"Every great man has become great, every successful man has succeeded, in proportion as he has confined his powers to one particular channel." –Orison Swett Marden
Does that quote sound limiting to you? It may. We often bristle at the idea of being boxed in, of being labeled one way or the other. We do not want to be pigeon holed. It seems contrary to the American ideal of more is better. We are always striving to break down barriers, go beyond the horizon, grow and expand. And while all these endeavors are worthy, they don't necessarily translate effectively to branding.
Successful branding is about narrowing and focusing. People with great personal brands don't try to be all things to all people. Instead they spend time discovering and honing those skills and attributes which resonate most deeply with who they are and where their strengths lie. They go deeper, not wider with their efforts. The result is they become more easily recognized and well-known by their target audience.
This is not to say you can never expand or grow your brand, but in order to do so effectively you first have to establish yourself and what you stand for. Your audience has to become familiar with you. You have to earn their trust and loyalty by consistently delivering what you do well. However, you must not stray too far or for too long from your core message, service or ability. I recently saw Bobby Flay, the great chef and grill master on an episode on the HBO series Entourage. He plays a character based on himself which was great. However, if he suddenly decided to start doing Shakespeare plays I don't know how successful or happy he would be.
Going deep isn't all about the audience though, it's also about you, the individual. When you go deep you gain mastery which increases your self-esteem and pleasure from what you do. The only caveate is you must know what your channel is.
Here are some clues to help you recognize yours.
1. When you do a certain activity you lose track of time. For example, you go outside to work in your garden and you when you think ten minutes have passed it has actually been an hour.
2. You notice certain things come easily to you where others struggle. You may be out to dinner with friends and when it's time to figure out the tip you whip up the number in a flash while everyone else is pulling out their phone calculators.
3. There is something to which you are continuously drawn. For example, you can't pass up going through an open house even though you are not in the market to buy or sell anything. You may be yearning to be a decorator or a broker.
4. You often find yourself being asked for advice on a certain subject. Perhaps you have a great sense of style and your friends are always asking you to help them put cute outfits together.
5. Try to remember what you loved doing as a child. Sometimes as adults we forget about or abandon early interests or pursuits due to outside pressures or responsibilities, but those earlier pursuits can actually point to your core abilities.
When you do figure out what makes you tick and stick with it, you create a laser-focused path to success. So put down that clicker and stop channel surfing. When you do, you will become the star of your own show.