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Monday, February 22, 2021
Your Personal Brand Doesn't Need to Be Complicated. It Just Needs to Be Honest

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Business Drinking 201

Have you ever had a Chinese businessman get you drunk over dinner? Believe it or not, this business tactic relates to today’s topic of developing your personal brand. Stick with me. 

In China, it’s common for businessmen to go out for a night of drinkingwith a possible new business associate before deciding to work with a person. In western cultures, where business practices are usually very different, we might call this unprofessional. Here, we prefer to stay on topic and argue the point at hand. (God forbid you to mention anything about your personal life, let alone allude to drinking!)

But should we be so quick to judge this tradition? 

The reason many Chinese businesspeople do thisbefore exchanging money is because of a common societal tradition to assess your new business partner’s character in an organic setting first. “Friend or foe?” It’s common for Chinese businesspeople to determine this by going out to dinner, getting drunk, and talking about anythingbutbusiness. 

Why? Because you can’t fakethose interactions. 

Talking about personal matters and cutting loose actually reveals a lot about a person, and the businesspeople using this strategy understand that the values revealed in every-day interactions can translate over into a person’s business practices, too. This practice is great for solidifying healthy, friendship-based business relationships (or kills bad ones before they happen- which is probably always good thing.)

Yet in our western society, there are many who use false imagery of success and honor to make peoplebelieve their character is good- even if it isn’t. You can probably create a list of the most famous con-men (previously thought to be respectable businesspeople) who all did this- or are actively doing it. Jordan Belfort (former Wall Street stockbroker, now convicted felon) is a prime example. 

But what does any of this have to do with you and your personal brand? 

Western customs are being challenged and forcefully shifted by modern technology- that’s what! Modern search engines and social media algorithms (which drive the business ecosystem online and off) have been forced to start using the honor system in their search results- rewarding the most trustworthy people and businesses. This translates to a need for more up-front transparency from businesspeople who want to stand out.

With this transformation from the old ways of hyper-professionalism (to the point of falsity) to hyper-personalism and character-reading, we see a new era of transparency being welcomed- nay, demanded- by consumers (online or not.) 

The truth is, people no longer trust the polished, self-filtered personas portrayed by “successful” people of bygone eras.  Instead, today we see that the most successful influencers, businesspeople, and celebrities are the ones who defy expectations and are totally honest about who they are- and they don’t try to hide the “ugly” stuff. 

Oprah Winfrey

(Oprah Winfrey, one of the the most successful self-made woman ever, is known for crying unabashedly and empathizing with guests on her show and in her media empire.) 

Examples of such transparency in action in popular figures:

  • In tech and innovation, Bill Gates still makes appearances on talk shows, podcasts, and other places where people can learn about not only his initiatives but to get the insider scoop  His story of being totally self-made and a self-appointed “nerd” helps people relate to him on a profound level. 
  • In media, Oprah always offered her perspective to her talk show guests, allowing for raw, honest, and emotionally charged television in a world that was mainly highly-scripted at the time. She’s also a big believer in following your gut! 
  • In science, Neil Degrasse Tyson answers questions from everyday people and uses the core message of “never-ending amazement in science” to drive a beginner-friendly take in astronomy and science. By making appearances with unassuming pop-culture shows like “Hot Ones” and “Joe Rogan Experience,” he shares his love of science with anyone willing to listen!
  • In social media, plus-size model Ashley Graham (who boasts over 11 million followers on Instagram) is a pioneer of the body positivity movement- posting pictures of the good, the bad, and even the ugly side of her life. Glamour? Absolutely. Untouched photos paired with the touched up alternatives, illuminating the power of photoshop in ads? Yes again. The struggles of motherhood? All there. Her page has the permeating theme of radical self-acceptance that leaves people feeling better than before they came. 

What do all of these successful people have in common?Their beliefs are a driving force inall of their work- (and life) and they put it on full display. Simply by being open about who they are, they actively give people like them someone to relate to and someone totrust. 

These successful people did this from the start of their careers- and it’s been something many swear is responsible for their success.  Translating these lessons to fit your goals means it’s time to be honest about your personal brand and beliefs by being honest with yourself. 

What do you believe in? Why? Who would relate to your journey?

