Running head on into your personal brand

Bunny earsFor the last two years I’ve written this blog, my objective has been to engage readers with original, hopefully knowledgeable insights on running and riding. The tagline is “original thoughts on running and riding.” And some swimming.

Some of the content published here has been designed to be informative. Some of it is meant to be entertaining. Some is just a joke. Or satire. My approach to blogging here has been to find or create things that interest me or that I think might interest others.

This blog has been read all around the world. I know that because every day when the stats come in through WordPress analytics I can see the country of origin. It’s exciting to think that people in Africa or Australia or Europe or Asia are reading my work.

Googling

It also gets shared on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and sometimes other social media such as Pinterest. I’m always grateful when people share my writing because it expands the audience for the blog. Go ahead and Google Christopher Cudworth. I’ve worked hard to develop my personal brand. People can find out anything they want about me and I’m both empowered and powerless to control all of that. People are going to judge you by their own criteria. It’s not likely you can manufacture a personal brand that won’t at some point offend or meet disapproval from someone.

Blogging

Blog trafficOne of the troubling aspects of writing on WordPress is that the convenience of automatically distributing this blog to your email address may actually cost the blog “real traffic.” I’m not complaining but when people simply read my blog in their email address, it never shows up as a view on my blog.

The most that have read a single blog post according to the analytics are 25,000 people. That’s not bad. Of course I’d love an audience of 100,000 or a million readers.

I hope what I do has value to you. It has value to me. This blog has brought me business connections through people I’ve interviewed. Some of my faves include talking with Jim Varga, the entrepreneur that has developed a way to personalize white ovals. I’ve also done personality profiles on people like Kerri Hoskins Branson, the Playboy model turned amazing mother and now professional painter and artist. We all have personal brands. Some are more interesting than others. But they all matter. Some readers regularly comment and interact. I love that! All the interactions are appreciated.

Debating

We even debate a few subjects here. As a noted Progressive on all fronts, my more conservative readers take exception to some of the things I write about topics such as guns, Republicans, religion or finance. As the title of this blog suggests, all these observations, right or wrong, are my own original thoughts.

Emotional IntelligenceThere’s a risk in that approach. I just read a blog on LinkedIn Pulse by an author named Travis Bradberry advocating his book titled Emotional Intelligence. That’s a book that is endorsed by none other than the Dalai Lama and Stephen Covey. One is a real guru and the other is pretty good at acting like one.

So I was a bit stunned at the brand of advice in Dr. Bradberry’s post on LinkedIn. He’s a LinkedIn “INFLUENCER” which means that for some pretty good reasons (including a #1 Bestselling book) Dr. Bradberry is someone to whom you should listen.

But I found myself depressed by the low threshold of advice in his post 12 Things Successful People Never Say At Work. Basically it winds up advocating a form of self-censorship. That is, don’t say anything too revealing or you risk giving people something to judge you on. And be careful not to judge others as well. Don’t talk about your party or sex life. In fact leave most of your personality at home.

It’s one of the tarsnakes of corporate existence? What can you possibly say about yourself that is safe?

Fraternizing

I have a couple friends who run companies. One is a CEO. The other is a President. When it comes to their personal lives, both run things close to the vest. For example, they avoid political topics at all times. They don’t go on and on about their families or the fact that they both own summer homes. All that is personal business. And that’s smart.

Both were also close friends of mine in running. I know their personal histories pretty well. They’re great but not perfect human beings. They both still run. Both apply the discipline they learned in running to their business lives. That has helped make them good at what they do. They’ve earned the right to their position in life.

Organizing

IMG_3505I’ve run organizations before as well. Not as a CEO mind you, but as President of service clubs and a chamber of commerce. In all my dealings with the business people in those organizations I strove to be perfectly honest about every aspect of my goals and commitments. In several cases I progressively  advocated transparent business dealings and financial accountability in situations where those principles had been neglected. Creating change was hard, but it set those organizations on a better course.

Some of that straightforward approach and transparency stems from my experiences in running and cycling. These egalitarian sports require much of us, but most of all honesty. It doesn’t pay to lie to yourself about your abilities. In the end, the watch or results don’t lie. You can either do what you say or you can’t. That’s a very real bottom line.

Equalizing

VS women's marathonThese sports are also great social equalizers. That does not mean that everyone who participates has equal ability. Instead it means that everyone has an equal chance to participate. Every person in every race or an event is a contributor. They may not be the fastest at their event, but their contribution of time is equally important as those who win the race, their age group or simply finish. Ask any race director whether he or she would rather have 10 elite athletes to compete in their marathon or 25,000 runners willing to pay for the right to compete, and guess who they’ll choose? It’s a democratic principle and a key aspect of business that numbers of people do count.

Of course there are vents where performance dictates your status. The Olympics or World Championships, for example. These are the best athletes in the world, after all.

