Personal branding is hot right now. It’s booming.

It’s like every coach, artist, author, mad scientist, and consultant is finally waking up to the fact that what they say and how they carry themselves matters. It affects their personal image and how their business is perceived by the world.

A personal brand is an expression of yourself, your personality, and your gut. With a personal brand, you’re actively working to demonstrate what you do and how you do it. Keyword: YOU, not YOUR BUSINESS.

I came across a 2014 study that noted 80% of consumers said “authenticity of content” was the most influential factor in their decision to become a follower of a brand. So people crave authenticity? Go figure! No shit! We’re sick of the manufactured parts of life, the watered down relationships, the false advertising, the loopholes and excuses.

Let’s step back for a moment. Yep, back to high school. Probably the first time we were overwhelmed by personal brands.

Were you the geek? The jock? The band nerd? The hippie in ceramics? The kid with the light saber? The all black-wardrobed, trench-coat loving human shadow? Or how about the already acting like you’re a humanities professor because your sport coat has suede elbow patches kid?

In high school we all put out a personal brand. We were trying to figure out who we were and what we were worth. It was a life of daily existential crises and hormonal explosions. Where everyone was trendy all the time. I really miss it.

It was fun to watch and be apart of. To see so many different kinds of people and ideas and approaches to personalities. After a short while in the mix you could identify trends. You witness cliques form and social dynamics implode.

Once the proclamation was made, “I Am NOW Professor Suede Elbow Patch Kid”, that person withdrew from their individuality and the entered a very vicious world of trying to convince others to believe that the elbow patches were “really him”. That it was the elbow patches that made him stick out and be cool, not him or his choice of digs.

But after the shine wore off, he became exactly what he was before the short-lived attempt of a great personal brand statement – just another kid toying with a silly idea, trying to put a spin on it. The change is fun, but the effect is short lived (even within the sect of other elbow-patchers…they’re a deeply existential group). It was short lived because it wasn’t them to begin with…the elbow patches were awkward, he just couldn’t pull it off…and the rest of the world knew it.

The truth is, deep inside this wild tangle of personality and cliché, there exists some truly remarkable authenticity. It’s like your first real best friend or high school sweetheart. The one person you could really be yourself around. The one you cherish not because of flash or money or similarity or looks, but because you actually enjoy one another’s company. If it isn’t love, it’s probably a lot like it. They make you feel like no matter how far you wander, you can always find your way back. They’re your only constant. Your moon.

Authenticity is one of the most undervalued aspects of personal branding. You can feel attracted to a brand because it’s trendy. Maybe something pops, catches your eye, begs you to investigate it. That’s okay if you do, it’s in our human nature to look at interesting things. We live for finding the next cool thing. We proudly proclaim suffering from Shiny Object Syndrome. But trendy is rarely genuine, and if you’re still using words and images to “fit in” with all of those other “cool kids” out there doing what you’re doing…we know it. We can spot a phony from a mile away. And once we realize the truth, we become uninterested, bored and sometimes worse – totally turned off.

That’s why branding is a very personal, intimate journey. It takes time and a hell of a lot of work for something truly new and truly you to emerge. You can’t just hire a copywriter or a web design and tell them to “brand you.” That’s reckless, unprofessional. You have look for a lifeline of authenticity inside a personal brand like we do a sweetheart. We want to know that there’s more to them than just a drawing effect. We want you to cherish and be cherished. For reals.

Too often we see personal brands enter the market and they’re just barely different from the rest of the brands in their sector. It drives us crazy. These “so called expert branders” spend all this time duplicating an old brand and we buy into what they’re suggesting because it’s new, it’s fresh. We want to believe in the person we hired and in our decision to hire them so we go along with it…

But there’s a coach on every corner. A consultant. A nutritionist. A wellness guru. An author. A speaker. And they’re all saying basically the same thing…

So what’s the magic sauce to a personal brand?

The short answer: Be yourself all the time. Your real self, with your own quirks, scars, faults, and swagger. Find out what REALLY makes you magical and then put a magnifying glass on it for the world to see. Find your genius and let it hang out there for the rest of the world to see. You deserve more than a poppy title and so does the world.

For all the ways in which the world chews us up and spits us out, no matter how alone or popular we are, we will always have a constant. It isn’t another person. It isn’t some other place or a thing. It’s our natural state of being – our authentic self in all it’s glory and awkwardness. It’s the same place you will find your sweetheart and your authentic personal brand. And I guarantee you’ll meet a hell of a lot more like-minded individuals by being yourself than not. This is precisely how you get your tribe to come running.

We founded our business on truth and transparency. It’s tough not to be ourselves with that in mind. The brand reinforces our nature and our goals – to help you hack your truth. To show people that you don’t have to be suede or flashy to get noticed. It helps if you’re good at what you do, but mostly you just need to be real.