Entrepreneur Edition with Lina Taylor
June 07, 2022
There are some podcasts that leave you so motivated, you find yourself nodding along with them. This is one of them. In this new episode of The 19: Entrepreneur Edition, Olympian Lina Taylor shares the very same tips that she used to develop her personal brand. From finding clarity in your vision to sharing your story, we hope that she leaves you as motivated and inspired to create as she left us.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:00:00] This is The 19, a podcast that delivers marketing insights from Orange Label in 19 minutes or less. This year, the agency is celebrating 50 years of working with established brands that are driven by a fearless entrepreneurial mindset. What does this mean for you? It means enriched conversations and stories with marketing and leadership experts aimed at improving lives.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:00:30] Hello and welcome to The 19: Entrepreneur Edition! I’m Rochelle Reiter, President of Orange Label. Today, we’re talking about personal branding. Well, this may not feel like it pertains to you when you take away the formality of the name. The core of it is how you market yourself. Our guest today, Lina Taylor, is a two time Olympian Volleyball player who utilized lessons of resilience from her life and sports career to build her personal brand as an executive coach. Her work in promoting her story and mindset has led her to speaking events and workshops for companies including Shopify, American Red Cross, Zendesk, Google and more. And now she’s here to inspire your personal brand. Lina, welcome to The 19. We’re so excited to have you here today!
Lina Taylor: [00:01:12] Thank you for having me, Rochelle. I’m really excited to be here.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:01:19] So it’s not often that we get to speak with an Olympian athlete on The 19. Can you tell us a little bit about your transition from Olympian to entrepreneur?
Lina Taylor: [00:01:28] It’s definitely a transition, just like any other major transition in life. You experience a sense of a loss of identity in the way that you have been before, but it gives you a chance to reinvent yourself. And so what I’ve learned through going through several transitions like this is I started making a list of the things that I would be doing if I wasn’t playing, if I wasn’t a professional beach volleyball player anymore. And I remember earlier in my twenties when there was a time when I couldn’t think of anything else that I wanted to do more than just hop on the next plane, take me to a beautiful setting and playing a tournament. That’s all I wanted to do. But once I had done that for about ten years and played in two Olympics, now I started making less. What else would I be doing with my gifts, with the things that I want to offer the world? And when that list started getting pretty long, I decided it’s time to jump. It’s time to change ships.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:02:22] What a fascinating way to do that. What an exploration. I think everyone should do that.
Lina Taylor: [00:02:30] Don’t wait until you’re in your late forties or fifties.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:02:33] Yeah, I’ve never heard it explained that way. That’s great. So at what point did you realize that you could take your story and build a personal brand from it?
Lina Taylor: [00:02:42] That’s a great question. It was the beginning of the pandemic, and what I had is I’ve always kept a journal for myself, but I had started keeping a journal for each one of our three kids. And so I had the three journals for the kids. I had a travel journal for us. I had my own journal. And I was kind of thinking, I need to figure out a way to write a better story or tell a better story. Tell it in a way, because I didn’t I didn’t have time to keep up. I didn’t have time to write in the journals for everybody. So I thought I need to be able to tell a better story. And then in starting to explore this, I thought, well, what better story to tell than my story just so I can start practicing. And and very interesting things started to happen as I was starting to recall and retell my story. All of these things that I had buried a long time ago started coming up to the surface, and I realized that there are some really important lessons now. Right around that time, I had the opportunity to create an online experience to which I would bring different corporations, individuals, and then have them experience for an hour of their time, you know we were all stuck at home. We were all trying to work and figure out what’s going to happen here. But I used my story in the lessons that I had learned as a way to illustrate some basic leadership principles and some things that can help us achieve some of the things that we want to achieve and overcome the obstacles that we would inevitably meet along the way.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:04:12] Great. Well, earlier when we were talking before, you talked about a part of marketing yourself that was really challenging. Can you share with our audience that challenge that you went through?