Competition defines who makes the team even at the entry levels of a sport. The Top 7 fastest runners compete on a team in cross country. No one can really complain about that system unless political motives are imposed on the results gained each week.

Competition can also erase social strata such as race, gender, political and religious differences. But the lines quite frequently blur between competition and collaboration. When you’re riding in a group of cyclists on a windy day and you desperately need a draft to hang with the group, are you going to worry whether that person in front of you is a liberal or a conservative? A different race or gender than you? Nope. They’re a body just like you. And you’re grateful for that.

Politicizing

Rush creepy lookingAs you know from reading this blog, I am often critical about issues of political and religious conscience. When I don’t agree encounter viewpoints with which I disagree in this world, I am not afraid to challenge them. Nor am I afraid to be challenged. My values and views are hard-earned and consistently tested by publishing my views not just on this blog, but on other sites and social media as well. Some people advise against that approach to life. “Don’t give people a reason to hate you,” one friend told me. Another said, “I think you’re confusing your personal brand. If you want people to Like you, it’s best not to offend their sensibilities.”

But what about the advice of relationship managers who tell us we can never get everyone to like us? Isn’t that true as well? I happen to be a middle child. I know the costs of trying to get everyone to like me and to like each other at all times. Frankly it’s impossible.

Emotionalizing

So it is disturbing that a best-selling author such as Travis Bradberry should issue advice that we should essentially go around protecting ourselves from our selves. That’s not a sign of emotional intelligence. That’s an emotional sickness.

It is an emotional sickness because the logic behind it feeds the worst dynamics in society. If we’re protecting ourselves we’re going to buy into the perverse logic that ageism is the norm in the work world these days. We’re thus encouraged us to hide our age when seeking work because people are all too willing to judge our abilities by how old or young we are. So rather than conquer ageism through education and advocacy, corporatism takes the lazy way out and says, “You can’t stop it. So you better hide your age.”

Paralyzing

Wall threeThat’s just stupid. It’s not hard for a company or a hiring manage or an HR director to figure out how old you are. Many companies use background search services that can dig up everything in your entire personal history from financials to whether you teach Sunday School. Yet we’re told to play this stupid game of hiding our age? People are supposed to have the “emotional intelligence” to hide their age everywhere it can be hidden. On our LinkedIn Profile. Are we supposed to go back and alter our ages on college transcripts? Frankly, it’s paralyzing to think about.

Abiding by ageism, racial discrimination, gender and sexual orientation bias is not evidence of emotional intelligence, yet that’s where this polite lie of hiding aspects of yourself in the workplace ultimately leads. Yes, we all get that the advice in that column was just common sense. You should not brag about your party habits in the workplace, or snark on fellow employees. But the sinister side of all that supposed politeness is that ugly little aspect of human nature that judges on all sort of other counts. If we don’t have the real honesty to understand the diversity of human behavior and engender productivity through those channels, then the litmus test is left to those who view emotional intelligence as a tool for manipulation and competitive advantage.

Patronizing

There is a pathologically fomented sickness in society that says it is better to abide by the lie that gets you approved than to encourage change and actually demand honesty in the workplace.

For years it was acceptable to discriminate against gays and not hire people on basis of their sexual orientation. Progress has been made, Yet many people still believe in forcing others to hide their sexual orientation, and refuse to hire gay people on religious grounds. That’s not emotional intelligence. That’s emotional ignorance.

There are big moments in history when such “emotional intelligence” and hiding what you really believe and who you really are was a matter of life and death. Catholics once hated Protestants so badly they invented things like St. Patrick’s Day to celebrate chasing the “snakes” out of Ireland. Was it bad news at one point to admit that you were a Protestant? Sure as hell. Emotional intelligence during that time period was to put up or shut up. Same goes for blacks in the south post-slavery. Don’t show your face in the wrong neighborhood of you’ll get lynched.

Idolizing

Martin-Luther-King-Jr-1280x800-3Real emotional intelligence requires a different kind of courage. The world is filled with great heroes that have given their very lives standing up for the verity of self identity. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., though he was a flawed man with a penchant for dalliance, was also a courageous defender of social morals that went entirely against the grain of American society. Businesses, communities and hate organizations all felt it was fine to discriminate against and persecute black people. That prejudice was based on the idea that black people were an inferior race. In certain societies it was considered impolite to even admit a black person not under servitude into the presence of white people. King peacefully and intelligently resisted that vision for black Americans.

As Americans we love what business does for our nation. Our productivity, inventiveness and wealth is considered remarkable in human history. One dares to say it is also exceptional.

Equalizing

But let’s not pretend our exceptionalism is complete, or even accurate. The work begun by Pointy-Haired_BossDr. Martin Luther King Jr. work is not done. There are still a great many dishonest people who claim to love their country while not supporting equal rights for all those who live here. In fact entire political parties stand in denial of these facts on demands that we simply “put it all behind us” even while discrimination persists in our very midst.

