5 Lessons from A Teenage Drop Out

There are people in this world you wouldn’t expect to learn from. It seems most of those people live in my house! Recently, I talked about what I’ve learned from my “special kitty“, now I would like to share some life lessons I learned from my 17 year old brother-in-law. I known him since he was 15, when I started dating his sister and chalked him off as a normal teenager. Then he opened his mouth.

He has one of the most unique minds I’ve came across; one of the most stubborn, self-centrist, scheming millennial; yet also, one of the most forgiving, resilient, DIY kind of servant leaders I have ever met. He lives with me and my wife, and frequently entertains his circle of adventitious friends. Though the years I have seen and heard his stories; some tall tales, some urban legends, but some have taught me a few things.

1. Learn How to Self-Brand Yourself

Like most teenagers, my brother-in-law was trying to find his own identity. He came from a broken home and never really got along with his parents. Unfortunately, for him, he’s named after his father. For reasons only known to him, he dubbed himself a new name, and new identity. All over the small town we live in, and to the millions getting destroyed by him on Xbox Live, he is known as Bubba.
He didn’t let his parents make his identity, he didn’t let his brother-in-law create a brand for him. He went out and carved his initials into the tree of life and made his own name. This is important to everyone. If Prince can turn himself into a symbol and back again, you can forge your own self-brand!

2. Do It Because You Can (If You Can’t, Do It Anyways)

I don’t know if his friends text him every morning, if he has developed telepathy or he just thinks of random things to do, but every morning he comes in the living room with his next big idea. Bubba, at 17, has ran more businesses out of his garage and backyard than Yahoo acquires smaller companies (I think there’s a connection, but he won’t tell me). I even have him down as a co-founder for a venture I’ve been looking to launch in town. I made him co-founder for his entrepreneurial drive that simply amazes me. He’s a natural salesman and even if a venture blows up in his face (Such as a self cooking BBQ pit… literally in his face) the next day he has a new plan penned out and either has started or looking for the right investor to start.
Richard Branson, one of my favorite businessmen, always said “Screw It, Just Do It”. This is advice I fully believe. Nothing should stop you from your dreams, not even yourself.

3. Keep Up With The Times!

I never heard of dubstep until I met Bubba. I thought the new wave of musical taste was still pop-rap. Turns out it’s the sound of bass dropping. Bubba stays with the times, from all theSimpsons/Family Guy/Futurama Crossovers to the sequel to The Conjuring, he likes to stay in the loop. It made me stay with the times, and on occasion ahead of the curve, so I can not be surprised so much when e have a conversation. His friends and him also have their own dialect that I’ve dubbed “Small Town Stoop”. Whenever they are outside on the back porch, you can hear their dialect and many times it’s funny. My wife and I even join in.
Lots of us professionals try to stay informed on the times; either by reading gossip rags (Which should not be read… at all) to business journals. But the times are so vast, focusing on one thing no longer makes you a specialist. It makes you one dimensional in a 3D world.

4. Be Forgiving. Be Fair

It’s one of the most simplest actions, yet many of us still haven’t forgiven others for past transgressions. Bubba is no saint, nor is any of his friends, but when it comes to people he has a patience like one. I have seen him break bread with people whom he previously had fist fights with. If there is any quarrel between his circle and someone, he ensures things go by the book and no additional transgressions

5. Be An Impact Player

When Bubba is not working for himself, he has a full time job at a local fast food joint. While he’s there, he’s a superstar. No one can touch his desire or his sheer will to please customers. I also worked at the same chicken shack with him before branching out, and he’s the one who trained me! Bubba wants something more, but is not afraid to benefit from a survival job until he either gets his GED or builds the next great startup.
Don’t be embarrassed you’re in a survival job. Learn skills you forgot or forge the ones you already have. You can learn from every job and be an impact player in any industry.

I was surprised when I learned these things from my brother-in-law.But looking at the list, I can see that success comes in many forms. Today, I hope you can find success from the point of view of a teenage dropout.


Don’t Let Your Brand Be Bland

The job market is full of them. LinkedIn is littered with their motto. Social media is their voice to repeat an echo. Unemployment is scary to millions of Americans, and it creates a certain mindset in the working class; a mindset to envy those more successful because they can’t reach whatever version of the American dream they conjured up. And it’s a mindset that needs to be dispelled, so the unemployed can become the opposite. Not employed, but empowered. What is it that the successful have and the unemployed don’t?

