Fear And The Art of Creation

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Fear And The Art of Creation

Earlier this year, Chris Guillebeau and I had the pleasure of sharing some thoughts about being fearless at the TEDx conference at Carnegie Mellon. Well, we’ve both been thinking a lot about fear and the creative process since then and wanted to take the conversation deeper in a joint discussion. So, we’ve put together a panel idea […]

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Turning Fear Into Fuel

Back in April, I had the great pleasure of presenting at the TEDx conference at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in Pittsburgh. And, maybe the only thing that made it cooler was that I got to be there with a really good friend, Chris Guillebeau, who was also taking the stage. I have mixed feelings about […]

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How to Scale Your Personal Brand, Earn More and Get a Life

You’ve worked so hard to establish a reputation, but now it’s backfired…and, you’re in personal branding hell. Building a strong personal brand—being known as the go-to person in a specific niche—has it’s ups. Everyone turns to you for information, for ideas, for thought leadership, for advice, for strategy, for connections, for presentations, for favors, for […]

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Are Personal Brands For Moguls, Morons or Megalomaniacs?

It seems to be all the rage lately…

The power of personal branding. Become the wizard in your space. Establish yourself as the go-to person, the thought leader, the one with all the answers and the smartest strategies. Leverage the astonishing power and reach of the internet, the blogosphere, the twittersphere, the Facebooksphere, the Google Buzz-o-sphere, The LinkedIn-o-sphere.

Your quest is simple. Become…lé guru in your niche!

We’re told, building a personal brand online:

  • Leads to fame and and adoration.
  • Drives the world to you for answers.
  • Gets you jobs, gigs and opportunities,
  • Puts cash money in your pocket.
  • Makes your life easier

How cool is that?!

There’s only one small problem…

All too often, personal brands are astonishingly shallow.

They start and stop at the point of capabilities and accolades. They stay topical. Superficial. Digital resumes on monkey hormones. They focus on the snapshot of what you can do, without ever really exploring how well aligned your personal brand is with who you are on a deeper, more visceral level and who you want to become.

Personal branding has ENDURING power…IF you first do the really hard work that most people skitter past.

Drill down. Move beyond your momentary skills and abilities.

Ask the hard questions:

  • Who am I?
  • What do I care about?
  • What makes me come alive?
  • Who makes me come alive?
  • Who do I want to serve?
  • What am I building and why?
  • What impact do I want to have?
  • What story do I want to be told about the way I’ve lived my life?
  • What massive, pervasive problems do I see that need to be solved?
  • How can I solve them in a way nobody else can?
  • What is my totally unique gift? And…
  • Why should anyone else care?

And, this is just a starter list.

Powerful personal brands are built on considered exploration of these questions over a period of months, years or decades.

They evolve as your answers evolve. And, here’s the real kicker…

Personal brands are not created by you.

You take action and serve others.

You offer words, ideas, insights, solutions, paths and inspiration.

You share your gifts, your talents, your resources and bring people together.

You do what you do in the most engaged, authentic, fearless way possible.

You may even offer up images, cartoons or visual representation of all of the above.

But your personal brand is organically coalesced by those with whom you interact, impact and in some way leave changed.

So, you have a choice. You can build a personal brand on momentary lists or public demonstrations of passing capabilities without reference to deeper alignment with the answers to the above questions. And that may bring you short-term accolades and opportunities. But, to what end?

Why bother, when the opportunity to go so much deeper and build something so much richer lays at your feet?

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Why I Banned Twitter at My Last Event

Back in November 2009, I launched a book marketing venture that rapidly spawned a sold-out live event in NYC—Tribal Author Camp.

I did it because I love teaching, especially when I get to combine my jones for writing and experience as an author with my marketing and social media. A big chunk of the event was focused on leveraging social media to build an author platform, then create a 3-stage launch campaign.

Which is why I got some raised eyebrows when my new book marketing mini-tribe turned to the first page of the manual to discover the following policy

No live tweeting, Facebooking or blogging – BE HERE NOW! You can tweet, email and Facebook your ass off during the breaks! And, no recording devices, cell phones or pagers. Cow bells…absolutely. We can never have enough cow bell!

What the?!

