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  • Your Personal Branding Can Start at a Young Age

    At thirteen my mother found me secretly reading a movie star magazine. She kindly explained, “you aren’t pretty enough to be a movie star so you should develop your personality.” Now, do not take her words as insulting. I didn’t and I don’t. Till her dying moment she was my biggest fan. She did not say those words disparagingly at all but rather to do me a favor to get me to focus on more than wanting to be pretty.

    I took her words to heart and decided to develop my personality — that became my goal. The local library had a self-improvement section and that summer I read every single book in it. I went down the row reading anything related to personal development: manners, etiquette, confidence, character, public speaking, comportment, appearance, psychology, humor, even selling. Some of you may remember “Psycho-Cybernetics” and of, course, “How to Win Friends and Influence People” which were two titles that got read more than once.

    So what happened after the summer when I headed back to school with all that new found knowledge? Nothing. I was still a gangly, tall, skinny, eye-glass wearing, self-conscious teenage girl. Just because I read the books didn’t mean I’d understood or captured all the good advice but it was a start.

    Recently I had the occasion to reminisce with an old class mate and over lunch she commented, “you know in high school you were pretty nice to everyone, pretty funny, pretty interesting, pretty smart, pretty confident acting, and I was pretty jealous of you.” That was not my self image at all so it was a pleasant surprise to hear that’s how this friend remembered me. And I got to thinking that maybe I was pretty enough after all.

    The beauty of maturing is that you have eye-opening moments and they help you put your life in perspective. I’m glad my mother told me the good advice. Unbeknownst to her she gave me a head start for my ultimate profession as an executive coach and speaker on leadership communication.

    I’d like to hear your own early life-shaping experiences. Write your story to me at debra@debrabenton.com.

    D.A. (Debra) Benton has been helping great individuals and organizations get even better for over 20 years. Just as exceptional athletes rely on excellent coaching to hone their skills, Debra's clients rely on her advice to advance their careers. She focuses on what is truly important to convert what you and your organization want to be from a vision into a reality. TopCEOCoaches.com ranks her in the World's Top 10 CEO Coaches noting she is the top female. And as conference keynote speaker she is routinely rated in the top 2%. Her client list reads like a “Who's Who” of executives in companies ranging from Microsoft, McDonald's, Kraft, American Express, Merrill Lynch, United Airlines, and PricewaterhouseCoopers to the Washington Beltway and U.S.Border Patrol. *She is the author of ten award-winning and best-selling business books including The Virtual Executive and CEO Material. She has written for the Harvard Business Review, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg Businessweek, and Fast Company. She has been featured in USA Today, Fortune, The New York Times, and Time; she has appeared on Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, and CBS with Diane Sawyer. To learn more Debra advising leaders, coaching, facilitating a workshop, or speaking: www.debrabenton.com

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