The last we saw of Don Draper, lead character of the brilliant series Mad Men, he was blissed out on the beach at a yoga retreat. His latest, and likely most authentic incarnation, was of a man who had clearly, finally, chosen his true persona. He was Don Draper, and in that moment of acceptance, he left Dick Whitman somewhere in the middle of the country. Dick was the vestige of his origins -- humbly born, troubled and hungry. Dick was his family brand. Don was his own.
We all have a brand. Whether or not we are aware of its existence or whether or not we honestly and openly shape it, we all embody a set of characteristics, behaviors and attributes that identifies who we are, to ourselves and to those around us. If a brand is a promise, then an individual's brand is the standard against which one's words and actions are measured.
The quiet beauty of Mad Men breathes throughout Don/Dick's journey to create, question and ultimately reshape the brand he wants to be. Don's career as an adman is all about selling brands. It's only fitting his greatest campaign is the one he develops for himself. Halfway through the series, Don/Dick grapples with the essence of this brand; is he the cool, distant, smart and prescient stranger or is he the broken boy running from his past? By pushing this inquest to the edge, almost leading to irreparable decay in every aspect of his life, he re-emerges with the fundamental knowledge that who he wants to be is who he is most comfortable being.
So, yes, I am Don Draper in the sense that I know who I am and how I am perceived. I know my brand, and I'm comfortable with the harmony it engenders with my sense of self. I strongly suspect I'm in the minority in this regard. How many of us give real thought to the integrity of our brand? How many of us go through our days without considering how we show up in the world?
I'm deeply interested in helping people become aware of their existing individual brand and helping them figure out how to shape it and own it fully. Not because I'm trying to package a person like a product. No, for me it's about the deeper meaning of integrity; a state of consistency, of being whole inside and out. It never ceases to amaze me how many people miss the satisfaction of knowing how that feels. It also never ceases to amaze me how challenging it is to get to that point of integrity. Why? Because at the core of knowing your individual brand, knowing yourself really, is awareness and acceptance. It's one thing to wish you were always good or talented or loved. It's another to realize you contain aspects that are less than complimentary as well as ones which are admirable. What you actively do with this knowledge makes your brand strong. Living in the dark only tarnishes it.
The critics claim the final scene of Mad Men showed a cynical man stumbling upon his next pitch. I saw something different. I saw a man fully reconciled with the person he chose to be, good and bad. A man who went back to the work that was essential to his life. A man who understood the power of a good brand.
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