Personal Coaching

Personal Branding 101: How to Discover and Create Your Brand


In the past few years personal branding has been discussed exhaustively throughout the Net. The difference between today and over ten years ago when it was first mentioned by Tom Peters, is the rise of social technologies that have made branding not only more personal, but within reach.

From the corporate brand (BMW), to the product brand (BMW M3 Coupe) and down to the personal brand (car salesman), branding is a critical component to a customer’s purchasing decision. These days, customer complaints and opinions are online and viewable through a simple search, on either Google or through social networks. There is no hiding anymore and transparency and authenticity are the only means to survive and thrive in this new digital kingdom.

Many people think that personal branding is just for celebrities such as Paris Hilton or Britney Spears, yet each and every one of us is a brand. Personal branding, by definition, is the process by which we market ourselves to others. As a brand, we can leverage the same strategies that make these celebrities or corporate brands appeal to others. We can build brand equity just like them.

We can also have just as much presence as most startups and mid-size companies and products. Social media tools have leveled the playing ground and have enabled us to reach incredible heights, at the cost of our time. Today, I want to share the personal branding process, so you can start to think about what face you want to show to the world and how you want to position yourself for success!

1. Discover your brand

The single biggest mistake people make is that they either brand themselves just for the sake of doing it or that they fail to invest time in learning about what’s in their best interests. The key to success, and this isn’t revolutionary, is to be compensated based on your passion. In order to find your passion, you need a lot of time to think, some luck and you need to do some research online to figure out what’s out there.

Brand discovery is about figuring out what you want to do for the rest of your life, setting goals, writing down a mission, vision and personal brand statement (what you do and who you serve), as well as creating a development plan. Have you ever been called intelligent or humorous by your peers or coworkers? That description is part of your brand, especially if you feel those attributed pertain to you. To know if you’ve discovered your brand, you need to make this equation equal:

Your self-impression = How people perceive you

Before you enter the next step in the personal branding process, you’ll want to select a niche, whereby you can be the master of your domain. For example, Joel Comm has mastered the Google Adsense niche and brands himself using his name, and Brian Solis owns the social media PR niche with his PR 2.0 blog (under his name). When I say domain, I mean an area where there aren’t many competitors and literally, your online domain name. Once you sort this all out, now it’s time to create your brand.

2. Create your brand

Now that you know what you want to do and have claimed a niche, at least in your mind, it’s time to get it on paper and online. The sum of all the marketing material you should develop for your brand is called a Personal Branding Toolkit. This kit consists of the following elements that you can use to highlight your brand and allow people to easily view what you’re about:

1. Business card: It doesn’t matter if you’re a college student, CEO, or a consultant, everyone should have their own business card. The card should contain your picture, your personal brand statement (such as Boston Financial Expert), as well as your *preferred* contact information and corporate logo if necessary.

You can create your own business card and share it through your mobile phone using or On the web, is a great social network for creating and distributing your person business card.

2. Resume/cover letter/references document: These are typical documents that you need for applying for jobs and when you go on interviews (something over 2 million job seekers will be doing as we speak). Be sure to prioritize each document with information custom to the target position. Take your resume online and add social features to it to make the ultimate social media resume, promoting your personal brand to the world and making it shareable.

3. Portfolio: Whether you use a CD, web or print portfolio, it’s a great way to showcase the work you’ve done in the past, which can convince someone of your ability to accomplish the same results for the future. and are social networks for people who want to show off their creative skills to the world.

4. Blog/website: You need to own or a website that aligns with your name in some fashion. Depending on who you are, how much time you have on your hands and if you can accept criticism, you should either start a blog or stick with a static homepage. Those who blog will have a stronger asset than those who don’t because blogs rank higher in search engines and lend more to your expertise and interest areas over time.

5. LinkedIn profile: A LinkedIn profile is a combination of a resume, cover letter, references document and a moving and living database of your network. Use it to create your own personal advertising, to search for jobs or meet new people.

6. Facebook profile: Over 160 million people have profiles, but almost none of them have branded themselves properly using this medium. Be sure to include a Facebook picture of just you, without any obscene gestures or unnecessary vodka bottles. Also, input your work experience and fill out your profile, while turning on the privacy options that disable the ability for people to tag you in pictures and videos (allowing people to see the ones tagged of you).

