Tag Archive: do it yourself


Just give yourself a little Fresh PASSION as the Foundation
for Your ‘Fresh Branded Mansion’

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 call 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And of course, all the passion in the world won’t enable you to achieve success if you employ an outdated, stale approach to your career, your business or your college matriculation, which is why I make sure to put “Fresh” first! In addition, success is hollow if you do not share some of your good fortune with others, so once you nail your brand, it is time to share your success with others.

Here is a brief look at each of the nine phases that comprise Fresh PASSION:

Fresh…

What exactly does each of these terms mean? “Fresh” means doing something every day to enhance your brand so that it stays fresh—keeping your skills sharpened, packaging yourself well.

Preparing…

Preparing yourself” means continuing your education through classes, professional development, building and contributing to formal and informal networks, and simply maintaining an active intellectual interest and knowledge capital in your career and your life.

Aspiring…

Aspiring to reach your goals” means having particular ambitions and then setting out to achieve your goals—aim at nothing and you’re guaranteed to hit it!

Staying laser-focused…

Staying laser-focused” means intently focusing on each area of Fresh PASSION, otherwise you’ll miss the mark and not deliver your brand.

Selling…

Selling your value” means understanding your return on investment (ROI), having confidence in your fullest potential, and constantly searching for new opportunities that will help you meet, or even exceed, that potential.

Invigorating…

Invigorating yourself” means having the tenacity and discipline to go the distance and secure your personal and professional success—fan the flame within and catch on fire!

Omitting…

Omitting the negative” means learning from the inevitable negative experiences you will encounter without dwelling on them or letting them consume the valuable real estate in your head—you have so much more ahead of you!

Nailing…

And last but surely not least, “Nailing the brand” means successfully packaging your substance (your core) up and putting a bow on it so that you become a fresh brand that can successfully compete and WIN internally and externally (even in this turbulent environment), which will enable you to achieve exponential personal and professional success.

Sharing Your Success…

The goal of exponential personal and professional success is not simply to give yourself a great life (though that is surely a key element!) but to help others enrich their lives and reach their potential as well. Once you have nailed your brand and are competing and winning regardless of the economic environment, it’s time to share some of your good fortune with family, friends and even strangers.

Fresh PASSION sounds great, Michael, but what if
I’m not 100% sure what I’m aiming for?

“Success” can be a vague concept. In general it means “doing well and getting what you want,” but unless you know what you want to do and toward what end, devising a success plan is a pointless endeavor. To help build a framework to support your Fresh PASSION activities, think of building a successful career as building a mansion (after all, buying a mansion is the ultimate symbol of success). What does your perfect mansion look like? What materials is it built from? Is there a solid foundation? How secure is the roof? How many acres is the lawn, and what type of landscaping is featured? Do you have carefully designed blueprints, or are you “winging” construction based on some general ideas and goals? Will you use classic architecture that never goes out of style, or something flashy and hip that will look dated in a few years? Do you warmly open your mansion to the company of others, or do you lock the doors tight and live like a hermit?

Achieving Your ‘Perfect Mansion’

Naturally, building your “perfect mansion” in this case is a metaphor for how you will build your perfect career. Your solid foundation is your passion for what you do, and your secure roof is the fresh approach you take that protects you from unpredictable changes in the economic “weather.” The size and landscaping of your lawn represents just how aggressive and widespread your goals are (“success” does not have to mean world domination!), and the phases of Fresh PASSION are solid building materials that ensure your mansion will not collapse under stress. Building a strong brand based on character and real value (rather than tailoring your brand to whatever is “hot” right now) is using classic architecture. And of course warmly opening your beautiful mansion to others represents sharing your success.

If you came out of the “storm” today, what would/could you do?

For too long, too many of us have been captains of a vessel caught in fierce and unpredictable tsunami “storms” caused by unpredictable swings in the economy and general business environment. Depending on your particular situation, that vessel may be a yacht or merely a canoe, but in many cases even those fortunate enough to sail giant luxury cruise ships have found themselves just hoping to survive the storm and make it through. And all too often, we make it through one storm only to find ourselves ill-prepared to prevent or face the ensuing storm that’s barreling our way right behind it. And regardless of size, your boat can only withstand so many storms before it becomes incapacitated and or weaken which makes preventing and surviving the next storm a challenge.

We have been on this stormy path too long; it’s now time to turn the corner and navigate to shore. Coming out of the storm is not enough. Instead, we have to have a plan, passion, purpose and promise ready to put in place once we escape all this stormy weather and find some shelter on dry land. The absence of this will result in us experiencing a mental storm that will soon propel us back into a physical storm. And once on shore, we need to find fertile ground and prepare to build a “Fresh, World- Class Branded Mansion” (representing your personal brand) instead of trying to patch up a “local generic shack”.

