Proprietism and Self-Branding Revisited

A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play; his labor and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both.

-Lawrence Pearsall Jacks from “Education through Recreation”

It was about a year ago that I first made posts relating proprietism to the new era of personal branding in which we live, where lifestyle-design and DIY are paradigms and social media allows us to constantly show others who we are. I’d now like to revisit the topic; here’s an update in the growing realm of self-branding: Sally Hogshead, a leading personal branding expert, published How The World Sees You in 2014. The book involves taking a short test designed to uncover the way others see you, and then placing yourself into one type, out of no less than 49 possible types. Sally then helps you create your own personalized “anthem” based on this type, which helps you pinpoint your brand. Mine was the “trendsetter,” and I provide “cutting-edge thought leadership.” Fun stuff. Also this year, Brenda Bence has written a self-branding how-to guide entitled Master the Brand called You.

The point I’d like to make here is that your brand, perhaps “cutting-edge” in my case, is who you are no matter what you’re doing. For example: at work, I dress well (thanks to my wife), and strive to keep a very tight-knit team-oriented atmosphere, while watching our shipping budget and approaching challenges with pragmatism. During lunch and over the weekend, I ride a sturdy but not overpriced bicycle whether or not I’m experiencing joint pain. My coworkers know this, and it adds to my brand of hard-work, leading from the front, and practicality in regards to money. I am in a band, and which adds to my image of being edgy and creative. Some even know that I write a blog, which maintains the idea that I am industrious and contemplative. While I can make a distinction between work and play (as there are many things at work I still have to do, not to mention my commute), I see the gap closing. Every day I gain constant real-world experience leading a team of individuals, each with their own unique brand (developed to varying extents), through harsh economic times.

While many folks prefer a work/life seperation, I believe that embracing the wholeness of it all makes work much more stimulating and fun. Your “brand,” is where it all starts. Everything you do, work or play, adds to your brand. This business paradigm, popularized in 1997 by Tom Peters, is experiencing a resurgence right now in the business world. In my opinion, it is a paradigm that is going to stick around, perhaps permanently, as more and more workers become independent. So if you haven’t already, get started. My advice: start with your favorite fun activities, and ask yourself what they say about how you approach your work. A well-branded worker can purvey value much more quickly and clearly than one who isn’t.