The Importance of Personal Branding – Part 1

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Your Virtual Legacy

“In today’s business world, your business and your personal brand need to be one and the same. Learn to live your passion, and you’ll have all the money you need plus total control over your destiny.” – Gary Vaynerhchuk, ‘Crush it’.

Your personal brand is basically telling the world who you are and what you are about. However, being passionate about what you do is only part of it. Even more it is about being honest and real. Being yourself at all times in all situations builds credibility, because people know that you are genuine. They get to know who who you really are. This doesn’t mean that they will like you, but they will trust you, and if you have people’s trust, then you have a great shot at success as long as you have something interesting to share.  When your business is your personal brand, it is necessary to be 100% transparent, otherwise people will always feel that you are hiding something. This, of course, also means that you must always be aware of what you say and how you behave, because in today’s social media driven society, you will leave a trail of information that will exist (virtually!) forever. If you always strive to behave according to your core values and beliefs, and not do anything that you would regret or be personally ashamed of, you’ll be ok. It doesn’t mean that you have to try and be perfect, as no one is. No-one really has a right to expect it from anyone anyway, unless they’re delusional. Given a choice between pretentious perfection and genuine imperfection, I think the majority of reasonable, free-thinking people would choose the latter.

Crush It!At the age of 45, I have only now made the decision to stop doing my professional work with financial gain as the most important motive. I want to now mainly live according to my passions and values, and to, hopefully, also infect others with that passion, as long as if it serves to inspire them on some level to get more out of their own lives. To reach others more effectively, I plan to focus on developing my personal brand by utilizing social media as I believe that it is now the most effective means of reaching out to as many people as possible from as wide a range of countries and cultures as possible. I am not doing this to somehow feel special, but out of a true desire to connect with others and to share things of interest and inspiration. My ultimate aim is to one day be remembered for having helped others in someway, although I’m not exactly sure what that way is just yet. I want to leave a legacy that my family and friends would be proud of, something that I myself can also be proud of. Right here, right now, I commit to being as honest, genuine and trustworthy as possible, in other words, to never be fake. If that is all I achieve then I’ll already be happy. If, in addition, I can also provide something of interest to share with others, then that will be the icing on the cake.

However, as this is really day one, all that is still ahead of me and I have no ideas to how it will pan out. There is a saying that to know where you are going, you need to know where you have been. I’m not sure if I totally believe that, but, regardless, I thought that it would be an interesting exercise to try and see what kind of legacy I had already created so far, if any. How would I do that? Well, since I started using the internet on a regular basis around 1992, I have potentially left almost 20 years worth of virtual trails in cyberspace. So, the most obvious thing to do was a Google search (at google.fi) of my name to find out about what’s been recorded about me. The trick was, I decided to limit myself to only one hour of search time and the first 5 pages of search results, as if I need to look longer or dig deeper, then whatever I might find really probably hasn’t been of much importance or relevance to anyone. I decided to call this exercise the “One Hour Legacy”. So, without further ado, here are the results:

Jyri Manninen is a name I share with two Finns who were much more prominent in the search results than me. A university professor of adult education, as well as a very successful martial artist. Interestingly I have been both a senior university lecturer, as well as a martial artist, but not to the level of these other two Jyris.

Then I found my Facebook profile, but that is nothing to write home about. At last count, I had less than 70 friends and the new web application ‘Klout’, which analyzes social media interactions, rated me as an ‘observer’, someone who likes to sit on the sidelines and watch others interact. Hmm … what does that mean?

Facebook – Jyri Manninen

Then I had to go to the 4th search page to get my next reference, and it was a link to the teaching team page on the Fitness Academy of Finland’s (FAF) website, where I am currently employed as the director or education. Wow, my current job where I am actively involved yet I had to dig pretty deep to find any info.

FAF Team

And then a real blast from the past. There was a link to a triathlon coaching website that had stored a copy of a triathlon coaching article I had written in 1992, in my first year of masters studies at the university of Jyvaskyla in Central Finland. Cool! Triathlon was a sport I both loved to myself, as well as coach until just after the mid nineties. It’s amazing to think that something that I wrote so long ago is still being referenced at read and it really wasn’t intended as an article, but as an answer to a question presented on a triathlon themed online forum.