People want to see the details, and they want to know that you don’t just talk the talk, but also walk the walk.  Whoever you are, wherever you’ve been, you have something to offer other people-your experiences and dreams for the future. People will relate to even the smallest details of your life! While you yourself are totally unique, your specific experiences are almost always shared. 

That’s why you should tell the story about the time you made a mistake. Or, the time you did something wrong. Or, a time when you were the most vulnerable.  While these things aren’t traditionally synonymous with the image of “success” we in the western world love, they are what determines admirable character- and what people use to determine whether they trust or even like you.

Always remember:decisions are made using emotion, and backed up with logical thinking. Interpersonal relations are no different, and actually inseparable from business. Whether the decision someone is making is to sign a contract with you, hire you, or even simply follow you on Instagram, the emotional cues that your stories hit are what makes it the action happen. 

There is also a second issue that arises from this conclusion- the challenge of doing business virtually. The highly-important face-to-face “micro-interactions” and character-assessing situations are disappearing from business practices as we knew them, due to coronavirus and ever-increasing technology. 

There is no time for “water-cooler talk” between Zoom meetings, for example. 

So, there are two tasks for you:

  1. Let people know the REAL you (and what you stand for) before the business talk begins
  2. Get people to learn this voluntarily and virtually, possibly without them ever meeting you in person

That’s a tall order, but it’s one modern-day entrepreneurs are fulfilling every day, even during unprecedented world events. 

However people discover you and encounter your personal brand, my parting advice from implementing this strategy is still the same. 

  1. Always be honest about your background. Whether you’re at dinner or live streaming, this will nurture the trust you desire with your audience. 
  2. Break taboos. What’s the elephant in the room in your industry or area of interest? Talk about it and you’ll earn respect, while also proving that you understand other people, not just yourself. 
  3. Be human. Everyone has “off days,” or days when they’re just putting out fires. You can have them too- and acknowledging it shows that you’re an open book. You can also cry and show emotion- because if Oprah did it, so can you. 
  4. Take an interest in other people! Your audience isn’t a silent void. They’re REAL people! Answer their questions and make them feel special whenever possible, catering your initiatives to them. Social media makes this especially easy these days! 
  5. Walk the walk. Do you practice what you preach? How do they know that? People don’t like braggarts- they like people who can back up their claims. So show them, don’t tell! 

As Dale Carnegie says, “People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing.”

Tie your core beliefs and passions into your personal brand and business ventures. This conveys and imbues them into your professional interactions. Then, it’s only a matter of time before you start seeing and feeling the magic happen.

Until next time, 


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Monday, March 08, 2021
Want to Be Successful? Start By Defining Success

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“Do you want to be SUCCESSFUL? 

I went from $1 in my pocket to $100 million in my bank, just by using ONE BIG SECRET.

Buy my course for $297 and I’ll show you exactly how you can do it too.”

We’d be lying if we said we haven’t heard some form of this sales pitch before. Whether it was from a salesman trying to convince us that a timeshare is a “ wise investment,” or a Youtube business “guru” selling us a course- it’s easy to see a “get rich quick scheme” coming from a mile away. 

However, “get rich quick schemes” are a perfect example of whywe need to think about the topic of success a little more carefully. Namely, what does it really mean to “be successful?” Lots of people in society try to package, bottle, and sell the dream of success, but it’s important to know what success means toyou before letting someone else sell it to you. 

When you hear the word success, it’s easy to start dreaming. That’s a good thing. We love to dream about the potential of the future. And personally, I think it’s healthy to set goals and dream about the life we want. In fact, psychology shows us that visualizing our goals directly relates to achieving them! 

According to  research, “the thalamus [the part of the reality-making process of the brain] makes no distinction between inner and outer realities, and thus, any idea, if contemplated long enough, will take on a semblance of reality … The concept begins to feel more attainable and real, and this is the first step in motivating other parts of the brain to take deliberate action in the world.”

For future and goal-oriented people like us, this is GREAT news. Now we know that motivation and inspiration are directly correlated to real world results, and will help us actually achieve our goals. (If you want daily inspiration, click here →) 

But one main problem remains when it comes to defining success for the modern age: success seems to be different for everyone, depending on what matters to them. 

If one were to meditate on their desire for future success, they might say:

  • “I want to be successful.”
  • “I will be successful.” 
  • “When I’m successful…” 

But when I think about these mantras further, something rubs me the wrong way. It seems that there is a disparity between what success really looks like compared to the caricatures we make of it when fantasizing (but not claiming to have it yet.) For people who consider themselves “not yet successful,” images of money and material wealth oftentimes consume the idea of success. 

