I enjoy a good road trip. Since my departure from corporate two years ago I’ve been on several. From my hometown in Reno, Nevada I drove roughly 10,000 miles in 2017 to destinations such as Portland (OR), Mesa, Denver, San Francisco, Vegas, and several National Parks in between.

My final business road trip of 2017 was to Mesa, Arizona for the 10th annual US Sports Congress. It was my 3rd Congress since 2009, the second time I’ve spoken at the event, and in my opinion it was the best one yet.

The 2017 US Sports Congress offered an array of opportunities to connect, reconnect and collaborate with fellow industry peers through several experiential and networking environments. Michael Bidwell, CEO of the Arizona Cardinals, kicked off the Congress with an opening keynote that brought us through the history of the Cardinals franchise and how the NFL has evolved over the decades.

It was fascinating to learn that the Arizona Cardinals is the oldest team in the NFL that began in 1898, and had the first naming rights deal in professional sports. That’s right, in 1920, a food starch company called Decatur Staley’s sponsored the club.

Bidwell did a fantastic job ushering the audience through the evolution of the NFL when boxing, horse racing, and baseball were popular during the Great Depression of the 20’s. Obviously the industry has advanced in leaps and bounds since but one thing seems to have remained the same. For the audience at the US Sports Congress, he emphasized the importance of utilizing sports to share the story about local areas and communities. He stated, “Leverage your sports events as an asset for the community. Continue to invest and reinvest in sports facilities”.

One of the biggest challenges for the NFL is analyzing and making the decision to distribute games in the future. “Youth and amateur sports can exploit distribution”, Bidwell added.

Carl Thomas of Hookit, delivered a great presentation on “Social Media Measurement & Monetization” through sponsored athletes. I’ll let their website do the talking but one thing I found interesting was a case study on GoPro sponsored athletes. 60% were in compliance to their deal with the brand, until called out. When called out engagement increased to 97%.

Thomas brought up a statistic from the IEG Sponsorship report that $130 Billion will be spent on sports and sponsorship activation by 2017. He shared this statistic of how the distribution has shifted over the past few years.

Much opportunity awaits for those who can deliver measurable results. Carl added, “The power of data is only as good as your ability to understand it and use it.”

The group experiences at the 2017 US Sports Congress were fantastic – inclusive of outings such as a jeep tour in the Sedona desert, golf scramble, tour of a brewery, tours of Sloan Park (spring training facility for the Chicago Cubs), and a Pickleball demonstration. The opening reception at the Tempe Center for the Arts was fantastic with a sunset view of Tempe Town Lake. This is where the swim for Ironman Arizona takes place.

Before I talk about my round table session on Personal Branding, I hope you won’t mind a quick detour from the final day of the trip. On Day 7, I drove home from Las Vegas to Reno. My only stop was in Tonopah to top off the gas tank, 211 miles north of Vegas.

A few weeks before the road trip began I wondered how far out of the way Joshua Tree National Park was from Las Vegas or Mesa. Let’s just say that another 500 miles on this road trip would have to wait another day.

I’ve embarked on this Reno/Vegas drive many times since college and have taken note of the Joshua trees on both sides of Highway 95. The difference on this trip was it felt like I was seeing them for the very first time through this passage. Abundance came to mind along with and a realization that this vast spectacle of Joshua trees would eventually come to end as I drove further north from Vegas.

“Abundance is not something we acquire, it’s something we tune into.” -Wayne Dyer

In fact, I couldn’t get over how many of these trees were. So I started to play a game in my head as I listened to the audio book, “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell. The question I asked myself was simple, “Would the Joshua trees end before reaching Tonopah?” I became so fascinated by this realization that I marveled at their mass abundance as I continued north on the 95.

Then I thought about the powerful lesson this fascination was trying to teach. Like the Joshua trees surrounding me, opportunities are abundant if we choose to raise our awareness and seek them out.

I asked myself, “Had I noticed them before?” Sure.

