How to Build a Brand that Isn’t All About Stroking Your Ego

While I was growing up, I was far from the coolest kid in the world.

Don’t get me wrong, I was by no means a total loser, and I had a lot of friends, but I was never one of the super popular kids that everyone flocked to.

I was just your average middle-class white boy.

College was similar.  I had tons of friends, a great social life, but was rarely the life of the party, center of attention, or the one who everyone flocked to.

Post college? Same situation. For awhile it was pretty cool that I had the fancy finance job when many of my friends could barely get a job at McDonalds.  But that quickly wore off into just being another average dude in a suit.

Then I started this blog.

A year later I was living in Thailand living a life that most people will never get to experience.

Two years after that I’m still sometimes in shock at the locations I find myself in, and the opportunities that I’ve created for myself.

And left unchecked, that’s a really big problem.

The Ease of Ego Stroking

When you’ve been relatively average most of your life, what’s your natural tendency going to be as soon as you’re doing something a little more noteworthy?

You guessed it, tell everyone you can about how awesome you are!

Not cool.

This is something I’ve struggled with over the last couple years as I try and find the right balance between talking about myself versus online business.

At first, I felt like I had to play up the mobile lifestyle and all the cool destinations and activities that this included.  I felt it was essential for my credibility.

I mean I was the finance guy in the 9 to 5, how do you get people to believe you really can run a business from anywhere on Earth? You play up your travels to everywhere on Earth, of course!

And while that may have been a good strategy at first, there came a time when a change was needed.

As my brand and reach grew, I continued to brag (for lack of a better term) about all the cool places I was going. It’s always been my natural reaction to want to grab that attention, but recently I’ve realized that for the most part it’s pretty counter-effective, and at times straight up not appealing.

The Difference Between the Location 180 and Location Rebel Brands

With Location 180, I keep maintaining that this blog has always been about my life, business, and travels.  I think that gave me an excuse to keep feeding my ego a bit – after all I’ve never lied about what I’ve done, I’ve just perhaps played up certain aspects of it. Recently though, I’ve realized that while its true that these are the themes of the blog, there’s more to it.  

I believe Location 180 serves as a resource of hope for a lot of people.  When I first quit my job and moved to Thailand it was totally relatable.  Now, the more I do it, the less relatable I’m afraid it’s become – which is the last thing I’ve wanted.

Our community in Location Rebel on the other hand has been the exact opposite. Every week members are saying things like “just booked my one way plane ticket to Bangkok for later this year” or “Just got my first check from my new freelance writing business!”

Instead of me bragging about what I’m doing, it’s not about me at all. It’s about the community as a whole, and supporting each other both in times of success, as well as times of struggle.

There should be more of that in Location 180.  I want to focus more on the build a business side of things, because that’s what is inevitably going to lead to more and more people reaching their goal lifestyles.

The Catalyst

Why did I start feeling this way all of a sudden? Well it wasn’t actually the L180 blog posts themselves that triggered this reflection.

Rather it was my weekly newsletter over the last couple months – they’ve been all about me and my travels.  ”Gearing up to go to Asia!” “Hey look at me, I’m in Asia!” “Just got back from Asia!”

That’s not helpful to anyone now is it?

I swear it’s not all bad, as my friend Jessie points out here, but it needs to be more useful.

So that’s step #1 for me.  Tweaking the newsletter to provide some really useful business building resources and ideas that will serve as something to look forward to, rather than something you archive before even reading.

How Else Can You Take Your Ego Out of Your Brand?

By nature a blog is an opportunity to talk about yourself, your life, and your thoughts.

Because of this, creating something that isn’t all about stroking your own ego is incredibly difficult – but absolutely essential if you want to build something successful online.

Every single blogger I know of does a little ego stroking from time to time (some more than others).  You know what? That’s totally cool, after all it’s your site, and you’ve worked hard to get it where it is.

You just have to make sure that the benefits to your readers far outweighs the boosts to your ego and self esteem.

