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Chris Brogan on the Business of Being Yourself
28th May 2015 • No Sidebar • Rainmaker.FM
00:00:00 00:25:14

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As cliché as it sounds, some of the best business advice you can get is simply … be who you are.

It sounds impractical that in a ruthless world filled with corporations, venture capitalists, and never-ending competition, we re encouraged to drop our personas and keep things real.

From being different, to taking risks, there s a tremendous amount of knowledge to be had in this episode. Chris says we often mistake busy for progress and he s no rookie when it comes to giving entrepreneurial advice.

Listen up and take notes, as one of the most successful marketing and social media guys on the planet takes the floor.

In this 25-minute episode Chris Brogan and I discuss:

  • What Sally Hogshead said at Authority Rainmaker that rocked my world
  • Being busy vs. being blessed
  • The best piece of advice that Brian Clark gave Chris
  • Why Chris says yes to most of the podcast interview requests he gets
  • How a joke landed Chris a $40,000 client experience
  • Why trying to mimic someone else s success is a bad idea
  • What a 9-year-old teaches us about business models

Listen to No Sidebar below ...

The Show Notes

The Transcript

Chris Brogan on the Business of Being Yourself

Voiceover: This is Rainmaker.FM, the digital marketing podcast network. It’s built on the Rainmaker Platform, which empowers you to build your own digital marketing and sales platform. Start your free 14-day trial at Rainmaker.FM/Platform.

Brian Gardner: So instead of going through the history of Chris Brogan on social media and so on, we’re just going to jump right in.

Hey, everyone. Welcome to the No Sidebar podcast. I am your host, Brian Gardner. I’m here to discuss the struggles around being and becoming a creative entrepreneur.

Together, we’ll identify what’s standing in the way of you building and growing your online business.

No Sidebar is brought to you by the Rainmaker Platform, a complete website solution for writers, designers, podcasters, and other online entrepreneurs. Find out more and take a free 14-day test drive at Rainmaker.FM/Platform.

Today is going to be a fun show. Strangely enough, I reached to out Chris Brogan and asked him if he could get on a call to talk about what we experienced over at Authority Rainmaker, and he said, “How about right now?” In typical fashion, I jumped on Skype, hit record. I want to preface all of this conversation that Chris and I are going to have with a conversation that he and I had a couple of weeks back.

I called Chris a couple of weeks ago. We were supposed to go over what we would talk about on our call, and this strange thing happened. I had a bad day, and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with podcasting. Chris played therapist rather than interviewee on that call. He said something to me that was very, very intelligent, and something that made a lot of sense to me and really aligns with the No Sidebar philosophy.

He said, “Typically I like to do my interviews, start them out as if they were 30 minutes in.” In other words, cutting out the traditional, “Hey, here’s my guest. Here’s where he came from and how he got to where he got to,” because the reality of it is, Google exists, right?

For somebody who doesn’t have an hour to listen to an entire show, people know, for the most part, what their story is of the person they’re listening to. If they don’t, they’re able to research it. So instead of going through the history of Chris Brogan on social media and so on, we’re just going to jump right in.

Authority Rainmaker last week in Denver, Colorado, was a conference that Copyblogger put on, our company. We had some really great guests and speakers. Chris was there. Chris spoke, and it was very good.

First of all, Chris, welcome to the show, and thank you for hopping on right away.

Chris Brogan: You know what? I’m totally thrilled. I’m thrilled to be here, Brian. Having spent a little time in your actual physical orbit was nice. I really like the idea of the project for No Sidebar. It’s funny that even just the name, there’s two obvious means to it. There’s what it means for blog design and site design, but obviously for life. I feel just honored to be a guest, so thank you.

What Sally Hogshead Said at Authority Rainmaker That Rocked My World

Brian Gardner: You’re welcome. It’s great to have you here. Let’s jump right in. Sally Hogshead was a session that I did not plan to go to. It was the keynote of the second day, the opening keynote that was. I was going to do a few other things, but something just said, “Brian, you need to go in there and listen to what she has to say because there’s probably a reason for it.”

I went in there and I was a little bit cautiously optimistic. What I can say is this, Sally Hogshead rocked my world. I went into Authority Rainmaker with a lot of questions and some confusion about what I want to do and how I want to do it.

I have to tell you, it’s like she was looking at me and speaking for an hour directly at me. One of the things she said was this, “Don’t change who you are, become more of who you are.”