A brand that isn’t bland.

You see it on LinkedIn, a trend that I have slowly but surely try to replace. Profiles that read like a job description. How many ways can you tell us you do your job without repeating yourself? No personality except, if you are lucky, they have a picture of them smiling. Or for the unemployed LinkedIn user, their goal is to get a job. That’s it. Get a job and go home. No initiative to change the world, no incentive to be a valuable connection.

Does the above paragraph sound like you? STOP NOW! Being a job seeker is fine, but that is NOT your brand. You wouldn’t go to an establishment if they openly say their only goal is to get your money. That isn’t a brand, that’s a pyramid scheme.

So what is a brand? What is the best way to get your profile noticed on LinkedIn? In actuality, there are multiple variations on what a brand is, and all of them are correct. One of my personal favorites is story telling. It’s where you tell the story of how you got into your career, what makes you human and what makes you… you. Your personal brand isn’t your job title, it’s who you are that performs the job title.

Stop using the “I’m a hard worker” line. No one wants a hard worker, in the digital age everyone wants the smart worker.
Stop using “I have a college degree” line. You paid your future salary for a piece of paper. Think about that for a moment.
Stop using “the job market is hard” line. Something I learned when I as young, there are always jobs, sometimes you have to ask the right questions to the right people. Or if you can’t find a job, make one!

If you have any of those lines in your profile, you don;t have a brand, you have a cliche. Your story, your attitude and your skills sprinkled with some creativity makes your personal brand.

And companies, speaking of brands, take a play from Cards Against Humanityand personalize all of your content. Stop being so rigid and corporate. Think of what makes your company special and if you can’t you got a problem.
Small companies, try a more personal approach in your marketing ideas. Stop doing what the bigger names do and try something original. Target social apps, community events or a wild and exciting promotion.

The unorthodox content genius Ted Bauer asked recently the point of consultants. The point is to think and implement ideas that normal employees wouldn’t be able to think of, because their day-to-day activities steal their attention. There is no shame in asking for help, as long as it’s to grow your business or personal endeavors.

Leadership in Literature

Hello Branding Cats,

We all love leaders, they inspire us, they create change, they create legends in their field. Leadership comes in many forms. Some leaders are agents of innovations; some experts in change and some lead by serving. It’s not the matter of why you lead, but more importantly of how you lead. A common string among those in that coven role is the relationship with their team. After all, what is a leader without a team?

In literature, there is one team builder who’s leadership is magical. For the last 50 years, the world has been captivated by the skills and wisdom of Gandalf the Grey.

Throughout the trilogy of the Lord of The Rings, and it’s two accompanied worksThe Hobbit and The Silmarillion, the wizard wandered the world, ensuring the safety of its creatures. However, when a great evil is poised to return with fury, he knows he can’t take it head on by himself. Proving to be the wisest, he sets out to develop a team of diamonds in the rough. Unlike a captain who tries to build a team around them, he trusted his team to do what was right (some can debate hefailed that quest).

Building a team is one thing, trusting them is another. Doing both is what makes Gandalf one of the most beloved wizards of all time and one of the best leaders in literature. He knew the challenge of facing the Lord of Mordor. He knew the temptation of the One Ring. But he knew he had to do something, and so set out to trust a mix of all the races to prevail. In both wars of the Third Age, Gandalf built his team of various races, maximizing their individual efforts.

Steve Jobs once said that a small team of A+ players can run circles around a giant team of B and C players.It’s not because of the combined grade, but the individual efforts to make a team count. No matter if you’re an accounting department at a law firm, or a small group of entrepreneurs pouring your hearts into a startup, the point is to always go all in. Never learn the odds, that way you can beat them every time.

Kansas City Bound

Hello Branding Cats,

Years ago, one of my college professors said something that stuck with me. It was a directing class held in the auditorium of the campus. She said that to be a good director, you need to be in the audience, to be a fan. You can’t always give out without taking in, to always learn. I remember this because like all directing classes, we were developing our own concept of Romeo and Juliet. It was a true statement, because that play has been done, in every shape and form. To create a new direction, you have to see what has already been done.

One thing that will always charge your creativity is traveling. It’s new… everything. When I met my wife,she lived in a small town in Central Florida that no one heard of. I thought it was breathtaking. A small town, with a lakefront, miles of dirt road and one downtown district. The air was different, the people were different than the ones in the Tampa Bay area, and the culture was… well, to be honest the culture was non-existent. But I always returned to Clearwater with new air in my lungs, dozens of ideas in my head and craving for creation.