Review Your Last 50 Posts

Take a few minutes and jump into your archives and go over the headlines of your posts from the last few months. How many of those were written primarily to boost your ego vs. providing value to the reader?

Be honest with yourself.

When I did this I was at about 70% value and 30% ego driven.  Definite room for improvement, and as I mentioned, it’s the newsletter which really needs the overhaul.  I also feel that it’s infinitely more important to make sure that anything that ends up in someone’s inbox is value packed – they could care less about your tropical vacation on a Monday morning. 

Talk About Others as Much as Possible

Sure you need to have personal stories and examples to build and maintain credibility, but the best way to grow a brand is to use examples from others.  First off, people love to read about themselves.  So if you can highlight something that someone else did well, not only will it provide a nice balance to your successes, but you’ve probably also just recruited another person to share your post at the same time.

There have been so many success stories coming out of the Location Rebel community lately, and I’ve done next to nothing to talk about them on this blog.  That should totally change, because those are the people who were where I was 3 years ago.

Build Up Other’s Egos > Building Up Your Own Ego

Write a Clear “Reader Outcome” for Every Post

It can be easy to get off topic, follow tangents, and just start writing about your latest personal victory or new toy you bought. Before you write any post, create a a one sentence outcome or takeaway that you want your readers to get from that post.

Once you’ve finished writing go back and view it through that lens.  Did you accomplish your goal? Is there something of value there? If not, make revisions until the benefit is clearly articulated and has actionable steps that can be taken.

No One is Perfect (and Definitely Not Me)

This isn’t an exact science.  Afterall, your website is still your little corner of the internet.  You should be able to brag about big wins or cool stories, just make sure that you balance all that out with even more resources to help others accomplish the stuff they’re working on.

If you do that successfully, the benefits to your self-esteem will be far greater than any self-centered blog post could ever be.

Photo Credit: Dan Deluca

Financial Samurai February 19, 2013 at 10:04 am

Thanks for your perspective Sean. I’m getting sick of hearing about my own stories on my site, which is why I visit other sites and invite more different perspectives.

You talk about credibility. I get that, and you’ve created the credibility by highlighting your travels. You also talk about business. This is really the aspect where I encourage you to be more open b/c your business is about teaching others how to lead a location independent lifestyle.

Without knowing some realistic figures on how much one can make and save, it’s hard to take that leap without knowing what’s down below. Give it a go. I think it will help a lot.

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Sean February 19, 2013 at 11:46 am

Appreciate the comment Sam.

One of the reasons I’ve chosen not to say much about income is due to the very essence of this post. I’m not trying to brag or anything about what I do. My income has increased every year since I started, and I can now say I’m well above the national average and make considerably more than I used to make in my day job. At some point I’ll I may reveal exact numbers, but I dont think my credibility suffers by not sharing.

People can read my advice and what I say and decide for themselves if it’s something they should pay attention to. And based on what I do share publicly, obviously things aren’t too terrible :)

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Financial Samurai February 19, 2013 at 12:14 pm

I’m really looking forward to you highlighting some of the Location Rebel success stories. Those will be fun to read and good kudos for your business.

The most informative posts are how folks deal with the up and down of a lifestyle business given things are always changing.

Julia February 19, 2013 at 11:57 am

Make the changes you need to make , but please don’t stop writing about your travels – I enjoy reading about them. I agree that maybe they don’t belong in the newsletter so much, but an occasional blog post should be ok.

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Christopher February 19, 2013 at 12:29 pm

This post makes me like you even more Sean. As much as anyone else, I enjoy hearing people like you talk about going on cool trips and being location independent – mainly because it allows me to vicariously live those experiences through you.

But you’re right in that hearing it so much sometimes ceases to provide value any longer, not because it’s not still cool, but more due to the habituation that occurs – which is normal. Very cool that you’re aware of it all though and I expect your next string of posts are going to incredible.

