Being "On-Brand" with Liz Behlke

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We are thrilled to share the words and wisdom of Liz Behlke, local writer in the Seattle area. With a BA from University of Washington and a MBA from University of Southern California, Liz proudly calls herself a “personal historian” and brand strategist.

Liz wanted to share the following with our readers:

I went out to lunch one day when I was still doing the corporate thing in Alaska. A few inspirational quotes were painted on the wall of the restaurant, including this one:

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” – Dr. Seuss.

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If I were told I had to jettison all my books and keep only one author, Dr. Seuss would be the one. But this quote, on that day, didn’t sit well with me. In fact, I think I heard myself grumble a Grinch-y epithet along the lines of “Bulls***t.”

I was in a place, on that day, in that time, where I felt so much pressure to be who I had to be. This meant I could never follow my literary hero’s advice to be who I am. And even though I’d risen up the corporate ranks and sat at the executive table, it had become harder rather than easier to say what I feel. In that world, the people who mattered did mind.

I was thinking of this the other day when I zipped through the new 99 tunnel to have tea and a photo session with Stevie at 1020 Studio. I instantly fell in love with the freshly painted space in its rustic SoDo building. What struck me the most was the light. Oh, the light! Sunshine, framed by beefy wooden sash windows, poured in from the Sound side. The space is at once functional and inviting. It’s all fresh and new, but it’s already becoming a space for more than work. It’s a space for community.

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Over tea, Stevie described her vision for 1020 Studio; a place where people can create, connect, build community, and be themselves. I know it will be a hit, because nobody is monopolizing the space, it’s being shared. It’s open rather than closed.

To get through all that’s happening in my life right now, I’m surrounding myself with people. This time, they are people who matter. Leaving corporate life felt like stepping off a cliff. And lately I’ve been stepping off cliff after cliff.

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I’m not one who believes in platitudes like, “things happen for a reason.” But I do believe in my own version of karma – you reap what you sow. I hope that by doing good things; and spending time with real people; I’ll be rewarded when karma points are handed out. 

I’ve found that being around entrepreneurs and people who are reinventing themselves is like being plugged in. It’s a source of energy and the reason I wake up ready for every day. Another source of energy is my 18-year-old daughter, Aurora. She creates from morning ‘til night, filling my life with her songs, her writing, and her stories of teen life. 

The other day, Aurora described something she did as “very on-brand.” Meaning she was conscious of how this thing fit her persona. Yes, branding is now something young adults apply to themselves – I used to get paid to teach it in college. 

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I thought about this, and wondered if being “on-brand” is a way we mask our real selves. But then, maybe it’s not that at all. Maybe it’s the ultimate state of being who we are. Could 18-year-olds have figured out true self-awareness by borrowing from the consumer culture they distain?

It’s time for me to be “on-brand.” I want to be part of communities where I can show up being real. Places where I can be who I am and say how I feel. And not mind what people think.

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Liz Behlke has returned to her home town of Seattle to reinvent herself as a writer and brand strategist. You can read about her at lizbehlke.com and follow her on Instagram @Liquidworkspaces. Photos by Stevie Rotella Photography