Later this year, we will be traveling to my hometown of Kansas City, and I haven’t been in years. I look to TripAdvisor to see what is worth showing and what is not. I look forward to generating a new outlook, with the vibrant downtown life and the few amusement parks. I know I will return to Florida with a yearning to create, to develop, to do something.

Until then, stay PUNK.

Know It All’s Suck

Hello Branding Cats,

Have you ever given advice to someone and they just turned around and gave an arrogance like they knew it the whole time? Or you try to give advice and they “have something better” pop up? It sucks, yes and it happens.

Know It Alls,the ones who can’t possibly do any wrong so something is wrong with the world on why they are stuck. The concept of humility and team building is lost on them as they are a one person success in their eyes and everyone else must learn from them. These people suck.

I had the displeasure of lending social media advice to a Know It All, and the next three emails (all from them… in a row) were about how they know social media but it is social media that is broken and has no future. This is 2015, if you think social media doesn’t have a future I know a great retirement cat you should talk to. The Know It All then proceeds to order me to sell them on why they need social media…. It’s been a week since they last heard from me.

The bottom line is don’t be a Know It All. Sure, knowing your gig and being a leader is one thing. But never cut someone down or stick your nose in the air because of your job title. Downsizing is just as much a tradition as baseball now. No one likes a Know It All. They suck.

Stay PUNK, cats.

Stop Shoving Your Resume In People’s Faces!

Hello Branding Cats,

If you are a job seeker or a professional trying to advance their career, that’s cool. But I have a tip for you. Something every HR manager, business owner and helpful friend in the country wants you to know– STOP WITH THE RESUME! Do you know there are three levels of your personal brand? Your resume is only the first level. It should be a record of your experience,not a pie in the face of anyone with the connection to a new job.

You see, as a branding consultant I have a bone to pick with resumes. They are boring, they are dull and they are outdated. Yes, I do them and I have fun with a few of them,all resume writers have a few that get the special treatment. But they still suck because resumes are so 19-something. You take hours of your free time putting into words what you did for an extended amount of time. Then you learn from branding cats like me that you are choking the ATS or you have outdated concepts that you took from your old man. You don’t mean to, it happens. Get it fixed and get the job.

Then there are the erudite,self absorbed job seekers who feel because their resume is four pages they are entitled to anything they want. Cats with extensive experience in the academics are most prone to this aliment. I’m guessing because they spent all that money on a piece of paper it must have a hidden decoder message that only HR managers are attune with. Well, they aren’t.

Resumes are still a tool in the job seeking process, but stop limiting yourself to a piece of paper. It’s 2015, we are in the midst of a digital world, start thinking like a digital native. Try networking and engaging your network instead of shoving your resume at every face you see. It makes you look desperate, and desperate is cheap. Stay aloof; the aloof is expensive.

I hope those who are still reading understand my argument. Resumes are ugly, outdated and shouldn’t be shoved at everyone like a new mom with baby pictures. So ditch the resume, get creative and stay PUNK.

I Think I’d Do Good in The Wrestling Biz

Hello Branding Cats,

I made a promise to those who would listen that I’d be more up to date on my blog. This previous week has been a landslide of personal branding, hospital visits and Walt Disney World. A week that will have a later blog, but today I want to talk about an industry that is a personal passion of mine, an industry that spoke to me as a child and never really shut up. The world of professional wrestling, my white whale.

Looking back from 14 to now(a good 12 years), I have started three businesses, one of them solely by myself, as well as done the boring fast food wage slave jobs, and even been a music critic. The one thing I never was able to do was find my break in the wrestling scene. Florida is rich with wrestling history, my Skype name involves wrestling and I was one of the first subscribers for the WWE Network.

Being a fan isn’t the only reason on why I’m sure I’d do good in wrestling. I’ve studied the fundamentals from Ed Lewis to Porkchop Cash to Raven. The contrast and compliments of wrestling psychology, the importance of selling and getting over. I know I can do great because all my teenage life I was a true fanboy and played around in e-feds. I created characters, wrote promos and entertained those who could read. I wrote the matches, developed the storylines and mentored the next generation. The only thing I never did was actually get inside the business.

