Sometimes, there is nothing wrong with defining who you are based on NOT being someone else.
Let me explain.
When I was in high school, I didn’t really stand out. Despite how hard I tried. Grew my hair long, dyed it green. Whatever it was I tried, it didn’t really work. I was still the quiet, unremarkable white kid in the back of the class.
Then, one day the loud speaker announced, “Will Joshua Waldron please come to the principle’s office immediately.”
I turned bright red. The whole class started to chuckle, “this quiet kid got into trouble?”
“But wait”, I futilely tried to explain, “She said ‘Waldron’, I’m Waldman!”
“Never mind that, go to the principals office.”
And so I got my first badge of honor. Which I didn’t really deserve. So I thought.
But I kept explaining that it wasn’t me. There was indeed a Joshua Waldron who got himself into quite a bit of trouble on a weekly basis, and it was NOT me.
Looking back, it was that one silly mix-up and then my defining myself as “not-Waldron” that turned things around for me.
I Am Not This, I Am That
I believe this same principle can be applied in almost any situation based on a principle found in a book called, “Made to Stick“.
It describes the idea of a Meme, an idea-object that is easily grasped by others. The example of, “a pomelo is like a large grapefruit” can be better understood than a lengthy description of the exotic fruit.
By relating to something that others already know about, you can define yourself.
In high school, Waldron was notorious. By defining myself as not-Waldron, I became memorable to many people who I ordinarily wouldn’t have known.
Who are You NOT
Just for fun, as part of your personal branding experiments, think of something you would never do, or someone you would never be. A Meme is an idea-object that is easily grasped by others.
When you are introducing yourself at a networking event, and you are finding it hard to describe what makes you unique, or what it is that you do, try using this negative analogy. Try to describe it in terms of what you are not.
One client of mine is named Gary Coleman. He introduces himself as, “Hi I’m Gary Coleman, but not THE Gary Coleman”.
I am not a career coach. I am a social media strategist who can really help job seekers stand out from the crowd.
Who are you not?