Be A Tree
I’ve spent a considerable amount of time over the past few weeks thinking about loyalty and what it means to me, and more importantly what it means to business. As I thought about what the concept means to me, and what to write about in this post, I was a little torn. I could take the obvious route and discuss staying loyal to your branding. Or, perhaps more self-focused, staying true to yourself. We could talk about how by lacking commitment to your personal branding, you’ll invariably struggle with business branding as a result. We could explore what it actually means to define and stay loyal to our brands.
But these things have been done.
And at the heart of it, it’s not what loyalty means to me.
To me, loyalty is an end result. Something that is earned. It’s the byproduct of other work. Loyalty is what you get when you’ve made other people feel safe. Loyalty is what happens when people know what to expect of you because you’ve been relentlessly consistent.
Loyalty is being a tree.
I have a framed print that has moved with me to about eight various homes over the last nearly 20 years. Being a poor college student and lacking funds for proper art, it’s actually a greeting card I purchased at a cute shop in the little town where I went to undergrad. I loved it so much I bought it for myself, put it in a cheap frame and it’s been one of my favorite possessions ever since. On it, a small illustration of a tree, bent fiercely sideways in the wind, is silhouetted against a warm orange background and the best damn reminder ever to be flexible is written on top in a brush script font: “The strength of a tree lies in its ability to bend.” The strength. Of a tree. Lies in its ABILITY. TO. BEND. It’s a phrase I’ve muttered to myself a thousand times since, in challenging times and in times when I wanted to do nothing but stubbornly resist what was happening around me. It is such a good reminder that when it comes to personal branding (or life in general) loyalty is earned after showing that you’re able to flex and bend without sacrificing who you really are.
The ability to wave in the breeze is only made possible by having the deepest and surest of roots. It’s these roots that allow even the littlest of trees to be pushed and pulled and stressed by the elements and still stand firmly planted right in their little patch of earth. The biggest Sequoias are as strong underground as they are flexible above. In business, loyalty is earned by a similarly unwavering attachment to your foundation. When people know what to expect of you, when they know where you are and who you are and what you’re about, you’ll earn their loyalty and respect. They’ll build tree houses in your strong limbs and bring bottles of rosé and picnic under the shade of your branches.
Sadly, summers spent lounging in the shade of a tree quickly fade to autumns spent raking up leaves. As seasons come and go, leaves bud and grow, then change colors and fall. New branches jut out from old trunks and new nests are made. A tree is always growing. We ask our branding clients to do just the same: update things often to stay fresh and current. It’s this constant evolution that allows us to build loyalty. It shows that we are eager to grow and adapt and change. It shows that we are keen to learn new things and to add another ring of knowledge to the stump. With every season, we should be looking to adjust and adapt and change.
With a strong commitment to your personal brand’s foundations, you’ll be able to take on adversity and grow as a person, all while staying true to your roots. Like I said, to me loyalty is the earned byproduct of this work. It's what you get when people know they can trust you, know that you'll always be there, know what kind of work you do and that you're fiercely committed to it. Loyalty is knowing that despite change, you'll be there. Season after season, building loyalty is as simple as aspiring to have a tree's amazing ability to be both flexible and grounded, both growing and the same.