Anyone Up For A Little Branding?


This past week I was asked to speak to a group of women about my nonprofit. I was told it was going to be about 30 women and to just talk a little bit about my past and about how the nonprofit had come about.

I used to do quite a bit of public/motivational speaking to large groups of people, so 30 women was really nothing to me. Β In fact, as I left my house that morning I told a friend “I’ll call you later, I’m going to go have a little kumbaya session with a few women.” As I was driving there I started thinking about what I was going to talk about. “Started,” as in “this is the first time I am thinking about what I will be talking about.”

Imagine my surprise when I get there and the first thing they say to me is “Ok, lets get you the microphone and get you up to the podium for your presentation.” Um…..microphone? Podium? PRESENTATION!?

I’m trying to play it cool but inside I’m all OHMYGOSHWHATTHEHELL!!! “So… how many people are you expecting today” I nonchalantly ask.

“Oh, at least a 90, probably more.”

Ok. So I am not here for a kumbaya session, I’m giving a presentation. Well this is just freaking fantastic, I have exactly four minutes now to put a presentation together. Wonderful.

What does someone do when they are thrown for a complete loop and have absolutely no idea how they are going to fix this?

You fake it.

I got up on the stage, everyone clapped, I made a joke that they should hold their applause until after I was finished and for those that had not snuck out by the end, they could clap for me then.

As for faking it, I started my speech with this; “I would have written a speech for today, but it probably would have been a very nice little representation of what I wished you would all think of me instead of what you should actually know about me. Honestly, wish I could come up here and give you all a nice view of my Facebook life. For those of you on Facebook, you know what I’m talking about, right? I don’t know about you guys but according to Facebook most of my friends have gotten up this morning, run 18 miles, whipped up a seven course breakfast from food that they organically farmed in their backyards, carved the fruit into little animals, hid vitamins inside, dropped their children off at elementary school where they are all becoming doctors and lawyers, and are now on their way to build a homeless shelter. I’m going to be honest with you guys. I dropped my kids off at daycare, I’m here, all of my clothes are facing forward (I pretended to check out my clothes real fast), yes, yes they are all on facing forwards, and I would like an award please.”

The group is now in hysterics. Good, that was the plan. When in doubt, make them laugh.

“Luckily for me, I lack social graces to the point where I probably wouldn’t even know if I was embarrassing myself, so I’m going to let you guys all in on a little secret. I don’t live a Facebook life. I didn’t write a speech because if I had, I probably would have looked at it, slammed the notebook shut, hid it on the bottom shelf with all the other books people don’t read like “how to do math without your cellphone calculator,” and I most likely wouldn’t have shown up today. So that my friends, is why we are winging it today. Today I’m here to tell you about how I was broken, how I’m healing, and the nonprofit that I founded. I already know that most of you know I’m broken. I know that you know this because two years ago when my husband ran away, I would come in here and I would see you all whispering about me. “Oh my gosh!! There she is!! There is the woman who’s HUSBAND RAN AWAY!!” Yep, that happened people. So today, for all of you who have shown up, you are going to get a front row seat to the real story. Today I’m going to give you the entertainment weekly version of my life. It’s not pretty, its not perfect, but its me.”

I went on to tell them a vague back story, some hard hitting facts about my husband leaving, an intro into how the legal system works, why I had founded my nonprofit, and who I was planning to help.

I ended it with “And….I don’t really have an ending….so…. the end. I guess sometimes winging it has a couple of bumps.” Then I did a dramatic curtsy. The women were rolling with laughter and overall I think the message overall was well received.

I believe this to be the case because as I was leaving multiple women ran out into the hallway after me to hand me business cards and phone numbers, all wanting to be helpful in any way that they could. One woman in particular said something that struck a cord with me. She said “I loved your speech, but I just need to tell you, you are wrong about something. You joke that you work with a doctor and a lawyer and that you are just some chick trying to change the world with no credentials that would lead anyone to take you seriously. You have something better than most people, you have a personality that just grabs people and draws them in. You are better than a degree, you are a brand. You stand out and shine, you make a mark on the people that you encounter, and while a degree is a dime a dozen, you are the one that will leave the lasting impression on the people that you meet. The way you brand yourself is going to take you farther in this world than a degree and a personality that no one remembers.”

I really didn’t know what to say to that. I got a little teary eyed, gave her a big hug, and walked to my car.

