Don’t Blame The Name

“Death & Murder.”

“Peter Parker & Clark Kent.”

Believe it or not, these are the names of real children. Two sets of twins.

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak to 250 organizational leaders and over 150 front-line nurse leaders at one of the most inspiring places in the world; Cook Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas. If you’ve ever had the chance to work with the staff that power a children’s hospital, you know the definition of “dedication.” These professionals see the best and worst life has to offer. They help families and patients who are at their most emotional and vulnerable, and yet, at the end of the day, still go home and take care of their own families.

The concept we created for their Leadership Conference was “The Power of Story,” and for a full day we worked on the importance of creating and communicating personal and professional narratives that inspire patients, parents, colleagues and collaborators to be the best version of themselves in work and life.

The night before the conference I had dinner with the leadership planning committee to go over last minute details. Since we were discussing the concept of storytelling as a leadership skill, I asked each member of the committee how they got into the healthcare industry. One knew she wanted to be a nurse from the time she was a child herself. Another was looking for a career that would not be obsolete before he got the chance to retire. They all had a story, but the one that I most remember was the woman who gave birth to a child prematurely, only to have it die in the hospital. That mother was so inspired by the way the nurses took care of her and her family during her darkest hours, that she changed her life, went back to school, became a nurse and eventually a leader at Cook Children’s.

We discussed what it takes to watch children enter and leave our world, all in the same day. We even talked about unique baby names, and they told me about the twins, “Death & Murder.” We wondered what life will be like for those two boys. Will they succumb to the brand imposed on them by parents with a less than optimistic outlook on life? Or will they rise above the definitions of their given names?

“Peter Parker and Clark Kent.” Superheroes. That’s a lot to live up to. Will they see themselves as unstoppable because of their names, or will they be paralyzed under the pressure of expectations. With great power comes great responsibility.

What does your name stand for?

You may not have a unique or wild name. You may not be branded with the name of a “Game of Thrones” character. But, your name should stand for something. And, if it doesn’t or you don’t like what it stands for, now is the time to change the story behind the name. Companies rebrand all the time. People can do the same.

My wife was born a Catherine and called Cathy much of her young life. But, we met in our 20’s and I’ve always known her as a “Kate.” When we get together for extended family functions, some still call her “Cathy,” which she doesn’t appreciate. I once asked what the issue was and she said, “Cathy had a tough life. Kate cleaned up the mess. Cathy made poor decisions. Kate makes smart choices based on values and beliefs.” She changed her name and her story.

It’s easy to blame the name. It’s easy to say from the moment we came into the world, we never got a fair shot. But, you are a brand, and if you don’t like your name or your story, you have the power to change. Don’t blame your past self for future failures. 

You don’t have to change your actual name, but if you want people to see the value you bring to their world, you may have to rebrand, reposition and promote yourself differently so your name has value to your audience. Great brands are always evolving. But, it takes time and attention to identify and communicate a different story that represents the new true you. And, if you think that sounds like a lot of work, it is. But, nothing compared to the effort it’s going to take to rebrand “Death & Murder.”

Stand For Your Brand,

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