It’s no surprise that with the tragic passing of Steve Jobs, there have been so many tributes to his genius and contributions to the world. And while most have been great, perhaps one of the most touching is the impromptu talk by Guy Kawasaki during a Facebook Success Summit 2011 teleconference, just minutes after Apple’s announcement of Jobs’ death. If you haven’t heard or read it, I recommend you do.
Yet, for me, perhaps the most touching tributes have been publications of Steve Job’s own words. And while the advanced, game-changing, and exquisitely designed technology he brought into the world is central to his legacy, his philosophy frames his passion as well as the value he created. His view of life is firmly rooted in his personal stories; and to see their power, you need only look at the three stories he told during his commencement address at Stanford University, June 12, 2005, which you can watch or read. During that speech, he said:
"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. Most important have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. I have always wished that for myself. And now, I wish that for you."
While it was certainly not his intention to convey a “branding” message, those 83 words capture the essence of what personal brand is truly about – following your heart and intuition.
Unfortunately, too many people look at personal branding in strictly value terms. Yet, it is even more critical to determine the foundation for the value you bring. Getting locked into crafting a perfect value statement, without introspection, is to miss the point. In fact, it’s a big mistake. As I see it, putting who you are in service to others is the only way to ever provide the kind of value that matters to your community.
So, to truly follow your heart means taking a look at your life and figuring out how your values, passions, interests, activities, and even circumstances, contribute to the direction of your life – pointing you toward work you were meant to do. Indeed, in his commencement address, Steve Jobs makes a brilliant point about this when he references connecting the dots. He said:
“… you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”
In a very real way, your personal brand is tied to your stories, and your stories encompass your “dots.” If you don’t know what they are, and more importantly, how they connect, then you have slim chance of standing out and making a difference. So, find your stories, see how they connect, and use them as a basis to move ahead. You may fail at times. In fact, expect it. Yet, realize that each of those failures is just another set of dots to connect as you move forward.