7. Twitter profile: Your Twitter profile should have an avatar that is carved out of your Facebook picture and used in your LinkedIn profile. You need to use a distinct background, fill out your profile and include a link to either your blog or LinkedIn profile., developed by internet mogul Jim Kukral, has templates you can use to sculpt your very own Twitter background (Photoshop skills not included). is another solution that also lets you promote your Twitter profile.

8. Video resume: A video resume is a short video of you talking about why you are the best for a specific job opportunity. You get about a minute or so to communicate your brand and are able to send the link, once you upload it to YouTube, to hiring managers.

9. Wardrobe: Your personal style is tangible and is extremely important for standing out from the crowd. Select clothing that best represents you because it will be viewable through your pictures/avatars online, as well as when you meet people in reality.

10. Email address: Don’t overlook your email address as not being a significant part of your toolkit. Most people use email over all social networks and when you connect with someone on a social network, you are notified via email, so get used to it. Your email address poses a great opportunity for your brand. I recommend using gmail because of the acceptance of Google and since GTalk allows you to form tighter relationships with others. For your address, use “”

What’s next?

After you spend the time on these parts of your personal branding toolkit, it’s time to showcase it to the world, especially your target audience. Don’t be fooled by the myth that if you build it, they will come. Unless you’re the luckiest person on earth, you’ll have to actually communicate everything you’ve created to others.

10 steps to powerful personal marketing

Personal marketing uses commercial and social marketing principles to help us succeed at goals we have chosen for ourselves. It’s powerful stuff that can really help your life. But the following feedback from a reader made me realize that some of you may be feeling overwhelmed about how and where to begin. This article shows you how to find that starting point, and then how to continue step-by-step to develop a great ad to influence yourself.

I looked at the site a few times previously and thought it was pretty interesting and made a lot of sense but I didn’t spend a lot of time there because I was in surf-mode (usually at work). But because I was intrigued I would periodically keep going back to it, and each time I would think, “Wow, this is great stuff! But there’s so much to read and I don’t have time.” So I have taken away bits and pieces (the gorilla is a great example) but just keep feeling like I didn’t have the time to read everything I want to and get a good grasp on where to start. So it ends up on my never-ending, ever-growing To Do List.

If anyone else is feeling like that, the ten steps below will show you exactly how to apply a marketing mindset to achieving your own goals. Want a short-cut? Try just doing #1, #6, and #9 for your first ad.

If this is your first visit, you might want to read a couple of foundational articles before you begin to grok the concept of personal marketing. These three articles illustrate the problem with mental clutter, and why I believe advertising to yourself makes a difference.

How to get started with your own personal marketing campaign

1. Pick a goal

Personal marketing can help you with many different kinds of goals. To start this process, pick one that you’d most like to work on, such as:

  • Improve yourself mentally, physically or spiritually
  • Improve your relationships with other people
  • Go someplace you’d love to, across the world or in your home town
  • Get a better job, or perform better at the one you have
  • Acquire a tangible object such as a house, or make the one you already have into more of a home
  • Do something else you dream of that’s a bit (or a lot) of a stretch for you

Can’t decide? Here’s a way to figure it out fast. Shut your eyes and ask yourself, “If I won the lottery, I would ___________.” Your first answer to that question will give you an excellent clue about where to start changing your life. When you’ve chosen a goal, go on to step 2.

2. Analyze your situation

Next, take an honest look at yourself. What are your strengths and weaknesses in relation to the goal you have chosen? What resources do you bring to the table? Where will your challenges be? What factors outside yourself represent opportunities and threats to your success? What or who is your competition? What have you already tried? I think it’s helpful to write down your answers to these questions.

3. Research your target market (you)

Now we’ll look deeper, to find out what motivates you to succeed. This is where you throw out the shoulds – the things that should motivate you – and get real honest about the kind of things that actually DO get you moving. What do you care about? What are your biggest concerns? What do you fear? What do you enjoy? What and who are important influences on you? What do they want you to do? What do you see as the benefits of achieving this goal? What do you see as barriers? Again, it’s helpful to write your answers.

For more about this topic see Target market research (it’s all about you).

