Welcome to our personal branding series! If you’re not sure whether you need personal branding, then you need to read this. If you know you need personal branding, then you can start right away with Branding Exercise #1 and just follow the links till you get here.
This is the last post about personal branding, and so it’s time to talk about the future. You know who you are now and what your narrative is, and that’s important for knowing where you need to improve. What’s missing now is the direction you need to move in, and that’s where envisioning your legacy comes in.
How you see your legacy is important because it allows your personal narrative to evolve and still be relevant as your career progresses. A legacy has to be bigger than your current narrative now, it should be how you see yourself at your best, with all your potential fulfilled. As a rather capitalistic but effective example, Jay-Z always thought of himself as a mogul rather than just a rapper, even from the beginning. You can see in his career how he has evolved towards that vision to become an entrepreneur, investor, and driver of culture.
It’s here that you have to think big and think beyond yourself: a legacy isn’t so much an end goal but a way for you to focus your immediate and future smaller goals. I’m just making a guess here, but I’d venture to say, for example, that Lebron James envisions his legacy not as the greatest basketball player of all time, but as someone who has made an impact on black communities by providing opportunities and infrastructure to the most vulnerable. It just so happens that his path towards accomplishing that legacy is to utilize his incredible athletic ability (no stan) to earn money, respect, and a platform to get to that legacy.
So I want you to start thinking of your legacy. How do you want to be remembered? What kind of impact on the world do you want to leave?
One of the things I would like to caution you about: this should go beyond labels like “Pulitzer Prize-winning author” or other signifiers like that. Those are small goals, not legacies. I find that often, when people focus on prizes like this, they shrink themselves. Kendrick Lamar is a Pultzer Prize winner, but the first thing that comes to mind is his music and his activism. His personal branding is so powerful that the Pulitzer is just another descriptor; he’s not smaller in comparison. It’s the Pulitzer who benefits from the association with him. Be bigger like Kendrick.
Some questions that will help you with envisioning your legacy include:
– Who are the people you want to impact most with your work?
– What kind of impact do you want to leave on them?
– How do you want to change people’s lives?
– (very important) How would you want these people in turn to change others’ lives?
Once you’ve identified your legacy, you can now create your career map, which is a flexible guide that helps you set goals that will allow you to reach your legacy. You simply work backwards from your legacy and figure out the steps you need to take, the skills you need to master, and the communities and networks you need to build or join in order to build your legacy.
I want you to remember that the career map is a guide, and it will not prevent the Pusha Ts of life from happening, but it should give you protection and the ability to move forward even after a devastating blow.
(You may have noticed that I tend to use musicians and especially rappers as examples of personal branding. Part of it is that I cut my teeth in branding and marketing in the music industry, but the other reason is that the rap game is as much about your personal brand as it is about talent. Writers especially can learn a lot from how musicians, even indie ones who hate the spotlight, create enduring personal brands and legacies.)
We’ve come to the end of this series, and I want to congratulate you on getting started on your personal branding journey. If you’ve got any questions or need more help with your own personal branding, I’m happy to announce that Doretta and I are starting a full-service business for writers called The Start to Finish Writer that includes branding and marketing consultation, wellness, and editorial services. We’ll put up an official announcement soon, but in the meantime, feel free to contact us at info (at) theunpublishables.com.