I thought that was one of the most brilliant things I’ve ever heard. It really spoke to me personally because I’m going through some stuff — just trying to identify what is my voice, who are the people that I want to impact, how I want to impact them, and so on.

It also made me think this is a good chance to take what she said and what I want to talk to you about and put it together because a lot of people know you as a social media guy. I know, ha ha — you wrote about that on Facebook a few weeks back. There’s obviously a lot of backstory, Chris, to who you are, but that really is the whole story. It’s who Chris is. In other words, you are no different off social media than you are on social media. I want to talk about that and just get your thoughts and reactions to what she said.

Being Busy vs. Being Blessed

Chris Brogan: Did you get that feeling in person, by the way? When you hung out with me, were you like, “Wow, it’s exactly the way it’s been all along,” or were you like, “No, he’s totally different”?

Brian Gardner: Two years ago, I think you may have been at a different point. I talked about this briefly when we spoke a few weeks back, that you seemed to have a lot going on. In other words, you were going to a lot of conferences. You were speaking a lot. Maybe you came across as busy, which isn’t a bad thing. It just meant that you had a lot of things happening in your life. The last two years, I’m telling you, it seems like it’s been a night and day difference — like you intentionally went out and said, “This is not going to sustain for very long because there’s just too much happening.”

To me, at least from the outside, it looks like you intentionally went in and cut out some stuff — some travel, some conferences, some things. You really brought it back to what you want to do, your web properties and nurturing all of that. When we had some chance this past week to talk, you seemed relaxed, happy — not that you weren’t before, you know what I mean — but it just seemed like you were at a better place.

Chris Brogan: It is true. One of the things that I can say — this is the first ‘take out your highlighter’ moment in the conversation — is we often mistake busy for progress. As you well know, motion and forward motion are two different things. When we are having a tough time or when things aren’t working out so well, we tend to go into panic and go in all-directions modes. It looks from the outside, “Wow, that guy is busy.” I’m just against the word ‘busy.’ The best I like to say is I’m blessed.

Number one is that, when you’re going after everything, you can’t really catch as many things because you’re never in a place long enough for that.

The Best Piece of Advice That Brian Clark Gave Chris

Chris Brogan: The other thing is that, with regards to the way I feel now, a bunch of years ago, I was with Brian Clark at Pubcon on an interview on some stage where the interviewer was horrendous, I seem to recall.

We just decided to ask each other questions and ignore her, which was I guess technically rude, but we just wanted to save the audience from having really dumb questions about “when did you get on Twitter?” One of the things I said to Brian was, “Brian, I’m faced with all of these opportunities, and I don’t know what to say yes to.”

This is years ago. This is typical Clark. Clark tells me something and then two or three years later, I try my best to make it my own. He said, “I really just serve the people who have given me their time and attention. I don’t say yes to anything that doesn’t follow that.” That’s actually the other reason why I don’t seem to crazy busy anymore. That’s the answer.

Brian Gardner: One of the things you said — and you can tell me if you want this cut out of this interview — was you say yes to a lot of people who ask if they can podcast interview you as long as they respect your time and keep it to 20 minutes or so, which of course, I want to do on this one for a number of reasons, but is that true?

Do you really spend that much time engaging with other people? It wouldn’t surprise me, but when I heard that, I was like, God, thousands of people would be asking you then, right?

Why Chris Says ‘Yes’ to Most of the Podcast Interview Requests He Gets

Chris Brogan: I say yes to almost all of them. I really do. I would say that the whole scenario is that, first off, by making it 20 minutes, I can usually do a bunch a day. If I could say yes to three or four or five a day, that’s only an hour and a half of my time. The other is that, this is the part — and you should definitely feel free to keep it in — this is part that’s difficult to say.

When I’m a guest on anybody’s show, no matter the size of the show, it does not move any needle. As a guest on anyone’s show, if suddenly the next day, I don’t suddenly have 300 new email subscribers or no one’s has bought anything I see, whatever, but I feel like it does two things.

It allows me to talk to a community I don’t usually get to talk with. Then the other is that I get the opportunity to talk about or think about how I want to represent what I do to the outside world — which is really useful for me — but also I try to deliver some value at the same time.

I guess what I’m really doing is just trying to share all of the behind the scenes of who I am as often as I can. That’s why I say yes to being a guest all the time. I feel like somewhere out there, someone’s going to go, “Woah, that was the piece I was missing.”

