FIVE THINGS I WISH SOMEONE TOLD ME BEFORE I BECOME A SOLOPRENEUR
It's been over a year since I was in the "middle of the world" on an initial brand analysis exercise for ADSE. An interview by Authority Magazine got me going down memory lane as I recounted the "Aha moment" that revealed a passion in me to teach as an author and brand strategist.
It was two months before COVID-19 turn the world upside down and a localized, but equally devastating situation was turning the world of Ecuadorians upside down. President Lenin Moreno had just decided to remove a four-decade-old fuel subsidies, which crippled the nation straddling the equator as protestors block roads and highways.
UNDERSTANDING THE ROOTS
During the time spent with ADSE and the community she is in, we uncovered three core values that I believe stem from the legacy of five missionaries; Nate Saint, Jim Elliot, Peter Fleming, Ed McCully, and Roger Youderian. Their martyrdom in 1956 in the hands of the Waodani tribe triggered a wave of evangelistic efforts into the Amazon jungles.
The Mission Aviation Fellowship, through Nate Saint as her first missionary in Shell, had been bringing the Gospel and life-sustaining resources into the jungle through flights, communications, and other logistics since 1948. The work of supporting missionaries, local churches, and villages continues with ADSE since 1986. While the pandemic may have affected and slowed down the organization, I believe that the work God started has not ceased.
My AHA MOMENT
Working with ADSE during the civil unrest has been an eye-opener. As I walked the line dividing different cultures, I learn the importance of contextualizing the universal concept of branding for local relevancy. I love the process of learning about ADSE and figuring out the best way to communicate the discovery and strategy to the leaders and staff who are mostly from a different culture.
I have always enjoyed working one-on-one with business owners as we develop or redefine their brands. Pivoting my approach, many thanks to the pandemic, I want to extend my reach through coaching groups within companies (beyond just the owners) and helping them understand that a powerful and memorable brand is built from within and as a team.
My book, "The ONE Game Changer To Boost Your Business. Use the B.R.A.N.D.™ System to go Deeper so you can go Further" (due to be available early next year) along with online courses (ie. B.R.A.N.D. Ed) will be a couple of ways I hope to achieve that goal.
More importantly, the underlying drive for the work and ministry of ADSE has reminded me of what God has called all His children to do. Whether we are flying planes, developing brands, or formulating marketing strategies, it is ultimately about making Him known. And that work is never finished until Christ comes again.
A 2400-mile STORY
As I coach business leaders in uncovering their personal brand while developing their business one, this is one of five parts to my own brand story using the B.R.A.N.D. System. As you get to know me a little better, may this story inspires you to consider how your own experiences in life is foundational to your unique brand. Watch this introduction video before continuing below.
THE FULLER STORY ...
In 2017, a friend and I started a 14-day drive across the country of Mexico in a car we named Yasmin. It was a much-anticipated road trip, one without a specific route. Just one with a start and an endpoint.
We have different reasons for making this trip. I was running away from a broken heart. He was running towards an unrequited one.
I hurt and was hurt by another friend. I was physically tired but more so, emotionally drained. When my friend told me about the drive he was going making to South America, 2,400 miles sounded like a great distance to separate myself from the source of pain.
My friend's agenda was more permanent as he was making this one-way trip to a new life and hopefully, to a once blossoming and much-desired love.
The plan was simple: (1) We have a starting point, which is Aurora Illinois. (2) We have an ending point, which is Tapachula Chiapas where my friend will continue on to South America and I fly back to the U.S. (3) We have a car which promises good fuel efficiency. She is a Toyota Yaris, which inspired us to name her Yasmin.
Our trip hit a major roadblock in Texas when we were warned that driving into Mexico with a temporary vehicle tag will spell trouble for two foreigners. It was the weekend and we had to stay on U.S. soil while waiting for Yasmin's permanent license plate to arrive on Monday.
Let me remind you that our plan was simple and low-budget. We were ready to pitch a tent, stay in a cheap hostel, or sleep in Yasmin. After knocking on the doors of a local church and a fire station, we were graciously offered free lodging by Father Jim at a Roman Catholic church called Our Lady of Refuge.
