Thoughts On Personal Branding and Guest Appearances

I was thinking about why certain people are invited to share insights on podcasts and videos, while other people can be successful, but their names are unknown to most of us.

I’ve touched on it before — that you need to actually publish a lot of useful material, or no one will ever know who you are.

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A Negative Mindset Is A Luxury I Can’t Afford

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I’ve decided that a negative mindset is the most expensive luxury there is, and it’s one that I can’t afford.

The reason I call negativity a luxury is because it consumes time, energy, and momentum that most people cannot afford to give up. This ’t to say that the wolf called Self-Doubt doesn’t come knocking on my door often — it does. But by telling this dark recess of my psyche to sod off — sometimes daily — I ’t lose the self-confidence it takes to survive in this world.

The creative industry seems to deal with imposter syndrome more than other industries. Maybe it’s because the outliers in our field, the Jobs, the Zuckerbergs, the Musks — are the people that we look up to. We believe we should be able to attain at least a portion of their success. But I’ve never seen an industry where people who are so driven are also so full of self-doubt. It’s like we have to prove our worth to ourselves and the world anew every day.

It doesn’t do us any good to measure ourselves against people whose success we want to emulate.

Recently, Gary Vaynerchuk said he doesn’t look at what the competition is doing, and he said this in an entrepreneurial sense. But it is also practical in the personal sense.

Everyone in this industry feels that they can be successful if they just work really hard, and implement the right strategies. But there are many paths to success. The trick is finding which one is yours. You can’t expect the same results as one of your heroes. It doesn’t happen like that. Each of your circumstances are different, your life experiences are different, your time frames are different, your talents are slightly different.

Competitive people are hard on themselves.

Perfectionism is both a blessing and a curse. It makes you want to excel in everything you do, but it also makes you question yourself daily. Every week on Hacker News, you can find another entrepreneur in their 20s who feels like a failure because their startup shut down. Even though 90% of startups fail, everyone believes that they should always be on one of the 10% of surviving teams. Optimism becomes expectation. If you you don’t hit a home run every time, you feel like you failed as a human being. Those are the kind of standards of people hold themselves to in this industry. It’s unhealthy.

Life isn’t easy, and neither is business. I’ve got invisible battle scars from both. I’m positive most web professionals aren’t aware of how lucky they are, or how grateful they should be.

I’m no different than others. I struggle with self-doubt. But I see many folks struggling with self-doubt that are doing better than I am right now. Maybe that’s why I don’t let myself succumb to it.

Negativity is something that can affect you, no matter what level of success you are at. But everything in your life starts with how you see yourself. I haven’t made it to The levels I want to be at yet either, so for now, negativity and self-doubt are something I can’t afford to feel.

It’s good to want more for yourself. Ambition and desire are necessary qualities to be an entrepreneur. You have to want to better yourself. But you can’t beat yourself up because you ’t getting there as fast as you think you should be. Have patience. Good things come in time. Stay your course, and know that what you feel is normal. Don’t stop fighting your inner resistance.

We all fear that we won’t become all the things that we desire to be. But we can’t wrap our self-worth up in that criteria. Talk down that negative voice in your head. Believing what that internal negative voice says is a luxury that you ’t afford either.

Building A Following, Building A Business

Building a following is a long-term game. By why do you need a following at all?

The one thing a business needs to survive is customers. Strangers become customers at the intersection of need, solution, and awareness. Your potential customers have a need. You have a solution which you can provide them. But they need to be aware of your existence and your expertise to become customers.

When we talk about building a following, we’re not talking about building an audience for a hollow ego boost. As business owners, we set about to build audiences because we want to find people with the needs that we can provide solutions to. We are intentionally positioning ourselves as experts in our field by publishing content and media.

Building an audience is all about building awareness of who we are, establishing familiarity and trust, building familiarity, and proving our expertise. If we do things right, we might even bring a bit of happiness to someone’s day whenever we hit the Publish button.

We are living in a time where every business is also a media company.

The cost of entry to being relevant in our society today is content. If you’re not putting out stories, you basically don’t exist.

— Gary Vaynerchuk

Companies that are able to grow from being local entities to regional or even national entities do so because they fully embrace the idea of publishing content across different channels in order to build an audience, bringing value to consumers and awareness to their brand.