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Allen Young February 19, 2013 at 2:14 pm

I love the travel posts as much as anything on the blog. I’m kind of tied down location wise with family and kids but…someday. I keep adding places to the bucket list with your travel posts.

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Aaron Anderson February 20, 2013 at 1:08 pm

As someone who has recently lost my job and is currently trying to figure out how to live a life more like the one you live, I really appreciate being able to read your personal experiences and see how I can apply them to myself. It really helps to see your thoughts and the process you went through to get to where you’re at today.

I guess a question I might have is how much do you write for yourself, and how much do you write for your audience? I’ve found, personally, that the more I write for myself, the more sincere and genuine my writing is. However, when I try to write for an audience, my words and writing just don’t seem to flow as easily. I’m not sure if you’ve found the same thing?

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Ana February 24, 2013 at 4:41 pm

Sean, I appreciate your admitting that sometimes you do have to step back and evaluate. I have little time for all my memberships and the ones that I have left, I really want to get value out of. After all, there’s not a one of us who isn’t more interested in our own eventual location independence than the current blogger’s.

Still, I find most of what you write to be of tremendous value, or I wouldn’t still be here. It serves to remind me that, when you write about your own travels, this is where I was 3 years ago and it’s where I’ll be again. Regardless of how hard life is now stateside, Asia and Europe are still there, and will be when I’m ready to see them again. And after this economic crisis I and so many others have been living … there really are growing numbers of people taking off on their own location independent dreams!

So it motivates us! Keep it up.

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Theo February 24, 2013 at 6:14 pm

I agree with Financial Samurai, but I’d like to expand a little bit. My desire isn’t about seeing just your figures– it’s about seeing realistic income levels through online businesses and how much one needs to live in different locations. Clearly living in NYC commands a different pay grade than the Philippines, so anecdotes, case studies or interviews in that direction would help me and many others on our hunt to be location independent.

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Chas February 24, 2013 at 6:43 pm

When you have a successful personal blog and business that allows you to live an independent lifestyle it can be hard to escape the trappings of the ego and to take a more altruistic approach. You have taken the first step by recognizing this. I look forward to your future posts. I have recently discovered a site that avoids this trap by allowing many authors to submit stories. I think you would enjoy the site. Let me know what you think. Here is the link.~
http://www.elephantjournal.com

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Aggie February 25, 2013 at 7:37 am

This is great information. I finally get it. I’ve been working on several sites but have neglected my personal blog. It’s more of a collection of random stuff than anything else. Now I know how to spin my blog into something that will provide value to others. It’s all about using personal experiences to create a topic that people can relate to. The meat of the post should provide value. I’ve been doing this with guest posting but never in my blog. *facepalm* Thanks Sean

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Matt February 25, 2013 at 9:06 am

Great post, Sean!

I can see how this could become an issue for many people, myself included. I just launched my first business today so I don’t have anything to boast about yet, but a year from now my situation will be completely different, and so will I, I’m sure.

If people can realize ahead of time that success can turn them into someone that people don’t want to be around (in the case of an unchecked ego), they are already well on their way to fixing that potential problem.

I’m not sure if you allow links or not so feel free to remove this one if you don’t, but you can read the post I wrote today about my business at http://www.undertheclearbluesky.com/does-money-really-fall-from-the-sky.

I look forward to your next post!

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Nate February 25, 2013 at 3:49 pm

This is really great Sean, thank you! I’ve been thinking about these exact issues recently as I begin my own blog and really like your perspective. I’ve been struggling a lot recently with how much I want my site to be about me, vs content that is more broadly applicable. I actually sent you an email this morning asking about this exact thing; hope to hear back from you soon :)

Also, I will say that I personally do enjoy your email updates even if they are just about the cool stuff that you you. It makes me happy and excited to hear about all the cool stuff that you get to do! It’s just more motivation to continue growing my business and gives me ideas on things I’d like to do.

Again, really enjoyed this post; thanks!

Nate

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