The Most Important Moment In My Career

Big Dreams, Big Client

It was 2017 and I was officially in my dream job. After a year and a half of planning, applying, and trying to prove myself, I had officially been hired as a member of the VaynerTalent team. Although I was only an intern, I had achieved my sought after goal. I wanted to learn how to manage and grow a personal brand and I found myself working with the team that was the best. My first assignment was to help launch and grow Ray Dalio’s social media accounts in preparation for the launch of his book, Principles: Life and Work. No pressure.


I knew that the work assigned would be the most challenging I would have experienced. I had plans to grow through the ranks and eventually become a high-level account executive. And yet, as the old saying goes, “Man has a plan and God laughs.”

The Meeting That Shifted My Thinking

Everything changed for me when I attended my first meeting with Ray Dalio. I was in a board room with fifteen other people: members of other agencies, Ray’s personal team from Bridgewater Associates, and the Vaynertalent team. Being the only intern in the room, I was in charge of taking notes and clicking the slides. I was so grateful to be involved and have a chance to contribute to the meeting, however small that contribution was.


Besides my own teammates, the only other person who acknowledged me was Ray. I expected this meeting to be similar to all of the other meetings I had experienced as a marketer. We would discuss our goals, what were the key metrics that we would measure, how we were going execute on those goals, and what we were already accomplishing.


What surprised me the most in this meeting was one simple difference in regards to how Ray spoke and how everyone else responded. Being in that room with Ray Dalio helped me realize that the most important person in any meeting is the person who can say, “No.” To be in charge of the ship, you want to be the person that directs the conversation, asking questions and saying no to ideas that aren’t aligned with your goals. In most cases, that person is the client.


I noticed that the reason why working for Ray was so fulfilling was because I was promoting something that I thought would actually help people. We weren’t just promoting some billionaire that would sell dreams of success to the public. Ray was sharing valuable work through his unique insights and his book. That could be another reason as to why this meeting had such a large impact on my life.

What Is Life Without Ridiculous Goals?

That meeting planted a seed in my mind. Since that day I keep asking myself, “Should I focus on: being the marketer in the room, or the client?” “What do I want to be known for?” “Am I chasing a big enough goal?”


These questions were what inspired me to quit my job and tell my boss at the time, Gary Vaynerchuk, that my new goal is to become a client of VaynerTalent. If I want to do any work that actually impacts society, I should focus on the work itself and not simply promote my personal brand. For what is exposure without having something valuable to say?


After that meeting I thought to myself, “How in the hell do I afford their fees?” That is something I’m still working on.


Would You Pay $2,500 A Month To Have Someone Manage Your Personal Brand?

Everything Has A Price

Fame is becoming more accessible. Now within less than a year, a 15-year-old girl can gain over a million followers by simply dancing. Although this may sound like a golden age for would-be celebrities, without proper preparation, we may be entering an age in which we have more signs of depression from people who gain fame too quickly. Let us not forget what happened to Britney Spears in 2007.


Fame doesn’t necessarily need to constitute having millions of followers. Having 10,000 people actively following you can make you a famous person. There are levels to the game, and with that come different costs. One common thread amongst all levels of fame is that there will come a threshold where you won’t be able to handle your audience engagement by yourself. The bigger the effect you have on culture, the more responsibility you have. As you scale your audience, you will eventually have to create a team that helps manage your personal brand.


When Do You Need To Hire Someone To Be Your Publicist?

Publicists have existed since the 20th century. There are publicists who specialize in doing PR for a whole range of individuals, from high-level execs to actors. Now with the emergence of influencers and social media, there are publicists who manage online personal brands.


The practice of managing the brand remains the same. A publicist, personal branding consultant, or media agency that specializes in these types of accounts all work to promote the client’s brand. This can be done through content development and optimization, community management, booking speaking gigs and events, managing relationships with other celebrities, and more.


If you are to take the chase for fame seriously, hiring a person or entity to help you, will eventually come into play. $2,500 as a monthly investment is an arbitrary number. There are agencies that charge over $25,000 a month to help manage and grow your personal brand. The fees that they charge can be seen as an investment because of how valuable their services are.


