A 5 Year Personal Brand Strategy

I have a ‘black-joke’, and it is that if you have a 5-year plan, you will profit on the last day of those 5 years. Every 5-year goal makes you more darkly humorous but progress in your life is unknowable unless you try. For trying here is my beginner’s strategy. A strategy is a plan using what you have, never what you need to get (what you need to get relates to the goal, not your strategy).

At some point before your 5-year climb, you will know instinctively how high to ‘hang that fruit’. You have a sense of your ability and some measure of the ‘fire’ within you because at this point you face the inevitability of ‘never trying’ versus a vision of ‘your new reality’. It is also the most accurate point in time, and future doubts because you are tired and have to stretch must take a back-seat to the pledge you make at this original time. It will happen that somewhere between your first year and your final year, you are noticeably better off but it also happens that your journey has now become a story (like a plot) with a climax and a reveal at the end; and to ‘cash out’ feels more like ‘giving up’ because the final goal is exponentially, not incrementally, far better. The last portion of your 5-years is the return home from orbit – when you have that rush of being able to jump higher. Hanging that fruit and practicing your jumping every day until you can comfortably get it, not just the first time you snatch it by a fluke. To finish your trip into orbit and return home is exponentially better than settling to live up in orbit because you are too tired, which is just an incremental profit (you merely made it to orbital altitude, but it’s really kinda pointless isn’t it experienced as the entire mission).

The tip of your strategy will be your ‘mission-statement’; a complete orbital mission-statement goes something like ‘To make orbit, spending 30 days before returning safely to Earth’. If that were your mission-statement, making it to orbit and spending some days there without making it back is pointless, though quite an accomplishment — an accomplishment for mankind, ‘shit’ for you. So finish your mission for yourself, even when it appears to others you’ve already made great strides. If observers do not know your mission-statement you will get naysayers and know-it-alls giving you their unproductive opinions. It is normal that people take a tertiary interest in someone else’ affairs which means they evaluate your situation on popular fads — it is not about knowing what you think but making just enough sense for them to avoid trouble. Something that is ‘sidewalk poop’ is without any good and most people have their own life not to take risks with something completely unknown. The closer you fit a well-known fad, the more manageable you become. So forget about the negativity of outside naysayers who are protecting their usual life — you owe it only to your close ones aside from yourself. Your mission-statement is how high you hang your fruit and completing that mission will be like a Christmas present to your close-ones who benefit out of you excelling.

Once again, quoting from the new book Hustle (only because it is still fresh by my side), what is new in that book aren’t the ‘meta’ of ideas but their phrasing. If you love to read, what you find is that bestsellers aren’t about new ideas but about new phrasing of extremely old ideas. Phrasing reflects the contemporary mentality. To move into the unknowable, you don’t go from A and B reaching blindly and wishfully at C (which is where you wish to go with your mission-statement) but you use what you learn getting from A to B, in order to get to C. It is an immense difference and requires being really faithful to your personal experience (that experience acquired between A and B, that you acquired in a safer and more structured environment). Tragedies occur more often to those who rely blindly on other people when they venture to C — such ‘assistance’ are only as helpful as they would be during your time at A and B. There ought not be anything so foreign to your experience during your time at A and B, and the world as we know it (family life, a relationship, managing our income and so on). The 5-year journey is extremely stressful emotionally that it takes it out on your body, your character and your normal lifestyle. So keep to what you know.

The emphasis on relying on what you know (your experience getting this far from A to B) is an essential part of your strategy. That is about making a check of what you have to build on. A few years ago, prior to spending almost 7 years as a ‘Web Marketing Manager’, I nearly gave up my current profession for anything marginally related, like being a traditional marketer where I would have to start at the bottom at a Consumer Packaged Goods corporation. I made a check of the experience I would be giving up and decided I could make a bigger leap using the experience I had built up in my job history. It is better to leap with a ramp than just off the floor. I didn’t have any other ‘hidden’ ability that made as good a ramp. My nascent ability to write ‘articles’ is still a ‘skinny kid’; but I counted it as part of my strategy nonetheless but it is not my mission-statement.

My mission-statement is simply this; ‘Get an esteemed (according to my own standards) leadership position for a digital-marketer’. Not in sales, not as a popular blogger, not to be a social-media influencer nor even the best digital-marketer like the people who ‘write the text-books’ for my profession. Though, paradoxically I am a little bit of all those things to get at my goal. And for any of those things, the doubting-Thomases have said I’ve got enough to be in sales or that I ought to commercialize my social-media network — which is like living in orbit for the rest of my life. Everyone has got ‘skills’ and ‘secret’ abilities, none of which alone makes them superb, but in combination can make for a superbly respected professional. Make a check of all yours ..before you pledge to your 5-year plan, know the skills you will be relying on; and see how they improve with regular use. Even being good in sports gives you a mental edge through your good attitude and proper sportsmanship.

How did I get from zero to having a blog that is regularly read on LinkedIn and other social networks? Have I achieved that level of exposure that my exposure precedes me in different circles in my profession? If not, I think I have created something that can be found readily with a simple search; it is still only geared toward building exposure among professional peers like members of the American Marketing Association, other communication executives and advertising professionals. Though, what you will see, like this very article, isn’t about SEO but it is still relevant to my brand. They used to promote things, a long time ago, by talking about what it could do and how it did it. Like the new-fangled chemicals in a laundry-detergent or the advance power-steering on a car. Now it’s all about the ‘feel’ of those things and who uses them and what they use those things for. I could have started a blog about digital-marketing and be one of hundreds on the topic, all pretty much saying the same thing, except those are commercial articles where I am creating a personal brand. I wanted my ‘personal brand’ to be holistic, less about that SEO guy and more about this person name Anh-Tu Phuc Hoang who is in business school earning his M.B.A. and looking forward to living in the United States as a Canadian. What my regular readers experience when they ‘elect to follow’ me is that person. It is good enough to ‘live in orbit’ but not to get home.

The journey is what dictates the minimum length of 5 years. I ‘have’ to get an M.B.A., to fulfill my mission, when I originally didn’t think I needed one. I have to run this blog and my social network; and running it regularly makes regular use of my total skills because my ‘vanilla’ job history isn’t really ‘M.B.A. material’ nor were my average grades in university. So I had to build something new to be admitted to M.B.A.; it’s also a ramp to achieve a level of income to ‘carry’ two homes (one in Toronto and a new one in New Jersey) — though I could ‘cash in’ at this orbit for a similar job to my 7 year stint as a middle-manager type. It is these sorts of development along a 5-year plan that gives rise to a darker sense of humor that is like being ‘battle hardy’.