That's where we got to know our beloved nun, sister Maria. Between projects we volunteered to help her with and conversations about our crazy road trip through Mexico, she ultimately entrusted us with gifts for her family in the Mexican state of San Luis Potosi.
Since we don't have a specific route, Sister Maria's assignment gave us an excuse for a pitstop after Yasmin got adorned with her new bling.
When we delivered the gifts to Sister Maria's family, we were ready to continue on our trip. However, after some conversation over a shot or two of tequila, we were served lunch and brought on a tour of the city center. Nothing beats seeing a place through the eyes of locals!
And when we thought it was time to bid goodbye, our new friends offered us a night's stay in their home and invited us to a private concert by a local band! Our time in this foreign city wrapped up nicely listening to music and getting our fill of food and tequila under the stars.
We were blown away by the hospitality, which fueled our drive further south with a buzz from the heart-warming experience. In sharp contrast was our heart-pounding encounter a few days later somewhere in Oaxaca.
"Somewhere" was exactly where we thought we were because our search for a specific campsite with unclear directions from locals kept us driving past sunset.
Against our better judgment, we kept driving in the dark with hopes to see some signs of civilization. With only a few feet of visibility on the dark winding mountain roads, the drive was mind-numbing with turn after turn after turn… until I saw some blinking red and blue lights from the corner of my eyes. Before I could tell my friend about it, our headlights illuminated two human forms running right across us and he slammed on the brakes.
We stared ahead of us with held-breath as I could have sworn the thumping of our hearts was louder than Yasmin's rumbling. The settling dust was the only calming sight as my head made the possible connection between the flashing lights and the infamous Mexican police.
My fear materialized in the form of a uniformed officer tapping on our window and a flurry of tense conversation between my friend and two police officers ensued. I didn't understand a lick of Spanish but one could only imagine the worst when you almost ran over the law enforcers.
Between the quivering voice of my friend and an endless examination of documents, I said to myself, "This is it Vincent... we're going to be locked up and disappeared from the face of the earth." All I could do was pray, and pray hard to God for deliverance.
What was about 20 minutes of interrogation felt like an eternity. A slight change in the officers' tone from intimidation to firmness caught my attention as my friend told me they were asking for a monetary fine. We actually drove away from this harrowing encounter with a firm warning and USD40 poorer!
A ROAD TRIP CALLED LIFE
These were some of many moments along our 2,400 miles route through Mexico, not discounting the other experiences we have had on this 14-day road trip. Every highs and lows we had, every dollar and peso spent (including the fine), and every mile and minute logged was well worth it!
And such is the road trip we call ‘life’. One with peaks and valleys, with highways and byways, and ultimately, one with a final destination.
What is driving us forward despite the valleys and the byways? Are we only fueled by peaks and highways? Do we only seek the highs so that we can look good on social media? Do we avoid the lows and brush them under the carpet of our memory?
D: WHAT DRIVES ME?
My momentary escape southwards gave me a renewed perspective as I ponder the question, “What drives me to stay on track in life?”.
We are relational beings and will always cross paths with people throughout our lifetime. I hold onto a few close relationships tightly. Sometimes too tightly. Expecting things to always be the same is never realistic and imposing unclear expectations on others will only lead to heartbreak and disappointment.
I have learned that some relationships will stick while others may just be there for a season. I am learning to expect less of others to meet my needs and expect more of myself to meet the needs of others. People may not return in kind, and that's okay.
What drives me is being able to go through the valleys and byways with someone... when we can be vulnerable and yet, not be afraid because we have a road trip buddy.
What drives me is being able to share the peaks and highways with someone... when we can celebrate together, even if it means simply enjoying the wind in our face and the beauty before our eyes in silence.
Ultimately, what drives me is being able to be in solitude with God and His creation... when He reveals to me the kindness of strangers and the mercy of law enforcers, and when He gives me courage to restore broken relationships and boldness to love unconditionally.
This is one of many stories I tell. This is part of my B.R.A.N.D. story.
If you are a business owner seeking to make your brand more memorable, it starts with you and your personal brand story. The B.R.A.N.D. System is created as a self-directed tool for you to uncover five key components of your personal brand, which will start you on the journey towards mastering your business brand.