Discover more from Plant Your Flag with Trey Taylor
Your Personal Brand
Mr Beast, The future of Travel, Shoutouts for A CEO Only Does Three Things
Over the last 3 years the term “personal branding” has become the most repeated buzzword in the world of entrepreneurial bingo. Every “solopreneur” talks openly about how building his or her personal brand will lead to big things in the future. Without exception they point to people like Gary Vaynerchuck, some random Kardashian, Mr. Beast and others whose personal names have become eponyms for the business interests they control.
With the rise of the creator economy, personal branding has taken on new importance and as Web3 begins to stake out its intellectual frontiers, this will presumably only increase. The goal for many creators — and their associated companies is to be recognized and trusted by masses of people. It’s a volume game with the assumption that once you have attention, you can monetize that attention.
And some people can. Check this Twitter thread for an explanation of how one man, Mr Beast (you don’t know him but your kids definitely do) became a YouTube Billionaire by following a set model of eyeball acquisition and monetization.
For most, though, the personal branding trope is a lie. Do a quick search on Instagram and you’ll find over 1.5m people touting “personal branding” in their profiles. Experts, coaches, influencers, agencies — they’re all aligned on the myth that the path to surefire riches is a personal brand dripping with bling and expertise, real or imagined.
And it’s all premised on content. A constant stream of content — good, bad or indifferent — you must be producing content in your niche. It’s all designed to make you the focus on attention everywhere and at all times to those who follow you.
There’s a dirty little secret that content creators each come to realize, but will never admit": you run out of things to say and ways to say them. A friend of mine loved radio in college. He bored us to tears with his obsession on radio, DJs, new music, old music, and how to get more airtime. He parlayed his interest and willingness to put in the work into increasingly high-profile radio jobs. College radio jock, talk radio midnight shift, morning drive, to political junkie.
He once shared with me that he had a recurring nightmare of being on the air with nothing to say. As he’s aged into his role, his content has devolved to lowest-common-denominator stuff, basically complaining about the news and how stupid people in the world are. And his audiences eat it up, he makes well over $1m per year for offering his opinions in 7 minute increments but not once — in the 30+ years I’ve known him — have I ever heard him talk about his audience in terms of what he brings them. It’s always how he can expand his audience by saying what new people want to hear.
If you ask him why he does this work and not something else, though? “I do it to help people,” and this something every influencer/content creator says but I think it belies a true black hole in the spirit of the content producer who existentially must continue to pretend that they are relevant, informed, gifted beyond others in terms of comprehension and communication, and worthy of attention.
But they know: no one cares about you. They don’t care about your personal brand, your origin story, or you at all. They only care about the value you create inside your niche. When you stop producing content, you stop being valuable.
A personal brand is a miscalculation, not a business. One of my mentors in life built an education and training business which he sold for 8 figures. Every one of his contemporaries died broke because their personal brand was the front of their speaking and training business. When I asked him how he did it, he said “I wanted to be known for what I knew.” He staked out a single niche, built a company that promoted many other people as experts and claimed the title of Godfather for the niche. Now, whenever anyone thinks of that niche, he comes to mind.
People jump from the top floors of buildings, not the bottom.”
— Stan Slap
One of my investment focus areas is in the future of travel. The commercialization, miniaturization, and cost reduction associated with electric vehicle technology opens up space for compelling innovation in travel that we haven’t seen in over 100 years. We’re investing in EV battery companies for air travel and recently our portfolio company sent an aircraft across Vermont on battery power alone.
Additionally, one company in our portfolio, Regent, is building a sea glider, a sort of cross between a bus and an airplane that flys at extremely low altitude so that it behaves almost as a hydrofoil. It flys in the deadzone called “ground effect” just above the surface where pressure pushes up just enough to keep you airborne, but gravity is just enough to affect your flight, too which gives a good measure of control.
Peter Thiel invested in the company which has raised $18m and has standby orders of $7B to date. It’s safe to say that in the future you’ll ride in a Regent sea craft between the islands of Hawaii, the Caribbean, or commuting in Boston or New York.
“You must believe in the presence of your absence.”
— Trey Taylor
I always love it when my book, A CEO Only Does Three Things, has a message that blesses people. In a recent interview by BenefitsPro Magazine, employee benefits professionals were asked what books had helped to shape their business journeys. My book was mentioned by 2 different survey respondents. So flattering!