Color Outside the Lines

Listen here … 

I swear it was my elementary school teachers who unleashed the rebel in me. They were always telling me what I “couldn’t” do rather than fostering my inner passions. And coloring outside the lines is a great metaphor for authentic personal branding … because our personal and professional lives intertwine, whether we want them to or not.

Two opposite examples come immediately to mind, and probably should never be used in the same sentence, but … Tiger Woods and Tim Tebow.

Tiger Woods tried to color inside the lines. He kept his personal and professional lives separate and apart, thinking (or possibly hoping) that no one would ever be the wiser. His brand (which was really nothing more than a facade) was clean cut, family-oriented, and wildly successful … good guys CAN finish first. It was also a complete farce. When you act one way to an adoring public and completely opposite behind closed doors, it is only a matter of time until the truth bleeds over the lines. Our personal and professional lives do overlap, and no amount of effort to keep the colors from crossing the lines will work forever. Particularly not in the Internet era.

Tim Tebow is the epitome of an authentic personal brand. Much has been written about him, both his athletic prowess and faith on the field and his leadership and faith off the field. He is who he is, like him or hate him, he is the real deal. Because he is the same person on the field as he is off the field, his lines are so blurred you can’t tell where personal ends and professional begins.

We’ve seen more than our share of brand damage to finance executives in the past few years. Those headlines seem to be almost daily, but certainly weekly. The colors seeped through closely guarded lines and for some, caused irreparable damage not only to the individual but to many companies.

Where do you fall? Do you color inside the lines … working diligently to keep your personal life from detracting from a professional facade? Or, do you blur the lines and embrace the power of authentic branding … recognizing that how you are hardwired has contributed to your successes both in and outside of your career?