In a recent vlog episode, I spoke about how I’ve never really been a fan of labels. In my experience, calling oneself one thing or another just imposes unnecessary restrictions and severely limits possibilities and potential.
Of course, I’m not denying the fact that labels are useful or even necessary in certain situations. For example, finding a job may prove quite difficult if you are unwilling to submit to the fact that, at the very least, you’ll be given a job title. Without a job title, your employer (or, if you’re working for yourself, your prospective clients) won’t know what work to assign to you and they definitely won’t know what to pay you.
Yes, even the most enlightened among us will have to admit that there is a place for labels in this world.
However, I avoid labels where I can. Besides being unnecessarily restrictive, I’ve found that, unless you’ve invented an entirely new label (“imagineer” comes to mind), you are in fact positioning yourself as being exactly the same as all the other people who bear those labels.
I won’t lie to you, it’s fucking difficult to stand out in this current social milieu, and it’s difficult because we seem to be eager to fit into some sort of box. It makes sense on a need-fulfillment level, because we all want to fit in and we all want to feel like we belong.
That’s totally okay. I won’t take that away from you. What I will do, though, is tell you about two things that you will need if you want to stand out from the crowd and get noticed.
You need to add value
If you’re not adding value, you’re wasting your time and mine. It sounds harsh, I know, but what I’m trying to get across is this is how your audience thinks.
Think of anything, literally fucking anything in your life, whether it’s something that you own or something more abstract like a blog that you subscribe to. Now ask yourself why that particular thing is in your life. Chances are, it’s because it adds value. Your running shoes add value by providing comfort when you go out jogging; your TV set and Internet subscription add value by providing you with information and entertainment.
Now, position yourself so that you add value. This could mean publishing an eBook or a newsletter containing useful tips or advice, or a cool, easy-to-digest infographic, or it could mean sharing a personal story that will resonate with your audience and add value in a different, more emotional way.
If I think about my own life and my own work, the post that got the most shares, likes and retweets by far has been an article about how blogging became my escape from anxiety and depression. Why do you think it’s been so popular? It’s because most people can relate, at least to some degree, with feeling depressed or anxious and, by reading about someone else’s experiences with these things, a connection is formed.
So, whenever you create content, put yourself in the shoes of a member of your target audience and ask yourself: how would this benefit me?
You need to develop a personal brand
I’d be the first to admit that “personal brand” is a bit of an overused term. I mean seriously, what the fuck does that even mean? Pfft.
To me, it means being such an authority in a your field that people come to associate your name with that field. It means being quotable and, above all else, it means being confident.
It’s okay if you’re just starting out – everyone had to start somewhere – but it’s critical that you believe in whatever you’re selling, whether it’s a product, a service, knowledge, or even a feeling. Trust me, most people have built-in bullshit detectors and, if you don’t believe in yourself one hundred fucking per cent, they’ll see right through it.
I’m in a great place in my life right now, but I might have gotten here much earlier if I hadn’t allowed doubt – mostly in myself – to undermine me. I missed out on a lot of really awesome opportunities because I didn’t believe in myself. Learn from my mistakes, work on your confidence and keep working at it until you become a brand, and then work on it some more.
Go out there and kick ass, and remember, fuck mediocrity!