Today, as soon as I woke up, I read a tweet that made me feel weird.
— Fast Company (@FastCompany) May 24, 2013
Now granted, this tweet was to promote a media event (this afternoon) about how to help kids navigate the digital world, and probably, how not to screw up their real reputations with digital dumbassery. And that's an incredibly important conversation to have with parents and children, too. But coaching our children to navigate this new terrain by creating "personal brands?" That rubbed me wrong.
The idea of personal branding always makes me uncomfortable. All over the place I am being told to do it. Build your tribe, find your platform, build your influence. Be bigger. Stronger. All of it. It's exhausting.
Half of my time is spent fighting (and the other half is spent accepting) this very concept. I don't want to be a brand, but to be successful I feel like I have to be one anyway. I don't want to be "left behind" in the "race" to nowhere, so I market and wink and try to be in the right places that make me look like I'm doing something right. It's disingenuous. It's fake. It's marketing myself. It's selling myself. It's commercializing my identity. And now we're telling our children to do it too?
I don't have children. But I just came home from spending a week with three of the sweetest children I've met on the planet. And if I want to tell them anything, I'd want to tell them this.
You are not a brand, you are a person.
After all this went through my head, I sat down to read Psalm 33 - 37, it was like over and over again, that same sentence was reinforced with God's word. Here are some things I learned:
- Pursue peace not prosperity. When I wake up in the morning and think about what I can do to bring in money or status or stature—that is the kind of thinking that can spoil my joy for others when things go well for them. It's that kind of thinking that breeds hostility, not peace. Seek peace and pursue it (Psalm 34:14) because a future awaits those who seek peace (Psalm 37:37). That's who I want to be. I'm not a brand. I'm a person who seeks peace.
- A brand is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its strength it cannot save (Psalm 33:17). If you've watched coverage of Hurricane Sandy, Sandy Hook, the Oklahoma tornadoes, or any other disaster that's ravaged our country lately—you know that nothing is permanent. In the day of total disaster, what good will it be to have a large digital footprint? It's LAUGHABLE to even write those words. And it's sad that that is where my mind spends so much of its time. While our plans (and houses and lives) might end, the plans of the Lord stand firm forever (Psalm 33:11). I'm not a brand. I'm a person who fears the Lord.
- If I flatter myself too much, I will not be able to detect or hate my own sin (Psalm 36:2). Spending too much time in the mirror actually makes it harder too see ourselves as we truly are. Spending too much time building our own kingdoms and brands and identities is a waste, if it hinders us from understanding our souls. I'm not a brand. I'm a person who wants to be truly known.
I don't know why this hit me so hard this morning, or why I felt the need to share it, but I did. People. We are not brands. We are people.