A Brand New Me
The Book That's Igniting My Desire to “Simply Be”
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My final day as part-time Senior Editor for a rapidly growing blockchain and cryptocurrency digital media company is June 30th. While it’s been a fun 18-month run working with a great group of people, I recently decided that now is the time to move on.
Back in 2014, I had the distinction of becoming one of the first (full-time) cryptocurrency journalists with stints over the years at publications like Bitcoin Magazine, NASDAQ, and Blockchain Beach. Given the volatile crypto markets, it's been a journey of exuberant highs and crashing lows. Moreover, I’ve never found the “crypto as an investment” mantra appealing, seeing it primarily as a mechanism for global peer-to-peer monetary exchange.
I am also turning 59 in a few days. Many who I cross paths with say that I don’t look my age. And I certainly don’t feel it. Having been car-free since 2012, I often walk ten miles to and from my co-working location. I am especially grateful for my near-perfect physical health and positive outlook on life.
With these milestones, I’ve now decided that I’m ready to take a full leap into “Great Books, Great Minds,” what I’m calling my legacy work. Birthed in January of 2020 on the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic, my mission is to “Ignite a New World of Global Human Connection, One Book at a Time.”
“When the Student is ready the next book will come.”
To this point, a few months ago I was at Boulder Bookstore, one of my happy places on the planet. While strolling through one of the many sections of the store, a bright yellow book jumped out at me entitled “Be: A No-Bullsh*t Guide to Increasing Your Self Worth and Net Worth by Simply Being Yourself.” As you may have already guessed, I purchased it.
This amazing book is written by PR firm owner and branding extraordinaire Jessica Zweig. Her agency, the SimplyBe. Agency, is an internationally award-winning personal branding firm, serving clients from Silicon Valley to New York, Europe, and Asia.
I was immediately captured by the book’s opening refrain:
“Do not be surprised how quickly the Universe will respond once you have decided.”
The good news in reading this was that my BE roadmap was already clear. Here it is in a nutshell:
BE — Expansive
DO — Human Connection
HAVE — Lifestyle Freedom
With this foundation in place, I thought, all I need to do is activate it. That’s where Jessica’s book comes in. Here are my 12 takeaways:
On Self Worth
For many of my early years, my self-worth was in the toilet. Yet as I look back at the success I ultimately experienced over the course of my life, it has always been tied to a very simple belief:
“…that I was enough, more than enough.”
In this book, Jessica offers this reminder:
“People who live in abundance, financially speaking, all have one thing in common: They feel, at their core, that they deserve it. That they are worthy of it. Self-worth is the cause; net worth is the effect.”
On Being Authentically Myself
A major narrative in my life is that I’ve continually tried to be someone that I’m not. Like a ventriloquist, my life at one point became what felt like a stagecraft of illusions. I became rebellious and non-conformist largely as a result of people trying to squeeze me into a box.
But as Jessica notes in her book:
“When you free yourself to simply be yourself, your confidence grows, your joy expands, and your value increases.”
I’m A-OK with that!
On Showing Up Magnetic
Back in 1995 is when I first met the inspirational speaker Willie Jolley at a National Speakers Association convention in Washington D.C. Having just entered the speaking circuit, I found Willie to be so radiant, energetic, compassionate, and helpful. Inspired by his zest for life, I decided to embody his advice and messages. To this day, I consider him an amazing friend and confidant.
Jessica in her book adds that the “most authentic people are always the most magnetic ones, and thus the individuals who seem to effortlessly attract their ideal opportunities, clients, and revenue.”
This was a great reminder for me to stay dialed in on my own magnetic nature in pursuit of my new quest.
On Sharing My Own Authentic Story
I have always had a fear of sharing some of the deeper recesses of my life story, namely, periods of shame, profoundly embarrassing missteps, and devastating financial loss. It was thus refreshing to hear Jessica in her book talk about her own journey, ultimately deciding that she was worthy of “sharing myself, my stories, my realness (financially and personally) with my clients, my team, the media, and my social media followers.” That’s when she says that her business took off. As she puts it, “the more authentic, real, and vulnerable you are, the more viral you actually become.”
On Being Vulnerable
Speaking of vulnerability, I would like to share something that many of you who know me are not aware of. While a young married man at age 23, my wife and I had a daughter who was born prematurely and diagnosed a short time later with cerebral palsy. The painful fallout from all of this, including a divorce in 1989, sent me into a very reclusive place for many years.
Now, at this juncture of my life, I am ready to open up about my hidden deeper experiences in the hopes that others may find some wisdom from it. As Jessica adds from her book:
“The more willing you are to reveal your shit, the more opportunities you have to create true brand affinity. People will listen to you because they can see themselves in you.”