That woman got me thinking about a lot of things. People don’t remember you by what you don’t have, they remember you by what you do have. Why then, do we all, myself included, let our feelings of self worth be influenced by what we don’t have? “I don’t have a fancy car to impress my date. I don’t have the money to take my wife on a fancy vacation like our friends do. I don’t have a big house to throw parties in like our neighbors.” You have all watched me as I have overcome my feelings of worry about failing my kids. You have watched as I’ve finally stood up to society and said “stop judging me for being on welfare.” You have watched as I’ve come out of my shell and told not only myself, but the people around me that I do deserve respect and that I am worth something, but I don’t think that I realized how much it bothered me that I never finished college until I started this nonprofit and have come face to face with so many highly educated people. I’ll say it flat out, it makes me feel less than in many different ways.

The woman really opened my eyes that morning. I don’t have any fancy degrees or letters after my name and there isn’t a damn thing I can do to change that in this immediate moment. Allowing myself to feel less than because of it, is not going to change anything about the situation other than how I feel about it. But what is going to happen, what I am doing, is covering up and smothering out everything that I do have to offer with a label of what I don’t have.

I realized that if I continue to focus on the things that I am lacking, I will be misrepresenting who I am and what I do have to offer. All of us, each and every one of us possesses qualities that are unique to us. All of our paths have led us through experiences where we learned lessons that other people have not been fortunate enough to learn. Just as I talked about in my post “damn straight I’m gonna wear it,” I may not be able to offer my children the same things that other parents can, but I can offer them things that others can’t, things that will be unique to me and my parenting style.

I’m done focusing on what I don’t have. Thinking about it, dwelling on it, taking time out of my day to wonder what other people think about it, I’m done. My name is Eden Strong, I have no college education, no letters before or after my name to boast about, no degree hanging on my office wall. Hell, I don’t even have an office, but I can make you laugh. I can tell you how I’m trying to change the world for the better and I can show you everything that I am able to offer to you in this moment in time, and hopefully that will be enough to make a lasting impression on you.

I didn’t get to finish college. There’s a pretty good chance that I’ll never get to walk across a stage to accept a hard earned degree; a degree that would send me out into the work force to contribute back to society and make the world a better place. It’s unlikely that I will ever have that experience and to be honest it’s something that I have always really wanted. Yet here I was today, standing on a stage, talking about how I am giving back to society, but I got here in a completely different way. My path was not what I expected, it was not what I wanted, yet the destination is turning out to be the same.

I see from the blog comments and the emails that I get on a daily basis, sometimes numbering in the hundreds a day, that a lot of you are also struggling with feeling “less than.” I know that a lot of you come from backgrounds with similar circumstances to mine and others of you are just now going through your struggles.

We don’t all get the same things in life, but its up to us to decide how to use what we do have. We all need to stop focusing on what we can’t offer and start focusing on what we can.

You are your own brand. There is a reason that companies spend millions of dollars on marketing teams that market their products for the best qualities that they possess. No one puts on a package all of the things that a product can’t do for you, no one would buy it. The first thing that a consumer wants to know is “what can you do for me.”

Each and every one of you is filled with qualities that are unique to you alone. Take those qualities and make them your packaging. Let them be the first things that people see about you. Let what you have, be who you are, for it is simple minded to let what you don’t have label who you are.

No one else can market who you are except you. You get to decide your branding.Β 
Allow yourself to be defined by what you have to offer, not by what you don’t.

Don’t let what you don’t have dull the shine of everything you do.
Shine on people,

there is a reason our entire planet gravitates towards the sun.




