I live in Tucson, Arizona. The University of Arizona is a vibrant source of high-quality academics and entertainment for residents of the surrounding area. I partake of cheering for the sports teams and on occasion, I attend a docent-led tour of an interesting part of the campus.
Never for a moment did I imagine, on one of those docent led tours, I would have an epiphany about brand storytelling. Well I did have such a moment and the brand story tool I discovered was an ancient bristlecone pine.
One day I took a tour at the University of Arizona’s Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research department where they focus on the study of Dendrochronology.
During my visit, I learned bristlecones are the oldest LIVING tree. The oldest of them all is called “Methuselah” and is 4,765 years old. Methuselah is nearly 1,000 years older than any other bristlecone alive today. It lives in a secret location in the White Mountain range of eastern California.
The reason I mention the study of tree rings in a post about defining and protecting your narrative is that most people do not think of themselves as a personal or professional brand in need of being nurtured or protected.
The bristlecone pine is gnarled and bent, some would say it looks forlorn and broken. That is what we see when we gaze upon a bristlecone pine from afar. That is what we see if all we see is the leafless wooden relic.
When someone fluent in the study of tree rings, thinks of the bristlecone pine they think first of the rich history the tree has experienced.
When we look at a person not like us, from a place we’ve never lived, or when we see a thing foreign to us we’ve only read about in the Sunday paper, we are prone to make broad assumptions about the who, what, why and how they are. Our lack of knowledge doesn’t prohibit us from making wildly inaccurate assumptions about the person or thing, in the same way, we might discount the old, gnarly, dried out, ancient bristlecone pine tree.
What If I were able to peer inside of you, to see all that you have experienced, it would be as if I were able to count your tree rings. I would see how each year of your life influenced you, how each year encouraged you to become the person you are today. If I were able to peer inside of you, I’d have a greater appreciation for what you know, how you learned it, and how those lessons make you who you are now?
Perhaps more importantly, if you took the time to look inside of yourself, you could study, revisit, remember your own very important moments. The moments memorialized in your personal archive of amazing experiences, your memory of lessons given and lessons learned, your personal tree rings. If you took the time to be introspective, and peer inside of yourself, you would find the experiences that make you who you are, the personal brand called you.
And now this is the most important part of this exercise (1) acknowledge you have acquired wisdom in the lessons you’ve learned (2) Know we live in a world full of volatility, uncertainty, chaos, and ambiguity (VUCA) as such we must be constantly self disrupting in order to overcome the challenges VUCA exerts.
Self disruption means thinking of your strengths, skills, talents as like arrows in an archers quiver. An archer selects her arrows dependent upon the quarry she is pursuing.
You should take inventory of your skills, trainings, lessons learned. When challenges present themseleves you assess the situation then call upon those strengths that will help you turn the challenges into opportunities.
Being dynamic and knowing when to select a new array of your strengths and/or lessons learned from your quiver, positions you to be able to turn today’s VUCA challenges into tomorrows opportunities.
Brand building serves the purpose of telling the world what your northstar ideals are. Embrace the memories that make you who you are today. Embrace the memories you need to do the things you need to get done. Embrace the experiences that create the best version of you for this very special moment in time. The things you embrace are what the outside world view as your unwavering sense of integrity.
The only thing we are guaranteed in our modern world is change, as such, each of us must be prepared to adapt and adjust to roll with the ever changes the landscape. When we are able to adapt ourselves, that is when we position ourselves to survive and thrive.
So, stand up for who you are, what you know and most importantly stand tall and remember the family, teachers, coaches, friends, colleagues who guided you with lessons learned or steered you away from the edges and back onto the track. Those experiences infuse your character and become the Northstar that guides you.
When you stand up for what you believe you are honoring those who helped you find your Northstar, the star that guides all that you do and why you do it.
This is the work we do in preparation to tell our most thoughtful, insightful and compelling stories to the people we serve.
When you own and control your story, you will never have to worry about someone telling the world their version of your story for you.
Own your story and consistently share it with the world, and when you do you are taking control of the brand called you.