Such fantasies include:

  • Flying private or in first class
  • Luxury sports cars
  • Boat rides in Miami
  • Five star hotels 

The list goes on. However, for already “successful” people, they do not think about things this way. They’d probably say the material wealth came naturally when pursuing theright thing for them. Yet, when they achieved that so often dreamed about material wealth, they didn’t stop working. 


Because success is a LOT more than just material wealth- and it almost never is fueled by the desire for money alone. 

Ferrari Interior View

(the caricature of success, often propagated by musicians and performers putting on a show)


Bill Gates

(the less pretty reality of success) 

To form a better working definition of success, let’s first examine the very way we use “success” in language and logical arguments regarding it. 

In formal logic, sound arguments are made using “premises” which need to be true.

For instance, a famous sound logical argument is:

Premise 1: Socrates is a man

Premise 2: All men are mortal


Conclusion:Therefore, Socrates is mortal. 

This is an example of a true, sound logical argument.  However, in society, valid arguments can be made using false premises, and we often fail to notice when it happens. (This is called valid, because the argument functions properly, but is based on false premises, so the conclusion is false.)  

When redefining success, we need to be sure our opinions about success aren’t formed on false premises, too! 

Let’s get more hands-on with the logic, and how easy it is to accept false definitions/assumptions of success. 

Here’s a valid but false argument:

Premise 1: Warren Buffett is successful       (objectively true)

Premise 2: All successful people drive Ferraris      (false, but something many people assume so)


Conclusion: Therefore, Warren Buffett drives a Ferrari.     (definitely false.)

This conclusion is a false statement- the frugal Warren Buffet is actually very humble about his material wealth and is famous for driving a modest car and living in the same home since the 70s. Actually, many billionaires behave the same way. 


Bill Gates

(Mark Zuckerberg and his $30,000 Acura)

Yet, this bad logical argument is an example of how people use the dream of success to draw conclusions about whatyou should do, without ever giving you time to dissect their statements more carefully or think more about the topic.

So, instead of trying to deduce what success is based on material things and external behavior, let’s look at whatreally drives the uber-successful: their mentality and driving goals. 

All of the following people are millionaires and billionaires, yet none of them stopped working once they reached a large net worth.

  • Bill Gates
  • Jeff Bezos
  • Oprah Winfrey
  • Warren Buffett
  • Mark Zuckerberg
  • Steve Jobs
  • Madonna
  • J.K. Rowling

Furthermore, all the people on this list have drastically different material lifestyles, even though they can all afford to live in the lap of luxury. Oftentimes, they directly and intentionally choose not to be ostentatious. 

From this we can assume that the defining characteristics of successful people cannot stem from material things, because it is a source of inconsistency among them. (That’s not to say we cannot examine the specific material habits of specific people to learn from them- we just can’t assume these things are the same across the board.)

There are a few things, however, that the uber-successful do all have in common, in my estimates. 

  1. Material/monetary stasis has been achieved, but is not their driving motivation. They’re able to think past the basic survival needs and extend their work into the inspired. 
  2. They have total freedom and control of their time- filling their days with only what matters to them. 
  3. They are governed by larger goals, oftentimes benevolent and world-changing in nature. 
  4. They are able to achieve the goals they set and make an impact. They’re productive and effective as well as “big thinking.” 
  5. They never stop the pursuit of “better.” Every win along the road is just a reason to work harder, and sets the stage for larger headway. 

When we think about success this way, it seems that it’s more about creating the life you want, where you can make an impact in the way you think is best. Further, it seems that “success” isn’t a destination, nor a number on a bank account. It’s a constant practice of knowing yourself, making consistently effective decisions, pivoting with change, and always staying true to yourself and your prerogative. 

Now, if you haven’t already- this is the time to define what success means to you. After all, you’re the only person who can define what you want it to look and feel like in your own life.  

Here are a few questions to inspire you while you decide what success means to you:

  • What are you doing when you are happiest?
  • How do you think the world could be better?
  • If money weren’t an object, how would you spend your time?
  • If you had enough money to help people, what would you do? 
  • How can you make life easier for other people?

As Albert Schweitzer says:  "Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful."

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