Every culture has its norm. What once started as a way for rebels and self-starters to live their truth and make a mark became a benchmark for what we now view as success.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. The practice of brand-building as a way to re-navigate your own life path is not dead. Perhaps that’s the missing link — instead of seeing it as an end goal, we can refocus to see it for what it is: a tool.
In terms of mindset, on one end of the spectrum there is the idea that brands are for other people. The value of its existence is measured in how it benefits a community or how it helps to ease our everyday woes.
On the other end is the idea that the brand is who we are. However, if you’ve tried to adopt this thinking with any consistency, you would know that it can turn into a Brechtian play pretty quick.
Social media presence and so-called brand identity suddenly feels like a two-dimensional show and we are left wondering if our performance measures up, and if it was about us then when did this all become a gig to please others. Epic farce, epic fail.
Of course failure is important, but there are two kinds of failure. One is the inevitable failure — the one where you invite 100 people and only 20 attend, when you submit a paper and get rejected, the ones that don’t feel so much like such a heart-wrenching thing but more like a slip off an obstacle course (still crushing, but you can try again). These are the failures that were once celebrated and created the onset of startup culture.
But now the success precedent is getting higher. Marketing? You should be able to self-publish that! Financing? Crowd-fund it! When everything is supposed to be easier, the shame that comes with failure is more profoundly felt. So we guard ourselves against the inevitable failures and end up with the failure we are most afraid of which is of not living up to our own definition of success.
If we see brand-building as designing our own compass, we can go back to that inevitable but much needed mode of failure in order to have less of a polarity mindset when starting or re-branding.
1. Re-brand when it feels limiting, not when you fail to keep up in comparison.
One of the emotional reasons to start a brand stems from creating a new identity that breaks the limit of who we are by birth. When we are no longer confined by our background, age, nationality (or rather become empowered by it), we are free to jet into the unknown. In other words, it’s worth looking inside rather than out when making these big-picture decisions.
2. Joining in on another, more established, idea doesn’t have to mean losing your own compass.
Don’t be too quick to put a label on yourself. Wether you are self-employed, freelancing, co-founders, interning or volunteering, what matters most is that you are living your truth. Being an entrepreneur is just one way of expressing that, it doesn’t always mean that it’s a step up. When we discard the ladder altogether, we cease from creating a culture that craves satisfaction from standing on each others’ heads.
3. Be ready to give birth to branches.
Starting a brand or a business is a little like entering into a relationship — when we let go of our perfectionism, our need for control… We become a magnet for solutions instead of using our brand as a shield to show how right we are. There will be times when it feels like a business is coming to an end, be sensitive enough to know when it’s time to let go or when it’s a call to change, evolution and rebirth.
4. Appreciate the sense of meaning and purpose it gives you, as it will help you manage your emotions through the storms.
What interests me might bore you and vice versa. It’s great when others share the same enthusiasm you have towards a particular idea or discovery, but having this expectation will only set you up for unnecessary disappointment.
When you’re not seeking for approval for every other alteration, trust that people will gravitate towards you — not because your idea is the most clever or most innovative, but because you have found meaning and purpose behind it, and who doesn’t want a piece of that!
5. Remind yourself this was all once an intangible idea and when you get lost in the details of it, that you are always free to roam in your imagination to find the solution.
See your life in its entirety. Everybody has their own itch to scratch and it’s a fine line between going for it to discover unknown parts of yourself and being restless in a bid to avoid getting to know who we are. What makes brand-building a great tool for self-discovery is that it can become both a ticket to explore without the physical travel as well as the proverbial home in the sky when we struggle to find our place in this world.