Your personal brand can be used to gain options. That’s what fame does, it provides options. However, fame doesn’t necessarily equate to financial success. Fame can aid in acquiring financial success, but only if it is used correctly.


There are a variety of decisions that you could make that can both grow your financial opportunities and that can also damage your brand. Hiring someone to help you in growing your personal brand is always the right decision if you are to take the endeavor seriously. You will need someone to vet potential sponsorship deals, handle responding to comments, and do damage control in the event of any social blunders.

Pointing Your Potential Fame In The Right Direction

Increased exposure will come at the cost of your privacy, increased hate (because there are always haters), and an increased need for preserving that exposure. Before you gain what you seek, think about what you want to be known for. Exposure without a purpose leads to you being a temporary viral sensation. People get bored quickly. A person dedicated to helping you grow your brand can help you in defining the purpose of your exposure.


If you don’t provide the public with entertainment or utility, then there is no reason that you should be seeking fame. You are more likely to become successful by seeking to improve your current skills. However, if you do find that you have an engaged audience that actively follows your work, you are in a good spot. At a certain point, you will want a team to help you manage your audience so that you can continue to focus on the work that got you your fame in the first place.


Many of us want exposure but, we aren’t willing to pay the price for it. Shift your thinking from costs to investments. If you truly consider that your personal brand should be managed like a company, the idea of hiring a person or a team of people to help grow your exposure becomes an obvious must-have.


Maybe It’s Time To Ignore The News

Only Relevant Info Remains After We Stop Actively Following Current Events

It may be time for us to stop watching the news. All of us are bombarded by an unprecedented amount of content. The amount of content created each day is expanding at a rate that the average person couldn’t even comprehend.


Your friends, family, favorite influencers, and brands are all competing for your attention — every single second. The only possible way that the news outlets can get their own space in our minds is to spread bad news. “If it bleeds, it leads,” is an age-old phrase commonly used in the media world. With both the consistent acceleration of content being made and the increased access that nations are having to each other, things may seem worse than ever before.


The more that you consume the news, the more this sense of apocalyptic-fear will grow. The news is important but, we must become selective in what we consume. If you were to quit actively consuming the news, only to hear about current events from daily conversation, you will know what is really necessary news. For only the most relevant information tends to stick in our minds. All other news is often sensational, fear-inducing clickbait designed to generate impressions and clicks for ad revenue.


Career Design: Searching For A Combination Of Skills That Make You Irreplaceable

For Every Job Replaced, A New One Will Be Created

I’m an optimist. Instead of expecting not to have a job in the future because automation, I expect that there will be more new jobs than ever before. With this emergence of new jobs however, I am worried about making sure that I am consistently learning new skills that can be transferable. Instead of searching for that dream job, I am more concerned with growing a large combination of skills.


In 2007, author and cartoonist Scott Adams published a career advice article on skills acquisition. In this article, he explains that we should not be aiming to be in the top 1% of one specific skill. Instead, we should be focusing on being in the top 25% in a combination of skills. Using this tactic will make us more successful in the long run. He gives an example of how this approach helped him in his own career, creating one of the most popular cartoon comic strips in the world, Dilbert. Thirteen years later and his advice still rings true.


Becoming So Useful That You Seem Irreplaceable

Job security may be a remnant of the past but, there should still be methods that we can use to ensure we at least seem as irreplaceable as possible, in the eyes of the people we work with. The last thing anyone ever wants to be is a replaceable cog in the system, waiting to be usurped by cheaper labor. This applies to any professional working in any industry. So how do we showcase our usefulness, how do we show our clients, teammates, and bosses that we are irreplaceable?


We can show others that we are irreplaceable by bringing a unique set of skills to the table. What represents a person more than their job title is the set of demonstrable skills that they have. Even though this idea may seem obvious, skills aren’t necessarily discussed in the typical college setting. Students who have not yet entered the workforce don’t seem to notice that their studies don’t lead to the acquisition of applicable skills.


Understanding theories and concepts are always vital to the learning process yet, to really be ready to work in an industry requires the acquisition of skills. Having studied marketing case studies doesn’t necessarily mean that you know how to create a marketing campaign from scratch. Taking four years to learn photography and doesn’t necessarily prepare you for dealing with a picky client. This goes to show that we have to take a different approach to growing as young professionals.