The blueprint for building this Fresh Branded mansion is the proven process that has helped thousands- Fresh PASSION. This process takes you from being a generic to a world-class brand and helps you elevate your brand to the next level if you are one of the select few who already possess a winning brand. By following this laser-focused and disciplined winning plan of action, you will gain the ability to survive, prosper during, and even prevent storms. This ability will give you an edge over your competition and position you to experience exponential personal, professional and economic success.

Don’t think about riding out the storm
You could simply continue to “ride out” the storm in whatever vessel has taken you this far, but riding out the storm is not the best option. It has been tried and has not worked. Just sitting on your boat is not the answer, nor is inviting a lot of your negative friends on the ship and throwing a party. The answer is developing a laser-focused and disciplined navigation plan and moving forward at an accelerated pace. This will help you to successfully perform, deliver, and stay on course through any storm or adversity you encounter.

The best success navigation plan you can have is to turn yourself into a clear, compelling, and competitive personal brand. As such, you will be seen as someone who can add and deliver value in these turbulent times and the economic tsunami threatening to engulf all of us. This, my friend, puts you on the path to personal and professional success. Becoming a successful brand will work whether you are employed, underemployed, an entrepreneur, executive, middle manager, entry-level employee, college student, recent graduate, or at any other stage of your professional and/or educational career.

Becoming a brand always works for companies and organizations, as well. You have to provide a branded customer experience that your employees can execute and use to attract, retain, and grow your customer base.

Are you ready to turn the corner and build your Fresh Branded Mansion in 2012?
As I said earlier, you want to take shelter from the storm in a Fresh, Branded Mansion. Not a generic shack, and not one of those cookie-cutter “McMansions” which were so popular during the doctom boom – they cost a lot of money and attract a lot of attention, but offer little in the way of real architectural value and tend to lose most of their worth in difficult times like now. No, you want a genuine mansion – classy, well-built, tastefully impressive, something that offers an intrinsic value which remains high even during the worst housing markets.

How do you build a Fresh, Branded Mansion? Well, it’s not easy or everyone would be doing it, but through hard work and following the nine phases of Fresh PASSION, you can construct a “dream house” that will lead to the life and career you want and deserve. These phases include Fresh – a mansion that is well-built, represents who you are, and retains its sale value at all times, Preparation – only using the freshest and highest-quality materials for your mansion’s foundation, roof, furniture, landscaping, nails, blueprint, etc., Aspiration – when you design your mansion, do you go for something typical and safe or something eye-catching and bold that puts it ahead of other mansions, Stay laser-focused – using levels and inspections to make sure your mansion’s structural integrity is sound and that the physical results match the aspirations of your design, Sell like you are crazy – becoming a real estate expert so that when it’s time to put your mansion on the market, you know exactly who to sell it to and what features to accentuate to get the maximum bids, Invigorate – taking the effort to maintain your mansion’s “curb appeal” through landscaping, additions, renovations, etc., Omitting the negative – pushing comments from any naysayers or incidents of self-doubt that pop up along the way to building the home of your dreams, Nailing the brand – really “nailing” your mansion together and ensuring everything is ready for you to move in and show it off to others, and serving others – using your mansion to host holiday meals and celebrations, ensuring that it benefits friends, family, coworkers, customers and clients, and not just you.

You can brand your way to success
My staff and I were able to grow and prosper during the 2011 global recession/downturn/out of control economy. My secret was (and still is) the consistent development and fresh and flawless execution of my personal brand through my trademarked and signature process Fresh PASSION (Get a Brand or Die a Generic)®. I have used this process in 2011 to help thousands of individuals, entrepreneurs, executives, and students achieve exponential personal and professional success.

Over the coming months, I will share the nine phases of the proven Fresh PASSION (Get a Brand or Die a Generic)® process with you. It is my hope, strong belief, and personal desire that you, too, can develop and flawlessly execute your powerful and competitive personal brand that will yield consistent and exponential personal and professional success, even in this environment!

So with all hands on deck and overtime on the construction site, we will build a Fresh Branded Mansion and achieve and experience exponential personal, economic and professional success in 2012!

Ready to turn the corner and build your Fresh Branded Mansion and leave the “shacks” to the generics?

http://www.themichaeldbrown.com

Nailing Your Brand

Don’t Forget that Presentation Counts!
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 (i.e., “she is so plain, don’t depend on him he will never deliver, he is just boring”). 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.

Honestly, how many times have you bought something just because of the packaging, or paid more for something because it was presented in an exciting way? That’s the main reason we want to pay less for generic – the packaging is uniformly dull. When we see a package that shouts “Energy, Invigoration, Crispy, Clean, Colorful, Beautiful, Sophisticated, Expensive, “we are willing to pay more.

In essence, good packaging helps speed the purchasing decision and leads people to pay top dollars (and that’s what you want your packaging to do right?). Packaging is how you express your personality. So think about how you want to be perceived, what’ competitive edge you want your packaging to send.

