Protect Your Brand

A solid personal brand is important to your life and career success.  Creating a brand is simple – decide the two or three words you want others to attach to your name.  Nurturing your brand takes work.  You have to consistently and constantly act in a manner that reinforces your brand.

It takes time and effort to build a strong personal brand.  And, a brand can be destroyed in a minute.  Just ask Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum.  After their flagrant fouls in Sunday’s LA Lakers’ loss and elimination from the NBA Playoffs, both – especially Bynum — now have branded themselves as thugs.

Bynum, the biggest guy on the floor, decked JJ Berea, the smallest guy on the floor as he drove for an uncontested layup in the fourth quarter of a game that was already out of hand.  He was ejected immediately.  He removed his jersey as he walked across the floor to the Lakers locker room.  “Cheap” is the word that came to my mind when I watched the hit on the replay.

I was appalled by both Odom and Bynum’s behavior.  It was a sad way for Phil Jackson to end his coaching career.  Both Odom and Bynum dishonored themselve, the Lakers and Phil Jackson by their actions.

And that brings me to the common sense career advice point of this post.  You need to nurture your personal brand.  Think before you act.  In Andrew Bynum’s case, it was clear that he acted without thinking.  He put a really hard hit on a defenseless player.  He didn’t have to do it.  It wasn’t a hard foul meant to protect the lane.  It was a cheap shot pure and simple.  Now, his personal brand is forever tarnished.

Tweet 61 in my career advice book Success Tweets says, “Create and nurture your unique personal brand.  Stand and be known for something.  Make sure that everything you do is on brand.”  This means acting in the manner in which you want people to think of you consistently and constantly – when no one is looking, whether you’re winning or losing.

I’ve had plenty of coaches in my life.  They had different coaching styles and different perspectives on how to play a game.  However, one thing they all in common was one piece of advice.  “Win or lose, do it with dignity and humility.”  I think that having the words dignity and humility attached to your name is a great start on a personal brand.  Neither Lamar Odom nor Andrew Bynum acted with dignity or humility on Sunday.

Interestingly, Kobe Bryant who is often vilified for some of his off court behavior, conducted himself with great dignity on Sunday.  He played a great game.  If his teammates helped a little, the Lakers might still be playing.  After the game, he was humble.  Kobe’s missteps a few years ago tarnished his personal brand, but he is doing a good job of repairing it.

Then there is Serena Williams.  I’m a big Serena fan.  I think that she is the best female tennis player in the world.  Unfortunately in the 2009 US Open, she did something that really hurt her brand. 

If you recall she lost in the semi finals to Kim Clijsters, who went on to win the championship.  Serena not only lost, she lost in a bizarre manner that could have been avoided had she chosen to react positively to an unfair setback she encountered during the match.

Serena was down one set to none and serving to stay in the match at 5 – 6, 15 – 30 in the second set.  She unleashed a massive serve – as only Serena can.  Unfortunately, the lines person called her for a foot fault on her second serve – stepping on the line as she served.  I watched the replay of the serve and it did not appear to me that Serena foot faulted.  Also, a foot fault is a rare call to begin with, and one that is very seldom called late in a match in a grand slam semi final.  It was a very bad break for Serena, and something that could not be reversed.  It made the score 15 – 40.

At first, she took a couple of deep breaths, and walked up to the service line to serve for the next point.  At this point I was thinking, “Good for you Serena, you’re not going to let this bad call kill your chances of winning this point and the match.”  It appeared that she was going to suck it up, react positively to the bad call, and do whatever she could do to win the match.

Then she melted down completely.  Instead of serving, you walked toward the lines judge with a ball in her hand and said something like, “I’m going to take this f’ing ball and f’ing shove it down your f’ing throat.  She also shook her racquet at the lines judge in a threatening manner. 

The umpire called the lines judge over to ask what was said, and then called the tournament referee out on to the court.  The tournament referee ruled that Serena’s actions constituted a code violation.  Serena had received another code violation in the first set when she broke her racquet in frustration.  The rules say that the first code violation results in a warning – many players get them in the course of a match – and that a second code violation results in a point being awarded to the opponent. 

But, because of the foot fault on the second serve, Serena was at match point.  The one point penalty gave the game, set and match to Kim Clijsters.  Serena lost her chance to defend her US Open title.  To use a term we seem to hear a lot these days, there is a “teachable moment” here. 

And that teachable moment has to do with personal branding.  Serena Williams is a great tennis player.  Unfortunately, some uncharacteristic behavior that night in September 2009 did tremendous damage to her personal brand.  And, because she is getting a little old for tennis and has had some troubling injuries lately, she may not play again.  This is too bad.  The world should remember her for the great player she is, not the raving maniac she became that night.

We’re all faced with choices like this every day – usually with much less at stake.  And how we react can help us build our brand or destroy it.  On Sunday, Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum did some serious damage to their brands.  Serena Williams’ brand may never recover from the 2009 US Open.

The common sense career success coach point here is simple.  Successful people commit to taking personal responsibility for the life and career success. They create and carefully nurture their unique personal brands.  They determine how they want others to think of them.  Then they act in a manner that constantly and consistently reinforces their personal brands.  They choose to react positively and professionally when things don’t go their way.  Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum didn’t do this on Sunday.  In the 2009 US Open semifinal Serena Williams didn’t either.  Odom and Bynum had no one to blame but themselves for the game on Sunday.  Serena Williams had a legitimate gripe.  But she let a bad call by a lines judge get the best of her.  Not only did she lose the match and the chance to defend her title, she hurt her brand.  All three of these episodes were a dramatic and very public display of what not to do when things go against you.  The next time you find yourself giving in to your anger over something  — even if it’s unfair — remember Odom, Bynum and Serena, and choose to react in a manner that reinforces, not detracts from your carefully nurtured personal brand and builds your career success.

That’s my common sense career advice on consistently and constantly acting in a manner that reinforces your personal brand.  What do you think?  Please take a few minutes to leave a comment, sharing your thoughts with us.  As always, thanks for reading for my daily thoughts on life and career success.


PS: If you haven’t already done so, you can download a free copy of my latest career advice book Success Tweets Explained.  It’s a whopping 390 + pages of common sense career advice explaining each of the tweets in Success Tweets in detail.  Go to to claim your free copy.

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