The start of 2012 has been intense, as I have traveled coast to coast and back in less than a month.  As I sat on countless airplanes, waited in too many airport lounges, and contemplated the meaning of life, the sheer number of negative people I encountered along the way struck me.  Could it be a coincidence?  Was the universe sending me a sign via negative Nancy and pessimistic Paul?  I get it now, a test of my patience and resolve so early in the new year.

photoEach conversation was a one-way ticket to the land of “impossible, too hard, not now and maybe”.  Normally, I would attempt to exit these conversations ASAP to avoid being dragged into the room of misfit toys.  These trips were different though because I so desperately wanted to understand the psychology of people who are in the habit of waving the white flag before the battle actually begins.  Much like Indiana Jones, I was now on a quest to find new civilizations where everywhere felt satisfied to criticize, complain and condemn.  In the middle of all the chaos running between flights, I had many opportunities to live vicariously through the eyes and experiences of people who see the glass as permanently half-filled.  After a while, I lost my appetite for this sandwich filled with pessimism, heartache and bewilderment.

As I reflect back on my travels this month, I am reminded of a valuable lesson learned many moons ago amidst all the chaos and one that I will not forget.   In case you happen to be selling, discussing or presenting something tomorrow, please do not forget that your personal brand often begins and ends at hello.  The quickest way to damage You Inc. is to spend too much time on Interstate Impossible.  Building your personal brand on an island is okay if your name is Gilligan.  Otherwise, I might suggest that you spend some time talking about what you can do and less time, what you cannot.

Amongst all the clutter in the marketplace, something as small as being optimistic matters more than some might suggest. It is easy to discount the small stuff in our race for more, more, more…. Your mission is to make everyone feel valued that you meet online and in person.   Take some time to understand and work with all sorts of people who cross your radar screen.

Is it too much to ask to be genuinely optimistic about the future?  I hope not for your sake.  In turn, never underestimate your ability to help someone or his or her power to help you. You never know where “that” relationship may take you. I learned this one the hard way.  Take an interest in others and they will take an interest in you.  By the way, smiling works well too!


Devin C. Hughes, The Chief Inspiration Officer is a former college basketball player, professional speaker, leadership and personal branding aficionado, and frequent eclectic thinker.  He works with a variety of small to medium-sized organizations, providing real-world strategies for real-world challenges.  He draws on a variety of ideas, disciplines and trends to inspire “Big Thoughts” and facilitate conversations as a catalyst for meaningful personal and organizational change.  He is a graduate of Colgate University; he lives in Southern California with his wife and four daughters.  His website is  He is available upon request for consultation.