Want an Enviable Personal Brand? | Do the Right Things

The paparazzi are following you. Well, not exactly. Truth is: We are always in someone’s line of sight. They see, they interpret, they judge. 

Our personal brand is always in the making.  

No matter who we are or what we’re doing, someone is drawing conclusions about us. That’s how our personal brands are formed. I learned this once the hard way. 

When I was a kid, I took a few horseback riding lessons and was hooked. I had to wait until I was 30 to take my next lessons. At 38, I bought my first horse. 

Danny was a retired race horse, decorated show horse, and seventeen. He knew a lot more about being ridden well than I did about riding. 

Two months after I’d gotten Danny, my instructor took us to our first show. It was a cold, damp February day. We were entered in classes where the jumps were no higher than 2 ½ feet. 

Here’s the chain of events:  

Danny and I come into the ring. We make a circle to build up a little speed and head for the first jump. As the rider, it’s my job to stay in the saddle until just before the horse lifts off. 

Well, my timing wasn’t the best, and I move off his back too early. Smart old, Danny thinks, “Hey, where is she?” 

Because he’s unsure, he stops short and sends me flying though the air, head first over the fence. Splat! 

I’m now lying in oily turf completely disoriented with Danny quietly watching me. My trainer rushes out, dusts me off, hoists me back into the saddle, and I try again. 

The arena is starting to fill up. Everyone loves a crash. 

I tap Danny with my crop to get his attention. Around we go again. First fence,good. Second fence, good. Third fence…I got excited. Lifted off early. Became a human canon ball again! Thud. Wow, that landing felt harder than the first. 

Out comes my trainer. In come more spectators. I’m spitting turf. It’s also in my boots. Back up into the saddle. Around again. Fence four…made it. Fence 5…yes! Fence 6…I’m again aero-rider. Whomp! 

By now I can barely get up. I’m so sore. (It’s been a five foot fall each time.) I no longer have my bearings but I had to get back on. The arena is jammed with people. I ride one more jump. And then I pull up. 

I smile and wave to the crowd. They applaud. Of course, I feel humiliated. 

Now, they’re ready to award the ribbons. Clearly, no ribbon for me. But I hear my number called over the loud speaker. 

So I limp back into the arena and see the ring steward approaching me carrying a cupcake. 

The announcer says, “We’re giving this rider a good sportsmanship award for her courage and for not taking it out on her horse when things went wrong.” 

I was stunned and overwhelmed. It was a powerful lesson about what others see in what we do. The announcer reinforced the standards of proper competitive behavior and made sure the spectators got the message. 

Just for the record, Danny and I returned the following month and won our classes. After one of them, a young rider came up to me and said, “Aren’t you the lady that kept falling off last month?” Everyone remembers! 

A good reputation is a brand calling card that opens many doors. 

It can get you a job interview, a new customer, a bank loan, a date with someone special, and life-changing opportunities. It’s a key to being business fit. 

Today, more than ever, we really don’t know when someone is watching. Cell phones and security cameras have increased the odds. But we know whether or not we’re doing the right thing. Like the old adage says, “If you wouldn’t do what you’re intending to do with someone watching, don’t do it.” 

Do you have an experience that has helped build or protect your personal brand? Got any advice to go with it?

8 thoughts on “Want an Enviable Personal Brand? | Do the Right Things

  1. Hi Dawn,
    I’m sure I have experiences I could share, but I need to let my thoughts simmer on that for a while (perhaps I’ll circle back!).

    In the meantime, LOVE your story, and the crescendo leading to the cupcake ‘honor!’ Wonderfully impactful way of describing how your ‘grace, resilience and respect for others’ (in this case, the ‘horse’) under pressure resounded loudly with an outside observer.

    I am also so impressed with your rising from those tumbles and literally ‘climbing back on the horse!’ I’m learning more about your greatness every day!

    Another home-run blog post!

    • Oh,yes, it was an indelible event in my memory. Sometimes I shudder at the plethora of these experiences that have marked me in some way. I just hope that I learn something useful each time or who knows where I’d be.

      Thanks for your enthusiatic and affirming observations. I hope you’re right about all of them which get tested every day. If anyone has grace, it’s you! Great having you out there, for sure!

  2. Thank you Dawn. You have a beautiful writing style that leads the reader into your story, captures them and then delivers a great lesson. As always, I appreciate your wisdom and advice.

  3. Wonderful story to illustrate your point. You definitely deserved that cupcake.

    I’ve spent moments over the last couple days trying to think of a personal story that illustrates the same thing. I know I have them, yet blank.

    • Well, chances are that if you’d landed on your head as often I have, you’d remember. Calamaties always seem to stick, at least for me! Thanks for the kind words. I’m hungry for that cupcake right now!

  4. I rode horses when I was in high school and college and have definitely been thrown heading for a jump. Never an ego boosting experience! :) Great story Dawn!

    I’ve had random people compliment me in Target or such on how I handled my kids’ tantrums or their misbehavior, etc. It has happened 3 or 4 times and each time was shocking. One, because I never think of myself as a paragon of parenting! Two, because I never expected others to be paying attention to me – that building your brand at all times concept.

    Great post, as usual. :)

    • Great to find another commiserator about the pains of sailing over a jump without one’s horse. I have so many horse calamity stories that it’s ridiculous. Still I loved riding (not so much showing) and the breeding and racing. I learned so much about horses, horse people, the industry, and myself! Wouldn’t trade any of it!

      I can’t imagine what a test it must be to be the mother at a public kid-tantrum. I’ve witnessed a few and simply sped my cart away. It must be enormously satisfying to have positive feedback at that moment…and that’s the real key. Feedback has its greatest power when given immediately. That’s when we put everything in perspective and see ourselves clearly. Too often at work, managers wait and give the feedback days and weeks later when they have little effect, whether positive or negative. Seizing the moment is key! That’s when we feel the essence of our brand and how it’s serving us.

      Thanks, Daria. Hope you’re saddled up for a grea week! ~Dawn

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