got a 3am email from mum

Updated: Jul 3, 2021

You ever been to the Arctic in summer? There’s a 2-month period when the sun doesn’t go down AT ALL. Permanent daylight, like in the Radiohead song. It’s a bit mad. (That’s how I justify my own weirdness, anyway.) And even if you've spent your whole life there, it still messes with your sleep a bit. Maybe that’s why my mum was awake at 3:08 in the morning. She sent me this (in Russian, of course):

"I think I’ve finally understood what it is that you do. I can’t afford you, but can you do it for me, please? I think I need it."

Way to make your child go 'Awwwww'!

I awwed hard for at least a minute before it hit me.

How have I never thought of offering? Why hasn’t it occurred to me that mum needs personal branding?

(Now that she gets what it is — woohoo! only took me half a year)

Well — mum is a brilliant writer and journalist, so why should she need anyone else to write about her?

She’s been writing and presenting for almost 40 years.

Newspapers, TV and radio — she has done it all.

She’s pretty famous — locally, at least.

Taxi drivers used to give her free rides because they recognised her voice.

And my whole class loved her because she was the one who, in the 7am weather forecast, would announce that school’s out due to adverse conditions.

(as in -38°C with gale force winds. Keep your dog on a leash, or it’ll fly all the way to Spitsbergen and join a polar bear gang)

Also, mum knows everyone.

Going for a walk with her in Murmansk (my hometown) takes 3 times longer than it should, because every other person stops to say hi.

These days she mainly teaches other journalists, edits books, writes for local newspapers, and worries about me and my brother.

What could I possibly help her with?

Ah, but that’s the thing.

Doing your own personal branding is a bit like performing surgery on yourself: awkward, painful AF, and no one to complain to if it goes wrong.

It’s especially hard for nice people.

The kind of people who stay humble despite all their achievements.

They cringe at the idea of self-promotion.

Perhaps because most of them are in a long-term relationship with self-doubt.

(Mum has passed this one down to me among other, more useful nature-nurture-based gifts)

She is incredible. Anyone who has worked with her knows it.

But she can’t say it. Not in those words, not in any words.

Someone else has to step in, ask all the questions, make her realise the out-of-this-world value she brings, and then put all of that into words.

In a way that sounds like her and makes people want to hire her ASAP and feel lucky if she says yes. Bonus points if it doesn’t make her blush every time she reads it. (Okay, maybe a little.)

And obviously, I will do it for her.

I’m sure it will take 3 times longer than it should — like going for a walk with her — because there will be multiple detours and lots of ‘remember that time you tried milking a cat’

(that happened. I was 4. The cat survived.)

But I'll be honoured to do it. (officially the first time I’ve used that word this year: it’s a big one, saved for special occasions)

The moral is — you can be amazing at what you do, but you might need someone else to show that to others.

Because not all good, talented people are naturals at self-promotion.

They spend so much time doubting themselves, there’s none left for hyping themselves.

(And they’d wince at the notion)

All of that talent, unused — because they haven’t put themselves out there for others to find.

Do you know anyone who sounds like my mum?

Amazing at what they do, less amazing at promoting it?

You can share this with them.

Because there are people out there who need what they’ve got. Plus, who would object to a message that reads 'Hey, I read this thing about people who are brilliant but too humble to say it, and immediately thought of you'?

P.S. If you need help with personal branding — as in packaging, positioning and presenting yourself and your talents — I’m here and hireable. Just slide into my mailbox.

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