Technology has made it easier than ever for people to consume media. When I grew up there was still a dozen channels on TV, only a handful of radio stations, and the only written media were books, newspapers and magazines. Today everyone has a computer in their hand that they carry with them at all times. This computer, which some people call a smart phone, contains instant access to more media than has ever existed in the history of mankind.

Not only are there limitless TV channels thanks to streaming services like Netflix, but there are also millions of channels on a platform called YouTube. The regular people who post consistently and regularly on this platform have anywhere from dozens to hundreds of millions of fans. Over 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute of every day. It is this 100 hours per minute that you are fighting against for time and attention, not just your business competitors in your city.

The World Wide Web didn’t exist when I left high school. If you wanted to publish words for other people to read, you still had to go through gatekeepers. If you wanted to publish a book, you had to pitch it to a publishing house. If you wanted to be in the newspaper and magazine you had to do something newsworthy and get the attention of those particular writers.

Today there are hundreds of millions of blogs published each day. You can put together an e-book and publish it on Amazon yourself. There still some gatekeepers for certain things, but if you want your voice heard — if you want your message to spread — then you have to take action, or someone else will.

I grew up in a small town where there were only a few radio stations, and they all pretty much sucked. Satellite radio was still decades away. But today we have podcasting, and anyone can produce a show themselves. If you need help getting started, I can point you towards some people who can help you get started podcasting. The point is, everyone has the ability to produce their own show, which anyone with a smart phone can listen to anywhere, at any time.

But amidst all this innovation, there is an enormous opportunity that 90% of people with an internet connection are not taking advantage of. Only 10% of people publish anything on the web. And only 10% of those people publish on a regular basis.

Most people try to blog, or make videos, or start a podcast…but they give up after a few times of publishing, because they didn’t get a million people rushing to hear their message after the first week.

I know from previous experience that building an audience is tough. The things that you don’t want to hear are exactly what I’m going to tell you.

It takes a long time to build a following—an audience, a future customer base. So get dug in.

You have to publish consistently for a long time before that snow ball gets rolling on its own. And when it does start rolling, you can’t let up.

Renowned hand-letterer Sean McCabe is in the midst of building his own media empire right now through his blog, YouTube, podcast, and membership site. He recently posted a video that stated “Show up every day for two years and you will build brand awareness.”

This sounds about right. Building a blog, a YouTube channel, or a podcast listener base means you have to embrace the grind. Even building an engaged audience on social media means you have to show up consistently.

There is no auto-pilot setting that will make people notice you or your business.

I know a lot of people want to hear about tactics or shortcuts that will rocket them to the top of their industry. This is a glass of ice water to the face. There are no tactics to building an audience, there is only strategy, dedication, quality and consistency.

Everybody wants to be a bodybuilder, but nobody wants to lift no heavy-ass weights.

— Ronnie Coleman

Building an following means showing up to publish, even when you don’t feel like it. It means making time each week to help your future audience by answering questions through a blog post or video. Embracing the grind means going through the monotony of publishing words, even when you don’t think anyone is listening.

Some people choose to look at the age of information overload as a disadvantage. I choose to believe it is my advantage to publish consistently and often — publishing things that will help the people I am trying to reach. If you’re a business owner reading these words, I want you to see this as an opportunity too. I want you to take advantage of the fact that most of your competitors are unwilling to compete in new media (the web). Most of your competitors are still “heads down” in their business. This is a dangerous place to be.

If you’re working dawn to dusk in your business without pause, you can’t see what’s going on around you. You won’t see how your customers are finding and consuming information. If you’re not dedicating time to growing your business, pretty soon, your business will be shrinking.

I want you to build your brand by building your audience. Will it be a lot of work? Hell yes, it will be! You will have to make this business development time a priority in order to succeed.

But if your goal is to raise brand awareness of your company, to make people trust you more than your competitors, and to get your company in the conversation where it belongs — then this is something that is mandatory. It is no longer optional.

Everyone consumes media, everyone consumes information. All day long, every day.

Will it be your media and your information that your potential customers consume?
Will it be your voice be one that they trust? (Or even recognize)?
Or will your business be eclipsed by companies who are dedicated to building an audience and building a following? — establishing their own trust and expertise?

The choice is yours.

Change, Acceptance and Personal Power

Setbacks are manageable. Bad things happen, and most of the time, we deal with them in a calm and rational manner. Disappointments slide off our back. We talk things out, first internally, then with someone else, and usually by then, we can accept whatever is happening a little better.

But every so often, when we’re faced with an adverse situation, when things go sideways — we take things to heart. Our feelings get hurt. We get upset, angry, or feel defeated.

Things that people do and say can get to you. Sometimes it feels like you were treated unfairly in a particular situation. Sometimes you don’t have much control over these events. But if you don’t address these feelings, they can fester inside your psyche, affecting your mood, and even the way you look at the world.

If you’re not careful — those slights, those hurts, these grievances — can become bitterness. And while you’re busy being bitter toward unfair situations, and being bitter towards people, those people that hurt you don’t even know that you’re mad or upset. And if they are aware, they might not care. They’re still going about their daily life completely oblivious to what you’re thinking and feeling. It doesn’t affect them, it only affects you.

But harboring bitterness in your heart is like swallowing poison and hoping the other person dies from it. It doesn’t hurt the person you’re upset with, it only hurts you.

Perhaps you try to talk out the situation with the other party, and it comes to a point where there’s nothing more you can do. You realize that you can’t control them or anyone else in this world. Not your boss, not your co-workers, not your siblings — definitely not your parents. Nope, not even your friends, spouse, baby daddy, baby mama, ex, or even your significant other.

You can’t make any of these people change their behavior or change their beliefs about the world. You can’t control what they will say or do. And you’re certainly not going to change the mindset of total strangers out in the street or on social media.

Yes, you have very little control in this world. Well — except for one person.

You can still control yourself.

If a personal situation you’re in is not a good fit, don’t agonize over it. Just walk away. No one has power over you unless you give it to them. Don’t bother arguing with people if you’re not going to be able to change their mind. It’s not worth it. It just tears you down.

These are examples on a personal level, but on a larger scale, outrage is flourishing as an industry. Aside from the real outrage in the world, you have daytime TV, the nightly news, tabloids, and talk radio — all built on outrage. Some of it is very real, and the gravity of the situations important — but a lot of it is manufactured to make you spin your wheels and waste your energy.

You only have so much energy. You have to decide what things are important, and which ones are trivial. Trivial matters shouldn’t be given the same weight as important matters in your mind, in your heart, in your world. You have to decide what situations you can affect, and which ones you can’t. You must decide what things you want to take a stand for, and which ones you don’t.

But if you want to affect something out in the world, you have to take the steps that are within your power. Use the power that you do have. Do something positive to invoke change.

But seething and complaining about things you see on TV or Twitter is pointless. When you complain without taking action, you put the power to affect your situation in someone else’s hands.

When you talk about your own life, and you say “It’s all this politician’s fault” or “It’s all my boss’ fault” or even when you blame the economy, religion, bankers, things happening overseas — this makes it very difficult to have any power over your own happiness. Because with your own words, you have given that power to someone else!

We cannot affect what other people decide to do. We only have power over what we decide to do.

Civilization is essentially the same in ancient times as it is today, and as it will be in the distant future. The technology, the fashion, the language — it all changes, but the same archetypes are still there.

Every generation thinks the world is changing around them, and that things aren’t the same as they were in “the good old days”. But why does every single generation that ever lived believe this? The world doesn’t change, our perception of it does.

The ancient philosopher Heraclites said “You can never step in the same river twice”. What he was saying is every moment in every person’s life has a unique set of conditions. Their perception of the Universe is determined by their experiences, their circumstances, and everything around them at that moment in time.

I’m 43 now, and I’ve only recently figured out that my own personal philosophies and my mindset change on a five year cycle, as I move toward whatever I put into my mind and my own belief system prior to that. Day by day, I change just a little bit.

This is why it is impossible to change another person’s belief system with just a conversation, argument, or debate. Even if your logic is sound within your own belief system, everyone else’s logic is correct to them as well.

It is difficult for people to shift their worldview because it is based on their experiences, and no matter how much you communicate to them about your experiences, it doesn’t erase what they have lived through and what they have felt as an individual.

