break constraints to expand personal brand

Reading Five Tips to Break Through Your Filter(s) by the Harvard Business Review, I was struck by the oddity that as technology expands our comfort zone reduces. We align ourselves with those that think like us, which act like us, which make us feel normal. Living inside this “world” makes you feel warm and fuzzy.



This is lovely except when a bump in the road comes. Just as you can tune into what you want, you are also able to tune out those that don’t fit your perspective. Set in your ways, a little pebble suddenly becomes a behemoth upset. In order to reduce the risk of allowing others to derail you easily, you must step outside your security blanket niche on occasion. Stepping outside allows you to hear different perspectives, distinguish your own perspective and voice an opinion respectfully.

As a personal brand, you must know who you are, what you value, so you may choose how to create a full life that inspires others and yourself. If you only know how to inspire your teeny tiny safe niche you’ll make a flea’s impact on the world. Let’s create an awe-inspiring ripple effect!

Take a look at the article by John Hagel III and John Seely Brown; I highlight a few favorite points that will take you out of your bubble and expand your personal brand reach.

  • Explore Weak Ties: “Each week, resolve to introduce yourself to a friend of a friend on an online network who seems to be the most interesting and most different from you.” Add this to your Callosum Tickle List homework assignment.
  • Conferences:  “Explore where and how these issues might intersect.” Choose an industry or topic that interests you. Attend to learn and look for intersections of your expertise and/or network.
  • Play Host: I always recommend introverts act as “hosts” when at events they are uncomfortable. It gives you a purpose and a confidence when approaching those that “stick out like a sore thumb.” Practice asking open-ended questions, for example, Tell me more about that.
  • Step out with Strangers: “With strangers — especially those who are different than your usual crowd — you can project a different part of your personality.” Whether attending a networking event or dining alone at a restaurant bar, strike up a conversation with the person next to you. See what slice of your personality responds.
  • Constraining Bubbles: “With each of these approaches you can burst constraining bubbles of limited viewpoints and experiences that lead to an ever-narrowing life view.” I couldn’t have said it better. Applause. Applause.



I’ll wrap up with a favorite test my friend Esteban Gonzalez of [bt]+ gave me. For one week, apply The 5 Foot Rule. Any time another human being is within 5 feet of you, you must strike up a conversation. A key part of a successful personal brand is to know how to ratchet your personality to different settings. It may seem silly, painfully awkward or no big deal – do it anyway. Flexing this “hello” muscle will allow you to feel comfortable regardless of your audience. Are you up for the challenge?


Thank you to “Five Tips to Break Through Your Filter(s)” by John Hagel III and John Seely Brown of Harvard Business Review.  Photo credits: Nap Please by Andrew Bardwell; Bubbles by Joshua Rothhaas.



Clare Hefferren

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