My career has benefited my life in many ways, not the least of which is as a foundation for attaining financial freedom. But, it hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows. In many ways, my career has blocked me from bringing out my best possible self. This is one of the reasons why I get excited about financial freedom. It represents the opportunity to reinvent myself – redefine my brand – in a way that reflects the best possible me.
Which led me to ask the question, should I redefine my brand for my future, financially free me?
Building Your Brand
If you’ve spent anytime in a corporate environment, you’ve likely heard how important it is to “build your brand”. I’m oversimplifying, but in essence the exercise goes something like this:
- Identify three adjectives you want others to use when describing you, and then
- Be purposeful in projecting and personifying those adjectives in your daily work to shape others’ perception of you.
The idea is to pick adjectives that actually represent who you are. But even so, the whole notion of building my brand has felt inauthentic to me and I’ve rejected it. At least I thought I rejected it. But it turns out that, subconsciously, I’ve been hard at work to build my persona and be viewed a certain way by my colleagues.
Over the course of my career, in an effort to conform and advance at work, I’ve turned up the volume on certain attributes and qualities of myself, and lowered the volume of others. Let me explain…
It’s always been super important to me to be viewed as highly competent at work. I think this stems partly because I look younger than I am (yes, a huge blessing that I’m only now appreciating). As a result, others often assume I’m a more junior employee and underestimate me at work.
To counter this perception, I try my best to come across as smart and competent (worthy!). But at times I place so much focus on portraying competence, that I’m overly cautious and reserved in my actions and words. I tone down my assertiveness, purposely remaining quiet and biting my tongue to avoid the risk of saying something stupid.
Another way I turn up the volume on certain attributes is by projecting myself as more outgoing than I naturally am.
Introversion is not a quality positively viewed or appreciated in the corporate environment, especially at a leadership level. Some comments I’ve heard my coworkers make… “Our CEO has a great vision for our company, but he’s an introvert and doesn’t spend enough time with customers” or “Our CMO is a talented brand strategist, but he’s an introvert and doesn’t connect enough with employees.” And then there are the job postings (non-sales I might add) that specify, “must be an extrovert” as a requirement.
As a result, I try hard to be more social at work, collaborate with others, and as my husband likes to say, “turn it on” when I’m at company events and functions.
But all of this brand building, while beneficial for advancing my career, hasn’t necessarily reflected my natural and authentic self.
Redefine Your Brand / Opportunity for Reinvention
As I look to the next phase of my life (2022 or sooner!), I’m excited about the opportunity to reinvent and project myself into the world in a way that reflects the real me.
This is one of the aspects of attaining financial freedom that gets me the most excited. Not only spending time doing exactly what I want to do, but also allowing my authentic self to come shining through. I’ve seen this happen first hand with my dad.
Before retirement, my dad worked in the insurance industry as a business professional. He was always an early riser, dressed in a suit and tie and was out the door headed to the office by 7am each day. As an executive, he spent his days in meetings or the golf course entertaining clients. But after he retired things changed.
Today, he rarely gets out of bed before 8am, and has exchanged his suits and ties for shorts and t-shirts. While he still spends many days on the golf course, he spends even more time on his creative pursuits, like writing songs and recording music. He’s grown his network of friends to include like-minded musicians and creative collaborators.
Before he retired, I would have described my dad’s brand as high-energy, positive, driven and business-minded. Now, I would still describe him as high-energy and positive, but his brand also embodies adjectives like encouraging, uplifting and creative.
He was an executive; now he’s an artist. My dad reinvented his life and now his authentic, creative self is shining through.
Branding to Bring Your Best Self Forward
Here’s what I know to be true: my best possible self is yet to emerge.
My career has benefited my life in so many ways, but it hasn’t provided an environment for me to be 100% me. And I plan to use the next chapter of my life – financial freedom – to bring my best self forward. Which led me to ask the question, what do I want my brand or persona to reflect once I transition to my next phase? What qualities and attributes do I want to amplify, and which do I want to reduce or eliminate? I’m sure as time goes on this will change and morph, but at this point in time here’s a high-level view into what I’m thinking…
One of my fundamental desires in becoming financially free is to create value – create things (books, blogs, podcasts, etc.) that others value. With this goal in mind, I want to backburner my analytical, logical self and amplify my artistic, creative self. Rather than be reserved and cautious, I want to be open and bold. If I had to sum up my brand in early retirement with three adjectives, they would be:
- Sassy – lively, bold and full of spirit
- Creative – ability to make new things or think of new ideas
- Independent – free from outside control
Although I’ve disregarded advice to build my brand at work (at least in the sense of setting a formal strategy), I have to admit that applying this concept to my future, financially free self has been a helpful exercise. It made me realize how much brand building I’ve unintentionally been doing in my current career, and reinforced how I want to change it to bring my best self forward upon attaining financial freedom.
What about you? Do you see your “brand” or “persona” changing once you reach financial freedom or early retirement? If so, how?