I'm finally back! After a long hiatus I am back to the blogging world. I do have a few excuses such as being gone for a couple of weeks on a missions trip to Zimbabwe, followed by planning my last son's High School graduation, followed by a slew of summer activities. All of those excuses sound valid, but they are only really part of the truth. Actually, I have been gone because I've been off trying to "find myself". I know, this term is over-used and sounds a bit "earth-muffiny", but that is exactly what have been doing.
It has been a new experience for me the past 5 years or so to accept the fact that I have a voice in my own own life and that I am free to express it. That has come after hours of counseling, hours and hours of searching the Scriptures, and even more hours praying for God to help me to understand the freedom I have in Him. When you try to be many different "selfs " in order to please different people, it's easy to not develop an identity or a voice and that is exactly where I found myself.
Now, as my fourth son has gone off to college and I have "retired" from the only real full-time, long-term job I have had, I have been a bit lost in trying to find my niche. I don't want to feel as though I'm just a "waste of skin" as my husband says sometimes of people (I know it's not very nice, but it is sadly descriptive). I want to know that I have a purpose and a reason for being and most of all, I want to glorify God in it, since that's all that really matters anyway.
So, before my long hiatus, I was in the middle of a blogging course and got stuck. The reason I got stuck was that with all of this finding my voice stuff, and figuring out how to actually live out the purpose God has given me, when I got to the "personal branding" part of the course, I shut down. I know what branding in Montana was like and although I have heard the term in the marketing and design world, I wasn't sure what it meant for me as an individual. The definition I found was that branding "is a marketing practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products." Just like a brand on a steer makes it stand out as a particular "product", a personal brand defines who you are in order for you to stand out.
That all sounds great and very exciting in this new modern age of social media and internet marketing, but you have to be able to know how you are different from everyone trying to do what you are doing and what makes you special. I had no idea what could possibly make me stand out or even what in the world I was trying to accomplish with my writing. So, what do you do when you don't know what to do? You plan graduation parties, travel around the world, work in the yard, work in the garden and have lots of people over for dinner! Perfect! It all worked for quite a few months, but now things are slowing down, summer is over, the boys are all tucked away in their own lives without needing me in an official "mom" capacity, so here I am trying to figure it out.
Thankfully, I have a God who is so great and so loving that He helps me along the way by speaking to me through His Word and through other people. One such person was a man named Dean Del Sesto. I stumbled onto a presentation on personal branding that he gave at a conference for creatives and the lightbulb went on for me. The concepts have been so great as I find a direction, and are helpful to all of us as we live out life in general and are involved in any kind of relationships.
He basically taught that we all have a brand or a way that we present ourselves to the world. We often say our goal is to impact people's lives in some way, but he points out that we are always affecting people with our lives; either positively, negatively or worst of all, with indifference. Since relationships drive everything in our experience, we need to be connecting with people emotionally in order to "sell" what we are trying to get them to "buy". In the marketing world that is a product, but in the personal world, we are "selling" ourselves in order to meet the needs and wants of those around us.
He shared the secrets of building a great brand, which I started applying to the "brand" or person that I want to be for those I am in contact with. It finally dawned on me that my "brand" is actually that of a "Follower of Christ" What my brand is trying to sell is not God, or Christ or the Holy Spirit, since it seems totally disrespectful and impossible to mold them into a product (like some religious paraphernalia is to me). The "product" is the message of the gospel itself. That is actually what we were commissioned to do in Mark 16:15 ("Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.") All of a sudden I felt like I had found myself, my brand and my message. I had a hard time "selling" myself, but I can "sell" that. It's even helped me to be bolder with my message because now I think, "Sorry if you don't like my product but it's my brand so I'm being true to that, whether you accept it or not." It may sound a little snotty but one question De Sesto asked was "If you were a product on a shelf, would you buy you?" Good question. I now have a new resolve to grow in my walk with Christ because I want to be the best product on the shelf. He deserves nothing less than great representation and if my sole desire is God, than it is my greatest delight to live that out.
Let me leave you with Del Sesto's 10 secrets to building a great brand and maybe it will spark some thinking for you as you develop your own personal brand and determine what you need to give to the world:
1. Great brands are curious. They discover what people need from their product and they seek out new ways to deliver.
2. Great brands keep every commitment that they make-no matter what, although they may have to re-negotiate. Every relationship has a commitment meter. Will you actually follow through and what are the expectations?
3. Great brands make the commitment to have a relationship with the client for life.
4. Great brands realize that selling is actually serving. You are giving the product to them as a gift that they desperately need.
5. Great brands actually employ less marketing tactics, but they do them very well.
6. Great brands deliver a series of surprises and services to their clients to show their appreciation.
7. Great brands make excellence a standard practice in all that they do.
8. Great brands consistently take risks.
9. Great brands listen to what their clients need.
Poor listeners-----hear themselves
Average listeners-----hear words
Good listeners-----hear issues
Great listeners-----hear hearts
Excellent listeners-----hear words, issues and hearts
10. Great brands are based on integrity.
I'm thinking that if we, as Followers of Christ, were to present ourselves and the gospel message in this way, it could give us all a new resolve. I sure know it has for me and I am rejoicing in the answered prayer of finding my voice, my message, my purpose and the direction that I feel that God has for my life. I can't wait to share it all with you!
If you like what you read please pass it on to someone else. I am excited for God to speak through me to positively influence others as I continue this process of walking in the Spirit and becoming more and more like Christ!
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