Key Skills Everyone Should Know, Regardless Of What Industry They’re In

There must certainly be universal skills that transfer over to multiple industries and positions. Take for example, the ability to communicate effectively in both one’s writing and in public speaking. No matter the job, there will come a time each day that you will have to either speak or write to communicate with your team and clients. The better you are at asking and answering questions, delegating tasks clearly, and communicating your ideas will increase the chances of you advancing in your career.


Another transferable skill that you may want to cultivate is the ability to give and receive feedback. This skill is essential because without feedback, you nor your team can improve. Being able to give feedback may be more critical a skill to learn, as people are emotional and the ability to help others without appearing mean will considerably affect your career. Additionally, not being sensitive whenever you’re told to redo an assignment will show that you are a good listener. And it will show that you care more about the task at hand, rather than your own ego.


I am certain that the ability to learn quickly will also be useful to any team you are in. If you can learn new skills and concepts quickly, you help your team save money on training costs. Having the initiative to educate yourself on topics that relate to your industry also indicates an ability to potentially teach others. Also, if you can create a system of self-education, you standout amongst other professionals who become complacent and comfortable in their positions.


Lastly, time management is an essential skill that you must get and cultivate at any stage of your career. Without good time management skills, you will become unreliable. People won’t be able to trust you when you say that you will submit an assignment by a certain time. If you have good time management skills, at a certain point you’ll be able to manage and delegate tasks to other people. The more you cultivate this skill, the faster the teams that you manage will grow.


I am certain that there are many other skills that are equally as important to the four mentioned above. Above all else, what will make you an attractive candidate in any future job application will be your ability to clearly showcase your list of skills. There will always be jobs that require certifications and a minimum educational requirement but, what will become more important over time is demonstrating what skills you have that others don’t.


If you can start considering what unique set of skills you have right now, which skills you’d like to add, and how you want to demonstrate them, you will be well on your way to becoming incredibly useful to others. The more useful you become, the more irreplaceable you will seem.


The Goal Is Being Comfortable

Is Becoming A Billionaire A Practical Goal?

I used to believe that the only way to be truly successful was to become a billionaire. I wanted to become a notable entrepreneur, someone who had a huge impact on society, and someone who made my family proud. This is what I used to believe when I was still in college, taking entrepreneurship workshops and reading books that taught me how to start my own business.


Sometime during my senior year of college, I behaved frantically. Every month I tried to come up with a billion-dollar idea that would help make the name Kenny Soto a household name. I even tried creating an educational non-profit called Futures For Students with my mentor Maurice Bretzfield. My hopes were that I could become a “billionaire philanthropist.” Needless to say, my dreams were all over the place and I had no clear focus on what I wanted out of life.


After graduating from college and seeing none of my ideas come to fruition, I took some time to ask myself, “Do I really need to be an entrepreneur?” “Perhaps I don’t need to be a business owner to be successful.” These thoughts seemed to go against everything I believed to be true when it came to what I was seeing online. As I took to the internet to research successful people, I came to the conclusion that I didn’t even understand what the word billion even meant.


There is a stark difference between a billion and a million. If you search on Google, “a million seconds versus a billion seconds,” you will find this search result:

  • “A million seconds is 12 days. A billion seconds is 31 years.” [make the bullet a star]

If you compare the numbers in relation to time, instead of money, the difference between them becomes clear. To even think that I could become a billionaire is the most ridiculous goal I have ever had. Yet, knowing that the odds of becoming a billionaire are slim I still can’t help but wonder, what should I strive for? Isn’t it okay to have impossible goals and dreams?


I can’t remember which movie or TV show I was watching when I heard this joke so forgive me for not giving the source due credit. This joke isn’t my own and I am paraphrasing:

“Whenever you enter the very uncomfortable topic of income in a group conversation, there is one response that indicates someone is rich. No one with a middle-class income ever says that they’re comfortable. That word in itself is more startling to hear than someone actually answering the question with a number.”


