I’m a big fan of Patti Digh, author of Life is a Verb, Creative is a Verb, and a wonderful blog, 37days.com. Patti started the blog, which launched her writing career, when her stepfather died—just 37 days after he was diagnosed with lung cancer.
That’s the kind of wake-up call that would shake any of us, and it was a call that Patti answered in a significant way. She decided she had something to say, first to her daughters and then to the world–messages that she needed to leave behind if she ever had just 37 days, and messages that needed to shape her life if she had many more. The writing that followed became a kind of instructional manual to her daughters for how to be in the world and how to live a fuller, more intentional life.
Patti started asking herself what she’d be doing that day if she only had 37 days to live. And she also began championing the concept of 37 days as a timeline for living—not just for dying. She decided that if you devoted 37 days to almost anything, it would change your life; that it’s enough time to change a habit or create a new one; to incrementally but significantly alter your worldview; to figure out what you really have to say and start saying it.
And that’s where this all begins to tie into to branding, to message strategy and to unleashing your voice in the world. I’m thinking there’s a kind of “37 days” litmus test we could all put to a personal or an organizational brand. It would include questions like:
- If you or your organization had only 37 days to live, what do you need to get busy saying right now?
- Why are you talking about anything else, anyway?
- What can you do in the next 37 days to make sure you’re standing for and communicating something that matters?
The sense of urgency that comes from not having much time has a lot to teach all of us. What really matters becomes crystal clear. What we care about most moves front and center. Who we are without all the excess window dressing is far more evident. There’s no time to waste on the extraneous.
All of that is what makes a great brand, well, great. Its focus is clear; its message is loud and proud; its intent is real and human. It knows who it is, and it doesn’t try to be anything else.
And you can create that kind of brand for yourself or your organization—especially if you use the “37 days” filter to shape it. It’s pretty simple, really. Build a brand identity based on who you really are and what you need to say, and share it in a way that matters to those who need to hear it. Let an imagined sense of urgency guide you to that clear focus, that proud message, that authentic intent.
Oh, and don’t give yourself more than 37 days to do it.