Lina Taylor: [00:04:23] Well, I think everyone will raise their hand if we asked the audience the question, do you have trouble marketing yourself? Usually, yes, across the board. And I think that’s very, very true with women, even even more so. But men, women, I think we all experience that challenge, even with people who are working in marketing. When you turn the mirror to try to explain what is it that about you? What kind of value do you bring? And so I had the same struggles, too. It felt uncomfortable being in the spotlight. And at one point I realized the reason why I’m feeling uncomfortable putting the spotlight on myself is because I’m not really clear on the message that I’m trying to communicate on the other side. And once I spent some time looking inside and thinking about what is the experience that I want to create for the person that’s on the other side of this reading it, things started to kind of fall together and it didn’t feel as much as I was trying to sell myself. It was more about, Hey, let’s go on this journey together and explore what is possible when you think about it in that way, if you’re telling a story, if you’re creating a world, if you’re creating a product that somehow will make people’s lives better, start focusing on that experience when we focus on the experience versus, Oh, you know, this is my brand and this is what I want to do, then the energy starts to flow and then it feels more natural and doesn’t feel salesy.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:05:53] So you’re focusing on the person on the other end, what you want them to experience versus focusing on yourself.
Lina Taylor: [00:06:00] Exactly. Exactly. And I learned that through, there is a moment in professional sports, in playing beach volleyball, playing the Olympics. You know, we all get nervous getting out on the court, going out and playing in front of 50,000 people. It’s a nerve wracking deal. And so what I learned through sports and having the. Titian and doing it at that high level is that whenever I could place my focus across the net, across what I was trying to do and not on myself, that nervousness went away completely. And I realized that pressure that pressure is actually a really key component in bringing out some of those gifts that we each carry. And what I mean by gift is that when you imagine what has to happen for a diamond to turn into a diamond, it’s a piece of coal. Right. And in pressure that turns that piece of coal into the diamond. And so as an athlete, I learned to cherish that pressure. I knew that that pressure would actually help bring out another side of me that I didn’t even know was there. And so I’ve taken that lesson and now applying it to entrepreneurship in the different things that I’m doing.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:07:08] That’s that’s great insight. Do you find that a lot of your clients struggle with marketing themselves? You mentioned especially women. Tell us a little bit about that.
Lina Taylor: [00:07:18] Yes, absolutely. We we all struggle to a certain extent. And I think as women, we’ve been conditioned to a certain extent by society to not bring forward that part of us, were conditioned to stay in the shadows. We’re conditioned to let other people shine around because of, you know, a lot of times we’re afraid of how people were would perceive us. And this is another place where sports has really helped me in, especially being being a woman and playing. Even growing up in communist Bulgaria actually helped me with some of these things to view things differently from another angle. And so what I could offer is that, again, the reason why we feel uncomfortable is because we’re thinking about ourselves and not necessarily on what is the world, what is the experience we’re trying to create. When you shift that focus, then things start to change immediately and then focus on the value that you provide, how the other person will perceive it and experience it. So yes, we have a big part of the training that I do is this values based self image that I think is really helpful to develop. But whether you’re a man or a woman, it doesn’t matter when you are centered around your values and when you spend a little time, even each day, to remind yourself, what is the value that I want to create in the world? Where is the value that I want to offer? Then that salesy part just falls away.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:08:53] Yeah, it’s great for individual branding, but also corporate branding for companies as well.
Lina Taylor: [00:08:58] Absolutely. Yes.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:08:59] So let’s shift to social media. Why in the age of social media is having a personal brand so important, do you believe?
