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A Brand Called You

Lesson 8 of 22

Developing Your Mission (Statement)

Debbie Millman

A Brand Called You

Debbie Millman

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Lesson Info

8. Developing Your Mission (Statement)


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1 Class Introduction Duration:12:41
2 Defining Brand Duration:09:34
3 Finding Your Mindset Duration:04:57
5 Busy Is A Decision Duration:02:45
6 Honing your Mindset Duration:07:35
7 Generators vs. Drains Duration:19:39

Lesson Info

Developing Your Mission (Statement)

So now we're going to talk about your mission. Your mission as a creator, as somebody that wants to get something made and create something with meaning and create a life that is purposeful and remarkable. Who here doesn't want a remarkable life? And I talk a lot about a remarkable life. The only way that you can have a remarkable life, in order to create a remarkable life, you have to decide that you want one. You have to decide that you want one. Remarkable lives don't just happen. You make them, you create them, and then you bring them to life. And that's really, in a nutshell, what it means about creating your personal brand. It's making a stand, taking a stand, for what you believe about yourself and your possibilities and making things that reflect that and sharing that with the world. So let's talk a little bit about the mission. The mission of a personal brand. And in order to do that, we need to go back to the idea of positioning because again, as we talked, branding is the re...

sult of a journey of positioning. And so how are we going to position ourselves in the marketplace? How we position ourselves results in the brand. A brand is the result of you declaring what it is you stand for and having something that you believe in, something that other people can recognize and share. So let's go back to positioning. I told you that we were gonna deconstruct this word by word and that's what we're gonna do now. So this is, I talked about how courage is the birthplace of confidence. Well, the positioning is the birthplace of a mission statement, how you position yourself is essentially what you believe in and what you stand for. So the first part of this, your unique beliefs. Your unique beliefs. Who you are in the world and what you stand for is as important as your portfolio. And I'm going to tie this back to something that I said in our previous session about operational excellence. Consider your portfolio the operational excellence. What it is that you show to prove that you know how to do the thing that you say you know how to do. But it requires more than just having a great portfolio to get the job of your dreams. You need to be able to declare what it is that you believe so that other people will be able to understand what it is you stand for. What do you believe in? Why do you do what you do? Why do you create the things that you create? Because none of this is arbitrary. We might think it's arbitrary, I might think well I really love text, so I like to make design with text. But that's not really deeply where the belief comes from. The belief is about the power of a message and the way in with you can communicate the most fundamental raw way. So what do you believe in? What does it mean to believe in something? We can state our beliefs, but do we state them with a sense of meaning or do we retreat if someone challenges us? How much are we willing to put into our beliefs? How proud are we of our beliefs? Are you proud of your beliefs? If you're not proud of your beliefs, then you're not going to share them because if you're not proud of them, chances are you're either insecure about them or worse, you're ashamed. So why do you believe what you do? And how can you articulate what you believe in a way that resonates with others? With all the searches that people have about what makes other people happy, what makes people happy, we have all of these quests. I want to do this and I want to be this and I wanna have this and I wanna own this and I wanna achieve this. But human beings are happiest when our brains resonate harmoniously with others. And all the other things might be helpful and might be beneficial and might be enjoyable and pleasurable but fundamentally, we are happiest when our brains resonate harmoniously with others. And the best way to be able to engage someone else's brain is to share your beliefs with them. So when I talk about beliefs, I really mean what it is you stand for and the two best examples that I have are Martin Luther King and the great football coach, Vince Lombardi. I've got range. (audience laughs) So Martin Luther King had a vision, he had a dream that all people are created equal. That was his belief. He was willing to die for that belief. Martin Luther King didn't go around and conduct polls to see whether or not people believed in whether or not he believed in dreams. Everything now is calibrated to see what people are going to respond, and if people back off that statement or they back off that stance because somebody might not like it somewhere on this planet. You need to know what you believe in whether or not it is popular. And you need to be able to convey that with sincerity. You need to be able to convey it as if your whole life depends on it because it does. Vince Lombardi, the great football coach, went on the record stating that he never lost a game. He said, stated, "I've never lost a football game." And at first people were like, "Mr. Lombardi, Coach, you actually have lost a few games. You know, not many but you've lost a few." And he said, "No I didn't. I never lost a game. I just ran out of time." (audience murmurs) That's a belief, that's a belief. That means that if he had had more time, he would've won and he knows he would have won. That's what you believe in. So what is so true about who you are and what you stand for that you can share with others? How can your brain harmoniously resonate with others by revealing what it is you believe to be true. Not only about you, not only about your work, but the place that we have and we share in the world. That's where the birthplace of a mission statement is born. And so I teach my students this work and at the end of their class, they come out of the class with a statement of things that they believe. And they do this so when somebody says, "What would you like to do when you graduate?" Or "What would you like to do at this job?" Or "What is the thing you can bring to this job that nobody else can bring?", they have an answer. And I realized this morning that it would probably be beneficial if I actually had some examples for you. So it wasn't just me saying "trust me, this works" or "trust me, my students can do this". So I furiously wrote both my classes, my undergrads and my grads from last semester, and said "send me your mission statements! I'll read them, I need to share people with what you've created!" So I have a bunch here that I would like to share with you. My mission statement, when I was only working in the brand design world and creating packaging and products