Remember, the way you decide to package your unique brand should be evident in everything that you do and attach your name to, the way you walk, the way your talk, the way you dress, the content and appearance of your resume/cover letter, your award winning interview.

Also remember, the market can spot a phony a mile away! Your brand needs to reflect your core substance. Build your brand around your genuine strengths, not the ones you think the market wants to pay a lot of money for right now. You will always do better in the long run by being yourself, both in business and in life.

Nailing your brand is not something you do once and walk away from, it is a constant process of fine-tuning and adjusting your brand to the changing needs of the market and your changing interests, abilities, experiences and skills. Following are a few simple things you can do to help nail your brand today, tomorrow and far into the future.
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 that featured some tough talk from both players and owners, as well as canceled preseason workouts and games.

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 in the last 25 years of creating its brand as “America’s Game,” essentially stealing this title from Major League Baseball. In a January 2011 Harris Poll, 31% of US adults said football is their favorite sport, close to double the 17% who chose baseball!

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.

Following is a football-themed “heart check” to measure how effectively you are nailing your brand. While “running up the score” is often frowned upon by football players and coaches, in this case you want to score as many points as possible.

Scale

5Wait, that’s really, really true about me- Strongly agree
4That would be me- Agree
350/50 sometimes, sometimes not- somewhat agree
2That absolutely has nothing to do with me-Disagree
1Let me take the fifth on this- Strongly disagree

1. My brand is evident in everything I do and say, as well in how I present myself to others.
2. My brand is honest and genuine, and based on who I am and what I am best at.
3. I constantly fine-tune and adjust my brand.
4. My brand adjusts to the marketplace, but not the point of losing its unique identity or becoming a market follower, rather than leader.
5. My brand package delivers a world-class experience on first sight (within three seconds).
6. My brand package encompasses preparation, aspiration, staying laser focus, selling like you are crazy, invigoration, and omitting the negative.
6.5. Even people already familiar with my brand substance find the packaging compelling and informative.

Now that you’ve taken the test, let’s analyze how well you are nailing your brand:

If you scored from 7 to 13, you get sacked at the line of scrimmage. You are not presenting yourself or your brand in an exciting way that lets the world know your core substance and unique value proposition. Your brand doesn’t stand a chance!

If you scored from 14 to 20, you are “three and out.” Your packaging conveys one or two key components of your core substance, but not in a compelling way that makes you distinct from your competitors. Whatever chance you have in the marketplace is limited at best.

If you scored from 21 to 26, you make it into the “red zone”. You have managed to make your brand stand out in a crowded marketplace thanks to compelling and innovative packaging that conveys your core substance. But that little something extra is missing. You are still a solid number two brand people turn to when their preferred brand is unavailable.

If you scored from 27 to 33, you score a field goal. Your packaging is top-notch and you are among the leading brands in your field. But still, whether you lack a bow to tie it all together or your packaging’s gleam is a little dulled, you are not the true leading brand in your area of expertise.

If you scored a 34 or 35, you score a touchdown. Your packaging is impeccable and includes bows, ribbons and all the other little niceties that make a product truly stand out on a crowded shelf. You are the leader in your area of branded expertise, and anyone who sees your packaging knows it.

Learn to Conquer the ‘P4’s:’ Pain, Pleasure, Pressure and Persecution

I don’t need to tell you that negativity surrounds you in this world. Even emanating from your friends, family and colleagues, it is all around. Your responsibility is to not waste your precious time and resources dealing with negativity. Remember, you are building a foundation that will lead to a stellar job or career with opportunities for enhancement, a thriving business, a new venture, or perhaps even the chance to be your own boss. Omitting the negative will be an extremely useful skill that you should carry with you throughout your professional and personal life.
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.

Of course, you must realize that there will inevitably be negatives that come your way, and omitting them will not always be an easy task. In particular, you will have to successfully deal with the dreaded “P4” – Pain, Pleasure, Pressure and Persecution. On this journey to personal and professional success you will have to deal with these four major obstacles and your challenge will be to not let any of this derail you. P4’s have a strong potential to have a negative impact, and the way in which you tackle and overcome these potential derailments is critical to your obtaining and sustaining success.

Remember, you must go through each aspect of P4 to learn from them, but don’t let them lead you, consume you or cause you to lose focus. You will need to omit these potential negatives both proactively and reactively. Find the lessons that all this negativity can teach you and use them to write the next successful chapter. Do it right, and pretty soon you will be experiencing exponential personal and professional success.

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 agreed they had no chance against their first round opponent, the basketball powerhouse Michigan State. George Mason’s subsequent victory was deemed one of those fluky things that often happens in the early rounds of the NCAA basketball finals.

However, the George Mason players and coaches continued omitting all the negativity surrounding them, including that coming from some of the most highly respected analysts and journalists covering college basketball. Specifically dealing with the “Pressure” and “Persecution” aspects of the 4 P’s the team reached the “Final Four” round of the tournament, meaning one more win would take them to the championship game.

