Most people do not have careers they love--and that's an unfortunate thing. They spend their entire lives wondering "what if," instead of taking steps into exploring the unknown. And this idea of "doing what you love" seems like such a scary thing. But why? Why is going after what you love any more or less risky than working your way up an industry that could very well be disrupted by tomorrow's innovation? Take a look at the cab industry, and what happened when Uber came along. We are living in an age of rapid evolution in what we are quickly discovering to be not-so-sturdy job markets. So is it really that much more risky to go after something you truly enjoy?
As someone who has spent years going against the grain in constant pursuit to "do what I love," this is a question and a process I have become fascinated by. How is it that so many people can exist so unsatisfied with what they do for a living--and even more so, what is the actual step-by-step process taken by those who successfully go their own way?
To further my own exploration in this direction, I appreciate talking to and learning from all sorts of different people who have been able to do this for themselves--particularly the ones who then go on to teach others how to do the same.
Someone I was recently connected with who has made a career out of his own personal brand is Brian Rashid, a motivational speaker and coach. To put it simply, he gets paid to tell stories. Some of the most influential brands in the world hire him to advise them on their company vision, messaging, and communications strategies. Startups consult his advice when pitching venture capitalists to capture the essence of their value in a concise fashion. Small businesses and entrepreneurs hire him to create value-driven content they can use to promote their business. But most importantly, he speaks internationally about how he started his own communications and digital media company 5 years ago, and has been able to make money doing what he loves.
When I had the pleasure of being connected with Brian, I asked him what steps people can take to start building a personal brand around themselves and whatever it is they love most--and furthermore, how to make that pursuit profitable.
Here are the 5 essentials he shared with me as a starting ground for capturing people's attention and building an audience:
1) Identify Your "Why."
"Before you can even think about capturing people's attention, you have to clarify why you do what you do. Attention requires you to add value, and adding value is a lot of work. So in order to be successful over the long-term, you have to have a clear reason for 'why' you're doing what you're doing, so that all of your actions can be aligned with this vision," he said.
For Rashid, his "Why" is to level the playing field for millions of people all over the globe. He shared that he is fortunate to live between New York City and San Francisco, two of the world's most innovative and prosperous markets, and that he gets to learn from and work with world-class leaders. "I recognize most people do not live in these cities, so I want to bring every tool I can to these other communities so they can create something of value--for themselves, their community, etc." he said.
So, how do you go about finding your "Why?" Well, the most actionable thing you can do is think about your intention. Money aside, what do you want to help people with? If you are driving from that perspective, your successes will be equally balanced with a true sense of fulfillment.
2) Recognize the imbalance in supply and demand.
"For the first time in the history of the world, there is more of a supply of information than demand," said Rashid. "If your business plan is reliant on 'selling information,' you need to rethink your storytelling strategy. We have more information in the palm of our hands with our smartphones than the President of the United States did in the 80s. More content is uploaded every 48 hours than from the beginning of time until 2003. Think about that. You need to add value, not sell information," said Rashid.
This speaks to a much larger issue many people face when hoping to differentiate themselves. It can be difficult to take a step back from your idea and truly question your value. Instead of leaving it up to subjective opinion, try to be as objective with your business goals as possible. Look at the data. Do your research. Don't "stand out" in theory. Make sure you stand out in actuality.
3) Turn yourself into a media company.
This is the future of personal brands, and is critical to understand.
"I am not just Brian Rashid, the CEO, or Brian Rashid, the speaker. I see myself as a media company. I have my own radio program (a podcast). I have my own TV show, a YouTube channel. I run my own PR agency (my social platforms). I self-publish my books via Amazon. The gatekeepers are gone. We no longer have to hope that someone says 'Yes' to begin. If you are waiting for permission, here it is: I grant you permission to get started. But getting started is not enough. You have to put yourself everywhere, and using every medium. Oral, written, and video."
Again, we are in an age of DIY success stories ("Do It Yourself"). You have much more control than you think.
4) Not all social platforms are created equally.
"Creating one single piece of content you plan to distribute across Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram is not setting you up for a win. You have to view each platform differently. I would not talk to my mother in the same way I'd talk to my 15 year old cousin. Social content is the same. Take some time to learn who is on each platform you use, and then create content that speaks directly to those people," said Rashid.
This is a huge challenge for most people, and very much speaks to point #5 here. In order to succeed in building an audience around yourself and whatever it is you love, and you have to be willing to put in the hard work of attracting the right people on the right platforms. Mass copy/pasting content across multiple channels doesn't deliver enough value. You need to take care with what you're creating, everywhere you are creating it.
5) Care more than anyone else.
"The secret weapon of storytelling is knowing what your audience wants to learn, what matters to them, where they are. The single best way to get a pulse on this information is to engage both online and offline. I go to the birthday parties of my clients' children, I call and follow up after my contract ends with a client and ask what worked and what else we can do together. I check in, all day, every day. Then, I use social media to listen. I watch what they comment on. Then I create it, or help my clients create it. Caring converts into great storytelling, and caring has never been more scalable."
In order to build a career around what you love, you have to care more about delivering value to people's lives than anything else in the world--and that's the truth. You have to give, give, and then give some more. And for a while, you might not see much traction. But once you find your stride, you will.
Your success then will be a matter of "when," not "if."