When you challenge their viewpoints, you are challenging a part of their identity. You’re telling them that what they’ve felt isn’t real. This makes them dig in even harder on the belief system of theirs that you’re trying to influence.

You cannot control what anyone else will do or say, so any change that you bring into the world has to be done by changing yourself. Expending your energy on changing yourself goes a lot farther than worrying about how you’re going to transform other people.

The people that upset you are more than likely going to do what they intended to do originally. And no matter what you say or do, regardless of how you feel, they’re still going to follow through with their plans. You have to be OK with that. If you’re close to someone, you can try to talk to them. But when it all comes down to reality, the only person you can truly influence is you. Letting go of all your anxiety and worry about the rest will make your life at least a little easier to bear.

In any situation, you should ask, what can I do to make this better? When you come up against another person whose mind is made up — begging, threatening, pleading, debating or arguing with them isn’t going to work.

You can’t control your family members or your friends, you can only give them your input and let them decide for themselves. People you barely know and complete strangers? Yeah, good luck there. It’s not worth the energy in most cases to even get upset or argue.

You have complete control over yourself. You don’t have to control anyone else except for you.

You don’t have to worry about what other people are going to do. You only have to worry about deciding what you’re going to do.

Teach One To Reach One

Content strategy is something you’ll hear many people talk about, but very few people actually do. That’s good news for you, since you want to be seen as an expert in your industry, and there’s more people asking questions than there are answering them.

The people in your industry that are considered thought leaders aren’t just talking because they have to say something. Those people are at the top of your field because they help people by answering their questions. This gives their customers a sense of well-being, because they understand something better than they did before.

No one likes to be confused about something. Knowledge truly is power.

If you want to bring more people into your store, or make your business the first one they think of in your industry — I’m advocating you to Teach One to Reach One.

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Thoughts On Brand Equity In The Tech Industry

Brand equity is a powerful force. It can deify or debase a brand. It takes a long time to create a reputation, either good or bad. But your brand has to perform consistently to keep it’s aura of quality. And if the mere mention of your brand holds bad connotations, that too can be rehabilitated, with a lot of work and long-term consistency.

While the examples I’ll use in this post are part of the tech culture, the ideas can be applied to brands in any industry.

brand eq·ui·ty


the commercial value that derives from consumer perception of the brand name of a particular product or service, rather than from the product or service itself.

Brand equity is the positive negative vibes that surround the perception of a brand. Whatever qualities a brand ultimately becomes known for, that perception travels forward in time, even if the brand products are different in the present day.

Positive equity works to the benefit of brands that have become known for quality, dependability, and utility. Negative brand equity works against brands that have become synonymous with frustration and unreliability.

Examples of Positive Brand Equity

There are plenty of examples of positive branding resulting in consumers being happy to pay premium prices. Nike, Beats, Rolex, BMW, and Nest are just a few that spring to mind.

Apple is one of the strongest examples of positive branding done right. For over three decades, they have crafted a culture of innovation, quality, and ease of use. They charge a premium price because they are a premium brand. Their products have been designed to work intuitively and reliably — so much that glitches are never even anticipated.

The recent release of Apple’s new operating system, OS X Yosemite, came not long after the release of the last operating system, OS X Mavericks. There were glitches and unexpected bugs.

Lifelong Apple users don’t anticipate a bad experience. There is so much good vibes built up around their brand that one-time blips don’t phase their brand champions.

But recently, there have been more rumblings that maybe they are rushing things too quickly. Maybe they should just slow their roll a little and just make sure things work before they release them.

For a lesser brand, glitches and bugs on a production release would open a firestorm of criticism. Because on the internet, criticism is as easy as breathing. But even those who publish criticism quickly change their minds. People who work in that ecosystem have unwavering faith that things will get back on track.

THIS is the power of positive brand equity. Consumers have faith in you even through bad times.

Adobe is an example of positive brand equity that is in a bit of decline. Photoshop and other Adobe products have been the industry standard since the industry began. For years, they have been known as the most robust set of tools with the most integration. They have been the best for a very long time.

