Personal Brands: The Testicle Defense | Personal Branding Blog - Dan Schawbel

“I have testicular cancer,” the late flooring supervisor told me. I don’t mean late as in dead. I mean late as in 4 weeks overdue to put the last bit of my office floor in, and now at 10 PM on Saturday night, culminating three days of “I’ll be right there,” just arriving at my office. That kind of late.

To woo me and blow smoke at me over the last 4 weeks, the supervisor had spun tales of putting in Tom Cruise’s floor, being called to an “emergency job” in Oregon and the ever popular refrain in this town: the “traffic is really heavy on the 5 (freeway, I’m in LA).” He has just arrived: angry.

Why he’s angry, I shouldn’t know because I’ve already paid him and it’s just the last 300 feet in a 6000 square foot job that went undone because he failed to measure right. But, I actually do know why he is angry at me.

Hating you or themselves

When people make a mistake they have two choices about whom to hate: you or themselves. Statistically, it’s not a coin toss. The odds are rigged against you.

The biggest fear I have in business is someone else not doing their job, not because it won’t wind up done by them (or me or someone else I pay double to do it on a rush), but because they are very likely to get angry rather than apologize and do the right thing. In fact, that scenario is pretty much the only time anyone is angry with me.

So if you’re angry, I pretty much know you didn’t do something you promised.

However, the testicle defense? Very original! At first, I thought perhaps his testicles in some way kept him from showing up this morning. It so happens that I’m a woman so how would I know? I’m not a doctor.

In fact, it turns out he had another job also unfinished, located in Palm Springs (probably due to finish last year) and he thought he’d “get that out of the way” before driving up 5 hours to see me.

So what time zone was the “I’ll be there a 8 AM Saturday” zone when in reality he planned to be 400 miles away from me? It wasn’t the US Pacific Time Zone. I was here waiting for him in no special time warp; just 8 AM Saturday. And, as the clocked ticked away time? No supervisor. No flooring. But throughout the day, lots of calls to negotiate a new arrival time – hence he shows up at 10 PM.

Here’s what happened. The supervisor was angry that I failed to greet him like a conquering hero bringing me chocolate and parachute silks. When he read my tired face as: “I’ve been up for 15 hours today and now will be up another 5 while you finally do your job,” he said: “It’s not even worth it for me to put in the floor. You are already unhappy. And, I have testicular cancer.”

So he threatened to withhold my flooring while waving some kind of testicle defense. My response? Remember, I have an unfair advantage in these circumstances: I communicate for a living. I teach people how to communicate with difficult people. Here’s my response:

“You and I are dying before each others’ eyes, aren’t we?”

He let a tear drop out of his eye and silently (hurray!) went to work (finally!).

Personal brands: what excuses are you giving yourself to underperform?

What happens to the personal brand you are trying to build, when you pull out a dopey, lame and TMI (too much information!) response to someone’s well deserved rebuke of you for what havoc you wreaked in their business or life?

We all are living to die. That’s the deal here. You get to make the reality you live in. You get to choose from an infinite spectrum of behaviors and words to describe what you are doing right, and what you are doing wrong.

It’s your choice that matters; it’s what defines you as a personal brand. Not some myth called reality. It’s all perception of you and by you.

Here a tip as you lay the foundation of your personal brand.  Lay down a track of self-talk that soothes you when you make a mistake and gets you back the self-control that saves you from yourself.


Nance Rosen is the author of Speak Up! & Succeed. She speaks to business audiences around the world and is a resource for press, including print, broadcast and online journalists and bloggers covering social media and careers. Read more at NanceRosenBlog. Twitter name: nancerosen.

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