Although George Mason lost to eventual champion Florida State, the Patriots proved that by omitting the negative and maintaining high goals, you can succeed beyond any limitations or expectations the outside world tries to place on you.

To avoid the P4, you must constantly guard against the negativity which is always trying to creep into your life. Following is an NCAA tournament-themed “heart check” to measure how closed off you are to negativity. In this case, the lower your score, the better!

Scale
5: Wait, that’s really, really true about me- Strongly agree
4: That would be me- Agree
3: 50/50 sometimes, sometimes not- somewhat agree
2: That absolutely has nothing to do with me-Disagree
1: Let me take the fifth on this- Strongly disagree

1. I find myself spending a lot of time worrying about negative things that were said about me.
2. I internalize 40% or more of the negative feedback that people say about me.
3. If you want to stop me dead in my tracks, just give me negative feedback.
4. I learn very little from negative feedback.
5. I know how to extract the positive out of negative feedback and use it to strengthen myself.
6. I often times elect to do something fun and pleasurable even when I know I should be working on something that will bring me a greater degree of success.
6.5. I crumble very easily under pressure.

Now that you’ve taken the test, let’s analyze your openness to negativity:

If you scored from 29 to 35, you don’t make the tournament. You are extremely sensitive to the opinions and judgments of others and are constantly second-guessing yourself for fear of doing something that will bring criticism. As long as you carry this self-defeating attitude, you will not be able to build a successful brand or achieve your aspirations. You need to start strengthening your resolve and following the 6.5 steps to omitting negativity before you find your career completely derailed. Remember that negativity can just as easily leave through an open door as it can enter!

If you scored from 21 to 28, you get bounced out of the first round. You are not completely dominated by negativity in the way a wide open colleague is, and probably function in a fairly positive manner if you are not facing any outright negativity. But once negative people and influences appear, you quickly come under their sway. Negativity instinctively senses and pursues its most vulnerable targets, so you probably encounter it often.

If you scored from 14 to 20, you make the “Sweet Sixteen,” the third round. You have managed to remove yourself from the run-of-the-mill negativity that most of us encounter on a regular basis. You do not allow yourself to become snared or distracted by offhand comments and petty political maneuverings. But closed doors are not the same as locked doors. Serious negativity, the type that damages lives and ruins careers if left unchecked, can still open your door and find you. You have taken some good first steps, but do not assume you are now safe. You still have plenty of work to do.

If you scored from 9 to 13, you make the “Elite Eight,” the fourth round. You understand the threat negativity poses and the many different forms it takes, and have developed effective strategies to deflect or neutralize it. Your door is locked, making it extremely difficult for negativity to get through. But your door still has a peephole, indicating that you find it hard to resist occasionally glimpsing at negativity and letting it invade your thoughts. Like most things that are bad for us, negativity holds a peculiar attraction. Resist it – there are much better ways to spend your precious spare time than focusing on negativity!

If you scored a 7 or 8, you are in the “Final Four,” meaning you’re a true championship contender. You are located behind a reinforced steel door with a deadbolt lock. You have erected complete defenses against negativity. Your door is impenetrable to the intrusion of negativity, unless you choose to open it. The lack of any type of peephole indicates that you have learned to ignore the dangerous allure of negativity and instead put it completely out of your life. You have truly omitted negativity, bringing you one major step closer to building the best possible brand and achieving all of your aspirations.

http://www.themichaeldbrown.com

You Know How Great You Are – Don’t Be Afraid to Tell the World!

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.

Now it’s time to let the world know who you are. You must convey what makes you different, distinctive and competitive (i.e., your brand). This statement is your definition statement. You will use this during networking, interviews to alert your current company and the outside world, your customers, potential and current employers about just how much value your brand truly provides.

Your statement has to be competitive internally to the organization, company or business that you are in, as well as competitive externally to the marketplace. If you are an entrepreneur, your statement must inspire and maintain the respect of your employees; and even if you work as a solo contractor, you must develop a statement you truly believe in yourself!

This is critical to gaining exponential personal and professional success internally while keeping you competitive on the open market, which provides you with the critical back-up plan in the event of downsizings, rightsizings, and economic slowdowns that may affect your current organization. In plain English, make sure your eggs can produce the world’s best omelet, no matter what basket they end up in.

Also remember that a closed mouth will starve you to death. You must passionately communicate both how great you are and how your greatness will spread throughout any organization you join if you want to dine on your aspirations.
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. He first entered the pro boxing scene in the early 60s as a brash young upstart named Cassius Clay who simultaneously shocked and charmed America with his outlandish behavior and egotistical statements, always delivered with a wink and a nod that made them entertaining rather than annoying (except to his opponents!). The fact that he backed all his trash talk up by truly “floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee” in the ring also made it easier for the public to accept.

