Personal Brand characteristics, or I like warm blankets

I had the lovely experience of crashing while riding my bike yesterday. While reflecting on it today, I could see that in times of personal crisis, our personal brand characteristics become clearer.

You always know when the second arrives that you are going to crash. There is a split second of thought wherein you think you can pull yourself back up, then the useless knowledge that you are going to fall. There is no way to prepare for the impending impact that will come next.

I felt my shoulder, hip, and elbow slam against the ground, followed by the unnerving sound and feeling of my helmet impacting pavement. While tumbling, I was actually aware of my thankfulness for the protection of my helmet. I rolled once or twice and came to a painful stop. Personal brand characteristic #1: I am very aware.

I lay on the ground still clutching the food I was eating when a giant gust of West wind had literally knocked me over. If I had been riding with both hands on the handlebars, I would likely have not fallen. But I was hungry. Personal brand characteristic #2: I am a risk-taker. (Usually, my risks pay off.)

The pain in my elbow and hip were intense, and I wondered if I had broken any bones. I lay on the ground for a long time, until one of my friends asked if I wanted to get up. I really did not want to know if I had broken bones. I brought the food up to my lips and ate it. At least I still had that. Personal brand characteristic #3: I am hungry.

I got up and immediately knew that something was wrong. I couldn’t stand properly. I got back on the bike, figuring that if I could not pedal, then we would know I had broken something. My elbow wouldn’t support my weight, so I couldn’t stand on the bike, but I could sit. I could pedal, but I could feel that something was not tracking properly inside me. Still, I was fifteen miles from home, and I had to get back somehow. I was in an enormous amount of pain, and I found that I could not pedal up steep hills. My hip just would not support the effort. Personal brand characteristic #4: I am tough. I have a hard time writing that, which tells us Personal brand characteristic #5: I am humble.

I gritted my teeth as I rode the fifteen miles home in extreme pain, stopping only once to limp about ten steps to the top of a fifteen percent grade. Upon returning home, I discovered that I could not lift my leg high enough to get off the bike. (I would not make a good dog in this state.) I changed and found that walking was incredibly painful. It brought tears to my eyes and made me shake. Something inside me, perhaps my pelvis, felt indescribably wrong. A couple of friends told me to visit an emergency room. You only get one body, so I decided to go. Personal brand characteristic #6: I am practical.

The rest of the day I got to see a microcosm of personal brands from all of the people who gave me their attention.

After I was admitted to the ER, I was given a large dose of ibuprofen that after a while seemed to ease the pain. The first nurse put me in a wheelchair which was humbling. Next, I was wheeled into a room, and after I changed, I was helped onto a mobile bed. Every nurse, physician, physician’s assistant, and radiologist had their own personal brand.

Everyone treated me well and seemed to listen as I tried to describe what I felt. They all seemed sort of amazed that I had ridden home after the crash. I wondered how pro bike racers manage to get back up and finish after a serious crash, often with broken bones. The radiologist must have seen me shiver because before wheeling me back to the room, she wrapped a hot blanket around my neck and shoulders. She made the biggest and best impression of all. I made sure to tell her so. Personal brand characteristic #7: I am appreciative.

The worst impression was made by the nurse who came into my room and said, "The doctor says he can’t find anything. You can get dressed and go. Oh, the doctor prescribed Vicodin," she informed me. When I told her that I can’t take Vicodin because it makes me shake uncontrollably, she rolled her eyes and said, "What do you want me to do about that?" She then went to the next room, and I could hear her talking to the doctor in an unfavorable tone. I got up, dressed myself, and hobbled out of the room, falling over twice and gritting my teeth on my way out. The doctor handed me a new prescription.

I ate dinner thinking about that warm blanket from the radiologist and counting my blessings.

In summary, after losing some skin and acquiring some hefty internal bruises, I was able to quickly define some of my own personal brand characteristics:
1. aware
2. risk-taker
3. hungry
4. tough
5. humble
6. practical
7. appreciative
8. likes warm blankets

Kelly Hobkirk - teaching marketers how to harness strategy, goals, reality, and purpose to connect and do better work.


Kelly Hobkirk has been helping companies succeed in creative ways for nearly 25 years. His work has been featured in Time Magazine, and books by Rockport and Rotovision. Get exclusive articles when you sign up for his monthly newsletter.

Thank you! This is going to feel good.

3 comments Write a comment

  1. Interesting post. I believe if you take those 8 characteristics and integrate them into a core message, you will have a great story to tell those around you. You might think you have those qualities, but now it’s time to market them to your audience.

  2. Great idea, Dan. In the course of creating successful brands week in and week out, I am constantly working with core messaging, but I rarely do it for myself. I am going to put your suggestion to use right away. Thank you!

  3. Kelly, I’m sorry to hear about all the pain you had to deal with recently. I don’t know if you’re into astrology at all, but Chiron (the representative of mortal wounding) has just gone retrograde this weekend. What that means is that our deepest wounds are up to be healed. You wouldn’t believe how many stories I’ve heard over the past couple days about people working on some of their really challenging inner stuff. Your insightful post is another log on that fire–I think it’s awesome that you used that accident as an opportunity for self-reflection.

    (If you’re interested in learning about Chiron, try this page:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *