There’s a concept in personal branding called your pillars. These pillars encapsulate who you are, what you believe, and key elements of your story. They’re the core values and beliefs you use to guide your work.
These pillars help you decide what projects to take on and which to ignore. It helps make difficult decisions easier. If a project doesn’t fit into one of your pillars, you say “no”. Pillars help you better manage your time, focus your energy on what matters to you, and share the key parts of your story with others.
Today we’re taking the idea of your brand pillars and using it to help shape how you want to use your creativity. We’ll use these pillars in a similar way, because it involves how you want to be known, which is part of your personal brand. But we’re also taking it in a new way: how you cast a future you’re excited to reach.
Throughout this piece, consider different words and phrases that could craft each pillar. Make note of it, and we’ll use it at the end. But first, we need to know the foundational elements.
Who You Are
Including who you are as one of your pillars is important, because, well, it’s who you are! When deciding what you want to be known for, you need to begin with who you are. Authenticity is essential, and creating an inauthentic pillar will prevent you from truly connecting with others.
This pillar also isn’t everything you are. Your pillars need to be easily understood in the span of a piece of content, so choose one to two authentic pieces. It could be your career story, a life-changing moment, or a combination. Your pillars share who you are through a filter of how you help others.
Your pillars need to be easily understood in the span of a piece of content.
What You Believe
Your pillars also share what you believe. Everyone has a worldview, or what beliefs they look at the world through. This is often thought of as political and socioeconomic, but your worldview also shapes how you help others.
When you align your pillars with your beliefs, you’ll have an authentic look at who you are and what you believe you were created to do. Our beliefs are critical, and this isn’t the time to ignore them. It’s often easy to do, because of fear of judgment or other emotions, but it needs to be included. (I’m saying this to myself as much as you!)
Sharing your story is another way to encapsulate who you are and what you believe. By making your story one of your pillars, you create a relationship with those in similar circumstances. For example, one of my own pillars is my journey with chronic illness and what that has taught me.
Here’s a very important caveat to sharing your story: it can’t be rooted in a complaint about what you’ve experienced. Some of the hardest parts of life are the most relationship-building, but it needs to be done with hope and excitement for the future, not lamenting where your circumstances have taken you.
Often times this means waiting until after a trial to share, and this can still be a valuable lesson and point of connection with others. I challenge you, though, to consider sharing pieces of your story while you’re in the middle of it. It takes vulnerability because it usually means you’re sharing before you have all the answers. But it’s one of the most powerful actions you can do.
Sharing my own story through health challenges and struggles with creativity has helped build relationships I never thought would exist. The more you can do this, the better we’ll help others, both knowingly and unknowingly.
The Risk of Ignoring Your Story
Ignoring your story is ignoring the foundation of its lessons. Saying, “It’s important to work with fear, not against it,” is far more impactful if you also share a relevant part of your story. Without this, you’ll make far less of an impact with your work.
It’s tempting to try to forget the messy parts of life, but that’s where the growth is. Know that your story is powerful, and it shouldn’t be ignored.
Ignoring your story is ignoring the foundation of its lessons.
Choosing Your Pillars
Choosing your pillars is an exacting yet worthwhile process. It’s difficult to narrow your story and being into 3–4 categories! But by doing this challenging work now, you can set your future up for a fulfilling personal and professional life.
By asking yourself these two questions, you can begin to build your pillars and your creative life to benefit yourself and ultimately others.
1. What Do You Want to be Known For?
Ah yes, the title of the article. This question, depending on where you are in your career and personal life, can be quick to discover or slow to unearth. I used to have trouble answering this question. It evolved from the generic “be a good person” into something more substantial.
Being a good person is a worthwhile answer, but let’s get more specific. How do you want to be a good person?
In my college Media Ethics class, each student was required to create a personal Code of Ethics that encapsulated everything they believed and would uphold in their industry post-graduation. This process forced us to consider what we hold most important, and consider how each point would affect our actions in different situations.
Your pillars are similar. You need to know how you will react in certain situations in order to know how you want to be known. How do you want to treat others? How do you handle challenging situations? If you were asked to do something against your own personal beliefs how would you react?
Your answers will uncover the core values and ideas you want in your pillars.
2. How Can Your Skills Benefit Others?
We’re created to both create and serve, which means your talents are for more than you. When we think through this, we begin to craft how our work can act as a service to others, whether this is as a career or a non-money making facet of your life.
Serving others with your skills is more than sharing your creations with the world. It’s digging into your community and supporting their growth and success with your own talent.
It’s why I started my podcast. It’s why I love nothing more than sitting down with someone and talking about our hopes and dreams and working through fears. It’s why I started the Glint series on Instagram: if the time spent each week helps others better engage with their creativity, then it’s always time worth spending.
It’s why I have big plans for 2019. No, not sharing it yet, but it’s definitely creativity and community driven and I can’t wait to share more soon.
Back to pillars. This community is why we need to learn how to better use our gifts to serve others. When considering your pillar for this, it’s easy to just say “community”. Instead, though, let’s take some time to find the type of community.
Is it to support others’ learning, or create something for others so they have time to focus on other things? Taking time to truly get into the why behind this will help you build a pillar that will stand under the weight of grand plans, fear, and time.
By this point, I hope you have those 3–4 ideas on how you want to be known. If you have more, consider how some may be similar or what may have a lower priority. Concise pillars lead to easy sharing. There’s no rule that says you can’t have more than four, so if that’s you, own it. Life is about breaking (the right) rules and finding a better way.
I hope this was a helpful step towards clarity in who you want to become. Post your pillars throughout your life, rehearse them, and use them as a guideline in your work. If something doesn’t align, then it shouldn’t be a part of your life. I would love to hear your pillars, and I genuinely mean that. Send me a message on Instagram or Twitter. Let’s keep creating, together.