I love wrestling. It’s not the money, it wasn’t supposed to be rock star money. The history speaks to me, I want to do the business right. I know the dirty secret of the trade, I’m not a mark. But the respect I hold for it, it like Richard Branson on customer service. I want to advance the sport, create a new era of classics. The insiders say it’s dead, I say it’s ready for the next level. And it’s the fresh blood like me that can be the catalyst.

I will pursue a career as a booker, and I will take Vincent K. McMahon to lunch, he just doesn’t know it yet. Until then, my fellow branding cats, stay PUNK.

My First Experience on Periscope

Hello Branding Cats,

The weekend is almost over, I hope you have had fun. If not, then may your next personal day be evolutionary. As some of you know, I like to stay current on social media and see the new wave, though I’m not always in the water when it hits. Last night I changed that.

Periscope, for those who don’t know, is a live broadcasting of oneself via their mobile phone. No rules, no guidelines, just you and your phone. It’s an invitation into your life. Great engagement. I watched a few videos, many of which were at parties around the country and even one cat at Hollywood Studios in Disney. After an hour or two I jumped in with my first video.

Because I joined that day not many people checked me out. I didn’t know what to do, it was a real test in my broadcasting ability as it was truly just me. No script, no cue, no prep. Just me. I spent about 20 minutes talking about branding and social engagement. Then called it a night and thanked the few people who spent their time listening to me.

Will I broadcast again? Yes, I will. Will I spend a few minutes prepping? YES! But I think the ability to be you and be brave in showing who you truly are is how you truly connect on a social platform like Periscope.

Don’t Get a Job. Get A Purpose

Hello Branding Cats,

You know, I constantly treat LinkedIn profiles like dating site profiles. You want to give out the right message for the right person. For those reading who have been on dating sites, how many of suitors would you talk to if they reeked of desperation and flat out said they will take anyone. Not many of you, I’m sure. Confidence is key in that situation, and also when networking on and offline. To flat out say you want any job cheapens you as a professional. Stop looking for a job to say you have a job. It’s like when you were in high school “I got a girlfriend”. Why? “Because I have a girlfriend”. That relationship won’t last the next semester. And your “job because I got a job” won’t last that many paychecks.

So what should you do? Go hippie and never work again? I’m not saying that. What I’m telling you, if you want a job, be sure it provides you a purpose. When you find the right person to marry or to shack up with (not everyone is into marriage, I know), you just know. When you find a job with purpose, you just know. I didn’t seek out to be a branding consultant, I didn’t seek out to help thousands of job seekers develop their personal brand. It happened to me because I wanted purpose, I knew fast food was meant to be a stepping stone in my career and I was right. From minimum wage to self-employment.

Find your purpose. Don’t find a job. Else you will regret that job and despise it. Always choose to be happy. It’s more fun.

Millennials Are More Relevant Than You Think

Hello Branding Cats,

Oh no, another post about the snot-nosed, immature and self-absorbed millennials, right? Well yes, actually. As a proud member of Gen Y-Not, I fall under that umbrella term of digital natives who realized that working smarter gets things done quicker and easier than breaking your back. So I wanted to write to those reading about the importance of my fellow millennials, the new coffee-fetching grunts of Corporate America.

Actually, we’re not fetching coffee for you. In fact, you don’t see that many of us in suits, in a cubicle and boasting about our nest egg, do you? and because of that you call us lazy and disinterested in the world. And nothing could be farther from the truth. Corporate America doesn’t interest us because we know of the way that the older generations were too afraid of taking. We realized that life isn’t about making a living or some dream of a divided country.  We heard your cries of going to college, so we did. Not only did we go to college, we unleashed it to the masses. every theory, every mathematical solution, every history lesson is online in a convenient front page.

Our numbers increase. We have more buying power than the previous two generations. the only ones who can compete, the Baby Boomers, are slowly being picked off. We remain fresh, we remain alert and we remain active. I seen a commercial that says we could be the generation that ends smoking. They are right. How many millennials are active smokers?

Our ideas shape the future. Social media, startups and thousands of other digital ideas that have yet to be perfected. We are at the helm of that. Not the previous generations. They were too busy to get a gold watch and move to Florida. Folks, I live in Florida. You don’t want this heat or hurricanes. We don’t want to retire because we love what we do. We are active because we get bored easily. Not because of a mental disorder, because we have progressed past the norms of business, the norms of society. Us millennials are ready to change the world as we see fit.

We are more relevant than you think. Just like you were when you were at our age. I just hope we stay this vigilant and this outrageous. After all, calming down was so 1990-something.