Ali’s combination of exceptional athletic talent and natural showmanship made him one of the world’s biggest celebrities. Principled actions he took which at the time were socially controversial, such as converting to Islam and refusing to be drafted during the Vietnam War, did not lessen his public appeal and over time actually added to his heroic mythology. 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.

To effectively sell your value, you must constantly check up on yourself to make sure you are properly equipped to do the best sales job possible. Following is a boxing-themed “heart check” to help you keep your sales efforts at their peak performance.

1. I have a clear understanding about my worth; I know what I should be paid.
2. I am comfortable with selling the value that I bring.
3. I know my ROI.
4. I have made the people who can add to my success aware of the value that I can bring to them and/or their organization.
5. I have a set of skills that is competitive internally (in my current job, business or career) and externally (in the open marketplace).
6. I have a fresh way of succinctly explaining my unique value proposition that will get me noticed, heard, rewarded and paid.
6.5 My passion is authentically represented in how I explain my value proposition.

Now that you’ve taken the test, let’s analyze your score:

If you scored from 7-13, you’re not answering the opening bell. Rather than examining yourself to find the unique benefit, value and ROI you deliver, you simply present your basic professional experience and qualifications with a smile and a firm handshake, like you’ve always been told to. Yawn.

If you scored from 14-20, you get knocked out by the first hard punch you take. You have probably discovered one or two unique selling points for your personal brand, but lack any originality in how you get them across to potential customers (i.e., employers and clients).

If you scored from 21-26, you can last a few rounds, but are not truly a contender. You are aware of your brand’s unique strengths and focus on them in your pitches, but still haven’t figured out how to truly differentiate yourself in an ultra-competitive marketplace.

If you scored from 27-33, you’re a contender who can go the distance, but may not be ready for the championship belt. You clearly demonstrate the benefit, value and ROI you deliver in a way that is fresh and engaging for the listener. You have gathered the skills and information to cover the many different scenarios you may be asked to justify your brand against. But you still hang back a little bit, are you waiting for opportunity to knock instead of kicking down its door (or laying it flat on the canvas)?

If you scored a 34 or 35, you are ready to wear the championship belt. Anyone you come into contact with knows about your brand and what it can do in any given situation, and you are constantly refining how you deliver your pitch to make sure your message is up to date with what you have to offer, what you are looking for, and what best suits the needs of the marketplace. You float like a butterfly and sting like a bee!

http://www.themichaeldbrown.com

Magic and Michael Knew What It Takes to Be a True Champion: Be Prepared!

You Can’t Build a Fresh, Competitive Brand without Preparing Yourself First

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.

For college students, preparing yourself means taking steps like maintaining a consistently high GPA, test-driving potential careers and impressing potential future employers through internships, participating in extracurricular activities, and doing a “heart check” on your major – are you majoring in something you excel at and that truly captivates your interest where you can be passionate about it?

For professionals, preparing yourself means continuing your education, building and contributing to formal and informal networks, maintaining an active intellectual interest and knowledge capital in your career and your life, staying current on the latest business trends and demands in your field, taking on project assignments, asking your boss what you can do to become a better performer, and seizing every opportunity to stay front and center by volunteering for committees and gladly accepting additional work.

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 (many experts rank them one-two, in both orders) and both were explosive forces on the court from the moment they started their careers till the moment they ended them (of course, Johnson retired and unretired once and Jordan did it twice!). Blessed with immense natural athletic ability and incredible knowledge of the game of basketball, these men could easily have shown up at games with minimal preparation and still won championships and probably made the Hall of Fame.

But they didn’t. 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. Less talented teammates couldn’t help but be inspired to practice harder when they saw how seriously two of the all-time best players took their preparation.

It is also not a coincidence that both men have had highly successful post-basketball careers as business executives and corporate spokesmen. Their dedication and preparation helped give them sterling reputations as true “winners” which everyone wants to associate with, and undoubtedly they take the same no-nonsense, hyperprepared approach to their business lives as they did their basketball lives. If Magic and Michael needed lots of preparation, so do you!

Wondering how your efforts to be prepared stack up against the pros? Let’s compile a basketball–themed “shootaround” to measure your preparation. Rate how strongly you agree that each of the following preparedness statements applies to you today from 1-5, with 1 equaling strongly disagree and 5 equaling strongly agree:

1. I have a fully realized ideal of personal and professional success around which I build all my preparatory efforts.
2. I have the utmost confidence that I am truly prepared to achieve success and have no doubts about my ability to overcome any obstacle, no matter how unpredictable.
3. I have mastered the specific skills necessary to achieve success by being a branded expert in my chosen field, organization, business and or company.
4. I have obtained all the credentials necessary to achieve success by being a branded expert in my chosen field , organization, business and/or company.
5. I feel a burning competitive desire that pushes me to always take additional steps toward being prepared rather than feel satisfied with my preparatory efforts.
6. I know the skill sets and the mental attitudes of three people who have achieved success in the area that I want to succeed.
6.5 I gain a new competitive skill on at least a quarterly basis.

