Brand You: Dominatrix or Librarian?

When it comes to Brand You, the prevailing wisdom is that the I-must-be-obeyed warrior always trumps the let-me-help-you-learn-maven.

Not necessarily.

I once worked with a quiet, meek even, accountant. Let’s call him Lester. He labored daily in an isolated cubicle—friendly, but a true introvert. He spent his days quite happily filling out arcane government forms for big corporations.

When he overheard me frantically trying to fill a last minute speaker cancellation, Lester volunteered to talk about his specialty. This would mean standing before a 100-person audience to give a ten-minute chat on the fine points of pitching his work to their clients. Given my desperate state, I accepted, spent a half-hour prepping him, and steeled myself for the worst.

When I introduced Lester as the next speaker, the eye-rolling began. Who gets excited about listening to a geeky introvert—even a sweet one—on a deeply technical subject?

As Lester stepped up to the front of the room, he paused. Three beats, six beats. The room was deathly quiet. Finally, he began to speak, each word measured, thoughtful. As his confidence grew, his voice deepened and passion literally oozed from his entire body. In about 30 seconds, he transformed from shy accountant into colorful, mesmerizing teacher. He was nothing short of a brilliant speaker.

Lester lived like a rock-star in the office (the audience he most needed to bring him more of the work he loved) for the next week and never slid back into his pre-speech obscurity.

He wore his passion for his subject quietly (think librarian), but let it burst out in the right way to the right people at the right time. Not surprisingly, shy Lester was terrified to speak publicly—but he pushed himself because he knew it was his big chance to connect with his sweet-spot audience.

For every Dita Von Teese, there are hundreds of Lesters, quietly working under the radar at work that matters deeply to them. The Lesters of the world contain their passion, letting it simmer, searching (or waiting patiently) for their big break.

Sure, being the dominatrix makes it easier to grab the limelight, but the brilliant librarian can make an equally lasting impression.

No one in that room ever forgot Lester.

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3 Comments

  • You hit a home run out of desperation. Look how you changed “Lester’s” life. He was never the same. We have to find more “Lester’s” to truly fulfill our lives by paying it forward. They are waiting for us to find them.

  • Rochelle

    Thanks Ed for the compliment, but I really think it was Lester who did the heavy lifting! He fought through his fear of public speaking and forced himself to volunteer. And I know he worked on his talk non-stop until he got to the podium. I can still hear the enthusiasm in his voice about his topic. What a stunning transformation!

  • There is not much more gratifying than helping someone find his/her potential, mentoring and encouraging folks. Seeing the fruits all the better. I wish there were a YouTube of Lester’s talk.

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