How to bring Gut-Wrenching Authenticity to Your Personal Brand

Everyone’s saying something different…

Personal brand needs THIS. Your brand needs THAT.  Be YOU. Be HER. Be whatever’s HOT right now…

What does that sh*t even mean? Stop listening to mass-produced advice. This blog’s for people like you and me–entrepreneurs with a story.

Your Personal Brand should tell a story. It should showcase The Legend of You (in all your glory–hardship, headache, and heartbreak included). Every element of your brand should tell the reader, the visitor, the viewer something personal about your life.

  • Goals you want to achieve–what you sound like when you sing
  • How you hustle–how you stay cool in the summertime
  • Stuff that has disrupted your life–how you feel when you cry
  • Your taste in swag–what your kitchen smells like
  • Proof you’re not a robot–how quiet your house is on a Sunday afternoon
  • Why you get out of bed each day–where you plan to be in twenty years

For too long we’ve focused on the personal brand more than the personality. It’s like we’ve just made things up that we only THOUGHT the public would enjoy or like, instead of focusing on the truest and most excellent version of ourselves.

So much of my branding work comes down to simply getting people to open up and be real. What kind of wars have they fought? What size were the meteors that blew up their plans? Who have they lost and how did that change them? What do they really believe in?

We’re talking about the visceral, gritty details of a person’s life. The stuff everyone is scared to open up about–that’s what makes truly personal brand.

Download our 78-Point Prosperous Brand Checklist HERE

how to create a profitable personal brand

Now here’s how to use gut-wrenching authenticity–and still bring swagger to your Personal Brand.

STEP ONE: Create a “My Edge” List

Hardships make brands personal. They make you relatable to customers, followers, and fans on a heart-to-heart level. Your screw-ups, oversights, and wild past–that’s the stuff that humanizes you.

Make a list of all the things that would take YOU (not your sales) to the edge of your market right now. Any and every authentic detail about your life…

  • I was an orphan at 12 years old…
  • My grandma killed my grandpa…
  • Regrets? I’ve had a few…oh God…
  • Bankruptcy and fast-food addiction…
  • Shipwrecks and stalemates…
  • Prison breaks and almost getaways…

This list should be filled with REAL events from YOUR life–not somebody else’s. If you don’t include any of this info, your brand is going to look just like so many other personal brands out there…lifeless.

Here are 3 Examples from Millionaires I’ve worked with that thought they needed to hide their stories…

  • One buried two of four children.
  • One was on welfare.
  • One had an ex that dictated how many new facts she could share with him each day.
  • One was left to die at age nine.
  • One wished they were dead.
  • One lost $10 million dollars in net worth overnight–having to move from her 12,000 square foot mansion.
  • One left a top engineering job at IBM so she could solve her medical issues, aced the MCAT and went to med school.

All of these exceptional people didn’t want to share their story (even just a little bit). They thought this stuff was TOO edgy to be included in a personal brand…that it would be a turn-off.

Since when did we stop celebrating epic comebacks–surviving the brink of destruction?

These people thought sharing their battle wounds was an act of arrogance or pity…like they were bragging about their battles…

Nobody says it, but you can be TOO HUMBLE.

There’s a difference between overcoming an obstacle and helping others do the same–and acting like you know what a comeback is before you’ve even had one.

If you’ve truly beaten the odds, whether you caused the problem or not–doesn’t matter. As long your story can help others…

  • Avoid the same trouble (and get back on the right path)
  • Cope with the same pain (and talk about it openly)
  • Understand how you operate (and why)
  • See you as the ordinary person you are (underneath all that swag and money)

You can’t tell people you’re a hustler without giving first showing a little proof (that is more than technical jargon). The same goes for every personal brand–from coaches to copywriters–if the world doesn’t relate to your story FIRST, they will never fully trust your brand.

Don’t hold back. Your story can unlock freedom for someone else. If it can be helpful, it would be selfish to hold back…

STEP TWO: Use Your Edge List

When you hold back the Real Life Stuff from a personal brand, it creates a wall between you and your tribe.

You suddenly become unrelatable. They can’t comprehend how you got to this point in your life or why in the world you’re so ambitious about changing the world. Things don’t add up.

Maybe you don’t want to open up about your time in prison or government work…but we can’t just advertise our services ALL UP IN PEOPLE’S FACES–and expect them to follow us for always just because we asked.

  • When politicians hold back…we either distrust them OR their secrets destroy them.
  • When spouses hold back…we either distrust them OR their secrets destroy them.
  • When entrepreneurs hold back…we keep on searching for someone who’s real–and we don’t look back.

“If you tell the truth, you won’t have to remember anything.” –Mark Twain

Personal brands don’t work very well if you’re trying to cover up a part of your life (or be something you aren’t).