4. Decide how to position your change

Based on what you’ve learned in the previous two steps, select a strategy for positioning your goal. For example, exercising could be positioned as being fun, practicing discipline, making you more attractive, or saving your life. You need to decide which one is most likely to work with the person you’ve been writing about above. It’s important to pick ONE approach and use it consistently in all of your marketing efforts. You want to brand this behavior change in your mind as being all about the position you have chosen. My exercise campaign is a good example of positioning.

You’ll probably find it helpful to read a few articles in the Hierarchy of Needs or Psychology of Persuasion series to get ideas. The task for this step is to read those articles, then let your subconscious mind take over for a few days until you have a good idea. When you’ve decided on a strategy, move on to step 5.

5. Tweak the elements you can control

The classic elements of marketing are Product, Price, Place and Promotion – called the four P’s. These represent all of the variables you have control over in a given marketing task. Before deciding how to promote your goal to yourself, first do everything you can to sweeten the offer by tweaking the first three P’s. Think about how you could increase the benefits and reduce the barriers you identified in step 3 above by challenging assumptions you’re making about what you want to do, what you must give up to get it, and where you will do it. For example,

  • You really want to buy a new house, but anything in the area you want to live is way outside your price range. So you begin to consider a different neighborhood, or buying a fixer-upper. (Product)
  • You schedule an extra 30 minutes when you go to the gym so you have time to reward yourself with a sauna. (also Product)
  • You hate to get up early in the morning to exercise. It’s always a struggle. You suffer. So you try scheduling workouts in the evening instead. (Price)
  • You know your life would go better if you meditated regularly, so you spend an afternoon creating a lovely little sanctuary in the corner of your bedroom. (Place)

Steps 6-9 are about the fourth P – Promotion. However, what you want to do in this step is make promotion less necessary because the offer you’re making – to the person you are – is a very good fit.

6. Take (or find) a picture of your goal

If at all possible, take a picture of yourself that looks like your goal is already achieved. This image will start getting your mind used to that reality. Check out the Put yourself in the picture series for ideas and instructions about both technical and non-technical ways to get that picture.

A tool that really helps is the Joby Gorillapod – an inexpensive flexible tripod that makes it easy to take photos of yourself in almost any situation. It comes in several sizes; one of them is appropriate for any camera.

7. Write a slogan

This step is optional, but it’s quite effective. In fact, you can make a pretty good ad that’s only text. Write a slogan for your ad that embraces the positioning you selected in step 4. See the articles Punch up your headline with Phrases that Sell and Target your hierarchy of needs – part 2 for tips about writing slogans. How to write an effective ad on a Post-It note has some helpful suggestions, too.

I highly recommend picking up a copy of Phrases That Sell , a $10 book that really makes it easy to choose powerful language for your ad.

8. Produce your ad

Next transform the picture you took and the (optional) slogan you wrote into a form you can use for an ad. The time required to complete this step can vary from a couple of minutes to several hours, depending on how elaborate you want to get. For example, you might just print the picture and write your slogan on it by hand. On the other hand, Put yourself in the picture with Photoshop gives directions for producing a more technically complicated ad. Check out the category How to make ads for a lot of other ideas.

Steps 8 and 9 are closely related, since how you produce your ad will depend on the delivery system you choose. I think the most important part is the tangible act of engaging in the process, so please don’t worry at all about perfection.

9. Set up a system to automatically deliver your ads.

The important thing about your delivery system is to choose a method that’s “set and forget”. That is, once you’ve set it up you don’t have to do anything further to expose yourself to the message several times a day. Keep in mind that you don’t have to DO anything to receive messages from Sprint or Nike. Your ads should be like that too.

If you want to start with an easy delivery system set the ad you made in step 8 as your computer’s screensaver or background wallpaper, or just print it out and tape to the refrigerator or the wall in front of your toilet.

10. Evaluate and adjust

After you’ve run your ads for a few weeks, check in with yourself to see if you need to make any adjustments. Take a look at both the results you’re getting, and the gut feeling you get when you encounter the ads. Either can suggest that you’re on the right track, or that you need to try a different approach.

Even if you’ve responded well to a campaign, it’s effective to freshen it once in awhile. See my How I got an RV with my most successful ad campaign for an example of a very aggressive campaign that evolved over a year and a half. Don’t worry – you don’t usually need to work nearly that hard to get good results!