and graphics for fast food restaurants and over-the-counter pharmaceuticals and salty snacks and carbonated soft drinks, I had a really simple mission statement. And the mission statement was I seek to make the supermarket more beautiful. That was my mission statement, one sentence. To be one sentence, what do you seek to do? You don't even have to say I want to, just this is what I seek to do. So one of my students, Kate Larabee, her mission statement is 'I seek to create anomalies with wonder and wit.' So when somebody says to Kate, "Kate, now that you've graduated, what do you want to do?" That's what she says. "I seek to create anomalies with wonder and wit." All you want people to be able to do when they hear this statement is go "huh". (audience laughs) Huh. Because when somebody does that, it means they're interested. You just want a little eyebrow raise. Huh. When somebody raises their eyebrows, it means they're interested. It means they're interested. That's all you want. The thing you don't want is somebody to make an inner eye roll. You don't want a mission statement that induces an inner eye roll. So you want this to be something that you believe in, that you really can hold onto and own. So another one of my students, Lauren Velich, her mission statement is "I seek to bring vulnerability to the impervious." One of the reasons this is so important to her is because she's one of those badass girls that likes to sort of put it all out there but deep down inside, she's just the softest, kindest, most generous woman. So part of what she wants to do is to inspire other people to see past their own sort of badass, impervious selves and harmoniously resonate with that vulnerability. Another one of my students, Sam, his, Sam Baker, "I seek to make change where cultures collide." And then another one's, Yasmin, says, "I seek to uncover opportunities through optimism." She is a really joyful, magically-happy person. Now, they don't have to always be this serious. I had a student in my undergraduate class a couple of years ago, wonderful young man named Zipeng Zhu. Zipeng has since gone on to work for Stefan Sagmeister, first job out of college, so this stuff does work. He also was one of Print magazine's New Visual Artists. I believe he's a young gun. He's a super fabulous young man. He is quite a character. And he did not want one of these super serious mission statements. And he worked really hard and his mission statement is still to this day, you can go to his website and it is right there, front and center, "I seek to make every day a razzle dazzle musical." (audience laughs) That's his mission statement! He had business cards and put it on there, he owns it so the most important thing for a mission statement is to believe in it so strongly that it becomes part of your DNA. Somebody could wake you up in the middle of the night and say, "Martin, what is your business, what is your mission statement?" and you'd say, "I seek to make every day a razzle-dazzle musical. Now let me go back to sleep." (audience laughs) So think about what it is that matters to you. What do you bring? So think about Lauren, Lauren is a badass, tough lady but she's recognized that part of what she wants to be able to do is inspire others through her own investigation of her own vulnerability to see theirs. And that's how she can harmoniously resonate with others that share some of those same attributes. And so many of us share so many of the same struggles. How do we appear and show up both as strong and sincere? As badass, but maybe also bashful? Because we have these wonderful spectrums inside of all of us. So how can we create a mission statement that reflects that with pride and with sincerity and with stature and with vulnerability and with honesty? So an exercise I'd like you to take offline is to develop a mission statement that, if somebody says, "So what do you want to do when you're here?" Or when you're there or when you graduate or when you change jobs, you have something that becomes a part of how you describe yourself. And this is something that evolves and changes. There very thing that you decide you want do to and be today might change in a month or a year or a decade, but the thing is, the key here is to be constantly evolving it and staying in touch with what it is you believe as you evolve. My mission statement isn't "I seek to make the world, the supermarket a more beautiful place" anymore, even though I still think supermarkets should be beautiful. Now I want to make change through branding. And that means being able to work on brands that can make a big cultural change in the world. So think about what that statement is, but in thinking about what this statement is, it is absolutely critical that is has a benefit. So this goes back to what I was talking about this morning. You're looking for a job wherein somebody is going to give you money to do what you want to do. To make what you wanna make. To change what you wanna change. Money, they're going to be giving you money. What can you tell them about who you are that is going to provide a benefit? It's not about being a people person, it's not about being able to multitask. You wanna think of a unique benefit that you can provide. And this isn't a cookie cutter exercise, there's not one benefit that anybody and everybody should have. If you have trouble thinking about what your unique benefit is, ask other people to help you. You don't necessarily know what you don't know, right? So here's where people that you love and trust can help you. What is your unique view of the world? Everybody has a way of showing up that is different from everybody else. How is what you bring into the world something that you own? Take that and create that as the centerpiece of the benefit of what you provide. Think about Lauren. Try to bring vulnerability to the impervious. There's a real benefit there. We all try to be impervious, we all try to show that we're stronger than or better than or bigger than. But if you are able to actually bring some new perspective to the way people view or see or expect things to be, then a potential employer will see a real value in having you on their team. And that's when they're willing to give you money to do the thing that you do. That's above and beyond the good portfolio that you have to have. This isn't about developing a good portfolio. This is about developing a mindset and a methodology and a mission to allow you to compete with everybody else that has really good portfolios to allow you to ultimately be the victor in the competition for that great job. Because if it's a great job, a lot of people want it. So if it's a great job and a lot of people want it, you have to stand out. So you have to have a unique belief and you have to have a benefit and you need to be able to convey that, to say that with stature and with sincerity. So what is the benefit of hiring you? What is the benefit? Or benefits? Better yet, what is the benefits of hiring you? So every year in my undergraduate class, I have the students compile a list of the benefits that they could provide. And I have them in groups and they all