There's plenty to learn about personal branding. You can also find lessons about things successful people do to get that way.

Far less often do people stop focusing so much on how to achieve their goals and, instead, consider what those goals actually are and how they serve. In many ways, developing a career is like building a business. You construct the foundation, strategically grow through opportunities, and make shifts as necessary with changing conditions. There is another way they should be similar, but often aren't.

In business, success comes typically as an after-effect of satisfying customers, not as the main goal. People don't pay your company because you want them to. They pay because that is the price for getting something they require in the way they want it. The minute you stop satisfying the customer, you begin to lose reputation and business.

Want a bigger business? Satisfy more customers in more markets. Want to make more money? Be valuable to more people. It's a simple relationship. Revenue, expansion, and a strong brand come because you satisfy the people who do business with you.

Focusing in a mirror

Many businesspeople do exactly the opposite. They decide what outcome they want for themselves and then try to manage operations to get it. It's a common enough tactic, but one that is dangerous. Customers, employees, and business partners typically get burned. Planning backwards from results may seem wise --you need to be sure that you have the finances to keep operating, for example -- but when that becomes the consuming passion, it isn't.

That is the problem with the way many pursue their career goals. Someone decides to become a CEO in some number of years. The person now maneuvers this way and that, moving through organizations, jumping ship when it promises advancement, with everything focused on what they want, not what their employers or customers want.

The result is often ugly, as I've seen, following the careers of a number of people I've known over the years. They go from one place to another because they're self-centered, not focused on how they can be of service. At least one made a pretty big killing with one company, but there were so many people burned and discarded, the individual has also lost significant opportunities that otherwise may have been available. (I know because I heard others in business say, "Oh, I've heard about that person and would never do business with them.") Others, intelligent, experienced, and talented, had some opportunities but never reached the pinnacles they sought.

Frozen out by your behavior

Something they had in common was a degree of excessive focus on what they wanted and what they could get out of any situation. Only then did concern for the business, or the people affected by a company, come into play.

Most people don't do business with companies they don't like and that don't care about them unless forced to by circumstance. It may be the only business with the desired item, or perhaps the only one providing service in a geographic area. But given a choice, the dissatisfied go elsewhere.

So do the disaffected. If you don't really care about the people you work for or with or the customers you serve, the attitude eventually trips you. Maybe you'll anger one too many people, or perhaps you become too anxious for your next jump up and grasp at an opportunity that isn't a fit.

If you want to do well, think about who you need to serve, not how others can serve you.