Now that you’ve taken the test, let’s analyze your score:

If you scored from 7-13, you launched an airball. You haven’t taken any real steps to prepare yourself for success and are relying on blind luck and last-second thinking to overcome whatever obstacles come your way.

If you scored from 14-20, your ball glanced off the rim. You have taken a few quick steps to get ready to succeed, but hurrying now will only make success take longer to arrive later.

If you scored from 21-26, you hit a free throw, worth one point. You have done all the obvious things it takes to prepare for success in your chosen field, organization, business and/or company, but so have most of your competitors. Those who take extra steps and think outside the box in their preparation are the ones who will stand out.

If you scored from 27-33, you hit a regulation two-point basket. You have gone above and beyond the norm to prepare and are ready for some serious competition. But are you ready to win?

If you scored a 34 or 35, you hit a three-pointer. Congratulations! You have taken the lessons of Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan to heart and have thoroughly prepared yourself for all contingencies, including unknowns, and done the groundwork necessary to truly stand out from the rest of the competition. You are fit to compete for a championship and maybe even have a Hall of Fame career!

http://www.themichaeldbrown.com

Bakeries often have two options for their bread customers: fresh and day-old. No big surprise, the fresh bread typically sells for more than the day-old variety, which people only buy if they are short on money or possibly making croutons.

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.

Anyone who has ever been in love (or even thought they were in love) can attest to this. The initial courtship is passionate and you can’t see enough of each other. But as you know, time goes on, competition enters, and that once passionate flame begins to flicker and eventually burns out. If a relationship is to have any chance of thriving long-term success you’ve got to keep it fresh, right?

You are essentially in a relationship, or pursuing a relationship, with bosses, clients, co-workers, customers, teachers, etc. For your relationships with the people who consume your brand to thrive long-term, your brand needs to stay fresh, current and vibrant enough to retain their interest and outshine the other brands vying for their hearts.

Or to use another analogy, right now Major League baseball teams are in the heart of 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.

Even the most experienced and accomplished veterans can be seen at their team’s spring training complex (which to lessen the sting are generally located in either Florida or Arizona), running sprints, chasing ground balls and performing other repetitive, mundane tasks to help them prepare for the upcoming season.

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!

Wondering how your efforts to stay fresh stack up against the pros? Let’s compile a baseball–themed “box score” of your freshness. Rate how strongly you agree that each of the following fresh statements applies to you today from 1-5, with 1 equaling strongly disagree and 5 equaling strongly agree:

1. My friends and colleagues come to me for the most up to date information.
2. If you are looking for fresh ideas, I am the one.
3. My current skillset is the most competitive out of anyone I may come up against for a job and/or promotion.
4. I am aware of the latest technology that can help me personally and professionally.
5. When my friends and colleagues want a fresh perspective or strategy I am the first person they call.
6. The last book that I read was one that was published within the last 12 months.
6.5 My resume is current, up to date and competitive.

Now that you’ve taken the test, let’s analyze your score:

If you scored from 7-13, you have struck out. You know what that means: nobody wants to purchase your brand and you’ll soon be taken off the shelf.

If you scored from 14-20, you hit a single. There is minimal demand for your personal brand, but only at a steep discount and when the more popular and competitive brands are all sold out.

If you scored from 21-26, you hit a double. Your brand will sell if it stays on the shelf long enough, but anyone seeking real fresh results will look elsewhere.

If you scored from 27-33, you hit a triple. Your brand is a respectable choice for the discerning connoisseur, but not the top choice.

If you scored a 34 or 35, you hit a home run. Congratulations! You have the brand that is most in demand and fetches the highest prices. You sell out early in the morning, when only the most competitive shoppers are out evaluating the available brands.

http://www.themichaeldbrown.com

Just give yourself a little Fresh PASSION this Valentine’s Day and Beyond

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 P.A.S.S.I.O.N., 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!

Fresh…
What exactly does each of these terms mean? “Fresh” means doing something every day to enhance your brand so that it stays fresh – keeping your skills sharpened, packaging yourself well.

Preparing…
“Preparing yourself” means continuing your education through classes, professional development, building and contributing to formal and informal networks, and simply maintaining an active intellectual interest and knowledge capital in your career and your life.

Aspiring…
“Aspiring to reach your goals” means having particular ambitions and then setting out to achieve your goals – aim at nothing and you’re guaranteed to hit it!

Staying laser-focused…
“Staying laser-focused” means intently focusing on each area of Fresh PASSION, otherwise you’ll miss the mark and not deliver your brand.

Selling…
“Selling your value” means understanding your return on investment (ROI), having confidence in your fullest potential, and constantly searching for new opportunities that will help you meet even exceed that potential.

Invigorating…
“Invigorating yourself” means having the tenacity and discipline to go the distance and secure your personal and professional success – fan the flame within and catch on fire!