have to come up with a top ten list of what is it that you need to have when you show up on that interview. What are the attributes that you need to convey? How do you want to show up in that interview? What are the absolutely critical important things? And they all go into groups and they all come back with a list of 10. They put them up on the wall and then the entire class comes together and from that list of 40 or 50 attributes, they have to decide as a class, unanimously, every single person has to agree what those top 10 attributes are. These are the things that you have to have, that you have to show up with in an interview. And I keep them and I collect them, year after year, their top 10. I am not involved in this exercise. I only write down the words. I don't guide people, I don't urge people to consider certain things. I don't push people any direction. And I'm going to show you now what they come up with, what they come up with year after year. How many times do you see the word 'passionate' on these lists? How many times do you see the word 'intelligent' on this list? Trustworthy, articulate, generator, engaging, memorable, talented, curious. So guess what? What do you think these are? These are what I call Table Stakes. Mind if I jump in with a couple of questions Yes! Before we move on to Table Stakes? Absolutely. Thank you. We just have some great ones from the internet. So this is going back just a couple slides. This is from Darien Rodriguez. Hi Darien. Are there identifiers- and this is a two-part question- Okay. Are there identifiers for when you should stand behind a belief and when you should take into account other opinions? Oh, absolutely, absolutely. Okay. So one of the things I'm going to talk about in the next section is the actual message and how you show up and what you say. And one of the things that is really critical is what happens when somebody doesn't like something or doesn't believe something that you're saying. The most important thing here is to never fall on the sword for your belief. You can't force somebody to believe anything that they don't want to believe. So for example, I go into a department store. And I try on an outfit and I think I look fat. But the saleswoman thinks I look amazing. What do you think the odds are of my buying that outfit? Zero! (audience laughs) Zero because I don't believe what I don't want to believe. If I think something and there's no chance that I think that it could be anything but what I think, no matter what anybody tells me, I'm not going to believe it So, to answer the question, if somebody doesn't believe what you say or if somebody has a very different belief about what you believe, let them. Let them! What are you going to win? You don't fall on the sword for that. You fall on the sword for the relationship. You don't want to ruin the relationship. Now, if somebody has a very very specific opinion about, I don't wanna get too political here, but if somebody has a really really deal-breaker kind of opinion that you just can never accept or believe in as well, then that might be a deal-breaker for whether or not you should work there. So if somebody has a fundamentally different philosophical belief about life and the purpose of living and how we show up as humans, then that might be a good screener, you know? (audience laughs) Like maybe not the best place to work. But if somebody doesn't like something in a portfolio and you do, you're never ever ever ever going to get them to like it, ever. You might get them to understand why you made the decisions that they did, which is great. That you did, rather. You might get them to understand why you chose this and then be like, "okay, well it makes sense, I still wouldn't have done it that way." But you can never get somebody to like something that they don't like or believe something that they don't fundamentally believe to be true. And you have to just let that happen and let it go. And it might be a little uncomfortable, but that will pass, that discomfort will pass. And it's much easier to trust somebody when you know that they believe something that they believe and still like or respect you even if you don't necessarily believe the same thing than to pretend that everybody believes the same thing and it's this wonderful kumbaya. Doesn't ever work that way, doesn't ever ever work that way. I once went to work for somebody that I didn't like, thinking- I'm sorry, I'm gonna say that again. I went to work for somebody that didn't like me. (laughing) You know, the interesting thing about liking and not liking is that we tend to not like people that we think don't like us. It's very rare for us to really hate somebody that we think thinks the world of us. But if somebody doesn't like us, it's much easier not to like them too. But I went to work for somebody that didn't like me and I had the hope that I would somehow be able to transform his belief over the course of working for him. Didn't work. Never ever go to work for somebody that doesn't like you. Because it never gets better. It never gets better. And even if you think, 'well this will be a great thing on my resume', having that experience will do great harm to your psyche. So does that? That's the answer about the whether or not to sort of believe in the same things, or how do you do that- Perfect. There's a second part of that question. Second part is just does the mission statement come purely from within? The mission statement comes purely from within because otherwise it's not authentic. Yep. Otherwise it becomes an opinion poll. And let me test these five statements and see what is the most popular. And it can't be an opinion poll, it has to be something that you believe so thoroughly that it's really part of your DNA and it takes a long time to figure this out. I have students that cry because they can't figure it out. I've never graduated any student that hasn't come up with their own mission statement, ever in the 10 years that I've been doing this. But it takes time and it takes a lot of processing in terms of really deconstructing what you believe in, why you believe in it, what is important to you, what kind of work do you wanna make, and really understanding where you do draw the line about what kind of work and what kind of people you want to engage with. Great, thank you. Sure. Yes, sir? Mic, please. I believe that we are all multifaceted people Yes. And coming up with one mission statement that encompasses everything, is that what you're suggesting? Or you can have multiple or a couple of mission statements? I wouldn't recommend having multiple mission statements because then you're, I think you'll begin to suffer from multiple personality disorder. (audience laughs) Because how do you show up? Who's the person today? But that doesn't mean that your mission statement can't evolve over time as you grow and develop and grow. So yes, I except that your mission statement might change fairly regularly as you also accomplish more and do more or realize more or uncover more, but for that time being, I would suggest that you have one statement for who you are today. Might change tomorrow.

