Excellence does not happen in a vacuum. A life of excellence is measured by the value you add to people, the needs you fill in the society, the service you render or the problems you solve. In other words, purpose and excellence are only expressed in their usefulness to people.
The excellent musician is so described because of the satisfaction people derive from listening to the music or watching the musician perform. The life of excellence in charity work is only expressed in the people who benefit from the work of charity. The excellent speaker is one whose presentations impact the lives of people. To excel in life therefore your target market, your niche, the beneficiaries of your service, your audience, the potential congregation must hear about you, have a good impression of you, believe you, align with your value proposition and find your personal brand acceptable. Even if you are running a charity, the donors, helpers and the beneficiaries must be attracted to you for you to excel, fulfill your purpose and achieve your aspirations in that area.
This article attempts to examine how to package, present and market yourself so the target market or beneficiaries of your purpose will be attracted to you. The major elements of this pillar are: packaging yourself, your personal branding, your appearance, your communication, cultural humility, self-marketing, being creative and being a problem solver.
1. Packaging You: An essential component of packaging yourself is competency development. You must acquire and consistently improve your depth of knowledge, your skill set and your attitude. Another element of getting ready and packaging yourself is acquiring relevant trainings, obtaining certifications and accreditations. I am of the strong position that no matter how naturally talented you are, you still need to horn the talent by further training. So, go to school (any place where in broad terms, a teacher student relationship exists), get a coach or mentor. Take a step further and obtain certifications and accreditations from reputable and respected institutions.
In most societies, the first criterion for considering your expertise is your qualification and accreditation. For instance, no matter how talented, knowledgeable and skilled you are, if you apply for a job and the recruiting company had advertised for people with an MBA, you are unlikely to be shortlisted for an interview if you do not have an MBA. Your competence cannot be tested until you have passed through the door of pre-qualification. And the key to that door, in this case is your certificate! If you are applying for a grant from an international donor agency, your chances of getting your request approved will be boosted if you can show that you have obtained adequate training in the area of your mission.
Another way of packaging yourself is to join professional associations in your area of purpose. Identify the recognized and respectable umbrella body of your business, profession, trade, charity, ministry, etc. and join. Joining such associations will present you as being certified to perform.
So the first step in promoting yourself is packaging you. Package yourself by developing and continuously developing your competence, get adequate training, obtain relevant certifications and qualifications and join expert associations and groups.
2. Your brand: The second step to promoting you is to develop your personal brand. Your brand is simply what you are known for. It is how people perceive you. Your brand is the description of you by those who know, see or hear about you. It is the mental image that people have when they think of or see you.
To excel in life therefore, it is imperative that you take out time to consciously build on the perception and description of you by those you need to serve and those who would help you to achieve your purpose in life. Your contribution to, and the value you derive from the society cannot be bigger than your brand. Developing your brand is a sine qua non for promoting yourself. These are my recommendations on how to develop and build your brand:
A. Internal validation and congruence is vital in building your brand. Decide who exactly you are, and who you want be. Be convinced that who and what you have decided to be is acceptable to you. Create a connection between who and what you want to be and your most important aspirations in life. Be absolutely certain that the person you have decided to be is the best person that would help you achieve your life purpose. Be ready and willing to defend who you want to be and how you want to be perceived.
B. Be consistent in your brand communication. Once you decide on your brand be consistent in communicating that brand. There should never be any inconsistency between who you say you are and what people see you to be.
C. Create a perception of a subject matter expert. There are so many ways of making the public perceive, describe and defer to you as a subject matter expert. One way is to write. Write books, preferably in your core area of purpose. Write articles in your industry publications and journals. Write in your company bulletins. Get a column and write for newspapers. Write in your religious publications. The second way is appear on television and radio, grant interviews and make comments. The third platform is to have a robust online presence. Use social media like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. to project the image that will boost your perception as an expert. Another way of making the public perceive you as an expert is by looking for platforms to speak. Speak in your church or mosque. Speak to students and groups. Just look for opportunities to speak on topics in the areas of your focus. Don’t wait until you are paid before you speak.
3. Your Appearance: How you look is another element of the pillar of promotion. Your appearance, consistent with how you want your target audience to perceive you is important in the pursuit of excellence in life. Your appearance speaks to the totality of your bodily grooming and your dressing.
Your bodily grooming is you without your clothes. A 100 meters athlete should not look like a ‘Sumo’ wrestler. While it might be acceptable for a male musician to wear artificial dreadlocks, it definitely would not be appropriate for a priest to do the same. Tattoos may pull a crowd to an entertainer; it might nauseate patients before a medical doctor.
We are not implying that one bodily grooming is better than the other. However, the length of your nails, hair and moustache, the artificial marks on your body and the loudness of your make-up should be purpose and profession dependent. The grooming of your hair and nails, the odour from your body, the cleanness of your teeth, etc. would either improve or diminish your brand as well as promote or destroy your public perception.
