Don’t Box Me In- Stop Letting Others Make You into Who THEY Want You to Be

| November 6, 2012

There’s a quote that has been going around for a while by the incomparable Bill Cosby.

I don’t know the secret to success. But I do know that the secret to failing is trying to please everyone.


You can say that again, Mr. Cosby.

Whether we want to admit it or not, we all go through a bit of an identity crisis at times trying to figure out who exactly we are and what we’re meant to do. And if you say not me, you’re lying. We all experience it at some point. Lord knows I have. Sometimes I still do. But I take it as just another level in my journey. If you’re not experiencing change, you’re not experiencing growth.

And still, some people find what they’re meant to do, do it well, then decide maybe it’s time to branch out and try new things. There is nothing wrong with that at all. But herein lies the problem. Once people get used to you doing something and doing it well, they don’t want to see you do anything else. In their mind, if you abandon what you used to do, it is viewed as failure, inability to make it, or a downgrade on your talents or expertise. Crazy, right!? But it happens.

For years I was known as the Recruiter Lady. I was the go to person for all things recruiting. I loved it because it showed people respected and appreciated my contributions and achievements in the industry and that I made an impact with clients, colleagues and associates. But over time, I got tired of recruiting. I grew to have a love-hate relationship with it even though I excelled at it. I felt like there was more out there for me.

When I started Empower Me! Corporation, I had no idea where it would lead or even if it would turn into something other than a back-burner project. The thing is, life has a way of throwing things at you when you least expect it. I cannot complain about where my path has lead because I have been blessed. But it took a while to shift people’s perceptions of me and accept me for where my brand was headed. I was focused less on the recruiting world and more on helping people grow (their business or career) in any economy. Once you’ve built a reputation in something, it’s hard to get people to see you in another light. But I had to learn that it wasn’t anything I was doing wrong.

I look at entertainers as an example. A while back I attended a book signing at a local mall by the legendary Patti LaBelle. She is music royalty and whatever she decides to do, she will always have her respect in the industry. She made a choice to write cookbooks to diversify her brand and bring awareness to healthier eating. When I mentioned I had waited in line at this mall bookstore and got to meet her and get an autograph copy of her book, an associate of mine said “Oh how the mighty have fallen“.

Are you freakin’ kidding me!?

I was stunned by his comment. I thought it was a brilliant move on her part and didn’t perceive it as her selling out or having lost her “celebrity street cred” in any way. Yes, we all know her for her powerful vocals (I love her!). But she is a shrewd businesswoman who understands that diversification is key to longevity and success. Why shouldn’t she do something different? And who is anyone to judge her for being bold enough to try something new?

In a conversation on my radio show with Michael Bivins (yeah, that Mike Bivins of BBD, Poison, Never trust a big butt and a smile fame) we discussed this. He shared that it’s too bad that sometimes people can’t allow someone to grow and be more than the label people have placed on them, and how it’s especially brutal in the entertainment industry where images are made to be one dimensional.

But back to my point. If I let people keep me in the recruiting box, I would never have experienced the success and the opportunities that have come my way since I chose to diversify my brand. I still stay on message although I no longer do the exact same work as I used to. We’re all allowed to grow and explore. It’s up to you to define your core brand before it’s put in the hands of the people. Once you let that happen, it’s harder to spread your wings without ruffling feathers.

Never be content with what other people label you. Don’t give others the power to keep you compartmentalized. Live outside of that box and let people focus on the core brand. As long as it stays on message, it shouldn’t matter how you deliver it. And to those of you who want to continue holding people to the same image forever, let them be. Justin Bieber can’t be 16 forever. Magic Johnson couldn’t play ball forever. Kathy Ireland couldn’t be a model forever. All of these people moved on and so should you. So don’t expect people to not grow and change. Shame on you for trying to place limits. You can still admire and support them. Just be mindful that like seasons, everything changes. Embrace it.

Share your experiences below in the comment area. How have people tried to minimize your brand and what did you do to overcome it?

This blog post is brought to you by Brand Adrienne….and I own it authentically. Come along for the ride.

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Adrienne Graham

Adrienne Graham is the Founder & CEO of Empower Me! Corporation (, a Growth Strategies consultancy with brand extensions in media, publishing and small business & entrepreneurial education. She provide Strategic Business Growth consulting services to small business owners with high growth potential to assist clients in creating processes and strategies to effectively run, grow and position their business for success. She helps clients get paid more by giving away less for free, allowing them to be more profitable and NOT be a broke brand. She is the host Views From the Top Radio Show the publisher of Empower Me! Magazine, and the creator Empower Me Institute, Empower Me! Radio, Empowered for Growth TV & Next Level Business Strategies. Her writing and shows focus on Career Management, Networking Strategies, Entrepreneurial Success and Small Business Management.

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