The stithapragya framework for personal branding

You may have seen variations of this sentiment on LinkedIn quite often. I get this sentiment expressed during my corporate workshops on personal branding too.

Someone may say: “I have no idea what works on LinkedIn anymore! I write something after researching a topic for 2 weeks and crafting/editing it many times, but it gets only 10 Likes. But the other day I posted something impulsively after I saw something in the news that morning… that post went places on LinkedIn with 100+ Likes and 50+ comments! Is there a formula here? Or is it all just way too random?”.

You have come across such posts, right? It could be on LinkedIn, or Twitter too.

Hold on to that thought. Let me tell you something about a daily habit of mine.

I have mentioned earlier about my daily obsession with running 5 kms. It has become a daily habit, like brushing my teeth. It’s only recently (after moving from FitBit to the Samsung Galaxy Smartwatch late last year) that I have become less adamant about the 5 km figure, and have added other exercises to my daily routine and reduced the 5 km to say 3 or 4 km, depending how I feel each day.

But, about that 5 km target!

On most days, I’d be gung-ho, ready to crack my daily 5 kms. But there are quite a few days when both my mind and body wouldn’t feel ready to slog the 5 km run. It’s not because of something that happened that day – nothing to do with my family, work, or anything. It’s just that there are days when the 5 kms feels easy and there are days when it feels really tough.

On days when it feels tough, I go easy on myself and manage it as a brisk 5 km walk instead of a run. I tell myself that it is ok to take it easy on some days… not try to over-exert myself. The fact that I did show up to run despite feeling lazy/tired/worn out is good enough. Tomorrow is another day and I can do better tomorrow.

Now, let me go back to the ‘what works, what doesn’t’ question, in connection to what you share on LinkedIn.

The point is that there are good days, great days, bad days, and terrible days. It’s a mix. The key is to not use the good-great days as the default yardstick and expect all days to be like that.

First, it is important to understand the reason why people feel this way.

People usually have this feeling when they do not have a larger plan in what they share, or why they share. They write on LinkedIn (or any other platform) whenever they feel like it. If something catches their fancy, they write about it. Else, they don’t particularly bother to show up often on LinkedIn. After all, LinkedIn is not going to pay them to write anything, right?

The crux is this: Personal branding, or the activity that comes within its ambit—that is, sharing relevant, meaningful content that accentuates your brand—is not a regular habit for most people. It is an “I’ll do it when I feel like it” activity. This is clearly not productive or purposeful.

Think about the personal health equivalent of the same: You brush your teeth only on some days when you really feel like it. Or, you hit the gym or the running tracks only on some days, when you really feel like it.

But you may think – “It’s just LinkedIn ya! Why should we equate posting on LinkedIn with exercising or brushing the teeth?!”.

The thing is, LinkedIn is just an outlet. The larger point is what you are doing to assert your personal brand out there. It could be in many other ways, but LinkedIn is one of the easiest. As I had mentioned recently, it is like ‘career insurance‘.

There are certain things you need to do to maintain your career health. Personal branding is one of them – in fact, one of the most important aspect.

Assuming you take your personal brand seriously, a simple way to bring rigor to it is to be regular about sharing meaningful content that is relevant to your brand. And LinkedIn being the only professional platform out there… makes good sense.

Just like personal health, you need a plan to stick to, instead of impulsively sharing random things on LinkedIn. A plan would be possible if you clearly defined what your personal brand should be about. This is not very different from taking stock of your personal health (height, weight, vitals, etc.) and working on a plan of what needs to be improved, reduced, etc.

If your personal brand definition is done with rigor, and if your plan is set accordingly, then you would not care for day-to-day numbers per post. You would look at the larger point of why you are doing all this. And that larger point is about what you, yourself, gain from what you share frequently.

In personal branding, you are the first audience of what you share. This is very different in the influencer model where every piece of content is meant to satisfy an audience. In other words, the personal branding effort is not a popularity contest. The influencer model is very much a popularity contest where you constantly tweak your content to reach bigger numbers.

When you frame content as something you gain, yourself first, then there is no so-called ‘wasted’ content. There is no piece of content where the supposedly low Likes, Comments, or engagement would bother you. You had a point to make/a view to share, and you did. Every piece of content you share adheres to a larger plan which, in turn, is based on your personal brand definition. From this vantage point, there are no good or bad days at all!

In a way, the best way to understand this is to consider the Sanskrit word – Stithapragya. The word is used in a worldly, philosophical sense in the Bhagavad Gita, meaning “a state of mind where loss or gains do not affect an individual”. But within the context of personal branding, it would be the state of mind that remains unaffected by everyday content’s performance because the mind is steadily focused on the long term… on the larger picture!

This does not mean you don’t look at the engagement at all. You do, of course. And whatever you can learn from them, you do that too. But you do not actively let the high or low of engagement affect you enough to complain about it. This also means you do not bother gloating about how impressive your impressions, comments, and Likes are, over a week or a month in a separate post either 🙂 That’s the state of stithapragya – both so-called wins and so-called losses do not affect you, even though these are not wins or losses at all, really. You gain via every single thing you share.