Last time, we looked at the cosmetic side of personal branding. It’s vital, and only the very foolish (or brave) choose to ignore it. But for a truly compelling, powerful personal brand, you need to look a little deeper.

Ancient philosophers like Plato believed that one can become a fully rounded person by cultivating virtues — personal traits that help you achieve important goals, and be a good citizen and fellow-traveler in the world.

In the next few instalments, we’ll cover each of the ancient virtues that Plato forwarded as worth cultivating. Why all this ancient stuff? Well, one part of being 100% clever is to look at all the avenues of human knowledge. Not just the new kids on the block.

Plato’s first virtue is Wisdom.

Wisdom is cultivated through study, and more importantly, reading. I’ve never met a someone with a powerful personal brand who wasn’t also an avid reader. And not just self-help pulp that you pick up at the airport bookstore!

In fact, to cultivate wisdom, you need to read widely, and with curiosity about the world around you. Read outside your immediate discipline. If you’re in HR, read some books on economy (and don’t be shy to start with the ubiquitous For Dummies series). If you’re an accountant, read a book about ancient history, or particle physics, or psychology.

Wisdom comes from being able to see how apparently unrelated facts and insights can inform each other and enrich our understanding.

So here’s your homework: For the next year, we’d like you to read one book per month that is totally outside your immediate field of interest and career path. Avoid the pulpy self-help clones, and use good reading guides, like the New York Times Book review, Discovery Magazine, or that pony-tailed weirdo at your local book store to find the right stuff with which to fill your bookshelf.

Next Time:

We’ll look at Plato’s second virtue: Balance.