Introduction to Personal Search Engine Optimization (SEO)


What is Search Engine Optimization?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of creating or improving content to make sure it shows up as high as possible in web search results for the right keywords (in the case of personal SEO, your name).

1. Why Is Personal SEO Important?

Short and simple, search engines make mistakes.

Every time someone conducts an online search, search engines like Google and Bing use complex algorithms with hundreds of factors to make sure the most relevant results show up highest—but sometimes they make mistakes.

You probably know somebody who has made an entire personal website yet it doesn’t show up as a top result in searches for their name. There are a number of causes for poor results, such as a poorly structured page which makes it difficult for the search engine to understand. Other times, the site does not seem as credible as it actually is. Worst of all, sometimes the search engines isn’t even aware the content exists.

2. How Does SEO Help?

By employing general SEO tactics, you can make sure all of your best content is as search engine friendly as possible. This means your best content will be:

  • Quickly found by Google
  • Structured so search engines can quickly tell it’s about you
  • Linked to and stored in credible databases and directories across the web so search engines know it’s trustworthy

What Factors Do Search Engines Use to Rank Content?

Search engines employ algorithms with hundreds of factors to determine how to rank results. However, there are a few mainfactors you should always keep in mind:

1. On Page SEO Factors:

These are factors within the actual page. The good news is, if you own the content, you have direct control over these:

Frontend & Backend Structure/Architecture: Any content on the web is supported by a number of frontend and backend computer languages or code—things like HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP, and so on—which communicate information to the search engine and your computer. However, problems arise when people create great content, but it is so poorly structured that search engines are unable to properly communicate with the website and therefore have no idea what the page is really about. There are many things you need to be mindful of as you structure your code–the sitemap or navigation of the page, the history of the domain, the placement of headings and dozens of other things. It can seem daunting, which is why we wrote this series to walk you through the most important parts. (It’s also why we created an online reputation management tool that takes care of it all for you.)

Relevancy: This one is simple—keep your content updated. If your content hasn’t been updated in a long time, search engines start to view it as irrelevant. (Tip: by adding a social stream to your site you can keep your site updated because your status updates from places like Facebook or Twitter will automatically be posted on your BrandYourself profile page.)

Keyword/content: When a search engine visits your page, you want to make sure it quickly understands which words and phrases are the most important—what we call keywords. For example, if you want to rank for “YOUR NAME”, but “YOUR NAME” isn’t written anywhere on the page, a search engine would have no idea to rank it for that. There are two important elements to keep in mind:

Placement: There are certain places on the page that search engines consider more important than others, so that’s where you want to include YOUR NAME. These include outwardly visible areas–the URL, page headings, bolded words and anchortext—as well as areas in the backend– title tags, heading tags, meta-tags, and descriptions. You want to include YOUR NAME in all of these places.

Density: Search Engines also take into account the density of these keywords throughout the site, to make sure any content on the page lines up with those words. This way, you can’t simply stuff keywords, like YOUR NAME, in those important places, even if the page is about something entirely different.

2. Off Page SEO Factors:

These factors aren’t directly tied to the content on your page and are meant to gauge the page’s outside credibility. Since you can’t directly control these factors, it’s important you dedicate time to the most important ones:

Incoming Links: Search engines consider each link to a site as a “vote” for that site to show up higher. The more places that link to your site, the higher search engines will rank it. However, the credibility of the link is also important. For example, a link from is weighted more heavily then a link from a random no-name site. This is one of the most important factors in SEO. It’s a time consuming but very important step, which is why our online reputation management tool helps you streamline the process.

Social Sharing: Sharing a page across social networks is one of the easiest ways to build credible links. If you share a relevant, valuable page, people will pass it around, signaling a great deal of credibility to search engines.

Avoid Black-Hat Techniques That Get Your Content Banned

OOP (Over-Optimization Penalty): Many search engine marketers are tempted to try to “game” search engines and create an artificial edge by abusing the above factors. Fortunately, search engines are smart, and these “black hat” methods are quickly caught and harshly penalized (banned from results).

These include:

  • Keyword Stuffing
  • Cloaking
  • Link Stuffing

We don’t condone these tactics, nor are they effective, so I won’t bother explaining how they work. However, it’s important you don’t accidentally employ anybody who uses them. As a basic rule, if you ever encounter a service provider or a product that guarantees quick results, chances are they use black hat techniques and you should take your money and run. It’s not worth doing anything or working with anyone that gets you permanently blacklisted by Google and other search engines. (Note: Most honest SEO tactics take anywhere from 2-6 weeks to start showing results).


