One of the must-do’s while we were in Chiang Mai Northern Thailand was the Flight Of the Gibbon zip line made famous by the Amazing Race program and we weren’t disappointed.
With over 7 kilometres of zip line stretching high in the canopy, one section an awesome 800 meters long and the possibility of seeing the gibbon apes in their natural environment, adventuring into the mountain jungles of the area was an absolute must.
Interestingly the zip line facility was initially developed by a Kiwi guy and built in just 3 short months. He passed away a few years ago from skin cancer, but the ingenuity and innovation in the platforms, bridges and staircases that link each section lives on as his legacy.
They also have a keen focus on the environment, taking the time to teach visitors about the village and its ecology, the plants and animals and how they are supporting replanting and care for the natural habitat.
Apart from fun and excitement, what on earth can zip lining through the trees possibly teach us about personal branding?
I was amazed at just how many lessons there actually were, and they are pretty zippy to implement too: Watch the video here.
Lesson 1: Trust an expert
When you prepare for zip line fun, you put yourself in the hands of experienced guides who basically step you into a full harness, hat and safety gear, with a full briefing on what to do and what not to do. They know exactly how to see you safe, keep you moving and ensure you have a great experience along the way.
Many professionals believe they have to do it all themselves in order to be a true success, then wonder why they fail. Real entrepreneurs know the fastest way to success is asking for help and implementing what the experts tell you to do.
If you want to really build your brand with speed, choose experts to assist you, because their know how can get to you to your goals quicker, easier and with less panic and worry than you would have doing it all alone.
The funny thing is, great experts draw the most pleasure from seeing the success of their clients, which is why you should trust a good one.
Real entrepreneurs know the fastest way to success is asking for help
Lesson 2: Do the work
No it’s not going to happen overnight and you certainly won’t build your brand sitting on the couch. It’s all very well to sign up for courses, read books and attend workshops but unless you put what you learn into action, nothing is going to happen.
It took me four long years to build my personal brand, but it was definitely worth it, and I can work far quicker on others bands because I’m on the outside looking in. But I do know that it can be exhausting and frustrating.
Be assured that the effort you put in today, placing one foot in front of the other to ascend to great heights with your brand, will pay you off indefinitely. Just like a zip line, it’s worth the climb to the top, so you can soar above your competitors.
You certainly won’t build your brand sitting on the couch
Lesson 3: Go for it
It can be scary when you decide to launch your personal brand. Many fear the niche aspect, worrying they are missing out on possibilities and opportunities if they decide to just focus on becoming well known for one thing.
There are also self belief issues, where you might feel you are an imposter, finding it difficult to call yourself an expert even though you really don’t believe you have what it takes. When you start out with no case studies or testimonials you may feel you have zero credibility, but you must get past that and focus on what makes you so special.
Once you step through that doubt and make a definitive decision to package your experience and skills you can be totally safe in your brand. Step out and hang on for the ride of your life.
Lesson 4: Find your style
Once you have defined your brand strategy it’s totally up to you how you build your brand awareness. Never compare yourself to others or try to be like them.
Choose your platform, it might be Facebook or Linked In, writing a best seller, starting a video blog, direct selling, networking, speaking, your own podcast or Youtube channel, running workshops or webinars. Do what you feel most comfortable doing to deliver your message and make it consistent.
You might decide to stand out with a special dress code, orange suit, blue hair, colourful high heels, singing and dancing, sunglasses, hats, or simply pick a colour that represents your brand or a style that personifies your brand identity.
There is no right or wrong when it comes to marketing and promoting your brand, once you have decided what you want to be known for, go and do it your way.
Lesson 5: Wobbling is OK
It’s an absolute fact that you are going to get the wobbles as you build your brand. Things are going to happen that will shake your belief, unsettle your stance and throw you off balance.
That’s a good sign you are pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and that’s where the excitement really happens.
So don’t fear the inevitable and don’t panic when it happens. Understand you are going through enormous change and development, embrace it as a chance to challenge yourself, further define your brand personality and experience valuable lessons you can add to your brand story.
Hang on to what drives you, be sure in the foundations of your brand purpose and grateful for support of those around you. Most importantly, when you do get a bit shaken, keep taking steps forwards, even if they are small and slow. You will get there and when you look back at what you achieved it will feel amazing.
You are going to get the wobbles as you build your brand
Lesson 6: Buddy Up
I’ve seen so many personal brands rocket launch fast when they team up with an associate to elevate and leverage off each other's brands. I team up with media, web and mindset people all the time, because we have similar audiences and we speak the same message.
Who can you buddy up with to combine forces and add weight to your brand promise? Make sure you both have similar goals and are heading in the same direction, then provide the lift to each other's purpose, moving forward together.
The power of shared marketing and promotional costs, reliable support and the multiplication of your joint brand cohesiveness can open doors that would be closed to you on your own. Of course you need to have some rules and guidelines, but if you can find buddies who have the same purpose and brand strategy, you really can zip into the fast lane very quickly.
Lesson 7: Brand security
The #1 best thing about having a strong and secure personal brand, is that no matter what you do with your marketing and promotion, you know the message is right.