But in the last couple of years, I have seen numerous designers complain about Adobe Creative Cloud, and express frustration at Photoshop and Illustrator continually crashing because of inefficient use of memory.

Adobe is advancing, but is facing serious competition from Sketch and Pixelmator.

Brand equity is something you can never rest on, especially if you have a proven market.

If you have a great product filling a genuine need, it’s just a matter of time until someone else comes along trying to do what you do even better.

Negative Brand Equity and Rehabilitation

Note: The following examples are from the perspective of the web development community only. These two brands have some negative brand perception from regular consumers, but have drawn much of their ire from web professionals, who hold very long grudges.

GoDaddy is one of the top domain name brokers on the planet. But for years, they were known for notoriously slow web hosting, relentless upselling, annual Super Bowl commercials that degraded women, and an elephant-shooting CEO.

The web community’s loathing for GoDaddy was deep. When it was announced that the web industry’s favorite hosting platform, MediaTemple, was being sold to GoDaddy, some people couldn’t move their sites from MediaTemple fast enough.

But then a funny thing happened.

GoDaddy changed their CEO from Bob Parsons to Blake Irving. They got rid of the T & A ad campaigns and started focusing on small businesses that kick ass.

GoDaddy started recruiting some of the best and brightest in design. They overhauled the design of their website to make it more intuitive and user-friendly. The upsells became a bit more subdued. Even GoDaddy’s VPS hosting is much improved. (Their shared hosting has improved, but still throttles if too many requests from the same IP address come in at the same time).

But there are years of bad brand aura that will linger around GoDaddy. Web professionals may give them a chance, but most are still going to be reluctant to trust them.

Similarly, the name Internet Explorer will incite strong feelings among a roomful of web professionals. For years, developing for the web meant working with the legion of IE hacks that other browsers didn’t have. Firefox was a godsend, as was Chrome. Even the consumer share of IE dropped as the years went by.

Microsoft knew they had to work on their reputation inside the web community, in order to recruit the best developers. They had to innovate to keep pace with other browsers. People no longer thought of them as being on the cutting edge.

Internet Explorer 11 was more adherent to W3C standards, but that wasn’t enough by itself. Microsoft set up to show what things IE was capable of. They launched to give developers a way to test IE through a partnership with BrowserStack.
also gave developers access to compatibility testing and virtual machines for IE6 through 11. (Most developers use Apple, which has a different operating system than Windows. This makes it difficult to test Internet Explorer.)

These things were done as a show of good faith that Internet Explorer still wanted to be relevant in the web community. My own favorite part of this campaign was this self-deprecating ad which shows they knew what people thought of them, and they were okay with working hard to come back.

Even with all this work, the negative connotations associated with the IE brand are still hard to overcome in the developer community.

Once people form an opinion about your brand, good or bad, it’s difficult to change.

What You Can Take Away From This

These lessons don’t just apply to companies in the technology space. They apply to every brick and mortar company, every mom-and-pop shop, and every mega-corporation as well.

Everything your business does adds to or detracts from the perception your brand. The way you do things contributes to your brand perception. Who you do things for contributes to the equity of your brand.

My challenge to you is to do more than simply avoid negative brand perception — don’t just aim for being like everyone else. I’d like to see you aim for excellence. Aim for something people can believe in, not just in your products, but in your culture, the way you treat people, and the reason your company exists at all.

Refining How We Choose WordPress Themes

In September 2014, it was revealed that the popular plugins Slider Revolution and Showbiz Pro had a critical security vulnerability that could allow attackers to access a site’s database or take over a site.

The big problem is Slider Revolution was bundled with thousands of WordPress themes being sold on sites like ThemeForest. When themes are bundled with plugins included, those plugins don’t show available updates in the WordPress admin panel.

After the September news, it was revealed parent company Theme Punch administered a silent patch in February 2014, and later notified potential theme owners when the vulnerability was exposed. This seven month gap in public information did little to help website owners who purchased themes from ThemeForest and other marketplaces.

In December 2014, it was revealed that the Slider Revolution vulnerability was still being exploited, this time by malware injector named SoakSoak. Over 100,000 WordPress sites were infected. This means there were at least 100,000 sites that didn’t know or didn’t care about the vulnerability.

And that’s what this article is really about.

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