Omitting…
“Omitting the negative” means learning from the inevitable negative experiences you will encounter without dwelling on them or letting them consume the valuable real estate in your head – you have so much more ahead of you!

Nailing…
And last but surely not least, “Nailing the brand” means successfully packaging your substance (your core) up and putting a bow on it so that you become a fresh brand that can successfully compete and WIN internally and externally (even in this turbulent environment), which will enable you to achieve exponential personal and professional success.

Fresh PASSION sounds great, Michael, but what if I’m not 100% sure what I’m aiming for?
“Success” can be a vague concept. In general it means “doing well and getting what you want,” but unless you know what you want to do and toward what end, devising a success plan is a pointless endeavor. To help build a framework to support your Fresh PASSION activities, write down your perfect day. Don’t leave out any small details; think large and globally.

Consider and answer questions such as: What does your family look like? What’s your financial picture? What career do you have? What does your personal life look like? Where do you live? Where do you travel? What are your credentials? How do you give some of your success back to the community?

What’s your “perfect” day?
Now compare your perfect day to your typical day, and see where you come pretty close to living it and where you fall short. Those areas where you fall short are the areas that need some Fresh PASSION applied first!

My own perfect day includes living debt-free, staying fresh and up-to-date in my area of branded expertise, speaking for Fortune 500 companies and business schools, and taking the time and effort to strengthen my relationship with my family. Currently all these “perfect” situations are a reality, but that hasn’t slowed me down. The nice thing about perfection is that you can never truly achieve it; you can always strive to do better and do more.

Ask the Green Bay Packers about their perfect day!
Even if you paid more attention to the commercials or halftime show than the game, there is a pretty good chance you watched at least some of this year’s Super Bowl. And even if you didn’t watch, our ubiquitous 24/7 news culture would make it virtually impossible for you not to have heard that the Green Bay Packers won. More impressively, they won 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. The Packers, one of football’s legendary franchises (the Lombardi Trophy which goes to the Super Bowl winner is named for late, great Packers coach Vince Lombardi, who coached the Packers to victory in the first two Super Bowls), also stayed true to their brand image of athletic excellence. As a result, the team members collectively experienced the perfect day for anyone playing in the NFL: winning the Super Bowl.

http://www.themichaeldbrown

Who will you become?

Imagine you are the captain of a luxury ship suddenly caught in the middle of a fierce and unpredictable storm. Your first concern is most likely to save the ship – but saving the ship alone will not necessarily save you. When the storm begins to settle down, you don’t want to look up and discover that you have shifted way off course.

With a laser-focused and disciplined plan of action, you can survive and prosper in any storm. This ability will give you an edge over your competition and position you to successfully ride through the many storms that will inevitably come your way. Regardless of whatever storm you find yourself heading into, entangled in, or coming out of, stay laser-focused. You don’t want to be blown so far off course that you can’t properly function, prosper, and maximize your personal and professional success.

Don’t jump off the ship
You could simply jump ship, but this is not the best option. Just sitting on the ship is not the answer either, nor is inviting a lot of your negative friends on the ship and throwing a party. The answer is to develop a laser-focused and disciplined navigation plan and move forward at an accelerated pace. This will help you to successfully perform, deliver, and stay on course through any storm or adversity you encounter.

The best “success” navigation plan you can have is to turn yourself into a clear, compelling, and competitive personal brand. As such, you will be seen as someone who can add and deliver value in these turbulent times and the economic tsunami threatening to engulf all of us. This, my friend, puts you on the path to personal and professional success. Becoming a successful brand will work if you are employed, underemployed, an entrepreneur, executive, middle manager, entry-level employee, college student, recent graduate, etc.

Becoming a brand always works for companies and organizations, as well. You have to provide a branded customer experience that your employees can execute and use to attract, retain, and grow your customer base.

Follow the Example of Successful Sports Franchises
Or to use another metaphor many of you may be familiar with, use the same kind of success navigation plan employed by the most successful professional sports franchises. Even if you are not a sports fan, surely you are aware of certain legendary teams like the New York Yankees in baseball, Dallas Cowboys in football, and Boston Celtics in basketball. All of these franchises have experienced their ups and downs through their many years of existence, but all are noted for winning numerous championships and have a dedicated fan base that extends beyond their geographic area and sticks by them, win or lose.

How do these teams do it? By realizing their brand, first and foremost, is built on winning. Memories of past glories carry them through the difficult seasons, but they are aware that you cannot rest on your laurels. They all take what could be considered a ruthless approach to their players and coaches, replacing even popular personalities when they realize those personalities no longer contribute to the ultimate goal of winning. For example, the Cowboys replaced their legendary coach Tom Landry in the late 1980s after 29 years (and multiple Super Bowl wins), realizing his time had passed and a fresh approach was needed to coaching. The result was the hiring of extremely successful new coach Jimmy Johnson, which led to a phenomenal run of success in the 1990s.