While all of this may seem daunting, you can start one step at a time and know that just by understanding the above you have a far deeper comprehension of how search engines and SEO function than the average person. Be sure to check out the other articles under this tab where our experts can help do all this work for you and optimize YOU, YOUR BRAND and YOUR SITE as well to support you in your quest for search engine domination!

The Underestimated Importance of Personal Networking


Searching for jobs is an arduous task that can take a lot of time, however there are ways of shortening that effort. The majority of job hunters underestimate how useful their network of contacts can be and how they can use this network to extend their search to increase the chances of finding a job. With the development of online social networks, your personal collection of contacts is considerably larger than those of job hunters 10 years ago and should be fully utilized in your search for work.

Understanding Your Network

Each and every one of us has a large network of contacts, however most of us don’t realize this. For instance, did you know that according to the Pew Research Center, the average American has approximately 634 contacts? Your network is likely to consist of your friends, your family and previous colleagues. Not all of these contacts are going to be relevant to your job search, but there is potential and people often ignore this job path when looking for work.

The theory that we’re only six steps away from anyone in the world might have been a bit far-fetched, but there is some truth in the idea. It’s unlikely that you will know all of the friends of your friends and this is where you could find a potential job opportunity. The most important point to remember about your network is that it is larger than you can imagine and has people you’ve never even met… yet.

Traditional Methods of Expansion

If the majority of your contacts are of little help to you, it would be worthwhile for you to expand your network by attending social events and meetings that are aimed at specific types of businesses (small vs. large), industries and functional areas (accounting, sales, etc.).

Job fairs sponsored by trade associations and the media are another great method of building a larger network of contacts. With each person you meet at a fair, ask for contact details, references and referrals. Carry out research beforehand of companies that you’d like to speak to, and try to spend time to get to know their attendees. Your goal is to leave a lasting impression that you can follow up on down the line. Not every business is going to see your potential, but the contacts may be useful with your job search.

Digital Expansion

There are also more contemporary methods of obtaining professional contacts, such as networking online. Social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are ideal for contacting and becoming noticed by employers that you otherwise wouldn’t have been able to speak with in person. For instance, did you know that according to the Bullhorn Reach Report, 97% of users registered with LinkedIn use it to source candidates for jobs? LinkedIn has several groups that you can engage in to showcase your knowledge and allow you to meet new people.

Of course, making a compelling first impression online can be just as difficult as making an impression in person. According to the Taylor & Francis Group in London, you have as little as 50 milliseconds to make your first impression and impress those that are viewing your page. For example, ensure that no inappropriate comments are present on your wall or feed. Censorship is crucial when prospective employers could be doing a background check on you.

Utilizing your Network

The old saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is still relevant. With your network of contacts expanding by the day, your chances of securing a job will increase considerably. You need to spread the word through your contacts that you are on the market looking for a job and are open to suggestions; you can do this by keeping in regular contact with your network.

Make a list of priorities and which of your contacts would make the best reference for each priority. How many of your contacts have jobs in the field you’re targeting? By creating a list of contacts who have the highest potential of providing you with a job lead and communicating with them frequently, you are using your personal network effectively.

To be sure, it has been theorized by Robin Dunbar, the director of the Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology at Oxford University, that you will only keep in touch with approximately 150 of these contacts.

It’s important to speak with all of your contacts in a friendly manner and show respect at all times. It would be rude to expect them to do you a favor without at least being polite or engaging them in other discussions.

As with anything in life, the more you put in, the more you will get out. So remember to allocate considerable time and effort to your personal network.


8 Ways to Monetize your Social Networks


Companies may find it hard to turn a profit from using social networks. Monetizing your social networks is a skill that requires time and should have room for trial and error. This article features 8 tips that could help your business turn a profit by using social media.

1. Store

For Facebook, you can implement a store on your Facebook page. Having a store for your fans is highly recommended. Your store can serve as a place for fans to purchase products and merchandise associated with your brand. To encourage more interaction, implement a “Like” button on some of your store items.

