Until 2009, I hadn’t been to a primary care physician in I don’t know how long. I’m typically very healthy – exercise daily, eat right, all of that good stuff. Unfortunately, “all of that good stuff” hasn’t kept me completely out of doctors’ offices over the years. In the last decade, I’ve had a cancer scare, chronic migraines and an accident that resulted in major surgery and ultimately lead to a severe nerve disorder. The first two resulted in my personal brand being severely damaged, but I was ready the third time around.
How creepy is it to plan for a possible long-term injury or illness? To me, it’s like picking out your funeral plot. But, creepy factor aside, it’s always best to plan for, well, everything!
My cancer scare lasted a really long time. I saw doctor after doctor who couldn’t find a thing wrong with me, and yet I knew I was getting worse. In the meantime, I was letting my responsibilities and image fall by the wayside. I didn’t care about anything but finding out the truth.
However, I really hurt myself in the long-run by approaching the situation that way. After the problem was found and removed, I was basically starting from scratch – and had a lot of explaining to a lot of people to do. At that point, I wanted nothing more than to go back to my “normal life,” but I’d burned so many bridges, that wasn’t possible.
The same thing happened before I was officially diagnosed with chronic migraines. I now know I’ve had them since I was 12, but my symptoms had never been given a name or a solution. Again, the result was the same – a damaged reputation when all I wanted to do was start living my life again.
I’d only really gotten a foothold on my personal brand again when my accident happened in November 2008. I actually didn’t know it was going to change my life forever, but I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t shut out the world – maintaining my connections and continuing to build my brand as someone who helps young professionals achieve their career dreams kept me going.
Build a support system
I don’t know what I’d do without all the mentors in my life. I’m currently in remission, but my nerve disorder is expected to rear its ugly head approximately every 12 months for the rest of my life – the painful procedures they perform to keep things under control only last so long.
My husband, while completely fantastic, doesn’t understand the need to build and maintain a personal brand. So I’ve built a system of great folks in the career space who I can lean on when I need to. They not only offer words of encouragement just to get through the day, but also suggestions for keeping at a minimum of a jogging pace with my brand. You guys know who you are, and I can’t thank you enough for how you’ve impacted my life thus far and how I’m sure you will continue to do so far into the future.
I’m not saying you should set up your Twitter account to send auto-DMs every time someone follows you – we all know that’s annoying and fake. But, that doesn’t mean there aren’t parts of your brand that can’t keep going without your undivided, constant attention.
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve picked up while launching my business is to create a manual of everything I do just in case I’m not there to do them – for whatever reason. (I’m secretly hoping the reason is a much-needed vacation!) Who’s to say you can’t do the same thing for your brand?
Write out everything you do on a daily/weekly/monthly basis, and have someone ready to fulfill those duties while you can’t. I hired an assistant in May 2009 when things were really bad for me. And while she can attest I didn’t have everything all nicely written out for her at that time, she knows how much of an impact she made on my life, business and brand.
Simply put: Learn to delegate and don’t just disappear. Those two things will help you out tremendously when you’re ready to be back at the helm.