People that insist we need to hide our true selves in order to “get along” and “function” in the civic world or workplace often are the very same people who, in too many cases, are all too happy to be bad bosses or co-workers because they excel at leveraging the negative to their own profit over favoring positive or progressive solutions that actually require social or business changes.

Realizing

People who admire such authoritarian and provocative voices also tend to admire bullies and blowhards who claim to represent “reality” when in fact all they represent are their own selfish interest cleverly disguised as a benefit to others.

It happens in society and it happens in business. We evolve cultures in the workplace and society that incorporate or even foster discrimination over equality. The business world has become enormously adept at singling out all those who turn out to be “different.”

Psychoanalyzing

Wall IceJust this morning a psychologist in our business networking group explained that a specific personality test was created to identify all those with anxiety and depression. Somewhat ironically, the test was used as an identifier for people that tended to be motivated workers under certain kinds of stimulus. Yet that same test could just as easily be used to discriminate against those personality types. So who’s to say what’ right or wrong?

There are thousand of companies that use personality testing to rule out candidates they might deem to be too “different” from their mainframe or culture. That’s a tremendous capability when it comes to hiring.

Dehumanizing

It’s also dehumanizing. Yet the bottom line and the cost of hiring bad employees is deemed too great a risk to take chances with bad hires. So we’ve evolved emotional intelligence testing to objectify the hiring process as much as possible, and eliminate that risk.

But here’s an interesting notion. We could apply the same system of elimination to any marathon or event. Having competed for 40+ years in track and field and running, cycling and now swimming, I can head out to the weekend marathon and tell you with relative accuracy who the fastest and slowest runners will likely be.

Analyzing

But that’s not the point of a race, is it? It’s about participation and celebration of human achievement. It’s about the untalented mixing with the talented. Because no matter who we are, at some point in human society, we’re both talented and untalented.

MichaelAbsolutely no one is exceptional at everything. For example, even basketball superstar Michael Jordan couldn’t hit a curve in baseball. He also tried making it in professional golf. Yet he could not hack it. (pun intended).

But was he crazy for trying? And did he somehow breach the rules of emotional intelligence and corporate fealty by trying his hand at different sports. Was Michael Jordan a failure because he could no do everything he dreamed?

Quite the opposite. One must not forget that Jordan faced enormous pressure in both his professional and personal life during his career. The loss of his father weighed heavily on him. Perhaps stepping away to do something crazy in sports was just what he needed to process what his life in basketball really meant. In that respect was displaying a real form of emotional intelligence.

Spiritualizing

And perhaps there’s a lesson about personal branding in Jordan’s very public example of taking care of yourself when life throws you a curve. Perhaps toeing the line and sticking with basketball where all the money and championships and expectations resided would have been the corporately intelligent thing to do. But it was not the right thing for Michael at the time. His spirit needed something more than the manufactured brand he had become.

Chocolate Traffic LightIf there was ever an example of taking risks with one’s “personal brand,” then Michael Jordan was it. Of course it helps to be the best in the world at something when you want to tell the money-mongers to shove it. He could have quit baseball and basketball and golf and been fine for life with his accomplishments. The Jordan line of NIKE gear continues to sell well.

But he went back to the sport of basketball when he was ready. He had healed himself doing crazy things. It was not what many of his fans likely wanted. Nor was it likely what Nike or the Chicago Bulls as companies probably wanted or desired from their star “employee.”

Kind of gives you a new take on what it means to “Be Like Mike,” does it not? Because who are the Bulls or their fans or even Nike to judge Michael Jordan by force of their own expectations? Was Michael emotionally intelligent or not when he went against the grain of what the world wanted from him?

Those are questions worth asking ourselves before we run our personal brands through a filter of emotional intelligence that might just suck the soul right out of you.

Follow this blog and please share to your social media connections. Your readership is most appreciated.

Follow this blog and please share to your social media connections. Your readership is most appreciated.

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About Christopher Cudworth

Christopher Cudworth is a content producer, writer and blogger with more than 25 years’ experience in B2B and B2C marketing, journalism, public relations and social media. Connect with Christopher on Twitter: @gofast and blogs at werunandride.com, therightkindofpride.com and at 3CCreativemarketing.com. Online portfolio: http://www.behance.net/christophercudworth
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3 Responses to Running head on into your personal brand

  1. golddh says:

    Wow, I had no idea so many people also followed your blog (though happy they do, you deserve it). 25k in one day is amazing!

  2. It was the exception to the rule. Wish it were more frequent of course. Some traffic from Reddit helped. But then the trolls complained I was just click-baiting the site. It was a blog titled What It Means To Be A Runner in case you would like to look it up. Just over 1000 people actually follow my blog.

  3. bgddyjim says:

    Christopher, you and I are always looking at the same dollar from different sides but the main thrust of this post, I couldn’t agree with you more. Brilliant piece of work, progressive/conservative politics aside.

    I would offer that emotional intelligence is an oxymoron.

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