Your Personal Brand

With all this talk about and coverage devoted to Michael Jordan’s 50th Birthday today, it got me thinking. Is there a more recognizable sports figure or brand than Michael Jordan? Has any athlete in the history of sports left as large a footprint globally? Has any single figure merged pop culture and sports so seamlessly? I can’t think of any. Some might argue that Jordan saved the sport of basketball (games were shown on tape delay, believe it or not). He undeniably made wearing baggy shorts and a bald head (thank goodness for me) popular. And he certainly made Nike a shoe and apparel juggernaut, helping the company ascend to one of the most recognized symbols (the famous swoosh) and catch phrases (“Just Do It”) in advertising and promotion history. Everyone, it seemed, wanted to “Be like Mike”, the byline in yet another famous series of commercials created by Gatorade, another of his endorsements that quickly dominated its brand category because of its association with arguably the best basketball player of all time. At the peak of his popularity, Jordan sneakers accounted for more than half of Nike’s annual shoe sales. This eventually prompted Phil Knight and Nike executives to give Jordan a stand-alone brand, the Jumpman. And more than a decade after he retired, a stroll through any shoe store reveals that little has changed. You’d think he was still playing, in fact, since Nike continues to release new, as well as re-release retro sneakers. (Click here for proof.)And his competitive nature and unquestioned greatness is carried on by the scores of modern athletes– not only in the NBA but other sports– that have chosen to wear the Jumpman logo.

Yes, Jordan has created one whale of a brand. But guess what? Even though you might not be able to buy a sneaker or tee shirt bearing your logo, you too are a brand. And even though executives aren’t meeting weekly and spending millions of dollars to tell the world about you, messages are nonetheless being sent daily to the world. About who you are. About what you believe in. About what you’re made of. And as the brand manager of YOU, Inc., you can either sit idly by while your brand is accidentally crafted. Or you can take an active role in crafting it yourself. Read my previous blog, “The Brand Called You“, and watch the attached video to learn more.

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Choose Happiness

As Beyonce owned the stage—and the world for a moment—at last Sunday’s Superbowl, I got to thinking about leather, lace, awesomeness, and choices. I am light years from the fierce triple threat, but I too had a moment of Superbowl greatness. Some know the story and others (my very best!) were right there beside me in 1985 as the San Francisco 49ers battled the Miami Dolphins for the title at Superbowl XIX. I was 16 in a torn sweatshirt, nude nylon tights, Reebok high tops, and a ponytail higher than Bob Marley on the Devil’s lettuce. With heavy blue eye shadow and an abundance of sass we danced to a Flashdance mashup at frigid Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto as gusts shot from the north off the Bay piercing though our polyester leotards. Our high school dance team had faired well at state competition that year and we were asked to join an ensemble of dancers in some wholesome choreography sans pyrotechnics, indigo floor lighting with springing trap doors and larger than life video imaging. A diva-inspired power outage was incomprehensible.

I had no business being anywhere near the likes of Joe Montana, Dwight Clark or Dan Marino for that matter. My offensive lineman boyfriend at the time could barely contain his jealousy! We were young and fresh and blissfully unaware of our good fortune. To this day my children love to watch the halftime show with me and snidely comment about how I could have been a fly girl, or at least a back up dancer for Madonna, because “she’s really old”.  Ahhh, coulda, shoulda….

Truth is, I seriously considered studying and building a career in dance. And for all of you snivelers, my aspirations did not include a pole! I have no vocal talent so I would have struggled to find a life better than that of a troubadour in a traveling circus. My parents were pretty definitive about NOT sending me to UC Santa Barbara—the greatest party school on the west coast—to….dance. So, I chose to study Communications and English Literature. Could I have been a Laker girl like Paula or a fly girl on In Living Color like JLo? Doubtful. I do know that I wouldn’t have worked as an English teacher in South San Jose, or a writer in Silicon Valley or a fitness instructor, yoga teacher and trainer. I made a choice and I’m pretty sure it was the right one. Read more of this post

Until..

I was watching a clip on Youtube of the renowned motivational speaker Les Brown today. It’s something I’ve been doing a lot of lately–watching different types of instructional videos–since I found the YouTube app on my DirecTV receiver (Menu/Extras/YouTube). In the middle of watching today, something dawned upon me. It is something I do continuously, something that I feel helps me make sense of the world around me. It is also something that, more times than not, ends up bearing itself out to be more true than false.

What is it?

Well, I believe that, although difficult and challenging, life can often be broken down into manageable, even logical pieces. Anecdotes. Precepts. Tenets. And it is my belief further, that by applying these universal laws–rules, if you will–we can become better and more successful in everything we do.

Today’s thought and realization is based upon one very simple word. Five little letters, I’m convinced, that if eliminated in one case and embraced in another, will yield tremendous success.

Until.

U-N-T-I-L.

“Until?” you ask. “How is that going to help me?”

Well, let’s take the first case. Eliminating it. What one word have you used most in your life to excuse yourself from achievement and success? What one word has become necessary for you to feel okay with the status quo, with staying where you are? What one word has prevented you from taking full responsibility for your future, starting today, starting right now? Read more of this post

Belief..in Santa

SantaFace-a

My kids still believe in Santa Claus. And I’m glad! I believe it’s necessary!

Well, another Christmas has come and gone. And faster than you can say ‘Bah, humbug!’, the presents that so beautifully adorned the base of our Christmas tree less than 24 hours ago are now opened. Like my parents did with my siblings and me, I tried to convince my children that they should keep their presents under the tree until January 1, when the tree goes back into the box. I lost that battle, at least in part, with my daughter taking most of her gifts to her room and my son… well his toys are all over the house. One, a BMX ramp I bought him so that he would stop asking me–his white collar father– to build him one, is even outside.