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33 Comments

  • Anonymous
    April 17, 2014 at 6:55 am

    I really have to tell you that a degree is not a magic wand, it will not miraculously open all the doors that people who don't have one seem to think it does. (Kind of like being thin is not the answer to all problems that the supersized folks imagine it is.)In fact, they (college degrees) seem to have an expiration date on them, as does large amounts of experience in certain fields… (in some professions you get out of the loop too long, and your degree and experience together won't even get you a cup of coffee…. at least not without a few bucks thrown in.) !!!And take a few years off (from the workforce) to care for an aging parent or cope with a special needs child or recover from a drastically serious illness yourself and you might as well kiss your career goodbye. (Degrees and experience in hand are suddenly worthless if you fell off the edge for a while, no matter how noble the motive.)So don't think that you are anything less out there in the pavement pounding world than a person is who has all the certificates and credentials to wave… those are not worth much these days any more if you aren't out there in the rat race every day gaining new and improved skills to go with them.And in fact, gaining or owning the skills WITHOUT the documents can actually be a plus (this last said ironically…. a “plus” to employers, i.e., many companies are delighted to get the competence without having to pay nearly the bucks that it would command with the proper papers to accompany it.)Back to you, remember that many of the best and most famous entrepreneurs are self-made, and don't have anything behind them but their own chutzpah (a few admitted later on in life that they could not even READ!) but your social skills, poise, humor, extroverted nature, and your command of the language (spoken and written) will take you far if you just “work it!”So, good luck! (And be sure and go through all those business cards carefully and consideringly… networking works! Figure out who is who and what is what and reach out and cold call… you could end up landing yourself a great full time situation just out of your little impromptu speech there.) !!!And IF you do (get the opportunity), TAKE IT!!!!!!!!!!!! (You can still be part of the nonprofit, but yet you can pay your bills too! That would be a win-win!)Every day might be the day that lands you the big chance. They say a door closes and a window opens… well, you might only find a small crack in the blinds or a tiny chink of a keyhole… but, no matter how small the possibility, give it a try anyway, sell yourself, reach out, the helping hand in the end is often the one at the end of your own arm… !!!God helps those who help themselves, the squeaky wheel gets the grease (ok ok you get the point… just DO it! Touch base with some of those women and see where it leads! All you need is for ONE of those cards to become your new situation!)And keep us all posted, of course! !!!

    • NotMyShametoBear
      April 17, 2014 at 1:27 pm

      You bring up a lot of interesting points. I hadn’t really thought about how your degree can expire and heaven forbid you take time off and try to go back to work.

      I have followed up with every card I got and so far its worked out marvelously!! I was really blessed to have a great audience that day πŸ™‚

      I laughed out loud at the “crack in the blinds” part. It’s so true though!!! I’m looking!! Here I come world!!

  • Joel
    April 17, 2014 at 10:56 am

    It took me fourteen years to find my dream job. When I got there I found I was literally surrounded by people with more and better degrees than mine. Master's and PhD's on every side. And here I am with my out of date bachelor's. So what did I have that made me special?My experience. You have that, too. Eden. Anonymous is also spot on. I agree wholeheartedly. πŸ™‚

    • NotMyShametoBear
      April 17, 2014 at 1:27 pm

      Well I’m glad you finally found your dream job πŸ™‚

      At this point about the only thing I’m not lacking in is experience! So let’s all hope it works out as well for me as it did for you πŸ™‚

  • Jon Snow
    April 17, 2014 at 12:06 pm

    A lot of times your degree + experience work against you, especially when you just need a job and in every interview you go they say you are “overqualified” , I never understood the “you are too good for this job and we don't want you” thing, I believe this only happens in USA lol.Like anonymous said a lot of degrees especially in the science fields have an expiration date, a degree from 20 years ago in computer science is pretty much obsolete now.You are a great writer you have a gift and I'm pretty sure you are far better than anyone with a degree in english/journalism.

    • NotMyShametoBear
      April 17, 2014 at 1:27 pm

      Haha, it has to be a USA thing. Anyone else from outside my country care to chime in here?

      That must be why we have some of the dumbest people running our country. Everyone else was overqualified for the job πŸ˜‰

      Thank you πŸ™‚ I wish that I could get a job based soley on good writing lol. It seems like when someone gets a degree in art. You either can draw, or you can’t. You can sing, or you can’t. No degree is really going to change which area your talents lie in….but apparently I still need a piece of paper that says I can write. Bah humbug.

