Lesson 1: You are the Brand

In order to Be the Brand, you have to know that you are, in fact, the brand. While this premise may seem simple enough to digest, it really requires that you think outside of the proverbial box. Step outside of yourself, as it were, and gain a fresh perspective of you.

Up until now, if you were asked to describe yourself, you’d probably run off a list of your obvious characteristics: your age, weight, height, skin color, hair color and texture, gender, where you went to school, blah, blah, blah…

Yes. These are aspects of you, but are they truly YOU? What I mean is that while you are an amalgamation of various things that have conspired to create the person who stares back at you in the mirror each day, you are more than simply the sum of your parts. You are your hairstyle (or constantly changing hairstyles-depending on how often you change your coif), your style of dress, and even your quirks. You are the places you frequent, where you went to school, your accomplishments (and your failures) and your bad jokes. You are all these things plus some.

Bill Cosby famously quipped in one of his routines (talking about a threat he made to one of his children), “I brought you into this world, and I’ll take you out.” And while its true that we owe much of what we are to our parents (under the theory of nurture), we owe still more of our personality to ourselves (nature). So part of this first lesson involves claiming ownership of you, accepting that you are a product of your parents, but also a distinct person nonetheless.

Case and point, my daughter Asha Ming. Although I nearly passed out in the delivery room (big ups to all my faint-of-heart dads out there who cringe at the sight of the epidural needle-more about this later) I was sufficiently conscious enough (at the time) to observe my daughter’s birth. As I watched her come into the world, I had the most surreal sensation that it was not us who was watching her being born, but rather she who was watching us!

As the mid-wife guided her gently into the world, she commented about how odd it was that Asha had her head slightly cocked to the side (and not down as babies traditionally do) as if she were trying to get a better view of everyone in the room. We all laughed (me nervously) and dismissed the notion, but in hindsight, perhaps she was trying to size us all up. Asha Ming is a child full of personality that I (and several witnesses) observed on the day she was born, and in spite of (or perhaps as a result of) our attempts to rein her in, she remains the sizer-upper, constantly pushing boundaries (and buttons) seeing what she can get away with.

Everyone has that ‘Asha-like’ quality, that aspect of themselves that is purely them. Each of us possess something about us that is unique, that sets us apart from the undifferentiated masses. Being the brand involves recognizing and cherishing that which makes you unique. More importantly, it requires that your uniqueness is celebrated. Don’t tuck it away and act like you don’t exist. Shout your uniqueness to the heavens! Announce your arrival to the world!

I’m not suggesting that you take out a full page ad in the Times, or anything like that. But I am suggesting that you take stock of yourself, and engage in regular affirmations. Being the brand requires your regular and unfailing acknowledgment of your special-ness. It demands that you announce your special-ness both internally and externally. It means that you take stock and ownership of your uniqueness.

If however, you’re one of those people who can’t seem to identify their uniqueness, or who think that they are ordinary, than I suggest you take some time and commune with yourself. Take a survey of people who know you best and ask them what they think makes you unique. At the end of the day, being the brand involves identifying your core, finding your essence.

I close with your homework assignment. Repeat after me, “I am the Brand. I AM the Brand. I am THE Brand. I am the BRAND. I AM THE BRAND!” Practice this mantra every day: once in the morning when you arise; once in the afternoon; and once before you got to bed.

Be the Brand. Class dismissed.

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