To increase monetization, combining a mailing list service like Topspin with direct-to-fan marketing and having an e-commerce platform with BandPage (for Artists) is one simple way of enhancing your monetization skills on Facebook. Find detailed instructions on how to do all of this here!

2. Special Promotions

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and Mailing Lists are all great services to reach out to fans by providing special promotions such as coupon codes, previews of a new track, or a new product. Using various social media platforms for flash sales and promotions for example, could get a rapid and vast response from your fans and overall audience. In order to receive an even larger response, your company, brand, or service could offer a large prize to the person who shares your flash sale or promotions information to their friends through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or any other social media service.

Utilizing a mailing list service like Topspin or MailChimp for special promotions is also highly recommended. Promising ether special discounts or pre-sales for your fans subscribed to your mailing list will help with monetization.

Special contests can also be used in order to execute your special promotions. A clothing company for example could ask their fans to style a particular product in a way that matches their own personal style, and instagramming the photo with the clothing company’s name as a hashtag included in the comment. The best styled outfit could win a special discount or prize from the company. MyHauteCloset is another great example for monetizing on Instagram. MyHauteCloset has over 38,000 followers on Instagram, and began a new trend of consignment through this social media platform. Milysan Troche, the founder of MyHauteCloset became extremely popular on Instagram because of her tasteful style choices. Soon her followers began asking her if she would ever sell her elegant pieces. She began doing so, and MyHauteCloest became too difficult to handle on Instagram as her requests were flourishing. Now, exists, and Troche began buying and selling luxury goods to her several followers and subscribers in order to fill their demands. Troche says that a 100% of her clients are from Instagram, which turned MyHauteCloset into this monetizing success.

3. Creative Campaigns

All of the special promotions mentioned above can be a part of a creative campaign for your company, brand, or service. By implementing several creative campaigns, your fans will come back for more incentives and offers, which will keep your flow of monetization. Creative campaigns are also interesting and will engage your audience, which is crucial for monetization.

4. Insights

Facebook Insights offer an understanding and analysis of trends within user growth and demographics, consumption of content, and creation of content. Insights provides Facebook Platform developers and Facebook Page owners with metrics around their content. Understanding Facebook Insights is critical for monetization. You will have the ability to understand the trends of your fans and create campaigns and post content catered towards your specific audience.

5. Advertising

After understanding Facebook Insights, you can create several ads on Facebook that target your fans based on their location, demographics, and interests. Learn more about Facebook advertising here.

6. Mailing Lists

Mailing lists are a direct line of communication between artists and their most dedicated fans. It is recommended that up-and-coming Artists focus on touring and building their mailing list as they gain traction in localized markets. Actively engaging a fan-base from area to area using mailing list growth campaigns can translate directly into revenue increases at any point in an artist’s career.

When artists treat their mailing list like a preferred method of contact, fans feel a special connection to the artist. This presents the artists with many opportunities to maintain relational communications apart from social media.

7. Cross Promote

Creative campaigns, special promotions, mailing list offers, etc. should be cross-promoted throughout all social media services in order to increase monetization. By sharing your content across all platforms, your content can become viral! YouTube is a great example since you can use YouTube as your video hub for your audience across all platforms. Wherever you want to share video, start with YouTube and send a link. This allows you to virally share your content while keeping view statistics on a single social platform.

8. Engage your Audience

Interacting with your audience is necessary for monetization. You need to have a conversation or some type of dialogue with your fans if you want monetization to be effective. Running an effective campaign, advertising, and even creating your online store is all about engaging with your audience. It is much easier to promote a product, tour date, or service if your audience is engaged.


Personal Strategic Planning: 4-Step Action Plan to Strengthen Your Personal Skills


Only by discovering your innate, personal skills and developing and exploiting them to their highest degree can you utilize yourself to get the greatest amount of satisfaction and enjoyment from everything you do. Creating an action plan through personal strategic planning can give you the highest rewards for your efforts and is the starting point in getting the best out of yourself.

Corporate vs. Personal Strategic Planning

When we do strategic planning for corporations at i-Consulting Group, we begin with the premise that the whole purpose of the exercise is to reorganize and reallocate people and resources to increase the rate of return on equity, or capital invested in the business. Invariably, this is done by emphasizing some areas and de-emphasizing others, by allocating more resources to areas with higher potential return and by taking resources away from those areas that represent lower potential returns. By developing or promoting newer and better products and services and by discontinuing those products and services that are less profitable, the company and all the people in it can channel their resources to maximize their returns.