Brian Gardner: Speaking of behind the scenes, that kind of goes back to what Sally said, which is being more of you. Do you think that who you are online, for the most part, is the same person as the guy who is not online?

Chris Brogan: 100 percent . It’s so depressing for people when they go out and they meet somebody somewhere and they’re like, “Oh, that’s not quite how I pictured him.” The only weird thing is — and I don’t know how to make this any better — is people always say this about me in person. They’re like, “Man, you’re so much funnier in person.”

I swear to God, I think I’m so funny when I’m writing my newsletter and stuff like that, but I guess when I go back, it looks kind of serious. That’s the only part I feel bad about because I’m kind of a weird guy. It doesn’t come through well enough in my newsletter — I guess because I’m trying to focus on helping people.

Beyond that, I’m pretty much the same guy. When I went out onto the stage at Authority Rainmaker, I kicked a table off of the stage because it was bothering me that so many people hid behind it like some kind of weird satellite. Destroying a table would probably be within the purview of me being me, yet that doesn’t come through in my newsletter. People don’t read my newsletter and hear me say “I broke a table at your conference.”

Brian Gardner: Maybe moving forward, you can preface parts of your newsletter by talking about those types of things because they can’t see it obviously in a newsletter. Maybe next week’s newsletter you say something like, “Yeah, people thought it was really weird that I knocked a table over while I spoke.”

Chris Brogan: I like that. Good plan.

Brian Gardner: Maybe a featured image of a table being knocked over would be even more impactful.

Chris Brogan: As it would turn out, a really nice gentleman copied that. Brad Crooks got a really great action shot of me kicking it over, so maybe I’ll lead with that.

Brian Gardner: Maybe that’s a blog post. Maybe it’s part of the newsletter. Maybe it’s just, “Hey, stop the business stuff. It’s OK to kick over a table,” and really tell a story from that.

Chris Brogan: Look at that. I’m getting all kinds of advice on the No Sidebar show.

Brian Gardner: There we go. Another thing Sally said — and I resonated with a lot of these things, and for me, I think you and I are a lot alike. I’ll get to what she said here in a minute, but I think that I’m such a believer in authenticity. Last year, I created this little movement called Unfiltered. It really was about dropping the persona and really just trying to be real online.

I swear I come back to this almost every show — Ruthie Lindsey says we’re longing for a sense of significance and what we think will deter people from following us — basically what we think we should do is the opposite, and they respond the opposite of the way we think. We hide behind fear and all that kind of stuff, but you don’t strike me as the kind of guy who hides much behind fear, at least on social media. The other thing she said was, “Different is better than better.”

How a Joke Landed Chris a $40,000 Client Experience

Chris Brogan: Yes. I have to tell you that there’s a thing I say a lot. I get quoted on it every now and, again as well, which is that the weirder I am, the more money I’ve made — meaning not try to act weird. I’m not Lady Gaga. I don’t necessarily need to put steak all over my body, but when I’m much more true to 100 percent who I am and just say the random unfiltered things that come out of my mouth, that’s where business has come from.

I made a joke about poop that earned me a $40,000 client experience because it turns out that there’s a company that makes toilets, and they thought I was pretty funny talking about poop.

To me, the other thing I’ve been doing a lot is I share a lot about depression. I share a lot about the down sides of my life. I tell people, anybody who will listen, I’ll say, “Man, 2013 was really hard. 2014, I really thought I was going to have to close my business.” This is after having been in business since ’08 or ’09. People are like, “What?!” because everybody thinks success is linear. Success is the opposite of linear. Sometimes you make a lot of money. Sometimes you blow a lot of money because you’re trying to make the next big thing, and it doesn’t go your right way.

If you’re doing it right, success isn’t safe. I spend a lot of time trying to explain that when people talk to me about things. The other thing they always say, Brian, is they say, “My favorite video of yours is that one where you’re walking at 5 a.m. through the building and you go down the elevator, and you’re talking about the fact that overnight success isn’t anything like what you think it is.” It turns to the parking lot, and it’s all dark out.

I’m always so grateful because I think it’s really important to explain that things aren’t just magical all the time. Yet I guess what I’m also saying is that “If I could do it, you could do it,” because I’m not all that smart.

Why Trying to Mimic Someone Else’s Success Is a Bad Idea

Brian Gardner: That’s brilliant. The whole success...