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Personal Branding is a Lie

James Altucher has grown a loyal tribe of hundreds of thousands that read his blog, opened doors to everyone from the super-secretive hedge funder Steven Cohen to Mad Money’s Jim Cramer, and built enduring relationships while reinventing himself and his career in multiple industries. And through it all, he has managed his success on his own terms and in his own way.

During his interview for the Social Capitalist series, James talked about what he believes to be the fallacy of the personal brand and what he suggests you do instead.

I want to separate out the word personal from branding. I think a personal brand is the moment when you start to lie. Focus first on the personal and you beat up all the competition instantly. Just being honest, being yourself, doing the work, applying the daily practice for just a few months, and your personal self will come to life more than it ever has before. You'll be honest with the people around you and that automatically beats all the competition because they’re too slick, too dishonest, too focused on their brands. You’re not focused on that anymore. When you come up with honest, sincere ideas for people, and you give rather than expecting to take, then you suddenly have separated yourself out from 99 percent of the competition. You win. And it’s that easy to do it.

For more success tips from Altucher, make sure to read the entire transcript and listen to the MP3 recording from his interview here.


cristene's picture

I have learned that everyone will have "trigger words." Brand, marketing, media...all have made the leap to negative "trigger words" for someone. Hence, being personal is always the more important than being branded - the brand - or its importance, derives from the personal. When it's the other way around it lacks the true voice. Authenticity (another trigger word that made Brian Solis' list of words that are overused or misused) is the goal. That real genuine essence sharing who you are, what you believe and how you can help.

Whatever your trigger words, the goal is to move beyond them. Move to a place where beliefs and connections represent who you are and how you interact - that's what really counts. -c-

Kent's picture

It is all about relationship and attitude in building personal branding.

Paul Copcutt's picture

James Altucher is exactly right, it is all about the person. Maybe he just does not relate to the term personal brand because it has negative connections for him around what companies do with brands - "because they’re too slick, too dishonest, too focused on their brands."

Personal branding (at least in my book) is all about being "honest, sincere ideas for people, and you give rather than expecting to take". Call it what you like if it makes you feel any better - at the end of the day its the actions that count not the words.

Just my toonies worth.

Gregory Leiby's picture

Definitions are in order.

When I give talks on the personal use of social media, I urge my listeners to consider what "personal brand" they are creating..."personal brand" being nothing more than "reputation."

And we all have "personal brand." We know emails or Facebook posts from some are going to be little more than rants about the news of the day. Others will be good news or helpful information.

"Personal brand" is who you are, what you do, and your reputation in your community.

Dan Armishaw's picture

Very thought provoking. James nails exactly what makes me very uneasy about the "whatever works" mindset of a great deal of what I read these days, from people i really want to respect. Maximizing Klout didn't make authenticity irrelevant.

Nick Pietrocarlo's picture

to me, being yourself is your personal brand...the more we can be ourselves the better, unfortunately depending on your boss or the culture of your company you may need to be that chameleon we all dislike me this is a means to an end as it is much easier finding a job when you have a job and to sustain that you will need to fit in...sometimes you need to swim with the fishes or else you will be sleeping with the fishes...and searching for that company and job where you click with your boss and the culture is paramount as we move along in our careers...sometimes i wish i could friend all my work associates on facebook so they could see the real nick but the risk is just not worth it....

Jessica McConaughy's picture

Acting from a place of authenticity and intention is always wise. A "personal brand" is only effective when you highlight valuable characteristics that you actually possess.

What happened when Vegas tried to 'rebrand' itself as a family destination? Everyone laughed. What was the solution? Authenticity: "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas."

Reusnenselymn's picture

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