Why would I ban social media and smart phones during an event that’s all about marketing with those very tools?

Doesn’t that just hurt me? I mean, I lose all that precious twitter hashtag back-channel buzz, I forgo the participants’ followers wishing they were there and passing along a stunningly abundance stream of quotes to the huddled authorial tweet-loving masses.

What on Earth would make me give up the marketing and PR benefit of a room full of people live-tweeting the event?

Was it that I’m just a control freak?

Nope, that wasn’t it. Well, actually, I AM a control freak, but that wasn’t behind the ban.

Was it that I didn’t want my precious genius (read “inane rambling”) leaking out to the unpaid masses?

Nope, that wasn’t it, either.

Then what? What would drive me to make such a rash, horrifically unjustifiable policy?

As Curly said in City Slickers…”One Thing.”

I wanted everyone in the room to actually BE THERE.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been to conferences or events where people are cycling mercilessly between tweeting every other line, taking notes and, can you believe, checking email. Then, they walk out of an event, you ask what it was about and the closest they can come is “I don’t know, but I tweeted the hell out of the best lines!”

The reason I instituted a social media ban during my Tribal Author Camp event and gave up the potentially substantial opportunity for twitter hashtag fame was because it was far more important that I be able to give everyone in the room exactly what I promised. And, to do that, I had to create an environment that ensured minimum distraction, minimal task-switching and maximum engagement.

Because, if you’re genuinely THERE, if you’re engaged during the event, things sink in on a whole different level, questions arise at the time I am there to answer them and relationships are formed by listening, truly listening not just to me, but to everyone else who participates.

And now, the big question…did the twitter ban hold?

Pretty much. At one point, one participant came to me to share his guilt over tweeting something I said that, as he put it, just had to be shared. And, I did notice a bit of tweeting during the breaks. But, for the most part, the ban stood the test of ADD time. In the end, the result was an amazingly coherent, deeply engaged tribe who left, I hope, with not only great information and relationships, but a renewed sense of the need to occasionally disconnect, tune out…and drop in.

Now, I’m curious…

Have you ever suffered such indignity?

Had to endure an event without the refuge of twitter?

What do you think of my ban? I’m all ears…

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Would You Pay to Read YOUR OWN Blog?

The conversation swirling around this week’s earlier post, “Whose Blog Would You Pay to Read?” blew me away.


Buried deep in the comment stream, professional blog consultant, Michael Martine of Remarkablogger.com fame asked a powerful question that got a bit lost in the shuffle. Thing is, it needs to be given more attention. In his comment, he asked,”

I’m really intrigued by the question of would you pay to read your own blog?

Because if not, what the hell are you doing?

I danced around that question at the end of the original post, but Michael made me think about it more seriously. And, confession time, I didn’t love the answer I was getting. I kept asking, if I came to my blog as a newbie to the community, would I find enough value to pay for it? For some posts, the answer was yes…but for many others, the answer was no.

Lightbulb moment.

One that sent me screaming into Michael’s second question…

Then what the hell am I doing?

I ruminated (read “stewed”) on this for hours. Then, slowly, answer began to come.

It’s not about the post, it’s about the conversation.

While some blogs are built largely around tip and resource lists or how-to content, this community is built largely around conversations about the big questions in life. I share resources, ideas and strategies where I can. But, I can’t tell you how many times the value of a given post has been magnified or even substantially trumped by the value of the conversation that unfolds in the comments.

Indeed, my earlier “Whose Blog Would You Pay to Read?” post was a perfect example. When last I looked, there were some 85 comments, some as long as the post. And the data, ideas and insights into the process of monetizing blogs via paid subscriptions, premium content, paywalling and voluntary contributions is a veritable treasure trove for anyone exploring the issue.

The post alone was not the resource, the full conversation was.

And, what I realized was that access to that fuller conversation, to the collective brainstorming power of the innovative, respectful, giving community that’s evolved here does have immense value. Value I’d consider paying for. So, one of my questions now is to explore how to build on this revelation to increase the overall value to you guys by building even stronger, more vibrant, more directed conversations that can serve as a powerful source of ideas and solutions for all of us (FYI – I’m all ears, lol).