      Delete

  • Anonymous
    April 17, 2014 at 1:39 pm

    Only she who attempts the absurd can achieve the impossible. ~Robin MorganBravo Eden, for all of your wonderful accomplishments πŸ™‚

    • NotMyShametoBear
      April 17, 2014 at 1:28 pm

      Oooo, I think I like that Robin person. Thanks so much for sharing that quote with me!! πŸ™‚

  • afairytale84
    April 17, 2014 at 10:06 pm

    Your speech sounds freaking amazing. Bravo!I have a college degree and it's doing me absolutely no good. I make $9.00 an hour (which translates to under $20,000 a year) in an area where the median income well over twice that. I'm way overqualified for the position I'm in, but it's not because I have a degree. It's honestly because I can read at above a junior high school reading level. Yes, I'm working IN A NEWSPAPER with people who have a 7th grade reading level.No wonder newspapers are dying.Degrees aren't everything. There are many people with high level degrees working minimum wage jobs. Degrees by no means guarantee you anything in life. Except possibly a lifetime of student loan payments. A degree doesn't automatically make you better than someone who doesn't have a degree. And like anonymous said, they have expiration dates. Many people find themselves so focused on one area of work that when that particular area is no longer needed, they find themselves unemployable even though they have this Super Wicked Awesome Degree in their Totally Amazing Field.You clearly have a magnetic personality and are a great speaker and writer. Focus on those qualities and I have no doubt that you're going to go far in this life. If you ever do get the opportunity to go back to school, then by all means take it if you can. But don't focus on your lack of degree when you've got so many other amazing things going for you right now. I wish you all the best. πŸ™‚

    • NotMyShametoBear
      April 17, 2014 at 1:29 pm

      Aw thank you πŸ™‚ You are too sweet. Wow, that sucks about the college degree with the $9 an hour job!! Any plans for your next career move? I remember you saying the job was phasing out.

      You’re right though, I have several friends with pretty fancy degrees who are either over qualified or dont have enough experience, which means they just go round and round the interview circle bc they can’t get experience without a job, and they have too many degrees to be able to get one. Crazy!!!

  • Anonymous
    April 18, 2014 at 3:34 am

    I received years ago (like…a lot of years ago!) a gift from a friend, one of those stone engraved plaques, with a big daisy (my favorite flower), and that quote below the daisy, and it's hung on my wall ever since. I can't begin to tell you what that plaque on the wall has reminded me of, over these many years.I've been wanting to share that quote with you for quite some time now (why I didn't before???)…I'm really glad you like it – but you know what? You're already there…you're doing it! You wanted it more than you were afraid of it πŸ™‚ If ever I come across such a plaque, I would love to send it your way – so you too could hang it on your wall…Sending you much encouragement, and much love,Nathalie

  • Jon Snow
    April 18, 2014 at 4:25 am

    I know in Spain the person with the highest qualifications gets hired , I mean he is still gonna get paid pretty much the same as someone with lesser or no credentials, so why not get the best you can get for the lowest price. Is an employer market.As far as our government goes I do believe we have the best government money can buy πŸ™‚

    • NotMyShametoBear
      April 18, 2014 at 1:28 pm

      Spain sounds pretty smart! Haha about the government πŸ™‚

  • Anonymous
    April 18, 2014 at 4:39 am

    My problem is I attempt the impossible and achieve the absurd… πŸ˜‰

  • Anonymous
    April 18, 2014 at 4:45 am

    πŸ™‚ my goodness, have been there too…perhaps I should send you a plaque also πŸ™‚

    • NotMyShametoBear
      April 18, 2014 at 1:28 pm

      That sounds like a neat plaque and a good friend!! I’m glad you shared the quote with me, I love it πŸ™‚ Thank you

      I actually laughed out loud at the attempting the impossible and achieving the absurd comment. That is so funny! Kinda sounds like my marriage….

  • Anonymous
    April 18, 2014 at 11:23 am

    You don't need a degree to prove how talented you are, I think the proof that we all come here day after day to see what you have to say is proof in and of itself. Not only do I come here because you choose to eloquently share the things most people hide away, but are you funny as hell and have a writing style that is very unique. I can't put my finger exactly on what it is about your writing style, but it's…different (guys, help me out??). No degree can teach raw talent.Hold you head up dear!! You have obviously impressed all of us and we know how strange you are πŸ˜‰

    • NotMyShametoBear
      April 18, 2014 at 1:29 pm

      aw thanks πŸ™‚ You know, I get that a lot, the “unique writing style thing.” I’ll be the first to say that I don’t know what it is! Yes, someone please explain it to me lol. It’s probably just because I am so strange πŸ˜‰

  • Anonymous
    April 18, 2014 at 1:35 pm

    I agree with the above anonymous, you do have a distinctive writing style that makes you stand out, but I also can't put my finger on exactly what it is. They can't teach you that in school.Can't wait for your book to come out.

