as everyone else and you too can bite down on a sandwich filled with heartache, frustration and mediocrity.
In closing, take an interest in others and they will take an interest in you. By the way, smiling works well too!