The goal for many creators and companies is to be known — and to be known by lots of people.
The thinking here is once you have people’s attention, you can then decide what to do with it (aka: make money). But to what end? And at what cost?
So let us explain the issues with “personal branding” and share an alternative method.
The “Me” Disease: Why Personal Branding Is A Lie
In mini-book The “Me” Disease, I share how a quick search on Instagram for the term “personal branding” yields 1.7 million search results.
Within that search you will find an army of personal branding experts, coaches, “influencers” and agencies, all determined to help you be bigger and better and louder than you were yesterday. These experts believe that everything can become “content.”
- Unique architecture of a building down the street? Content.
- You, looking at yourself in the mirror? Content.
- Cats? Content.
This personal branding craze has created a generation-defining aspiration and obsession: “Pay attention to me, everywhere, all the time.”
Pat Riley, the legendary NBA coach and executive, first noticed “The Disease of Me” after his team won the NBA championship in 1980.
He saw the team come back the next year with different, self-serving agendas that weren’t about the team winning — but about them personally winning more playing time, a bigger role, more glory, and more money.
Specifically, he calls out the 7 danger signals:
- Inexperience in dealing with sudden success.
- Chronic feelings of under-appreciation.
- Paranoia over being cheated out of one’s rightful share.
- Resentment against the competence of partners.
- Personal efforts mustered solely to outshine a teammate.
- Leadership vacuum resulting from the formation of cliques and rivalries.
- Feelings of frustration even when the team performs successfully.
What makes The “Me” Disease tricky is that when influencers and brands are questioned about their intentions, they almost universally parrot the same response — “I just want to help people.”
Here’s the brutal truth: No one cares.
In a world of infinite information, no one cares about you. No one cares about your “brand story.” Your “personal brand” is only as valuable, only as recognizable, only as consequential as the category or niche you own.
If you want to make a difference in the world, you need to shake off The “Me” Disease and focus on designing your personal category.
Position Yourself Or Be Positioned: The Personal Category Design Playbook
In the mini-book Position Yourself Or Be Positioned, we share how building a “personal brand” turns your entire content strategy into an exercise in talking about you.
“HEY GUYS! IT’S ME. UH, JUST ANOTHER DAY. I’M HAVING A BURRITO FOR BREAKFAST. LOL!”
Your “personal brand” is a distraction at best and a self-inflicted wound at worst. And depending on what kind of quote graphics you’ve been puking out as of late, maybe even cause for medical attention. Which is why you want to avoid personal branding and focus on personal category design.
Personal category design is your commitment to something bigger than yourself.
It can take on a variety of forms:
- You become known for discussing a specific type of subject matter.
- You become known for creating a new and differentiated genre.
- You become known for unlocking a rare and valued result.
- You become known for facilitating a certain kind of change.
To “become known for a new & differentiated niche you own,” start by asking: Who would your Superconsumers say you are?
Reputations are earned by the category, the customers, and the ecosystem around you.
The reason I am who I am, is because millions of readers on the Internet say who I am. Not because I contrived a brand.
Personal category design works. It has worked for my friends, family members, and colleagues who I care deeply for and want to help live with as much agency and financial independence as possible. And I know it will work for you.
If you’re ready to try personal category design, see what it takes to position yourself in a way that serves others in a meaningful and valuable way.