I want to be comfortable. I believe that since this goal doesn’t necessarily equate to any one number but, an income range, it should be more practical a goal. When I think of the word “comfortable” what comes to mind is not having to worry about my basic needs. These needs include my rent or mortgage, my phone bill, monthly groceries, monthly outing costs, and insurance bills. Being comfortable for me means not necessarily retiring to never work again but, to work for the projects and passions I care about without feeling stuck.

Taking Charge Of My Financial Education

In 2019, I took it upon myself to take my finances more seriously. I was lucky enough to be debt-free, having no student loan or credit card debt associated with my name. However, I knew that if I didn’t start learning about how to manage my money, I would eventually end up having debt creep back into my life.


I had read articles, blog posts, seen countless youtube videos, and read 2-3 books on the topic of financial education beforehand. However, none of that helped me to create an actual plan that I could act upon. None of these resources helped me to create a plan with clear financial figures as my goals. Again, I know now that I will most likely never become a billionaire. Yet, my financial plan now has me striving to become a millionaire.


In MONEY Master the Game: 7 Simple Steps to Financial Freedom by Tony Robbins, he helps his readers understand how to create a reasonable financial plan. Reading the book yourself is the only way to appreciate the practical information that it contains, but I will speak from my own experience on what I learned.


The best way to achieve a comfortable lifestyle is to calculate your annual income at your ideal age of retirement. This annual income has to sustain itself without you working, meaning that you have to create a portfolio of assets to help you get to this amount.

Here’s a breakdown of three financial goals I calculated for my retirement while reading the book:

Financial Security Retirement Goal


Financial Independence Retirement Goal


Financial Freedom Retirement Goal



These figures are how much I would need to retire for 20 years at an annual after-tax income of $48,000. Now let us first focus on the goal of $48,000 annually. My first two jobs after college paid me $48,000 in pre-tax annual income and my third job paid me $60,000 in pre-tax annual income. I attained these jobs with only two years of experience under my belt.


Granted, these figures could only be attained because I was working in New York City. It goes without saying, however, that if I could make $48,000 a year, that I could also live within that lifestyle and consistently get jobs that pay me that much. I don’t necessarily plan to nor do I want to retire in NYC anyway. So the goal of a $48k-lifestyle seems like a very practical goal.


Now let us focus on my Financial Freedom Retirement goal of $2,028,000. This is the best-case scenario. This goal is attained if I grow a strong portfolio of assets and save 20% of my income, every year until I’m seventy years old. $2,028,000 is much more reasonable a goal than let us say one billion or even half a billion dollars. I have over forty years to make that money.


What if I don’t make that amount? That is where the $744,000 goal comes into play. Under the worst circumstances shooting for $744,000 in retirement savings seems like a practical goal. With this amount in savings, I would still need to work part-time at the age of seventy but, I could have all of my basic needs covered. Having my basic needs is all I want at the end of the day.

Why Shoot For Being Comfortable?

Being comfortable doesn’t mean that I stop working and live on a yacht, sailing around the globe and sipping martinis all day. When I am seventy years old, I would love to be able to not have to worry about my house, food, or how much I’m spending to take my grandchildren out every weekend. I want to be able to spend time with my family, write about whatever fancies my curiosity, and have the least amount of stress granted to me at that age.

There are plenty of financial columnists and bloggers out there that share their concerns of millennials not having a retirement savings goal or savings account for that matter! I prefer not to be a part of that statistic. Perhaps I will never become a billionaire. However, there is a good thing that comes from setting a clear number as my financial goal — retirement doesn’t seem unattainable anymore.


And while I am working towards retirement, I am still taking mini-retirements along the way.


$2,028,000 seems like a small number now. $2,028,000 isn’t scary. Attaining $2,028,000 would make me proud of myself while at the same time, encouraging me to continue working on what I care about. Let’s not forget that once you begin to attain money past $10,000,000 you start to lose your privacy, and you begin to gain more social responsibilities. “Mo’ money, mo’ problems,” as Biggie put it.


“The question isn’t at what age I want to retire, it’s at what income.”

— George Foreman

If you’ve read up to this point, I want to thank you for your time. Please share this article with someone you know who might like it too. If you have any questions, you can send me a tweet or a message on Instagram. I hope this article helped you in some way! Thanks again for your time and attention.


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