    • NotMyShametoBear
      April 18, 2014 at 1:30 pm

      Aw thank you πŸ™‚ **Hugs!!**

  • Bridget
    April 18, 2014 at 6:51 pm

    I agree that personality can be bigger than a degree! I have a college education and my husband a high school one, yet his persuasive personality has made him the bigger earner in our household. It also doesn't help that I have taken some time off to raise my kids – in my experience it does make it a little harder to get back into the work force. Don't ever doubt the power of a charasmatic personality!

    • NotMyShametoBear
      April 18, 2014 at 1:30 pm

      Thats a great point, thank you for the example Bridget!! πŸ™‚

  • afairytale84
    April 18, 2014 at 8:42 pm

    Since my degree is so specific (it's a general Communications degree, but I have an emphasis in newspaper design), I'm now one of those people with a degree in a field that no longer really exists, so I don't qualify for anything else. I can't even get a job as a receptionist because I'm overqualified for that position so they're not interested in me.I'm thinking of getting a paralegal certification. I can go part time, keep the job I have, and probably get the certification in 18 months. I've been hesitating because it means taking on more debt, and I have a ridiculous amount of anxiety surrounding pretty much anything to do with money. But I'm starting to think it might be time to just bite the bullet and do it. Going back to school right now for me would actually work out really easily because I have a lot of downtime at work, so I could study then. It's just convincing myself that taking on more debt would be worth it in the end, which I'm really struggling with.

    • NotMyShametoBear
      April 18, 2014 at 1:29 pm

      Ugh, yea that would be a tough place to be stuck in. Sounds like you are where I am in a sense. Stuck on a drowning life boat and wondering if you have to take the plunge and let things get worse in order to ultimitely make them better. Well, I’m in the water and swimming now, can’t vouch yet for how that plan is working out, but I wish you the best in your decision!!

  • Evelyn
    April 19, 2014 at 1:52 am

    Is it bad that at first I thought you meant branding as in hot iron or freeze branding?

    • NotMyShametoBear
      April 18, 2014 at 1:30 pm

      Haha, no, its good! I was going for a title that made people go “Huh? She is going to brand herself?” I was wondering if anyone was going to catch that. Ding ding, Evelyn wins the prize!

      I’m sure branding via a commercial label sense must have derived from the act of branding. It would make sense, don’t ya think?

  • Anonymous
    April 19, 2014 at 3:10 am

    OMGoodness, I cracked up too…it is a wonderful response! Man, it all does turn around someday, I think?

  • Amanda Harris
    April 19, 2014 at 1:39 pm

    As someone who wants to spend her life in academia, I'd love to believe, on some level, that there is something to be gained from books that you can't from real-life experience. The bad part is it't not all that simple. The good part is that you don't need a degree to contribute, to stand out, to give something fabulously good. I think you're definitely proof of that, in your own way, and it's been a pleasure to read your blog.

    • NotMyShametoBear
      April 19, 2014 at 1:30 pm

      Ha, oh for sure there are things you can’t just learn from life experience! I certainly don’t want my surgeon operating on me because he has a great personality and has watched a lot of the discovery health channel lol. NO. THANK. YOU.

      It’s a pleasure having all of you visit me on here and read along πŸ™‚

  • Anonymous
    April 19, 2014 at 5:22 pm

    Look up “Brand” on Wikipedia, it's actually very interesting. (And the word brand came from the old Norse word for burn…) Factories used to burn their logo onto their barrels or crates of product, etc. so it became a way to refer to the logo or trademark as well as the act of doing so, etc. etc. πŸ™‚

    • NotMyShametoBear
      April 19, 2014 at 1:30 pm

      I knew it had to be something to do with that, thanks for the deeper info! I love crazy facts like that lol. πŸ™‚ Thanks for filling up my head with a little bit more info I can throw out at people as needed!

  • Anonymous
    April 27, 2014 at 11:38 pm

    Yup! The only way you can be true to yourself, is by having your own branding, and sticking to it.That Lovely Woman, her words…Beautiful. You deserve to be spoken to, with much Respect, Acknowledgement, and Love…and so many other good things :)Nathaliexoxoxox

    • NotMyShametoBear
      April 27, 2014 at 1:31 pm

      You rock my world girl. Thanks for your vote of confidence πŸ™‚

      *hugs*

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