“Did I ever stop to think about how many miles they expand, where they began, how long they’ve been growing in the desert, and how does this grand garden of Joshua trees in Nevada compare to Joshua Tree National Park in California?” Not until now, but I’ve learned that Joshua trees have quite the story.

The Joshua trees finally ceased to grow about 15 miles before Tonopah, due to the absence of the unique conditions they need to thrive – soil content, moth pollination, climate, and altitude. Similarly, to become a high-performance personal brand one must take responsibility to create their own conditions for success and immerse themselves in a mindset where they can thrive.

In these moments I reaffirmed my obsession with the topic of personal branding. When we’re crystal clear about who we are, what our message is, and conscious about how we choose to show up in life, then everything we wish to attract will certainly show up. Abundance is a mindset.

Then I began to reflect on the round table session I led at the US Sports Congress on the topic itself. My job was to conduct an hour long discussion on How Your Personal Brand Impacts Your Success.

One thing I committed to in 2017 was to write rap songs about sales, and use them in my presentations. As a coach and speaker I’ve chosen this technique because no one else does it, it’s entertaining, and raises the energy of the room from the very beginning of the session. If I’m speaking on the topic of Personal Branding, then I need to act the part, not just talk about it.

Differentiation, consistency, and clarity are critical if you want to stand apart as a personal brand.

Weeks before the US Sports Congress I reached out to a handful of industry constituents for general thoughts on the topic and what they thought would resonate with the audience.

I asked Brian Graham of Morris Communications Co. for his thoughts, “Personal branding is a topic that I don’t feel many people really think about much, but one that is very important. My recommendation would be to take a straight forward and honest approach to the topic and be willing to discuss issues that might be a little uncomfortable to some. The message I would try to get across is that one must establish respect in the industry to build their personal brand if they are to be successful.”

After some deliberation and collective feedback from Brian and a couple other industry professionals I devised and refined these 4 fundamental questions to challenge the audience.

  1. As a personal brand, who are you now?
  2. What do you wish to accomplish professionally?
  3. Why is that important to you?
  4. How and when do you plan to get there?

Throughout this round table discussion I alternated my coaching and consulting hats. If people were seeking clarity on my perspectives, then I provided personal success examples like with deals I put together for the Texas Longhorns and New York Yankees. If someone was seeking clarity for themselves I challenged them with questions about the outcomes they wished to achieve.

Some seemed relatively content with where they were, a few shifted their energy and mindset when challenged to look at things differently. I challenged them to think about what they’re passionate about because, in my opinion, the best way to identify yourself as a personal brand is to let people know what you love and why that motivates you.

Ben Camerota, President of MVP Visuals, asked to clarify if the session was intended to focus on the attendees as a personal brand, or as their business as a brand. I was glad he asked. I began to describe my identity crisis after I graduated from college and was diagnosed with brain cancer the day after.

After my cancer ordeal I made the decision to only pursue ventures in things that I loved and it didn’t matter how much I made. At the time my focus was to do something around writing, sports and music. Long story short, I met the owner of a start up company who’s passions were in alignment with mine. With no prior sales experience I eventually developed the company’s entire portfolio among the biggest names in professional sports and corporate sponsorship.

Ben went on to reflect about how he loved to build things as a kid, and what he does now as a business professional is build branded event displays, canopies, etc. for sports events. I think there is an opportunity for Ben to leverage his personal brand story to attain more emotional equity for his professional brand.

Some of the other dialogue during the session stimulated curiosity and introspection about how minor shifts in mindset and processes could –

  • Increase internal efficiencies
  • Enhance visitor experience
  • Develop more harmony in the environment

What I’ve learned throughout the process of becoming a coach is that most people want better performance in their business and in their lives. They want to be more efficient with their time. They want to be less overwhelmed. They want more time with family. Just like the passing of the Joshua Trees those opportunities are abundant and available every day. Sometimes we simply need to change our perspective, or create a new set of conditions that enable new possibilities.

How much more abundance could you bring into your life if you simply changed the way you think?