The following is based on ideas shared with high school students in Maryland on taking charge of your own story by using your passions and talents as your guides.
What do Kendrick Lamar, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Steve Jobs all have in common?
All three defined their own stories and used their talents and passions to connect with people around them. Their story became their brand – what we have come to know them by, and when I think of them, it reminds me that defining your personal brand should be an opportunity you take advantage of daily.
What do you believe your talents are? How does it relate to your passions?
King was a gifted orator, whose words inspired others to listen and take action. His passion was equality and justice for all people regardless of race or background.
Jobs was a risk-taker, a unique thinker, and a rebel in an industry that had so clearly defined the box they were producing in, that anything beyond that seemed like a leap into an abyss of impossibility. His passion was his product, and connecting with consumers in a way that other tech companies thought impossible.
Even Kendrick Lamar, a personal favorite of mine, is not an inventor or leader of social change – at least not in the vein of Jobs or King.
However, he can be considered both in his own right. His talent is his unmatched energy, reliance on his complex lyricism and storytelling style to connect with the audience in a music industry that had become defined by club hits and feature-heavy singles. His passion is his love
for the art of making music, rather than simply making it.
And as storied, renowned, and acclaimed as these individuals may be, it does not take fame or fortune to define your own story.
All it takes is opportunity, passion, and talent.
What will be your story?
Here’s the bad news.
Our generation…the millennial generation and digital natives….are currently having our stories told and narrated for us. And most of the narrative is probably based off of stereotypes, misunderstanding, prejudgment, and a disregard for the potential within each one of us to leave a legacy, a mark, a milestone, that is relevant to our progress as a society.
Like a game of word association, I could shout out the word young, and derive a list of words that are paired so effortlessly, its like the perfectly made spaghetti and meatball dish.
Young and disrespectful
Young and reckless
Young and naive
Young and disconnected
Young and impatient
Young and narcissistic
Young and irresponsible
Young and disconnected
Young and self-important
Young and directionless
Young and stubborn
These pairings should give us cause for heartburn. Because, while they make for good headlines, they diminish the power, passion, and purpose of our generation. Our story collectively is certainly more than what is represented in these statements – so why should your personal story lack any less power, passion, or purpose?
The good news is that society continually gives us a platform to demonstrate the power of our talent and the purpose behind our passion.
So where society only sees young and self-absorbed, our talents and passions will collectively narrate that we are absorbed with self-improvement, and that every day is a day to be passionately curious about where our talents will take us.
Where society sees young and impatient, our talents and passions will collectively redefine impatience as dedication to solving yesterday’s problems today.
Where society sees young and self-important, our talents and passions will collectively demonstrate a commitment to the idea that even one person can make a difference.
And with us being the children of the digital age, we have so many tools at our disposal to create that new narrative. For me, I wanted to brand myself as someone that took advantage of our communication tools and social media to speak truth to power. To demonstrate a passion and connection to social issues when society wanted to brand me as disengaged. To communicate that what is important to me…is something bigger than just myself.
Jobs was able to combine his passions and talents into a story we know today as the Apple Brand.
King was able to weave his passion and talents into a story that inspired social change.
What will be the impact of your story?
Whatever your story, your passions and talents can redefine the way that society understands our potential, and the way that they characterize our brand.