Or in a negative example, the Celtics fell away from this philosophy in the early 1990s and let several aging superstars stay on with the team in a decision that Celtics tradition outweighed winning. The result was a long period of mediocre performance that damaged the Celtics brand. Only when the Celtics engaged in an intense series of major personnel shifts did they produce a long-awaited championship that restored their esteemed brand in the sports world. And the Yankees clearly are willing to spend the money needed to bring in high-profile free agents who help sell tickets and win World Series.

By remaining laser focused on their core brand attribute, winning, and being willing to tinker with other aspects of their brand, such as individual players on the team, these franchises have become leaders in their respective sports who can weather the storms of losing that even the greatest teams inevitably encounter.

You can brand your way to success
I know becoming a brand works because I have been in all of the above positions and used the creation and execution of my competitive brand as my navigation plan to continually achieve exponential personal and professional success.

The economic tsunami that we are experiencing now, where personal and professional success seems to be sinking to anemic levels, doesn’t have to determine the outcome of your life and/or career. Using the techniques described above, I have navigated and survived over 11 corporate restructurings, downsizings, rightsizings, and reorganizations. After each event, I ended up with a promotion or a lateral move that helped me add value to my brand, which in turn positioned me to capture more personal and professional success. I thus prevented myself from graduating into poverty.

More recently, I was able to grow and prosper during the 2009 global recession/downturn/spiraling out of control economy. My secret was (and still is) the consistent development and fresh and flawless execution of my personal brand through my trademarked and signature process Fresh Passion (Get a Brand or Die a Generic)®. I have used this process to help thousands of individuals, entrepreneurs , executives, and students achieve exponential personal and professional success.

Over the coming months, I will share the nine phases of the proven Fresh Passion (Get a Brand or Die a Generic)® process with you. It is my hope, strong belief, and personal desire that you, too, can develop and flawlessly execute your powerful and competitive personal brand that will yield consistent and exponential personal and professional success, even in this environment!

So with all hands on deck and overtime on the bridge, we will achieve and experience exponential personal and professional success in 2010!

http://www.themichaeldbrown.com

Now that November is here and the ghosts and goblins have gotten their treats, our thoughts turn to Thanksgiving. In many ways Thanksgiving is the most American of holidays, not only because it celebrates the Pilgrims who helped settle several of the original colonies, but because it is totally dedicated to overindulgence. What could be more American than gorging yourself on delicious food in the name of people who devoted themselves to hard work, sacrifice and austere living?

Different people follow different eating habits on Thanksgiving Day. Believe it or not, how you eat your Thanksgiving feast can say a lot about how you approach your branding effort. Some people start with the appetizers (such as cranberry sauce or rolls), move on to hearty slices of turkey with maybe a little gravy and plentiful sides of stuffing and vegetables, and then save room for a piece of pumpkin pie.

However, some people have a tendency to skip right over the main course to the sugary stuff, rather than work their way through the nutritious part of the meal. Not satisfied simply with the prospect of a enjoying a giant meal with family and friends, many people ignore the turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce etc. and jump right into the pumpkin pie. Some folks will even stuff themselves on candy and nuts before the meal starts (but probably still have room for dessert even though they are “too full” for the mashed potatoes and green beans).

Which style of Thanksgiving eating best reflects your brand-building efforts? Do you dig in heartily and with joy, but without skimping on the meat and potatoes (i.e., networking, skill development, education, taking on extra work, researching your marketplace); rather than immediately indulging in the sweet stuff that follows (taking a long vacation, buying expensive things, celebrating your success with a night on the town)? Or do you skim through the meat and potatoes of your meal (and your effort) in an attempt to obtain instant gratification that you have not really earned?

Anyone guilty of eating in the latter manner, and we almost all have been at one time or another, knows the results. Honestly, I used to eat this way, and also used to brand this way. However, one day I woke up and realized the choices I was making (both at the dinner table and in life) were leaving me bloated, but still empty. Dessert food left me empty of real nutritional value to fuel my mind and body, and mindless “easy living” left me empty of a fresh and competitive personal brand that would deliver exponential personal, economical and professional success.

Just as dessert is better enjoyed and more satisfying following a filling and nutritious dinner, your branding success is better enjoyed and more satisfying following all the hard work and effort required to truly achieve success at an exponential level.

Mind you, you don’t have to be a fuddy duddy. Nobody ever said having a chocolate or two before your meal is off-limits, and taking a weekend trip to a favorite hot spot to mark a branding milestone is totally appropriate. I’m just suggesting hold off on the three-week jaunt to Cancun during your clients’ busy season until you know you can do it without damaging your brand equity (or emptying your wallet!).

So have a Happy Thanksgiving, and remember that pumpkin pie doesn’t count as a vegetable!

How do you eat your Thanksgiving meal? Does it reflect well on your branding?

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