Ironman heart rate monitor training

Additionaly, I found another reference to this same triathlon training article on ‘LiveStrong’, the partner website of Lance Armstrong’s Foundation that fights to improve the lives of people with cancer. It is nice to think that what I wrote, which, as I said was never meant to be more than a reply to someone’s personal question, is being used on a site acting as a source of inspiration for others, since that is the main reason I have been, and still am, in the coaching profession. This, I guess, shows that many of the things that we personally do not consider to be a big deal, may still be of interest and helpful to others.

LiveStrong: Ironman HR Zones

The trail ended there rather abruptly by just using my own name. Maybe if I explored the link with triathlon a little more? So, now I continued my search with “Jyri Manninen triathlon”. The first search page revealed a link to an article published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine based on my masters thesis entitled “Low back pain and other overuse injuries in a group of Japanese triathletes”. It instantly reminded me that I lived in Japan in 1995 and worked at a sports medicine research institute in Nagoya, where I collected th data for my study. Another ‘wow‘ moment!

Abstract: Low back pain and other overuse injuries in a group of Japanese Triathletes

Backwood Hillbillies.Another few pages on and we jump directly to 2011, with a link to my acceptance to the specialist sports club ‘Perakylan Ponnistus’ this last summer. The club name can be interpreted in many ways (and not all good!) in Finnish, but the official English language name is ‘Backwood Hillbillies’. These guys (and girls!) do some amazing things like run ultramarathons, hold ice cream eating competitions and get lost in the woods for days on end. The club’s logo is an old smelly running shoe and their slogan is ‘(doing things) for real, but not seriously’, which describes really well the way members approach life. I think that I’ve found a bunch of kindred spirits!

The Backwood Hillbillies

A bit further on in the search results and I found something that will actually be occurring in the future. It was a list of competitors in a 24 hour ultrarun to be held in Finland next February. Yep, I will be running around a 390+ metre track over a 24 hour period. What was I thinking when I signed up to that? Well, at least you get to change direction every six hours.

Endurance V: 24 hour running race

The trail on google.fi went completely cold at that point. Then I thought, asI have spent at least half of the last 20 years somewhere else in the world other than Finland, I thought that I should still do a search of my name on google.com. I decided to also do the same with google.co.au. Why not? I am an Aussie after all. Damn! The results weren’t very pleasing. The other two Jyris still kept coming up ahead of me. Its seems that the’re more popular than me in my own country! Anyway, However, after some more digging, I did eventually find a link to a blog managed by my current company FAF related to themes health, fitness and wellness, and it is this blog where I am publishing this article! So, if you’re reading this, you might like to go an check out some of the other articles I’ve written here, for example, ‘The importance of education’. Please let me know what you think.

The importance of education

I kind of was getting really into this task and wanted to keep on exploring, but my hour was up what felt like 10 minutes. So, here is a summary of my online virtual ‘legacy’

  • I am a very passive facebook member with few friends.
  • I once wrote an answer to a question on a triathlon coaching forum, which, for some reason, still seems to be of interest to people after almost 20 years.
  • I had one (and only one!) article ever published in a scientific journal. Probably because after that first one, I decided I didn’t want a career in academia and so had no desire to conduct more studies or write articles about them. However, good to know my masters degree wasn’t completely wasted!
  • I’ve been lucky enough to find a bunch of nutcases to spend time with doing sports we love, as well as talking crap and drinking beer.
  • Even despite having a relatively uncommon Finnish name (i.e. definitely not a ‘John Smith, buy more like ‘George Sherrifson’), I am only the 3rd most popular of my species, not just in Finland, but anywhere in the world it seems, despite the fact that I have lived most of my life outside of Finland.

 

… and that is my ‘virtual legacy’. All I can say is that, at my age (did I already mention that I’m 45?), the results are really quite sad, don’t you think? Mind you, I should be very thankful that none of the stupid shit that I have done in the past (and there’s been a lot!) has made it onto the internet! So, I guess that at least I have a pretty clean slate to work with. In any case, what lessons have I learned from this exercise? Well, I’ll be answering that question in Part 2, in which I’ll also be discussing and suggesting some ideas and ways that can be used to maximize your professional and personal influence. Until then, why not try researching your own virtual legacy and see what comes up. Please feel free to share your findings!

Jyri Manninen

FAF Director of Education

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