My Personal Rebranding: from Jonathan to Bruce

It’s time to fire up presses again and restart publishing.  I’ve got a couple new articles that I have in mind, but first I want to reflect a bit about my recent personal rebranding, from Jonathan to Bruce.

I’ve got a couple reasons for restarting my writing:

– First, writing lets me think through ideas – to take a lot of thoughts and reflections, organize them, and create a central thesis.  When I talk to others, one of my great strengths is being able to refine ideas: I ask the right questions to get the information I need, combine it with my knowledge, and organize it all together into a central thesis or hypothesis.  But it’s difficult for me to apply process to myself – except through writing.

– Second, writing allows me to establish a published trail, an aura of legitimacy, which is something that I currently lack.  As I continue to look for Product Management roles, I know that I can do the work, but I can’t prove it.  In order to prove it, I need to either point to products that I’ve shipped end to end, or point to a series of published articles that establishes my expertise.

So it’s get to get back onto the writing wagon.  But first, I want to do some personal reflection on some personal rebranding that I’ve gone through recently.

A lot of my older friends and family know me as Jonathan.  Now, I mostly go by Bruce.  It’s a long story.  The short of it is: in elementary school, 5th grade, I was every Asian stereotype: good at math, shy, socially awkward, bowl haircut, talked with a stutter, and had a hard time making friends.  It’s a period that I’ve mostly blocked out of my memory.

But one of my few memories is getting the nickname of Bruce.  I was in the classroom, during a break when everyone was milling around and no teachers were around.  I’m standing around minding my own business, when a bully comes up to me, and starts messing with me.  Scissors were brandished.  I respond by deciding I wanted no part of this, and pull out some martial arts.  I may have punched him in the nose.  And my classmates, seeing the commotion and knowing that my last name is Lee, dubbed me Bruce.

I hated it.  I hated it with a passion.  My name was Jonathan, not Jon, not definitely not John.  And yet, the nickname followed me all through middle school, high school, and even college; a classmate who was sometimes a good friend and sometimes my worst enemy moved in the same circles as me, and always made it a point to call me Bruce.  And the the name stuck, but in what I felt was a mocking way.  After all, I was an skinny, awkward kid, totally different from the real Bruce.

It was only until after college that I finally to escape the Bruce moniker.  But ironically, around that time, I had a mentor who followed and promoted Bruce Lee’s philosophy, to be steadfast and not be unduly influenced by factors outside of his control.  Crucially, I’m here to live my own life and follow my own path, and not to follow somebody else’s expectations.  This resonated with me.

After I left New York City and started traveling the world, I started to go by the name Bruce.  It simply made sense – I was looking to discover myself, to get out of my comfort zone, and become more of the type of person I wanted to be.  Plus, having a shorter name always helps.  So even after finishing my travels and coming back to the USA, I’ve continued to go by Bruce – it’s become part of my identity.

It’s a little complicated still, this personal rebranding.  My legal name is still Jonathan.  I almost always introduce myself as Bruce.  My LinkedIn says Bruce (Jonathan) Lee.  My Facebook, which I rarely use, says Jonathan Lee (Bruce Lee).  I’ve got multiple emails accounts, so that I send out emails “from” both Jonathan and Bruce.  This website obviously still says I’m Jonathan.  Family is sometimes confused when somebody calls me Bruce.

If I were doing a company rebranding, I’d do it all in one go – over one night, the entire company would be rebranded – all logos would be changed, and there would even be a press release.  I’m a bit less decisive, and my personal rebranding is going slowly.  So where does that leave me?

I’m Jonathan.  I’m also Bruce.  But either way, I’m constantly working on being the person I want to be.  And for now, that’s good enough for me.