What’s important? Your personal brand is very important. Yes, that’s what we write about and your brand should reflect your identity. But is it more important than wars being fought, or terrorists plotting attacks on the US, or air collisions and collapsing buildings? Well it’s different. Somehow it’s the issue that hit home this past week for many people. Jason Collins, NBA star of the Boston Celtics admitted openly that he was gay. For sports, for basketball, this was a big step. Many have called him a hero. Now there is no denying that this man has suffered by keeping the secret of his true identity, and it was a relief for him to open up about it. He had endured ‘years of misery’ and not even his brother was aware. That has got to be a burden for someone to carry around.
A personal brand is something you are trying to communicate to others about yourself. It is meant to define you. We have certainly tried to give suggestions on getting to that authentic self and letting it be known to the world, whether through an elevator pitch, or some soul searching, or the choice of approach in interviewing and resume writing. But having to reveal your innermost secret to the world publicly is definitely a bold step in defining your personal brand.
Jason Collins expended energy in guarding his secret just as we have encouraged people to try to reveal what is unique about them when searching for a job or a career. He had to do the opposite, keep his true inner being from everyone. This creates tremendous isolation and even alienation. This isolation keeps us from truly engaging with others we meet during the course of business. If we cannot be our true selves, there is something inauthentic about all of our dealings. On this personal level this revelation is a breakthrough for Jason Collins. He realized that his world did not fall apart, although it is irrevocably changed. This change will bring about a different level of engagement in his sports career and in his personal life.
Collins is being called a hero for coming forward with this information, but really all he has done is to square with us about who he really is. For those of us looking to make a contribution, we should try to be true to ourselves right from the start. Our sports icons represent a strong focus of our society, some might say too strong, for as much as I am glad that Jason Collins is being honest with himself and the world, I can only hope that we continue to rally around the service men and women who are out there defending us, and the first responders when crisis hits, who are truly the heroes we must emulate in our own personal brand.