On Giving Stuff Away
I once heard Mark Victor Hanson of “Chicken Soup for the Soul” fame speak at a conference in Virginia Beach, Virginia. It was there where he said something that really struck me, namely, that his business success was largely predicated on his shift in mindset from ‘what’s in it for me to how can I serve.’” At the time, this for me meant being among other things a willingness to give stuff away for free.
Adding to this Jessica says in her book:
“Give enough of your best stuff away for free, and you will slowly but steadily build an audience, a community, a client base that not only feels like they know, like, and trust you but subconsciously feels indebted to you….
….When we put our egos down and ask ourselves, “Who needs me? How can I serve?” This is love.”
On Producing Kick-Ass Content
Jessica adds: “Great content moves people. It illuminates new ways of thinking, doing, and being. It captivates people with humor, audacity, and potential controversy. It motivates people to change their habits, their relationships, and their lives.”
This embodies my aim at “Great Books, Great Minds” in provoking, waking up, inspiring, captivating, surprising, and informing those who regularly read our digital newsletter. Books in my view are the “new Currency of Global Connection.”
On Staying Within My Lane
We’ve all heard the money gurus tell us that multiple streams of income equal economic security. I would say that there is definitely truth to that. Problem is, for many of us, managing multiple things is akin to spinning several plates with the understanding that they are all at some point likely to crash.
Years ago I read a book called“The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results” by Gary Keller. In it, he talked about the benefits of laser focusing on what’s going to get you the highest return on investment as opposed to focusing on multiple things that yield little or no return.
For “Great Books, Great Minds” that presently amounts to one thing: “Producing World-Class Content That Serves as a Catalyst for Building My Global Community of Subscribers”
As Jessica espouses: “If you want to be seen as the authority on personal branding, you’ve gotta be about it. Pick your lanes. Stay the course.”
On Following Other Brands For Inspiration
Jessica states in her book that she’s a huge advocate of this. This led me to ponder who I am most inspired by. Here’s my list:
Maria Popova — She was my main inspiration behind launching “Great Books, Great Minds.” As a result, I troll EVERYTHING she is doing. What I’ve noticed about Maria is that outside of a very rare speaking engagement or appearance on a podcast, she’s laser focused on her one thing, namely, producing the award-winning digital newsletter Marginalian. This has paid off handsomely for her with a reported 12 million monthly readers and a net worth of $14 million dollars
Anthony Bourdain — Love, love, love the irreverent, rebellious, no holds barred nature of this late culinary guru. In the manner in which he was the global ambassador for food, I aspire to be the global ambassador for books.
Joya Cousin — I met Joya on LinkedIn and have found her delivery of elite, world-class art to clients worldwide of creative inspiration for my writing pursuits.
Cornel West — Brotha West as he is affectionately known is a highly acclaimed philosopher, political activist, social critic, actor, and public intellectual. His oratorical skills in my opinion are unmatched among thought leaders on the planet.
Jessica Zweig — Just added her to my list after reading this book. Love her badass swagger and zest for life along with her branding and aesthetic genius.
There was a time when I thought I could achieve great results by posting new articles here and there on “Great Books, Great Minds.” What I learned is that it wasn’t until I became more consistent that progress really began to show itself.
Jessica’s book offers a reminder that inconsistent activity leads to inconsistent results. As she adds— “Consistency makes you legit in a world full of hacks”
On a Social Media Strategy That Delivers a Return
In her book, Jessica had this to say about social media:
“I recommend choosing one channel minimum, two maximum, to focus on. The key is to go narrow and deep versus shallow and wide.”
Love this piece of advice as I’ve long had this existential conflict with Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. What she seems to be saying here is to get laser-focused on one platform and for me that’s LinkedIn. My activity and ROI on LinkedIn far exceed that of all the others combined, with Twitter a distant second.
On Bringing Fashion Energy
As opposed to my adopted hometown of Chicago where high-end clothing is still in vogue, Denver where I currently live is kind of a sloppy town — jeans with holes in them, flip flops, and an assortment of other casual wear are the norm.
What I’ve noticed over the years is that those who do make it a point to boost their brand presence attract more attention and are treated differently. As Jessica notes:
“What you wear tells a story. Understanding this is a superpower. Tell your story by rocking what makes you feel good. Nothing exudes confidence and memorability like a signature style.”
To conclude, here’s a great closing message from Jessica:
“I’m going to encourage you to put the book down once and for all and go live your life. Because life is your teacher, and the further you reach into the depths of your soul and explore the edges of what’s possible, the more inspired, real, brave, authentic, and impactful your message becomes.”