If I had to grade the day, I’d give Christmas 2012 an “A”. With all that’s gone on in our country and the world the last few months, being able to hold my children and kiss my wife is gift enough. Sharing some time on the phone with my father, baby sister, and big brother is necessary or the Holiday is not complete. And being able to tell my closest friends how much they mean to me is cherry on top.

That’s not to say I didn’t have my moments of angst and anxiety yesterday and today. Christmas was at our home for the first time in several years. This came after I’d held my annual Bluford Holiday party, started more than a decade ago to honor my mom who passed away in 1998, last weekend, spending more than ten hours preparing among other things collard greens, black eye peas, and my now famous rum cake. But like is normally the case when I’m stressed about something, as soon as the company arrived, my fears dissipated to a more than tolerable steady state. My wife’s brother had to stay home to attend to his sick infant, so the only guests were my wife’s parents and her sister’s family. Read more of this post

Negotiate on YOUR terms!

Like in sports, don’t let Life dictate to you. Live your life on YOUR terms!

“RIP 30s”. In other words, “Rest in Peace, 30s!” That’s what the sign read, the one that was on my door when I strolled into the office on my birthday—oops, 40th birthday– a few weeks ago. It was a loving gesture, to be sure, mostly from a group of coworkers whom I put through a battery of exercises twice a week in what they’ve come to call “Bobby Bootcamp.” Led by the ring leader, whose name has been omitted to protect the, umm, guilty, they also put together a gift basket of the most thoughtful items. Protein drinks. Nuts and other healthy snacks. Even some blue sports tape, the exact kind I put on my bad wrists when we train. Clearly, the group gave this gift a whole lot of thought. And I’ll never forget it.

And it may have been the best thing that’s happened to me in a while, even though it didn’t start out that way.

Let me explain.

I thought I was okay with it. Turning the big 4-0, that is. I even walked around bragging that I was the finest 40 year old in California, or at least in the top 10. I call it “play cocky”, only meant to make people laugh and smile as they wonder if anyone can really love himself that much. No, not really. I’d even given my brother a hard time weeks earlier when he turned 50. He felt similarly when he turned 40. I didn’t understand what the big deal was, this aging thing. I didn’t feel it when I turned 30, like many men and women do, and I was certain I would blow threw the 40-year mark just as easily. To be honest, I’d been saying I was 40 since I was about 39 years and one month old. That’s because, if anything, getting older strengthened the foundation on which my bragging rights are built when I playfully tease younger guys (and girls) who can’t hang with me and my often crazy workouts. “You can’t hang with a 40 year old?!?” has a certain ring to it. Read more of this post

Our jobs as coaches, teachers, and parents

Our sole job as coaches, teachers, and parents is never easy and rarely appreciated. But as Allyson Felix and Bobby Kersee showed us in the 2012 Summer Olympics; it’s worth it!

Leave it up to the Olympics to help me get this writing thing back on track. And leave it to one of the darlings of the games- along with Gabby Douglas and the Golden Girls of Women’s Beach Volleyball, Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh—to inspire me and this post.

I certainly enjoyed watching other sports and athletes during the Olympics. Watching the American hoops team bring home the gold was fun. Watching Oscar Pistorius, the double amputee from South Africa who advanced to the semifinals in the 400 meters, was nothing short of amazing. And watching a human being run as fast as Usain Bolt had the feeling of watching something that could, or at least should, not be possible. But Allyson Felix is the one who got me off my you-know-what, prompting me to pull out my laptop and write.

She did it for me. More importantly, she finally did it for herself. After finishing a close second in her signature race, the 200 meters, in both Athens (2004) and Beijing (2008), she grabbed the prize that had mercilessly alluded her, bringing home her first individual Gold Medal at the 2012 Olympics in London. The joy and jubilation on her face was almost as telling and transparent as the relief in her voice during the interview that immediately followed conquering what must have seemed like the most insurmountable of obstacles. You could tell she’d struggled with it, the disappointment of failure. You could almost feel it, the pain she had to overcome each time she fell short. And watching her, we all knew that she’d wanted to give up at least once or twice during the eight years that must have seemed like eighty between her first failure and her ultimate triumph. Read more of this post

As we get older…

I (left) had a tough time in the mud, but finished MudFactors’s 3.2 Mile Obstacle course. More importantly, with the help of my buddy and wonderful wife, I remembered what life should be about and had a blast!

As we get older, we lose a sense of what life is all about.  We’re born embracing all of the curiosity and fun that living brings.  But slowly over time, that innocent, untainted enthusiasm is chiseled away, often leaving no more inside of us than bitterness and skepticism.

Remember when you would come home from school or church and go straight outside?  I can still remember my mom yelling at me to change out of my “good clothes!”  Remember how excited you were when the boy down the street knocked on the door and asked if you could come out and play.  When we didn’t immediately weigh the request against all of the other obligations and responsibilities we had?  Remember when all that mattered is that you were outside in the sun and dirt, running around?  Remember when you weren’t worried about the report you had to finish for school the next day or the meeting you had at work on Monday morning or what you were going to make for dinner or the clothes that you still needed to wash, dry, and fold?

True, some of this is a product of just being young, naive perhaps.  And as you get older and have people dependent upon you instead of the other way around, you must naturally change your approach to life.

But a lot of us take it too far.  Most of us forget how much fun life should be, taking instead a much more serious, calculated, “responsible” approach.  Those who know me might argue I’m the poster boy for that way of thinking.  “Addicted to Improvement”, my self created tagline and brand, has often meant I take life–and myself–way, way too seriously. Read more of this post