Lina Taylor: [00:09:09] Through social media for the very first time in history of the world, I believe we each have an opportunity to have a voice and not just a voice, but an image. And so it’s a really important time to be able to capture that opportunity. If you think back, even just 20 years ago, things were very, very different. We were looking to the big media companies, we were looking to the magazines, the TV stations, to the radio to sort of organize the way that we experience our lives. And now each one of us has an opportunity to create that experience, and social media has made it possible. And I think even if it’s just to get in touch with what is important to us, that is where social media really plays a big role. Now, there’s always another side to it. And what happens is I oftentimes say that comparison is the birthplace of misery. So true comparison is the birthplace of misery. If you want to be miserable, look at someone else and then try to compare yourself to them. But if you want to create something unique and authentic, you could look to other people in social media and try to learn the lessons from them. But I think that you have to be vigilant. You have to work constantly on keeping yourself in check. My really centered around my values, what I believe is really important to me and our brand and our company, or am I looking for direction from that other place? And it would never feel good. It would never feel authentic if you’re trying to recreate what somebody else is doing.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:10:57] So true. So true. So if someone was to start their own personal brand and go down that journey and that path, what would you suggest would be a good starting point?
Lina Taylor: [00:11:08] I accidentally stumbled upon one of the best ways to figure out what is your brand, what is the unique value that you offer into the world? And that is by looking inward and asking yourself the question, What are some of the experiences that I’ve had in my life that I’ve learned a lesson here? What is something that I’ve always thought it should be there, but it’s not? And how did I experience it? And once I had it, how did my life change and became better? And how could that help other people too? So looking inward is the way to start looking inward and asking yourself, you know, find a really good friend that will listen to you for hours, that will judge you and that will keep asking you questions so that you can start telling that story. And if you are uncomfortable talking to a friend, then start writing a journal. But get in touch with that story, with this thing that you carry inside of you. There are no two people on this planet Earth that are exactly the same. And so we each bring something unique into the world. And I think that if we can start to uncover that, right, just like mining for that diamond.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:12:22] Right.
Lina Taylor: [00:12:22] That lies not outside, but within each one of us, that is the place to start
Rochelle Reiter: [00:12:28] So insightful! In your leadership training and executive coaching, you have a technique on how to close the gap between where clients are now and where they want to be. Can you tell us a little bit about that and how it can apply to your personal brand?
Lina Taylor: [00:12:43] Absolutely, because it was through telling those stories that I looked at, how can I organize the things that I have learned in a way that somebody else could follow simple steps and the word close, I’m using that as an acronym for those steps. Number one, the ‘C’ stands for clarity. Do we have the clarity of that vision? What do we want to create? You see, a lot of times I think there’s the whole buzzword within like what is your what? And I appreciate that work very much, but I think that we have to start. We are visual creatures. We have to start with this vision. We have to start with what do you want to create? What do you want to create? And then very closely thereafter, you have to ask yourself the question, now, why is that important to you? Right? And then you think about how you’re going to make it happen. So the clarity is it’s all about clarifying this vision. What do you want to create in the world? Why is it important to you? What are the guiding values that will help you make effective decisions along the way? You know, when I think about things in my life that didn’t work out, let’s say it was a business that I started that didn’t work and or a project or even a relationship. And I asked myself the question, now, why didn’t this work? Inevitably, the answer comes down to what this alignment of values. So think about that. This alignment of values if you reverse that process out in you identify from the beginning what are the principles that are really important to you in each and every situation? This is how we get to define those values and then you make decisions in your business on a daily basis or for yourself in alignment with those values. That is very, very critical to take you to where you want to go. Imagine there’s another visual that I want to give you. And it’s and it’s the one that where, you know, you would never go to an airport and hop on an airplane without knowing where that airplane is going.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:14:40] Right.
Lina Taylor: [00:14:40] You’d never do that! At least I don’t know anybody that does that!
Rochelle Reiter: [00:14:44] No, mystery destination!
