Just like the rest of the world, I’ve been doing some reflection on the people of color who have made an impact on my life. 
Aside from the incredible people I’ve come to know personally, there are a number of famous Black people who sparked my interest in music.
I didn’t realize it until now, but some of my earliest memories of music are thanks to Black musicians. 
When I was four years old, my parents had a record player. There were two vinyls I had access to: the Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas album, and Donna Summer’s Greatest Hits.
You’d think given my age I’d gravitate toward Alvin and the Chipmunks, but they bored me quickly. Nope, as much as I love the ’90s, it was ’70s disco that stole my heart. 
Donna Summer’s “Last Dance” was the first song I ever loved that wasn’t a nursery rhyme. There was something about the way it started off slow and soulful, with the flutter of the flute and jingle of bar chimes. I loved the suspense it built leading up to the disco beat. I’d start spinning in circles as soon as it dropped.
I remember meticulously flipping the record to listen to “MacArthur Park.” The lyrics befuddled me — I didn’t understand why someone would leave a cake out in the rain. It was a visual my childhood imagination would paint every time I heard it.
The queen of disco inspired these moments, but I also have fond memories listening to the king of pop. On car rides with my dad, we’d sing Michael Jackson’s Bad album we had on cassette. As a young girl, I felt so rebellious singing about being bad, when I’d always been told to be good. And with my limited vocabulary at the time, the simple lyrics “I’m bad” resonated with me.
When I was five, I got my hands on my very first CD: Mariah Carey’s Daydream. I don’t recall the details as to how I got it or why, but it quickly became my favorite thing. 
I’d flip through the CD’s insert, staring at pictures of Mariah, in awe of her beauty. 
I studied the lyrics to songs like “Open Arms” and “Fantasy” while other kids read fairy tales.
Someone brought to my attention that her Boyz II Men duet “One Sweet Day,” was about death — an idea so foreign to me. From then on, I cried when I listened to it, fearful of my parents dying.


Your Story is the Change

As I reflect back on these childhood memories, I think of how they shaped me into who I am today. But beyond that, they remind me how much the world needs change for our Black community. 
Yes, it’s great to see all the black squares, the messages of hope, or the links to resources. But we can’t achieve change until we embrace our differences. And to do that, more people need to openly share them.
I talk a lot about differences and sharing your story when it comes to personal branding, but in our fight for racial equality, this message rings true in a bigger way. We are all empowered with platforms to use our voice.
I hope this post inspires you to share more of who you are not just right now, but every time you introduce yourself. 

Making Personal Branding *Personal*

In my personal branding course, I teach my students how to present themselves in a competitive world. There are countless people who will have similar qualifications or backgrounds as you. To stand out, you have to articulate what makes you uniquely you.
That’s where personal stories come in.
When we talk about ourselves, most of us mistakenly spit out positions we’ve held, companies we’ve worked for, or certifications we’ve earned. Ever read someone’s “About Page” that just felt like a ramble of their resumé? BLAH.
It’s your story that will make people connect with you.
Stories humanize you. Whether you’re interviewing for a new job, pitching to a client, or networking at a conference, they make a lasting impression more than any title or credential. 

How to Tell Your Story

Don’t think you have an interesting story to tell? Let me put your mind at ease.
Traditional storytelling says stories need heroes. In grade school, you probably studied The Hero’s Journey, popularized by Joseph Campbell. We believed every story had to be adventurous, suspenseful, challenging, and triumphant.
But Kindra Hall, author of Stories That Stick, says stories don’t need heroes. They just need characters. 
The stories I shared with you are hardly heroic. There was no villain or battle to overcome. No brush with death or groundbreaking revelation. 
Instead, I took the simple moments and objects from my childhood —  a record player, car ride, and CD — and wove them into a story to illustrate who I am. 
As you set out to build relationships and tell your story in the real world or online, start with your own memories. They can be from your childhood, or more recent. 
If your memory needs jogging, here are a few questions to help you rediscover some special moments:
  • When was the first time you became interested in the field or trade you’re in now?

  • Is there a person in your life who inspired you to pursue your passion? How did you meet this person, and how did they influence you?

  • What hobbies or interests from your childhood have stuck with you into your career?

  • What school subject did you excel in the most? Do you remember a certain project that you were most proud of?

  • What is your most prized possession and why?

  • Who is the first teacher who noticed your potential?

  • What did you say you wanted to be when you grew up?

  • What was a pivotal moment when you decided to set a new goal or make a change?

  • What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? Who gave it to you, and in what context?

  • What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in both your personal or professional life?

  • Has anyone ever told you couldn’t do something? Did you prove them wrong?

  • What is something you failed doing? How did you overcome this?

You’ll notice many of these questions require you to reflect back on your childhood. I believe our calling doesn’t always find us in adulthood. We first experiment with our interests as children, and follow that path. Sometimes we change course, but there’s probably a story there, too. 
No matter the medium, portraying your personal brand means getting personal. You can have the flashiest website, most impressive portfolio, or most coveted award, but it’s your story that makes you memorable. 
Find it and tell it every chance you get.  

More on how to tell your story: