I had an interesting realization while on a brunch date with my oldest daughter, Emily (15). Over some delicious Indian food, we talked about our purpose, what feels meaningful, and what we enjoy working on.
And some questions she asked brought up some revelatory insights that I’ve been pondering.
Mainly, I realized that I don’t necessarily want to be the spokesperson for the brands I’m creating. Marketing gurus talk so much about the importance of “building a personal brand”, probably because that’s what they did to succeed. But in my case, I created my first successful business very much from behind the scenes. People were attracted to Music Teacher’s Helper because of the product, not because of me.
Same with my real estate properties. My tenants don’t even know my name. These business are run entirely by other people. Almost completely passive, and separate from my personal and family life.
Sure, after Tim Ferriss and Chris Guillebeau published my story, I became more well-known. But this didn’t actually have an effect on my business (except perhaps negatively in that it inspired others to create competing products). Still, I started creating new opportunities from this by marketing myself as a business coach, and also as a kind of “family travel guru” to inspire families to live with intention and adventure through long-term travel.
And we continually run into people who have seen my YouTube videos or read our blog and felt inspired enough to make important life changes (we met another such family recently upon leaving a restaurant – they rented our villa in Bali 2 years ago, saw our website, felt inspired, went home, sold their house, and are now living in Bali and expecting their first baby).
It’s nice to know that I’ve had an influence, and continue to influence people to tune into themselves, believe, and create a life that inspires them. Though it doesn’t feel as good as I thought it would. I suppose this is because I know at the core, the decision was theirs, not mine, and I can’t take responsibility for it – I can only congratulate them for living from their heart.
The problem is that in order to earn money as a “guru”, a coach, or a thought leader, I have to keep marketing myself and promoting my family story, and there is a different energy around that than there is around promoting a product or business that I own.
It seems that all my social media posts lately are either promoting one of my events or are in some way self-promotional. Perhaps that’s the nature of what social media has become (simply an advertising platform), but it seems a long way from the vulnerable and connecting conversations I used to have there and on my blog. Interestingly, I never promote MTH or my real estate properties, because the target market isn’t necessarily in my friend circle, and this marketing is already handled by my staff. Ironically, these are the businesses generating the majority of my income.
So, I’ve realized that while I enjoy owning businesses and having a positive impact on the world, I don’t necessarily enjoy marketing or selling myself as a solution. And I especially don’t enjoy the requirement to continue doing that in order to earn an income, as I think this can quickly lead to inauthenticity. When “you” are your brand, it also makes it more difficult to be vulnerable, as personal decisions can then have a greater affect on the business. (i.e. would I have hesitated more to publish vulnerable and controversial posts like why I left the Mormon church and healing sexual shame if there was a chance they could negatively effect my income? Who knows….)
So what am I taking from all this? Just that I’m considering extraditing myself more from the marketing tasks, and working more in the ownership role (big picture visionary, and overall organization), not the operations or management roles in the businesses I own, as this seems to be where my best skillset lies anyway.
I am also toying with the idea of buying another business (yes, buying rather than starting) – but not running it myself, as an experiment to improve my leadership skills and increase my income (potentially with much higher returns than real estate).
Lesson: I value the authentic and vulnerable connections I’ve had online and off, but that can be inhibited if the majority of my interactions feel like a potential sales opportunity. I need to step back from marketing and sales and into leadership and ownership, leaving more space for vulnerability and authentic relating on a personal level. Also, rather than trying to strengthen my brand through self-promotion and labels, I need to remember the benefits of living beyond labels and freely being and expressing myself despite what image others may have of me. How can you be more true to yourself this week, perhaps shedding expectations you may have absorbed from outside influences regarding how you should be?
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