Lina Taylor: [00:14:48] Right. Right. So we have, you know, we have an idea of where we’re going with this. And so it’s clarity. It’s that vision creating this place that you want to create, creating that experience that you want to create. And then the second step of the process is to now it’s time for action. Once you have that, it’s laser sharp focus. So the ‘L’ stands for having laser sharp focus. And I learned that again through sports. You know, the path to the Olympics was not like a red carpet for me. It was the opposite. It was just mined with difficulties for, you know, for one, when my sister and I decided to play beach volleyball in the Olympics, we had never even played that sport before.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:15:28] Wow!
Lina Taylor: [00:15:30] We’re playing a different sport. We had already, I had graduated from college. I had started working in the corporate world. But then I wanted to pursue this childhood dream of mine to playing the Olympics. So I literally went from sitting on my couch watching the Olympics on TV, and then four years later playing in the Olympics myself and figuring out this whole new sport. What allow me to do that in such a short period of time is having that discipline of the laser sharp focus, which really comes down to eliminating the distractions along the way, which a distraction I define as anything that is not within your control. Distraction is anything that is not within your control, and that allows you to focus only on the things that you can do right now, right now, right in this moment. So let me continue very quickly. The rest of the process is the ‘O’ stands for overcoming obstacles, turning them into opportunities. And we always will come to a point, especially if there’s something we’ve never done before, that we’re going to run into an obstacle. And how I’ve come to view obstacles is that there are stepping stones, but it takes effort to get up on that little hill. So that allows you to look at the horizon and see what is going to be your next step. So the way that you overcome that obstacle and turn it into an opportunity is to again look at what is important to you. What is it, that practice of centering always to the value, what, what are you trying to create? And then the ‘S’ stands for how do we shift for growth? So there’s really three ways to respond in any situation. You either persevere, you learn new skills, you increase your offering, you increase the value that you offer, or you make a change. You pivot change direction based on how you answer that question. What’s most important to you or you realize that it’s time to let go, right? This is the third way. No matter how far you’ve gone down the wrong road, you let go and then you get back on the path that really matters. And then the ‘E’ is really about how do we cultivate this kind of tools so that we encode this kind of mindset into everything that we do.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:17:40] That I love the acronym C.L.O.S.E., close the gap. So in terms of advice, one last piece of advice, now that someone has their personal brand, how do you suggest they maintain it over time?
Lina Taylor: [00:17:54] That’s a really good question. So we all when we start with this idea world, right, there is a lot of enthusiasm. There’s a lot of natural energy that comes to us. And what tends to happen is that we realize that there are many other things that we have to do aside from what the initial idea was. And so you enter that right when you’re building a business, it’s not just the actual service that you provide.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:18:21] Right.
Lina Taylor: [00:18:22] You have to keep the books you have to. So I think the best thing to do is to figure out how you can build a team around you and allow for other people who are good at other things, aside from what you’re really good at, to support you and to have an opportunity to create that cohesive team structure. And it doesn’t have to be a full time team. You could do it with part time help.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:18:46] Sure.
Lina Taylor: [00:18:46] I do believe that getting other people on board is really, really key to go from, you know, I have this idea to now growing it and maintaining it over time.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:18:58] Lina, thank you so much for sharing your story today and giving our listeners advice on how to build their personal brand. It was very insightful. I loved your tactics, the close the gap. And also getting into the mindset of what value you bring to others and what experience you want them to have, so thanks again.
Lina Taylor: [00:19:16] Absolutely, Rachelle. It was my pleasure. Thank you for having me.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:19:24] Thank you for listening to The 19: entrepreneur Edition with Olympian and executive coach Lina Taylor. To learn more about Lina’s speaking, coaching and team building services, visit CloseTheGapLeadership.com. If you have additional thoughts on the topic of personal branding, send us an email. You can send questions, comments and more to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:19:53] A special thank you goes out to our contributors Senior Studio Manager Kelsey Phillips, Micah Panzich, who edits our show, and Ashley Ruiz, Senior Content Writer. Be sure to subscribe to The 19 on Apple Podcasts, Google Play and Spotify, and if you like what you heard today, leave us a review!