Often Zhan

4 minute read

A Reflection on Self-Branding


Recently, I’ve been reading through the book “Branding Pays” by Karen Kang. I decided to buy the book after reading the following introduction:

Personal branding—that is, creating your image and guiding your reputation—has never been more important than it is today. Why? Because globalization and social media have made the world smaller, more connected and infinitely more competitive. Your competition for a job or business opportunity may be anywhere in the world—at the desk next to you or continents away. It has never been more important to differentiate yourself from the pack…

Karen Kang (Branding Pays)

This “creating your image, and guiding your reputation” resonates because it fits into one of my major life goals:

Life Goal #6 – Taking ownership of my life—including my actions, desires, and mistakes.

I finished the last page yesterday, and despite its usefulness, I’ve decided that this book will not be deigned the privilege of a permanent space in my library. This book is useful for a specific stage in life like pregnancy or getting into college. Also, the relevant and essential material of the book could probably be summarized in 5 pages or less. I’ll probably read it one more time, take personal notes of the book, and then gift it to a friend.

Commitment to Transparency and Ownership

After reading this book, it’s contents helped strengthen my commitment to be publicly clear about who I am and about my intentions. This desire to be vocal about my beliefs arose from three recent life events:

  1. I’ve recently been placed in a situation where my reputation is on the line.
  2. I am serving in a ministry where there is mistrust between leaders. Whatever I make from now on, I want to be proud of my final product and be willing to share them publicly without shame. If I am wrong, I’ll openly admit my fault and take ownership of my mistake. (I was inspired to share my ideas openly and publicly after seeing a proposal by MYT.)


One of my concerns about sharing this book to a friend is that it was clearly meant for a secular audience. While not stated directly outright, the author frames self-branding as a means to leverage oneself into an advantageous position in the workplace. My interest in “self-branding” is to primarily build a character of authenticity and transparency. My hope is to take ownership of my reputation in order to promote mutual cooperation, clarify personal vision, and flesh out my inchoate ideas with everyone around me. I’m not saying that the book’s overall message is bad. It’s intent is just not what I am looking for at this point in my life. As a result, I focused more on the templates and applicable tools provided in the book rather than on the underlying philosophy that the author was trying to promote.

*“BrandingPays System – The 5 Steps The “BrandingPays System”*—as the book calls it—is divided into five steps.

The 5 key steps are the following:

(The short description of each step is summarized by me in italics. If you want a more detailed description, you should just buy the book.)

  • Step 1: PositioningArticulate your uniqueness in your area of interest.
  • Step 2: MessagingDescribe yourself in a way that is memorable and evidence based.
  • Step 3: Brand StrategyBuild a framework of your reputation based on both skills and personality.
  • Step 4: EcosystemBuild a network of support and fellow leaders.
  • Step 5: Action PlanDevelop and execute a plan that concurrently builds skill, expertise, and publicity.

(Branding Pays also talk about symbols, personal vision, and social media.)

Opinion and Summary

I like the author’s step-wise approach to self-branding. One aspect I like about this book is how overflowingly resource rich it is through its supplementary resources in each chapter.

If I could summarize what I learned from this book in my own words, it would be the following:

Whether or not you take ownership of your reputation, you already have a reputation. Your boss won’t promote your reputation, nor will your hard work, nor will your accomplishments. You are living in the epoch of the digital age where anyone can look you up and judge you from the little information available. Now is the time to stand up and take action or be left behind.

Often Z.

Often Zhan

4 minute read

May, if you are skimming through my blog… you can just skip this one. Nothing to see here. Just move along.

Well… I bought more books. Again.

I’ve been trying… honestly trying to round down my collection of books into a neatly organized and concise resource library. With much trepidation and melancholy, I managed to get rid of about 12 of my library.

My goal was to limit my library to my 6 shelves, but I am going to have to revise my original plan. I need a bookshelf specifically designed for a constant stream of books coming in and out like summer reads, ‘to read’ books, devotionals, blank journals…

Anyways, I browsed around the available books at Goodwill and paid a total of $3.50 for 5 books. I am writing down some of the books on the blog because I feel guilty—especially after I told May that I would stop buying books in order to read the ones I’ve got— and want to justify my purchase.

List of Newly Acquired Books

Team-Based Strategic Planning: A Complete Guide to Structuring, Facilitating and Implementing the Process – C. Davis Fogg

I bought this book because I am currently serving in an 501©3 non-profit organization that is needs a lot of long-term strategic planning. I am partially to blame.

When I picked up this book, I was surprised at how in-depth and practical content. This book essentially builds a corporation from scratch and as it slowly forms the organization, the author discusses the importance of each working part.

Of all the books that I bought from Goodwill, this book was my least guilty purchase. I’ve skimmed through this book for more than 2 hours after purchasing the book, and I’m pretty sure that this will find a permanent residence in my resource library.

Christian Prayer through the Centuries – Joseph A. Jungmann

Recently, I’ve been reading about, contemplating, and praying about… well… prayer. I was introduced to the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) by MYT and LYT. Despite using the BCP occasionally these past 3 months, the rigid structure of the BCP as a congregational prayer book and as a personal devotion is still new to me.

This book caught my interest because (1) it was written by the “greatest liturgical scholar of his generation” [pg viii], and (2) the book goes through the changes in thought, approach, underlying philosophies of Christian prayer throughout history.

Yes, I understand that Jungmann was a Jesuit priest and therefore much of our theological beliefs will differ, but I don’t think that our differences will be so vast that it will prevent me from gleaning insight. I mean, I believe in about 90% of what Roman Catholics believe, and Roman Catholicism is pretty cool. Almost every serious-practicing Roman Catholic friend I’ve met, I consider a sibling in Christ.

Better than Fiction: True Travel Tales from Great Fiction Writers – Edited by Don George

This book is “a collection of original travel stories told by some of the world’s best novelists…”

I want to write more short story travelogues. I am hoping that this book will give me some inspiration.

I have some journal entries that I want to flesh out and make into full-fledged stories like my Roadtrip with May. I am used to writing fiction stories, but travelogues are outside of my normal genre and writing them is certainly outside of my normal comfort-zone.

Well… now that I listed three of the five books that I bought from Goodwill, I feel a lot better about my purchase. I’m not going to list or describe the last two books because I think that my attempt to do so will negate all the headway I’ve made so far in justifying my purchase. So, I’ll just keep the rest of those books a secret.

(Hopefully May will forgive me.)