Class Description

Short on time? This class is available HERE as a Fast Class, exclusively for Creator Pass subscribers.

It takes work to get the work you love. It takes knowing how to interview well, how to communicate flawlessly, how to articulate your own purpose and to simultaneously do this while facing tremendous rejection. Debbie Millman is one of the most influential design minds of our time; an author, educator, brand strategist, and founder and host of the acclaimed podcast Design Matters. In her class you'll learn how to:

  • Create a meaningful philosophy that will guide your career
  • Present yourself in meetings and interviews
  • Network and standout from your competition
  • Find discipline in your approach to work
  • Sell yourself with more confidence

Are you spending enough time on looking for, finding and working towards winning a great job? Are you doing everything you can—every single day—to stay in “career shape”? What else should you be doing?

Join Debbie and answer these questions you should be asking yourself...


a Creativelive Student

B R I LLIANNNNNNT !!!! I love the such solid human being that she is and her grandiosity of holding our shoulder and say : go head! Dare to be your best self, own it. Here are some tips .... !!!! Uhuuuuuuuuu!! So inspiring! Thank you so much, Debbie. For couple of days you were my very BEST FRIEND :) Thanks Creative Live!! This is NOT a live "manual" on technical skills. If that is what you are looking for go some steps down and there are plenty of people teaching that, like traditional schools do. You will only learn what is "there" for you to learn if you are open TO HEAR with sincerity. Debbie tells several things that works and that doesn't in professional field besides showing what successful business look for in the people, or partners. Out standing!! I would love to watch another class with her.


I loved this course. Five Stars. I was initially drawn to this course because of the title. I had read Tom Peter's article (with the same name) in Fast Company magazine many years ago, and found it really inspiring. This was before 'brand' was a household word. Anyway, the course is geared more towards designers looking for their dream job than a typical branding course, but as it happens, I am a designer, so it was quite informative. I can also use much of the advice and lessons and apply them to my own business. From contacting potential employers or clients to creative self promotion, there's valuable lesson to be had. I watched and listened to this course in one day, almost straight through. I highly recommend it. Great insight, great advice - whether you're a design student or not. If you're the creative type, I think you'll find this both enlightening and very enjoyable.