I’ve had incredible highs and lows this year that have made me reassess my life and my brand. What is my brand? I’m a corporate and personal branding strategist, author and speaker who is passionate about helping others reach their brand potential. I have been known for my high energy and productivity. But things got a bit out of hand this year as you’ll read below.
The year started out with a bang. In January 2013, I launched my book, BrandingPays: The Five-Step System to Reinvent Your Personal Brand . The book has taken off and is now an Amazon  business bestseller.
During a multi-city book tour, I garnered more than 40 media hits , including BusinessWeek , Fast Company , Working Mother , Forbes.com , WSJ Radio  and interviews on television network affiliates of ABC , CBS , NBC  and FOX .
During the year, I could barely handle the volume of requests for speaking engagements  at companies, professional groups and universities.
I was riding high. Then, in mid July, my whole world crashed. I had chest pains, and before I knew it, I was in the operating room having open-heart surgery with two cardiac artery bypass grafts. As a non-smoking vegetarian who had good cholesterol numbers and who exercised daily, I thought I wasn’t a high risk for heart disease. But, family genetics trumps clean living. My dad had quadruple-bypass heart surgery and sadly died of a stroke at the age of 49.
After months of working nights and weekends to promote my book and deliver on client deadlines, my body stopped me (almost dead) in my tracks. I was lucky that I got sent to the Emergency Room at Stanford Hospita l before I had a heart attack. Thanks to a great surgeon  and medical team, my surgery went smoothly.
In the dark of night in my hospital room, I thought of this heart warning as a blessing. The universe was telling me that I needed to make some changes in my life. Although I ate a healthy diet and exercised, I decided to be even more vigilant about eating plant-based foods , lowering cholesterol and sodium intake and working out regularly with a cardiac rehab group . I am also trying to lower stress by not taking life, deadlines and achievements so seriously. For goodness sake, heart surgery can be life and death but blogging and book sales are not.
While I recuperated for the first couple of months, I spent my days listening to the birds and watching my flowers grow in my back garden. A librarian friend of mine likened my state to the peaceful garden scene in Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility  where a friend reads poetry to a convalescing young heroine. Taking it easy in my garden restored my soul and helped me to regain my health. I also surrounded myself with family and friends who are the keys to health and happiness.
I began to wonder if the former, energetic Karen was ever coming back. I seemed so content doing nothing.
Like tender shoots emerging after a cold winter, there are signs that my interest in business is coming back. I have resumed my presence on Twitter , I’m following the progress of my book sales, and I am doing client work.
But, I am also reassessing what I want to do versus what I think I should do. What my heart surgery has taught me is that life is short and it’s OK to be picky. It’s also OK not to live someone else’s dream. My definition of success is all that matters.
Reimagining our lives and rebranding for a different work style and lifestyle is possible.
I often talk about cake and icing being a metaphor for brand, with cake being the rational value and icing being the emotional value. My cake, or rational value, is being a corporate and personal brand strategist and author. My icing, however, is changing. I am still optimistic, caring and passionate. But I’m throttling back being overly intense, deadline driven, and eager to please, especially when it is detrimental to my health (like saying YES to impossible deadlines).
With the year about to come to a close, what is your heart’s desire, and what are you doing to achieve it? You don’t have to have a health crisis like me to take stock of your life and your brand. Your goal may be to create a new brand or to tweak an existing one, but you’ve got to know yourself and what you want. Have a goal and make a plan. It’s as simple as following your heart.