Last week, I was sitting on a panel on entrepreneurship with four other highly accomplished people. During the Q&A portion, a gentleman stood up and point blankly said:
“All five of you have sat up here for the last thirty minutes or so, talking about your wins and your successes. But I’m more interested in your failures and what you learned from that.”
I wanted to hug him.
The panelists went down the row, sharing one “failure” after the next. I was the last to go. As the other speakers carried on, I was quickly ruminating, racking my brain for the one pinnacle story of soul-shattering defeat where I hit rock bottom, only to ascend like a phoenix. I was in panic mode. I couldn’t think of just one.
Because, the truth is, I fail every single day. In some small way, I mess up, miss the mark, wince at my sloppiness with an email, regret my reactiveness with an employee, berate myself for saying yes when I really wanted to say no or harshly judge myself for simply having an “off” day.
Here’s the thing about failure: I don’t believe in it. In my book, you either win or you learn. And if you “fail,” it’s for one single reason:
You are human.
That night made me realize that just because I happened to be sitting on a chair in front of an audience, I was potentially perceived as some kind of flawless, know-it-all, expert entrepreneur. Any person on the planet is worthy of sitting on a panel and sharing their story. And those stories are even more worthy of hearing when people share their truths.
This truth, your messy truth, is one of your strongest assets in building your Personal Brand.
As a Personal Brand, with a platform, I believe it’s your responsibility to share those learnings with your audience. In full, unfiltered, vulnerable form. I am not saying that your blog, your social channels, your email marketing or your stage time is your moment to emotionally vomit and indulgently emote your “feelings” for the heck of it. However, your audience doesn’t want to see the the most polished, perfect, buttoned-up, robotic version of you either. (How boring is that?)
People seek inspiration, education and empowerment everywhere they look (whether they realize it or not), and if they’re following you consistently, you best be delivering that in the most authentic way possible.
This comes when you honestly extrapolate on the learnings and wisdom found in your wins and losses, your moments of self-discovery and self-doubt, your abundance and scarcity, your joy and heartbreaks…
The operative words are “learnings and wisdom.” What did you gain from these experiences that you can now share to add value to those who engage with your content?
This is the heart — and the art — of your humanity in your personal brand.
When you do this, you break down the digital walls and humanize yourself to your audience. This subconsciously converts them from a follower into an evangelical fan, as they emotional invest in you. They relate to you, they root for you, they refer you and in the end, they remain more loyal to you.
This leads to more email subscribers, social media followers, clients and revenue. Yes, your humanity is that powerful and that essential to your personal brand.
Get to the bottom of your humanity with these four questions:
Where can you add more humanity to your platforms?
Are you as polished as they come, or do you share your off days, your down days and your screw-ups? If the picture you present to the world comes with a filter, people won’t relate to that. While there’s a fine line between professionalism and too much information, search for areas of vulnerability you can share with your audience.
What wisdom have you gained from your personal journey?
If you’re winning all the time, you’re not learning. Wisdom comes from learning, growing and falling. What lessons have you learned that you can share with your captive audience? What perspective can you offer they’ve never heard before? Share from that place by providing unique insight to what you’ve learned.
How vulnerable are you willing to get?
Being vulnerable is hard. You risk being perceived as weak, soft or insecure. But if you’re not vulnerable, you’re also not open. And being open can make all the difference between capitalizing on opportunities and setbacks or closing yourself off and resisting everything that comes your way.
Are you afraid of being seen less than perfect?
If you’ve ever run into someone when you have no makeup on, or you’re in pajamas or look like you just toppled out of a trashcan, your first instinct is to run and hide. If you’re not put together, if you’re not the expert 100 percent of the time, then how can you be taken seriously, right? Wrong. Being real is more interesting than being polished. There’s not a successful entrepreneur on earth who is perfect or poised all the time. Relatability is valuable, desirable even. Relatability is the key to captivating an audience and keeping them.
Whatever your pain points, expand on them. Share them. Get into them, and realize the more human you become, the more interesting your story. And building a Personal Brand is all about the storytelling.
Make sure yours is reflective of who you really are and what you want to share.