You have one job: to stand the test of time and rise above the noise in your industry. Consider the Helvetica typeface. When first released in 1957, Helvetica was developed to create a neutral typeface with no true voice or additional meaning to the words it symbolically represented. After being featured in a 2007 documentary and later spotlighted by MOMA, the typeface recently regained world recognition as one of the most commonly used typefaces in the world. And what did Helvetica do to the design industry?
It set the bar high.
No matter your title - founder, entrepreneur, industry expert, branding consultant - heck maybe you're lucky enough to have the title of chief happiness officer. But no matter your title, we all have the goal of setting the bar high. It's all about the mindset, the confidence, the empowerment that you feel when you bring something new to the table that no one else has. This is the goal of personal branding.
So the next logical question is how the hell do I do it? I'm not a world-traveling TED speaker. I'm not an award-winning novelist. However, this information is actually key in changing your mindset. Here's our recommended road map for a setting-the-bar-high mindset:
Know what you're good at, along with the things that you painfully do just for the sake of doing them. I'll admit it. I'm more of a creative thinker than a numbers cruncher. So as soon as someone asks me if I know how to use Excel. Well, umm... I usually answer by admitting that I only know the baseline formulas taught to me in elementary school. Working with start-up founders, we typically do a SWOT analysis when determining their business and brand strategy.
But won't I seem overly conceited? What if I don't feel like I'm qualified to own a meeting? This differs from cockiness or being boisterous. Being confident is defined by allowing yourself to speak eloquently on your expert topic when needed. This, combined with listening and asking the right open ended questions, will put you in a far better stance than slumping in your chair quietly during a meeting. Sit straight, stand tall, and ask substantive questions.
I was recently asked by someone (not too much younger than I am) whether I have any life lessons to share after I turned 30. I was taken aback first by the question, but realized quickly I did have learnings to share. Network with anyone and everyone. Get to know their stories, what industries they work in, and about any special interests they may have. Being introverted is nothing to be ashamed about but it won't contribute to setting the bar high. Talking to others brings a humble and humanistic quality to the table that we all strive for in relationships. Be the bigger person. Introduce yourself to a crowd. Ask them questions. Engage in conversation and absorb all of the information.
Touting your experience will get your foot in the door. If there's a call for speakers, writers, contributors, guest mentors, throw your hat in the ring! Send them your qualifications and tell them what makes you uniquely different from others. Set the bar high so that once your application is read, there's without a doubt that you'll be contacted for a follow-up. Don't use those cookie cutter template responses. Show off your experience and character. There's no one like you.
If you feel like you're not ready to set the bar high, then you'll likely be in that state of mind for the long run. By changing the way you approach your day, you open yourself to new opportunities. You may feel like you need additional time to generate content, catch up on industry related news, or work behind the scenes, but make sure you schedule time each week to step out of your comfort zone. Set the bar high for yourself (and for others). Leave a coffee meeting, networking event, or a group workshop in a better place than when you first arrived. People talking about you after the fact is a good thing - trust me.
Yes, after years of setting the bar high, Helvetica has just received a 21st century remake by Monotype. The redrawn typeface, now distinguished as 'Helvetica Now,' has been given a facelift to meet new industry challenges. We, too, will all need an update to meet the challenges of our industries. But for now, just like Helvetica, set the bar high.