Be the best version of you

Outer branding, such as appearance and grooming, is important. However it’s only when you embrace the inner you that you truly become authentic

Article by Malcolm Levene

Up until 1994 I owned and ran the MALCOLM LEVENE retail fashion business in London’s West End. It was an extremely successful business. My reputation for quality, design and providing the gold standard for customer service was a given. I then sold half the business and my wife and I then moved to LA for 11 years. During our time in LA, I discovered that being a coach was what I wanted to do; to help people to discover how powerful they are and to help them locate their full potential. In fact, becoming a coach has enabled me to conclude that happiness and work can be excellent partners.

I’ve been a personal branding expert for more than 20 years. Private clients have included Tony Blair, Tom Cruise, Michael Marks CBE (former CEO of Merrill Lynch), former Poet Laureate, Andrew Motion and Lyle Lovett Country & Western singer (Julia Roberts’ former hubby). In those days my focus was on Outer Branding: attire, appearance, image, body language, style and the how- tos of making a positive first impression. My first book was titled 10 Steps To Fashion Freedom, however I then discovered the relevance of our Inner Style/Inner Brand. Hence my second book highlighting the importance of discovering the significance of having an effective Inner Brand.

The now old chestnut — your personal brand is what others say about you when you are not in the room — refers to our reputation. Although I have eclectic group of clients, I’ve helped each to develop significant personal brands. Our reputation is measured by our first impression. Count to 10- that’s how many seconds we have to make a first impression. To ensure that the impression made is positive we need a highly effective Personal Brand. This includes our Inner and Outer Brands. Our Inner Brand is about our values, integrity, what we stand for and what we won’t stand for. It also includes our level of self esteem, self respect and EQ (Emotional Intelligence). When these aspects of our Inner Brand are in place, we become more authentic. Therefore, our credibility increases, as does our confidence, influencing skills and business ability.

Outer Brand includes features such as appearance, sense of humour, hand shake, grooming and personal style. Almost every person I’ve coached has discovered their very own, definitive personal brand. And so can you! Never underestimate the power of having an effective personal style. A handshake can determine the outcome of a meeting. Think of yourself as an incomplete jigsaw puzzle; I’m going to guide you about how to locate the missing pieces. Then together we will position those pieces in the right place.

Ask three people you know how they’d describe you to someone you’ve never met. I’ve done this exercise with numerous of clients. And every time they tell me that the results were very positive. Mind you, ensure you ask someone you like and respect. Also make sure you have no emotional attachment to them. Now, think of somebody you consider an icon. Ensure you both trust and respect this person- you don’t need to actually know them. They could be a relative, someone in the public eye, or a former school teacher. For me, it’s my late grandmother. Now, consider what it is about them that constitutes their iconography? What this tells you is this, that the qualities you most admire in them mirror the qualities you’d like to have. A female banking client greatly admired David Bowie because of his uniqueness, courage to be himself & icon-like status.

In extensive research, I discovered that the most successful people address and action their least favourite thing first every day. That way, they leave space to work on the things they enjoy doing. What can you do that you’ve been putting off? You may be thinking, ‘Easier said than done.’ True, if it were that easy many more people would be doing it! Another client kept on beating himself up whenever one of his business predictions didn’t come to pass. When he adopted the new habit of not aspiring to be perfect, and allowed himself to be wrong on occasion, his mistakes lessoned and moreover so did his stress levels and he slept better.

Those who exude a state of wellbeing are considered upbeat, positive and even charismatic. That doesn’t mean they wake up every day in a joyful mood. It does mean they acknowledge how grateful they are for they do have. Consider 5 Things to be grateful, an exercise devised by Dr. Martin Seligman, professor of positive psychology at Pennsylvania University. I do this exercise just before I go to sleep every night… I don’t think it has helped me to become financially better off, however I do know it helps me to be more emotionally resilient. This is the key to becoming more confident and happier. Now, smile! It releases dopamine.

Every successful business person I’ve coached has empathy, compassion and an ability to be themselves. The Oscar Wilde quote, ‘Be yourself everyone is taken’ is relevant. However, it’s missing a very important word: be your best self, as everyone else is taken. Discover your best you by inviting me to guide you through the must haves of being your best you.

For me, it’s been about discovering my purpose, that’s how my authentic goal emerged. It continues to be about teaching, guiding and enabling others to discover their personal brand… from the Inside Out. This breaks an old belief for me; to make money and be happy doesn’t work,  it does.

In my extensive leadership research, every top-notch leader has a high level of empathy. In fact, it’s empathy -in- action that makes the biggest difference. Empathy enables our self esteem to increase, which in turn lifts our level of self confidence.

It doesn’t matter how many times we fall, what really matter is how many times we get up. Learn to trust those gut feelings, trust your intuition. Gut Feeling = Enteric Nervous System: The Brain in the Gut. riddle_stop 2

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