In doing personal strategic planning, the first thing you want to think about is increasing your personal “return on energy,” rather than return on equity. You need to realize that the most essential and valuable thing that you have to bring to your life and to your work is your ability to think, to act and to get results. Your earning ability—which is a function of your education, knowledge, experience and talents—is your human capital, or your equity. And the way you develop your personal skills and use your earning ability will largely determine the quality and quantity of your rewards, both material and psychological, both tangible and intangible.

Action Plan Step 1: Clarify Your Values

This first part of personal strategic planning is called “values clarification.” You ask yourself, “What values and virtues do I most admire and wish to practice in my life?” If you wanted to discover your strengths and personal skills in the work world, first you would define your values as they apply to employment. The values that companies settle upon would be similar to the values that you organize your work life around. Often, both companies and individuals will choose values such as integrity, quality, respect for others, service, profitability, innovation, entrepreneurship, market leadership, and so on.

In a similar vein, you could use those values to define your position with regard to your work. In your personal strategic planning, you could decide to plan your work life around the values of quality, excellence, service, profitability, and innovation. There are dozens of values that you can pick from, but whichever you choose, and the order of priority you place on your choices, will determine your approach to your work.

Action Plan Step 2: Create Your Personal Mission Statement

Your next step is to create your personal mission statement. This is a clear, written description of the person you intend to be in your work life. I have often found that this is even more important than setting specific financial or business or sales goals. Once you have decided how much you want to earn, you need to write out a personal mission statement that describes the kind of person you intend to become in order to earn that amount of money.

Remember: Your goal is to identify your personal skills and strengths so that you can deploy yourself in such a way as to increase your personal return on energy. In personal strategic planning, one of the best mental techniques that you can use to develop your personal skills is to see yourself as a “bundle of resources” that can be applied in a variety of directions to achieve a variety of objectives. As a bundle of resources, the amount of time and energy that you have is limited; therefore, your time and energy must be put to their highest and best use. Stand back and imagine that you’re looking at yourself objectively, as if through the eyes of another person, and you’re thinking about how you could apply yourself to bring about the best results. See yourself as your own employer or boss. What could you do to maximize the output of which you’re capable, and where could you do it?

Action Plan Step 3: Perform an Audit to Strengthen Personal Skills

Once you have defined your values and written out your mission statement, the next step of personal strategic planning is to do what is called a “situational analysis.” Sometimes we call it a “performance audit.” This is the process of analyzing yourself thoroughly before you begin setting specific goals and planning certain activities. You begin your performance audit by asking yourself some key questions.

One of those questions should be, “What are my marketable skills?” Think about it. What can you do for which someone else will pay you? What can you do particularly well? What can you do better than others? What have you done particularly well in the past?

A wage or a salary is merely an amount of money that is paid to purchase a certain quality and quantity of labor or output. The results that you’re able to get by applying your personal skills and strengths largely determine your rewards in life. If you wish to increase the quality and quantity of your rewards, you have to increase your ability to achieve more and better results. It’s very simple.

Action Plan Step 4: Determine Your Area of Excellence

Finally, in personal strategic planning, the aim is always to achieve leadership in your chosen market niche. Business leaders have the authority to determine the area of excellence in their business. Analogously, on a personal level, you can choose the thing at which you’re going to become absolutely excellent and achieve extraordinary results. So in what areas are you going to work to achieve results that are far beyond what the average person could be expected to accomplish?

You were put on this earth with a special combination of talents, abilities, and personal skills that make you different from anyone who has ever lived. Whatever you’re doing today, it’s nowhere near what you’re really capable of doing. The key to a happy and prosperous life is for you to regularly evaluate your strengths and weaknesses, to become very good in the areas you most enjoy, and then to throw your whole heart into what you’re doing.

Excerpts of the above article was written by Brian Tracy

About Brian Tracy – Brian Tracy is recognized as the top sales training and personal success authority in the world today. He has authored more than 60 books and has produced more than 500 audio and video learning programs on sales, management, business success and personal development, including worldwide bestseller The Psychology of Achievement.