The second constituent of your appearance is your clothing. A wardrobe that accentuates your personality and enhances your brand communication is a must have in your pursuit of excellence in life. Remember that you are seen before you are heard. Would the public you want to serve be attracted to you or run away from you on account of your dressing? The bible talked about the attire of a prostitute. Meaning that even a very virtuous lady could be mistaken for a prostitute if she dresses like one. A king can be labeled a servant if he dresses like one. A preacher can be described as a tout if his dressing so communicates.
Take a look in the mirror and ask yourself, “how much respect would I accord to the man in the mirror on account of his dressing? If the man in the mirror needs me as a platform to achieve his purpose in life, would I readily and willingly offer myself on account of his appearance?”
4. Your communication: The totality of how you listen, what you say and how you say it impact the effectiveness of your personal promotion. Communication is not about using high-sounding words, but your ability to listen to people. It means to understand the full import of what is said, to read body language and to communicate or give feedback based on your understanding of your listener’s belief or state of mind. That is what communication is all about in seeking to promote you. In fact, most people who excel in life talk less than they listen; and whenever they speak, substance proceeds from their mouth. They know how to pass their points across in less than a minute, and they listen very well too. They can read moods accurately, know how to construct words and seize the moment. Moreover, they can stand on their feet and drive home their points in any gathering.
Some people erroneously believe that good communication is natural. For some people, it is. However, excellent communication is predominantly a result of consistent practice and a willingness to go the extra mile. It’s a product of intensive reading and listening. Every good communicator reads voraciously, listens attentively and is conscious of the words they use. In the pursuit of excellence, a good communicator maintains a great sense of humor. Not that he is a clown, but he sees the humorous side of things. He is able to laugh at himself and about life. He knows the one-liners to use in all situations. The difference between humor and clowning is that while humor is all about making people laugh while retaining your dignity, clowning, on the other hand, is making people laugh and losing your sense of dignity in the process.
5. Cultural humility is another ingredient for the pillar of promotion. Cultural humility means subsuming your culture to the pervading and dominant culture of your environment and the people you serve. It’s about aligning yourself to the ways and etiquettes of your environment without compromising your core values, beliefs and principles.
For instance, in the southwest part of Nigeria it is the culture that a younger person should kneel, prostrate or bow the head while greeting an elderly person. In the south east of Nigeria, it is not so. In some environments also, a man is not permitted to shake a woman. In some other environments, you are not just permitted to shake, you are allowed to hug and embrace a woman.
As a man or woman of purpose, you must be culturally aware. You should also be culturally humble. Don’t go shaking a woman in the environments where it is a taboo simply because your culture permits it. Don’t be the first to stretch out your hands to shake an older person in Yoruba land, just because your culture allows it.
Cultural humility is also about making efforts to learn other people’s language, eat their food and dance to their music.
The central point here is that you must win the mind share before attempting to win the market share. And there is no better way of winning the mind share than being culturally humble. If you walk into a place and everybody is sitting on the mat, don’t ask for a chair. If the norm in the association that you join is that members call each other by first names, don’t introduce yourself and insist you be called by your titles and surname. If the dress code is casual, don’t wear your chieftaincy attire with all the beads and feather. That’s called cultural arrogance. Cultural haughtiness is an antithesis to self-promotion.
6. Self-marketing. People who excel in life are self-marketers. They know how to sell themselves. This is not about boot licking. It’s not about sycophancy. It’s not about aggressiveness. No! It’s about making people know the values you have. It is about making people know the contributions you can make. It is about making people know the gifts and the talents you have. It is about making people know the endowments you have. It’s about being assertive.
Promotion is about entering a mutually beneficial relationship with someone whereby you are selling and exchanging values. You should learn and know how to market yourself, learn how to sell the value of the things that you have and the contributions you can make. Do not diminish the value of your contribution in any relationship. The pillar of promotion is about consistently being alert to new ideas. Have your ears, eyes and minds open, especially when you are in the midst of people. Look for opportunities to offer value, key into something or to demonstrate competence.
7. Creativity is another constituent of promotion. People who excel in life are creative in the way they do things. Creative in how they introduce themselves to others, creative in sending SMS messages or emails. Creative in the way they dress, creative at work, etc. Creativity, in simple terms, means doing things differently from the way others do them. People who excel in life go the extra mile to do things differently. Always keep the creativity question flowing in your heart – how can I give a touch of difference to this matter before me?
If you do what other people do the way they do it, you are no different from them. What can you do creatively? What can you do that would make a whole lot of difference? What investments are you making to improve your creativity power? This is a sure way of promoting your brand.
8. Solve Problems. Finally, promote yourself by being a problem solver. Learn how to dimension a problem to identify the root cause of the problem, the impact of the problem, the options available, the advantages and disadvantages of all the options and the best option to adopt to solve the problem.
Be the person in your business, career, profession, mission or calling that others come to help them think through their problems and offer solutions.