Another thing I realized was that while collective online brainstorming has tremendous value, it’s not nearly as easy to place a dollar value on that benefit as it is to place a dollar value on say a weekly in-depth resource/strategy/tip post on a specific problem. We’re not bred to value conversation in the same way we’re taught to value authoritative advice. And, that’s a damn shame. Because there is tremendous value in creating a place for consistent, directed, solution-driven interaction.

So, opening to the power of great conversation was a big awakening for me. But, there’s more…

I also realized, I hold back some of my best stuff.

For a variety of reasons. Sometimes I’m thinking, “I need to save this for my next book.” Other times I’ll hold it back for a seminar, info-product or some other potential vehicle. I realized the reason I do it is because those VEHICLES are far more easily associated with dollar values. And, though I’ve been blogging and sharing for a number of years now, I guess I still have trouble with the notion of releasing my best stuff for free. Because it’s valuable enough to be worth something more. So, I hold it back in with the intention of someday bundling into a distribution format that would be far easier to monetize than a blog.

I don’t do this all the time. In fact, I try to put out as much genuine, free signal as possible. But, still you guys rarely get all the good stuff. Not because I don’t think you’re worthy. But, because, in the end, I need to pay my bills. And, that means somehow getting paid for what I bring to the world.

But, now I’m wondering…what if I let it all hang out?

What if every idea, strategy, tactic, innovation and solution that was birthed in the warped chamber known loosely as my brain ended up on the pages of this blog?

Would I then be able to look back and feel the value had been enhanced to a level that I’d pay to read it?


Would the increase in value then lead to so many more opportunities to generate revenue that weren’t based on commoditizing knowledge, like speaking, teaching, consulting that it would be worth going 100% value naked on the blog?

I don’t have an answer to these questions quite yet, but I do know what direction I’m leaning.

So, now, this is where you chime in…

How would you answer Michael’s question?

Would you pay to read YOUR OWN blog? And, if not…

What the hell are YOU doing?

Fire away…

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Renegade Birthday Giveaway: Pick Jonathan’s Brain

Exactly one year ago today, my book Career Renegade hit the street…

It’s been a dizzying, exhilarating, fun ride. I’ve talked about what unfolded, how it sold, what my expectations were and what I’ve learned. And, I’ve also discovered that birthday’s are best celebrated by giving instead of receiving. So, I wanted to do something really special to celebrate with all of you. To give back.

My normal consulting/mentoring fees are, well…a lot. But, for a short time…I’m yours for…nothing…nada…zip!!!

It’s my Renegade birthday present to you. Here’s my offer –

In the comments below, through the end of the day on Friday (and, maybe longer, who knows, lol), I will:

  • Create slogans, names, headlines and hooks
  • Answer your small biz, start-up, entrepreneurship, publishing, platform-building and marketing questions,
  • Brainstorm business, product and service ideas & solve problems,
  • Help you figure out how to make money doing silly things
  • Give my input on book ideas, names and book marketing ideas
  • Reveal the secret to hot chocolate and world peace (hint, the first is the answer)
  • Whatever else I can fit in that’ll help you become more successful.

All you need to do is…ASK & PASS:

  • Ask your question in the comments below (in detail, include links if you like), and
  • Pass this offer around (on twitter, Facebook…wherever),

I want to help as any people as possible by the end of the day on Friday, no strings attached.

Okay, and awaaaay we go…

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Paying Not to Be First

As many of you know by now, I had throat surgery last week… Nothing too serious, but it’s a still a serious part of the body to be operating on (and, yes, I’m still weaning myself off the air-cast on my leg, it’s been a hell of a few months). So, I did my research […]

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On Conventional Wisdom [book excerpt]

Sharing a thought on the role of conventional wisdom from Chapter 3 of Career Renegade: For the Career Renegade, conventional wisdom is actually a great asset. It thins the herd of competitors, leaving only those who choose to blaze their own path, rather than follow another’s. It creates space for those who lead with passion […]

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Career Renegade Rocks SXSW [audio]

Last Friday, I had the opportunity to speak about being a Career Renegade at the massive South By Southwest (SXSW) conference in Austin, Texas. They’ve just released the podcast, so you can listen in or download the mp3 here now.

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