Corralling My One Thing!

It took me a while to lasso that “One Thing” in my life – the one thing that, frankly, really got me out of bed every morning.

In the interim, my career as a TV News Correspondent had taken me into politics in Ottawa on Parliament Hill, and then after that to China as Beijing Bureau Chief for CTV and then NBC News.

In China, for the first time, I was in a position where the news didn’t come to me, I had to go and look for it. While most journalists really salivated over the next big story, I seemed to thrive in an environment where I had to go and find which story I wanted to tell.

As a result, I became a story machine, pumping out behind the scene features of China’s economic boom, and its social repercussions. Some of these reports pushed the limits of patience with China’s foreign ministry whose goal was to try to contain the foreign media.

On more than one occasion, my cameraman and I were taken in for some rather nasty interrogations. Still, I was able to forge into seemingly taboo subjects, such as, domestic violence, homosexuality, Aids and political dissidence, and I proudly sent my stories home, some of them international exclusives, every week to a North American audience.

While I eventually returned to Canada and spent another six years reporting nationally, and internationally, it occurred to me that I was a very different journalist then the one who left for Asia four years earlier. And what I discovered was that  I was becoming very clear about my “One Thing.”

In fact, like for most of us, our “One Thing” is the predominant theme running through our lives. Maybe you can already guess what mine is?


(NEXT TIME: How Former TV News Anchorman Lloyd Robertson finally helped me connect the dots?)

Personal Branding is All About “One Thing!”

One of my favorite all time movies is ‘City Slickers” with Billy Crystal. Have you seen it?  It’s a story about a guy who is hitting middle age and has lost his zest for life.

So Crystal heads off on a cattle drive across the American Midwest to find his purpose, and in this one wonderful scene, he is riding along side a weathered old cowhand typecast perfectly by Jack Palance.
With a cigarette dangling from the left side of a parched mouth and in a voice raked over gravel, Palance begins this memorable exchange.

“Do you know what the secret to life is?” Palance asks.

Crystal who, up to this point, had not been able to get more than a grunt or a spit from the old curmudgeon responds quickly with –

“No, what?”

Palance then holds up an index finger and utters one word.


“Your finger?” asks Crystal being a smart ass.

Nonplussed, Palance pauses and says  – “One thing’.

Another Pause.  “Just one thing.”

Still holding up his finger, the old cowboy adds —

“You stick to that one thing and the rest don’t mean shit.”

Crystal now aware that he is being given a nugget of lifelong wisdom, however brief, asks–

“That’s great, but what’s the one thing?”

Palance delivering the pivotal line in the movie replies weighing heavily on every word  –

“That’s what you gotta figure out.”

I agree wholeheartedly.  Simple but so powerful.  The key to awaken your personal brand is to figure out your ONE THING. Have I got you thinking?

(Next time: I will tell you how I started to figure out my “ONE THING”.)

Personal Branding? It Starts With Your Story!

If you are going to release the power of your personal brand, you need to appreciate the power of your own story.

 That’s why the first thing I do with a new client is put them in front a video camera and ask them to tell me their life story.

And there’s a catch. They only get two minutes. Which coincidentally is the amount of time I was given to do a report for the evening news during my twenty-year career as a journalist.

I was lucky enough to get my first job at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, CBC Television, in the Montreal newsroom.  Being the newest member of an already seasoned team, of course, I had to pay my dues.

One of my first news reports, if you could call it that, was about a moose that got loose in downtown Montreal. I was also assigned to follow the annual pilgrimage of two Peregrine falcons who hatched their chicks fifty stories up on a downtown skyscraper. I knew I was hopelessly destined for the animal beat when they next assigned me to the rescue of three Mallard ducks whose fluffy little fannies got stuck to a nearby river during a spring thaw.

But then one day, I got to do a big story and that was when I realized that these “less newsworthy assignments” had not entirely been a waste of time. I discovered that all that training to make something out of nothing was a great exercise in storytelling. After all, if I could make a story about a duck’s fanny sing…

 Do you think of yourself as a story?  Most people don’t. But, in fact,  your story is your most powerful marketing tool. Discovering how to tell your story is the first step to understanding that the key events and highlights of your life have symmetry and a context that fit perfectly together.

Try it. Try telling your life story in two minutes. Record it if you can and see if you notice a theme developing.

(Next Time: What did actor Billy Crystal learn about personal branding in the 1991 movie City Slickers?)

What Is Your Secret Sauce?

Companies spend a lot time and money on developing their brands. Essentially, a brand is built on a combination of feelings and thoughts about the company that resonates in the hearts and minds of their customers.

Why shouldn’t that be true about people? That each one of us has a brand, which is to say, each of us at our core is really about — and stands for something.

We have talked about Personal Branding NOT about being famous, nor is it about setting up a Facebook Page and having thousands of followers on Twitter.

Certainly, these can be effective tools to promote yourself but they are not your personal brand. In fact, social media has confused the issue by making some people think that promoting yourself as a brand is self-centered, self-indulgent and frivolous.

In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

Personal branding is about identifying that essence that describes who you are and how you are unique. It is the value that you provide – like a secret sauce, it is that one essential ingredient that sums up your ultimate contribution to the world.

Don’t mistake this for what you do. So many of us define ourselves by our role, job or profession. “I am a father.

“I sell real estate.” “I am lawyer.”

Imagine instead if we described each other by who we are, that is, by that one thing that really makes us special —

Imagine if you were “The Truth Whisperer.” Or “The Enhanced Listener.” Or “The Big Idea Optimizer.”

Don’t these descriptions intrigue you to know more about these people? And they are all real people I have worked with. Do they also make wonder about what “Your Secret Sauce” might be?

(Next time: Can You Tell Your Life Story In Two Minutes?)