Stop trying to take on some story that isn’t even true. You’ll find success if you’re honest and real from the get-go. So lay it all on the line. Write down everything you can think of that has made you who you are right now.

Alright, so you’ve made this list of secrets and personal details you’d never want the FBI or NSA to see…

And you feel kind of guilty for making it. You’re scared somebody will steal it and blackmail you. Now you want to throw it away.

Look, you’ve already got a story that nobody else has (or could ever copy). It’s beyond your control. It simply is the way things are for your life.

But you should want to protect this list. It’s full of all the things that make you real. It’s full of details your competitors couldn’t even dream of buying…

It’s proof that you’re a human being…and not just a brand.

STEP THREE: Have a Little Strategy whydontcha?

Ever hugged a robot? Cold steel against your chest, a lead chin on your shoulder…it isn’t pleasant.

When you give your tribe nothing more to identify with than your most robotic side (your perfections, your homeruns, your masterpieces–all featured on Facebook of course)they’re going to think you’re too amazing to be true.

So how do you work the elements from your edge list into your personal brand?


Give your people a real, genuine glimpse into your life–on a regular basis.

You don’t want to dump every detail on your tribe all at once. But you don’t want to starve them either. So figure out a timeframe to let them in on your edge!

Step by step, detail by detail, walk them to your edge. Show them the view from where you stand. Make friends with strangers, talk about the weather and what you’d do with buried treasure. In the online world, we can do this in SO MANY WAYS.

  • Dropping truth in a Podcast
  • Facebook Live during the lunch “hour”
  • Periscope your morning routine
  • Become a Tweetmaster
  • Instagram EVERYTHING
  • Finally tell that story you’ve been fearing most…

It isn’t about the content, the platform, or even the flash…it’s about proving you’re a human who cares. So choose whatever method fits you best–then get real.

Be authentic. BY TAKING YOUR TIME.

You might not want to come out of the gate with the most jaw-dropping details of your life.  (Like any relationship–we gotta work our way up to the big reveals). I actually wrote a pair to this called “When To Hold Back In Your Personal Brand”

We wouldn’t go on a blind date, stand on top of the table, and yell, “I thought Forrest Gump sucked!” They might be able forgive you right then and there–but I doubt anyone else in the restaurant would.

Maybe you aren’t yet ready to tell everyone the most emotional detail or element from the edge list. That’s cool!

You shouldn’t scream your hopes and dreams from every roof- and tabletop at all times to anyone that will listen just because you can.

Don’t share things just in the name of “authenticity.” You’re going to give it a bad name…

And it’s bad business.

There’s a difference between withholding information and knowing when to share it.

The Comeback Kid Rule: you can’t call yourself a comeback kid (rags-to-riches, holla back girl–or astronaut), until you’ve actually made a comeback.

Don’t lie or stretch the truth about your entrepreneurial success.

You don’t have to tell people every little detail of your life (looking at you, Bieber), and you shouldn’t lie or stretch the truth about your entrepreneurial success either.

When you do share your life with the world, make sure you give it some substance. Give it some umph.

It sounds like strategy…but it’s more about being a thoughtful personal brander…an authentic human.


Have you made anyone lol today?

I once survived a 12-hour day on campus with a 12-inch rip down the ass-middle of my jeans.

I was wearing lime green underwear and I was a freshman and it was embarrassing.

The metal chairs were colder that day, the snickers and pointing fingers–arctic. My butt, two limes framed in a denim bowl.

For a while I tried to wear my backpack really low or kind of shuffle along the walls and shadows like Batman, but eventually I ran out of wall just started to own it. And that day I wrote my first story.

That rip changed my entire life.

You get the point.

Your edge list can be authentic AND fun, too.

  • So your grandma killed your grandpa…this could be the saddest or funniest story ever.
  • So you accidentally ran over a raccoon last night…tell us how you cried for the first time in 7 years…(and then tell us why it’s taken you so long to admit).
  • So you SERIOUSLY screwed up a sale yesterday…explain how you’re fighting like hell to make it right today.

Stop apologizing for the way you sound and the way you look and the way you view the world. We all rip our jeans down the ass-middle from time to time. We all mess up!

If you can’t even have one iota of humor about it–you must not enjoy your work very much. If you can make someone’s day just a little bit better, DO IT.

Authentic people are always remembered. Those are the people we really notice during the day…

  • Holding the gas station door open for an old man
  • Who smile and wave as they pass you in the neighborhood
  • That ride on their shopping cart in the grocery store
  • Who write movies starring Nicholas Cage

That’s the real beauty of a personal brand–being able to relax and be yourself around people who really want to listen to you.

I don’t know about you, but I’m wearing my limes tomorrow.

Let’s give ‘em somethin’ to talk about.