28 July 2010

Cattle Dislike It, Too

Branding. Brand yourself. What is the brand that is "you"?

It is a simple question, on the surface. It gave me pause, but only after the seminar was over. The afternoon was spent in consultation with 49 of my peers, trying to define our individual brands. When I say peers, I mean other people "between employments", as the current language calls our joblessness.

As an aside, I feel the same way about that phrase as I do about calling a used car "previously owned": plus ungood.

Anyway, it was a group of us professionals who are unemployed or between jobs or making career transitions, and we were each a mini-corporation trying to define an image. Just like Nike, Coca-Cola or any other company that has some sort of iconic touchstone.

There was a lot of creative energy in the room, tinged a bit with puzzlement and the faintest whiff of cynicism. I managed to set aside most of my weariness and skepticism to dive in to the best of my ability. Believe it or not, I even engaged in some public speaking. Most of the time I avoid public speaking like I would avoid an aerosolized tankful of medical waste. Which is to say, I would run away as quickly as possible while holding my breath.

There was the typical small group exercise, which I did enjoy. It was fun to connect with people, tap into their ideas and energy and share thoughts on what we think we are, what we want to be. We all made lists of descriptive words and then tried to come up with a tag line* whereby potential employers or clients would recognize us and what we can do for them. It was to be along the lines of "Good to the last drop" or "Just Do It", but connecting the Brand (me) with the Client (employer) base. Fun and games, folks, but something happened to me on the drive home that really threw me into the weeds. As usual, it involved music.

I became aware that I don't know me.**

The trigger was "The Sweet Part of the City" by The Hold Steady. The song came on, I was daydreaming a little, and the slide guitar in the song is killer. Craig Finn isn't singing about being unemployed, but the lyrics combined with that guitar really hit me hard. I suddenly felt terribly alone, and weightless. I saw myself sitting on a derelict dock down at harbor, sunlight glinting on railroad tracks behind me. Just me and the gulls and gravel, and I'm crooning to the ocean. The sun is going down, as it should be. For reasons unknown, I started thinking about my brother, and how much I miss him. I wept.

The weight of worthlessness and isolation came crashing down on me. Trying to drive while figuring out who I am, or who I was, or who I am supposed to be...I couldn't do it. If I had been on a road trip, that would have been the time to pull the car over, kill the engine and go to sleep in the back seat. I was very close to home, as it was, so I did the next best thing. I parked the car at the curb, wiped my face and headed inside to collapse on the couch. My hands could barely support the weight of my head.

The essence of Me made marketable, employable...and I don't really know it anymore. Maybe I never did. The things that I was may not be the things I am, or need to be. Reconciliation of all the threads in this frayed rope of a life is slipping through some weary fingers. I can call myself all sorts of names, pile on the keywords and the adjectives...but now? None of it seems to fit, and that hurts.

Branding. Ask the cattle how they feel about being marked with a red-hot iron. Ask them if it is necessary.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: I am in no way affiliated with mp3bounce(dot)com, no compensation or endorsement was received, given or implied. Typical YouTube shenanigans...it was the best I could get for the song, the name just happened to be on the video. I am also not a paid spokesman for The Hold Steady...but I can say THS makes some awesome music.

*I won't reveal mine...yet. I'm too self-conscious, and I'm still working on it.
**Yes, its been said before. Yes, its a cliche. It also happens to be the Truth.


  1. I can understand why that song took you down.
    Hang in there.

  2. Just make sure you still know it's you when you look in the mirror.

  3. Ok..couldn't get through your post without stopping to get the Kleenex...gahhh...not going for the song, not tonight

    I became aware that I don't know me.**



  4. IG, you don't need a "brand." You simply do not fit into a predefined box, and all your frayed ends are securely knotted together at the other end - so hold on to THAT. The fact that you capture "essential essence," with your words and pictures, in a world that has come to settle for superficial crap is a skill you can't learn or buy, and which someone will want to buy.

    I have a ton to catch up on, but this was a strong place to start...I am sorry you are feeling the weight...I hope you can find some light soon - maybe i need to send you a Joy CD?

  5. you are not a brand, you are a miracle

  6. when i hear the word branding it makes my ass twitch. same goes for the word synergy. and the term 'employee values'. as a recruiter in a longtime HR role, i'm so damn sick of the b.s. they sell - seven habits of who-gives-a-f***, what color is your damn parachute, etc. explore what you love, try different things, get feedback from all kinds of people, and most important, be OPEN to what others have to say.

    and knowing yourself? anyone who says the truly know themselves is a liar. you will never fully know yourself because you are always evolving. what is more important is that you trust yourself to learn and grow and be open to what the world has to teach. to give and love and treat others (and yourself) with respect. and most importantly, as others have said here - never categorize yourself.

  7. Whatever else you are, or need to be for employment, you are an artist.

    But you knew that. Right Irish?

  8. "I became aware that I don't know me."

    I read this line last night, and I'm still thinking about it this morning. You are not alone.

  9. I was branded... if you count tattoos as brands. But only once, like unrustled cattle, and I plead youthful stupidity.

  10. *nod*nod*nod*nod*nod* I wish I had more encouraging positive uplifting thoughts or ideas for you, but right now, all I've got is "Yup, kinda there right now, too."

  11. You're not toothpaste. You're the man. Remember that.

  12. I seriously think that the day I brand myself or define myself....is the day that I become a can of fecking peaches.
    Disposable and easily traceable.


"Let your laws come undone
Don't suffer your crimes
Let the love in your heart take control..."

-'The Hair Song', by Black Mountain

Tell me what is in your heart...