The clarity a brand gives you enables you to take risks, jump off into the unknown and embrace opportunities because you are secure in the knowledge that you have a single minded strategy holding everything together.
Much like the equipment used to zip line, as long as it was secure and stayed in place, you could fly along anyway you wanted to without fear of falling.
Set your personal brand on firm foundations, secure your brand identity and consistently deliver what you promise and no matter how you do it, which channel you use or where you go with it, your personal brand integrity will be safe.
The clarity a brand gives you enables you to take risks and jump off into the unknown
Lesson 8: Take a moment
Building your brand and your business is exciting, frustrating and at times downright crazy, so make sure you take a moment to enjoy the journey.
Take note of what you are achieving and the experiences you are having, the good, bad and the ugly. They all build your brand story and enable you to be authentic. You are on your own journey, so don’t worry about others around you, make sure you aren’t constantly ploughing on ahead, or always looking behind you, be present in your brand too.
Realise that you are doing amazing things. The World needs what you have and it’s going to take time to get where you are going, so you might as well reflect on the ripples you are causing.
Lesson 9: I don’t like this!
There are going to be times when you feel overwhelmed, scared and downright ready to throw in the towel. One of my rebranding clients once told me she was going to give up and get a JOB. I knew it would kill her to walk away from her dreams, but she was getting real flak about her change in direction and there was huge pressure on her to stick with her old brand.
When you build a personal brand you also build your own platform and stand out from the crowd. You will get noticed by competitors, prospects and media. Some may throw a few rocks in your direction (see the lessons from elephants article for more on that) and some may even try to tear you down a notch because they don’t like change.
The strongest personal brands I know all have their share of haters, detractors and raving fans. It’s part of the process to becoming well known, well paid & wanted.
As long as you have a strong platform, built on passion and authenticity with the desire to help others, your brand will keep you safe and secure.
Just like that client, who by the way went ahead and rebranded and has seen a huge shift in her self confidence and ability to live her brand, don’t give in to mediocrity or fear. Stand firm and show the World what you are made of.
When you build a personal brand you build a platform and stand out from the crowd
Lesson 10: Have faith
Sometimes you are going to lose momentum. Clients are going to leave, the economy is going to set you back, deals will turn sour, technology will breakdown and all manner of issues will distract you.
It’s funny how when things are flying along nicely you don’t have as much fear as when things stop. You take a look down and suddenly it's all very real. Such is the way of life.
Sales master Jim Rohn once said “The same wind blows on us all, it’s just the way you set your sails that makes the difference”. Shit happens, and guess what, it will happen to you. It’s up to you to set yourself in the right direction to go with the flow and regain your speed.
Great personal brands allow for changes and disruptions because they are not based on transactions of time and money, they are built for what they can deliver, the value they can give to others. Build a brand that can evolve and adapt to minimise the fear of a downturn, then step off into the unknown with confidence your brand can survive.
Lesson 11: Have fun
Our amazing guide (aptly named Crash) had huge fun with us, making jokes, learning our names and messing with us high up in the tree tops. We will remember the zip line adventure as much for his personality as for the activity itself.
Of course you need to have a sense of humor and to be able to laugh at yourself when you run your own business, but there is more to it than that.
Humans like to have fun, that’s why so many viral videos are of stuff that makes you laugh. Laughing releases feel good endorphins and makes you smile even with the memory of it.
The brain uses emotion and memory to recall and remember brands, so make sure you make interacting with your personal brand fun for your prospects.
Laugh out loud hilarity and jokes might not be your thing, especially if you sell a serious service like estates and funerals, but you can make dealing with you and your brand easy, enjoyable and interesting.
Get to know who your ideal client is, the ones you really love working with and it will be easy for you to relax and enjoy spending time with them.
The brain uses emotion and memory to recall and remember brands
After we finished the zip line, we took a look at a local waterfall before enjoying Thai lunch near the river. On the way up the steps I noticed a tree root that had imbedded itself in the rock, finding a way to grow and provide stability for the tree.
So the extra bonus lesson for you is this…
Lesson 12: Find a way
As you take the steps to build your personal brand you will get tired, worn out and fed up. There will be blockages and barriers that you have to deal with.
Sorry, but it’s true. Strong personal brands are those who are prepared to do what others aren’t, and to give up what others won’t. This includes not making excuses, taking responsibility, giving up on TV and trashy magazines, avoiding indulging in gossip or procrastinating instead of doing.
Never ever give up. Find a way around, over, under or through to get to where you want to be. Invest in yourself and your future by spending the time and money on what matters most.
Your personal brand will support and sustain your business, delivering back to you tenfold for the effort you put in. Making headway will become easy, you will get requests to speak, blog, write, present, doors will open and your brand will take off.
You just need to keep going.
Data suggests that 95% of all businesses close within the first 5 years. Those are shitty odds. It’s because being an entrepreneur is hard and many aren’t prepared to go the distance and make it work.
If your belief is strong enough and your desire to help others is set in stone, you will find a way to overcome anything in your way.
Your purpose should be to influence and impact as many people as possible, even if you only do that for a few, you will have left a legacy. So go and make it happen.