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5 Questions to Help You Discover Your Personal Brand

My father, my hero.
My father, my hero.

In the past month, I have been asked by others about how I came about with my personal brand. Maybe you, too, are wondering how I did so; I wish I could give you a short answer, but honestly, I cannot. However, as I talked through my long answer with others over the course of the month, I realized there were a few things that helped me along in my journey. So here are those defining moments, presented to you in questions:

  1. What are you passionate about? – Think about what you can never give up in your life, even if you had to retire. For me, I cannot dream of giving up art, or the need to create with my hands–whether for work, play, etc., I always need art to keep me going along. There were times in the past decade where I suppressed my need to create with my hands, and those were times when I felt distressed and lost. Only in the past 2-3 years have I eased back into the world of art and creating with my hands — and that has helped me gain confidence and freedom in my thoughts.
  2. When you were a child, what did you you want to be when you grew up? – We were all asked this question when we were children. I remember I told adults that I wanted to grow up to be an artist…and then that changed into a writer…and then that changed into a musician (I was a trumpet player in high school). Still, at the root of all these aspirations is the fact that I knew I wanted to do art of some form. What did you want to grow up to be? Does it still resonate with you in the present? Even though my profession is not clearly based in creative arts, I say my career has roots in the arts and gives me leverage in a world of analytics with creative thinking.
  3. What are you afraid of? – If you have watched my Ignite Denver¬†talks, you may be surprised to have me tell you that I was once very, very afraid of public speaking and presentations. I remember in high school and undergrad, when I would stand in front of my classmates with index cards, shaky hands, and eyes down, hoping for the dreaded talk to be over with right away. Yes, I used to fear presentations. I was not confident with how I presented myself. What changed? I faced my fears in the past few years by volunteering for events like Ignite. I read loads of articles about how to present better and watched how my grad school classmates presented. And, with time and practice, I have improved. These days, I am even asking for people to book me for speaking engagements. All because I was once deathly afraid of public speaking…and then I faced that fear.
  4. When have you experienced a pivot in your life? What happened? – You may or may not have experienced something big, life-changing. How do you know when to change course? If you have been following my blog for some time, you may know about how I almost died on my 25th birthday. Morbid to say, but in hindsight, that incident needed to happen in my life. I know that, leading up to that ill-fated moment, I was very unhappy with how my life was in San Francisco. I wanted to do more with my life, but I did not know where to turn. Then, that car hit me. And, that forced me to change course in life — to decide I had to really fight for what I yearned for (my own business). Since that accident, there had been a couple other ‘pivots’ in my life to where change just erupted–and now, I see why those moments had to come into my life. Perhaps your pivot moments are not as huge and dramatic as mine were; but still, what moments in your life do you feel define who you are?
  5. Who is your all-time hero? – Who have you always looked up to? Some people say rock stars, athletes, public figures, etc. Somebody in those realms. My hero is my father and not just because he’s my father: he is an inspiration to many. He escaped mainland China during the 1970s because he wanted a better life for the next generation. He came to the U.S. with little to no English skills and worked many jobs before he founded his restaurant in Virginia. He and my mother worked often-24 hour days during the infancy of the restaurant, just to make sure we children had enough to live on and have a good life. My parents have taught me a lot of values in my life, and only after I got out of my angsty, know-it-all phase from the teen years, have I been able to fully appreciate how my father and mother have molded me into who I am today.

I am of course in no way “finished” with my branding. I don’t feel like anyone ever will be; your personal brand can change over the course of your life. Just be prepared to polish your brand here and there.

And, understandably, these questions are deep. You can’t just answer them in five minutes and then, voila!, figure out your personal brand. It takes time, as I mentioned at the beginning of the post; it has taken me close to ten years to really carve away at myself, to really know who I am, what I am capable of, and what I can share with the world. Maybe for you, with these questions, you will be able to discover your true, personal brand sooner than later.