What Personal Branding is Not

7 Conventional Beliefs About Personal Branding Debunked

Analyzing the concept of personal branding from a first principles thinking perspective, we can identify some beliefs that are fundamentally misguided.

Dec 2023

There are several conventional beliefs about personal branding that aren't necessarily true.

Things we all have heard a thousand of times from people who are no smarter than you.

Things others told us that have hindered us instead of just the focus doing it.

Analyzing the concept of personal branding from a first principles thinking perspective, we can identify some beliefs that are fundamentally misguided.

With this reasoning approach from ground up you can rest assure and find the confidence to put the effort into your personal branding today.

1. "Personal Branding is Only for Celebrities or Influencers"

That’s an old one often brought up in the 2010’s. By now everyone knows:

Everyone has a personal brand, whether they're actively cultivating it or not.

The definition of brand is how someone perceives you.

A personal brand is how you're perceived professionally and personally.

So whether you cultivate a brand or not, others perceive you a certain way – its backed into our evolutionary algorithm and there’s nothing you can do about it.

That ushers us right into the next wrong belief:

2. "Personal Branding is Entirely Self-Created"

People often think they can fully control their brand, but in reality, it's also shaped by others' perceptions and interactions. Your brand emerges from a combination of your actions and how others receive and interpret them.

So for one, it is your choice if you leave the playing field up to others or if you join the game and have fun with it.

And secondly, you cannot and do not want to create artificial branding efforts for your being.

Do not try to play God with yourself—you are not. Do so with your company; give it a brand and play with it.

Personal branding is deliberately showing one authentic self of yourself.

You’re not a Hollywood star and life is not a movie. Holding up a façade is taxing it will drive you crazy. So be authentic. What is not authentic is being the same person in the office that you are on the football field. You can share different of yourself across the places you show up to in life.

This brings us directly to one misconception that applies to all brands, not just personal brands.

3. "Your Personal Brand Must Appeal to Everyone"

Actually, trying to appeal to everyone will make your brand vague and uninteresting. You can try to do it if you have the budget of Disney or Coca Cola, but even Coke has Pepsi.

Your personal brand will be more effective when you focus on a specific niche or audience.

This does not mean that once your brand is established it's set for life.

4. "Consistency Means Staying the Same"

The belief is often that your brand must remain static to be consistent. However, from a first principles perspective, consistency is more about being reliable and authentic, even as you grow and adapt.

In reality, personal brands evolve. You get older, interests changes, you have to learn different things as you grow professionally…

It's important to adapt and grow over time, reflecting changes in your career and personal life. The brand is about you after all, not a childhood memory of reading comic books that you want to relive now in blockbuster movies.

Personal branding requires reflection. A key principle is understanding oneself deeply - your strengths, weaknesses, values, and aspirations. Many skip the introspective part of personal branding and then feel personal branding being superficial.

5. "Personal Branding is a Superficial Exercise"

Some view personal branding as just a facade or a marketing tactic. But fundamentally, it's about genuinely reflecting your values, skills, and experiences. It's an honest manifestation of who you are and what you stand for.

“I feel icky” when I think about personal brand comes from what you see others do and how you feel about it. This is foremost a superficial thought, because it is not about you and you are likely not the person that they want to resonate with. If they do want that, then help them get better at it – make it about them, not you.

The “I feel icky” though is justified when you look at all the trying-too-hard self-promotion.

6. “Personal Branding is All About Self-Promotion”

Especially since the ‘Gram with Insta-Girls and Lambo-Boyz age, there's a misconception that personal branding is only about how you appear online. While online presence is important, it is neither about likes nor visibility. They are useless vanity metrics.

While self-promotion is a part, personal branding is first about providing value, building relationships, and authenticity. How do you measure that?

7. "You Need a Huge Following to Be Successful"

This leads us right into our last misconception and conventional belief about personal branding that we can debunked which is that you need a huge following to be successful with your personal branding efforts.

Not true. A smaller, engaged audience can be more valuable than a large, disengaged one. Quality over quantity matters. And that is measured by engagement over a long period of time. And while the average corporation stays in business for XX years, the typical person works for Y years—your career will span over a longer period of time than most brands. To become legendary like an Apple or Nike you have to do it for a very long time. Good news: you have that time! Now it’s up to you whether you start today.

While I don’t expect you agreeing with all of these points I hope some resonate with you. Especially that you see can the importance of authenticity, adaptability, and a deep understanding of oneself in personal branding.

Do you see how these principles might apply differently than some common beliefs about personal branding?

Dec 2023
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