Focus-On-Owning-The Category-A Not-So-New Approach-To-Building-Your-Personal-Brand

Focus On Owning The Category: A Not-So-New Approach To Building Your Personal Brand

Promote A Category, Not Your Name

The purpose of a slogan is to promote a brand that your prospective customer can identify with. You want the slogan and eventually your brand’s name to become so synonymous with the product or service that you’re selling, that you become generic.


Band-Aid is a company that sells bandages. Scotch Tape is a company that sells tape. When you hear the phrase, “Just Do It,” Nike is the first thing that comes to mind. When you hear these brands’ names, they appear to be the most generic in their categories: bandages, tape, and shoes. They own these categories.


These companies don’t only focus on promoting their logos, they focus on promoting the utility of their product categories. That’s what we all need to do if we are seeking to expand the reach of our personal brands. Thinking of ourselves as large corporations, it is better for us to promote the category of services rather than our brands themselves.


To give an explicit example, Tim Ferriss explains in  Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, that he focused on selling the category of Lifestyle Design. He did this so successfully that after the launch of his book, The 4-Hour Workweek, many other copycats came out of the woodwork. Now there are thousands of people who promote themselves as lifestyle designers on Youtube and Instagram.


Now we may not be as lucky as Tim in both owning and creating a phrase that ends up becoming a whole category of service providers, but we can learn something from his approach. Your prospective customer is being sold to every minute of every day. They aren’t only being sold to by your direct competitors, hundreds of other brands outside of your industry are also trying to get their attention.


Instead of doing what everyone else does and promoting your services as, “Look what I can do for you,” the better approach is, “Look what this type of service can do for you.” You come off as more educational, rather than promotional.


How To Implement This Idea For Yourself

I’m currently trying to own the category of copywriter. I am not the first nor will I be the last copywriter. My main challenge right now is that I am working uphill, competing with every single copywriter in the world.


Even if I were to hone in on a niche, that currently being product review writing, I am still in fierce competition with other copywriters who write the same type of content. The only way to distinguish my personal brand to stand out more is by modifying the title of copywriter, promoting content on why businesses need copywriters, and showcasing my expertise — what I know.


People only remember the top three to seven brands in a given category. We have to aim for becoming, at the bare minimum, the number three person in our field if we are going to even have a chance at having a client consider hiring us.


Creating content for your personal brand is only the first step in this process. While you create your online footprint, you have to constantly keep in mind, “How am I creating or owning this category?” The older and bigger the category, the more difficult it will be to do this.


If you’re trying to build your personal brand as a newcomer in your industry, the most accessible option will be to promote the category you are in. For the more seasoned professional, Tim Ferriss approach might be the better option. Try creating a new category and have others copy you so that you become the leader in that category by default. This is certainly harder to do but, it beats trying to stand out in a sea of other professionals who have the exact same title as you do.



I just recently finished reading The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing: Violate Them at Your Own Risk! by Al Ries & Jack Trout. Taking the ideas proposed by the authors, I wanted to know how I could actually retain the information more. I want to make the book more useful. They cover a wide history of how several companies gained prominence (or lost it) within their industries.


I’m taking what I’ve learned from the book and applying it to my personal brand. If you’re interested in learning more about marketing in general, I highly recommend buying this book. It’s a fast read and it is certainly an enjoyable way to spend a weekend at home.


Here’s What You Should Do When You Quit Your Next Job

The case for taking a mini-retirement

Have you ever had a job so soul-sucking that you hated the thought of waking up and starting your commute? This job may have had horrible coworkers, a boss that couldn’t seem to appreciate you, or the work itself was way too tedious and boring. Regardless of whether or not you hated the job, I am sure that the thought of quitting may have crossed your mind. Perhaps you may have already quit a job or two. The next time you quit your job, I want you to consider a new approach.


This approach for quitting your next job is to help you maximize your time between jobs. In the ideal case, before you quit any job you should definitely have some interviews lined up and ideally, you should also have some actual offers as well. However, before accepting your next job and you start the daily grind all over again, I propose that you take a mini-retirement.


Rediscover what work means to you

The idea of a mini-retirement originally came from author and lifestyle designer Tim Ferriss, in his book The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich. In this book, he describes the mini-retirement as a period of time in which you are not working the typical job. This is not a sabbatical nor is it a time where you do absolutely no work either. A mini-retirement serves the purpose of self-discovery. This can be done by taking six months to a year traveling the world, taking three months to learn a new craft, or simply taking a month to read some books or exercise more.


The mini-retirement is a reset button — a very necessary reset button for anyone who has worked in a job they didn’t like for a year or more. The danger in hopping from one job to another without taking a substantial break is that you may fall into a pattern where you find yourself in the same situation over and over again. For the first two years of my career, I found myself constantly trying to climb the corporate ladder.


I never seemed to fit in with any of the teams I was working with. I was self-serving and only cared about collecting accolades and titles. I thought that if I had any large gaps between jobs in my resume, I would look like an unfavorable candidate to the next hiring manager. I was always seeking the next dream job. When I finally got into the best job I could ever ask for, I was miserable. It was only after taking a necessary six-month break from 2017-2018 that I saw what my faults were and how to fix them.


During those six months I was working as a freelance marketer but, I didn’t work for more than fifteen hours each week. The rest of my time was spent staying home, reading, writing, watching anime, and spending time with friends and family. Those six months helped me to see how important it is to take long breaks. This break, in particular, was crucial for my personal and professional development.


After that six-month mini-retirement, I decided to pivot and live in China as an English teacher. One year and ten months later, I decided to take another mini-retirement. This time I am traveling the world for an indefinite period of time. I’m financing this trip with part-time copywriting work, working remotely from whichever country I decide to live in.


How you should set up your own mini-retirement

There are several steps that you need to take to make sure you can come back to the professional world, whether you want your mini-retirement to last one month or one year. You don’t need to go on some pilgrimage around the world if you don’t want to. Your mini-retirement can be as simple as staying home and working on your own personal projects. What is important to note is that you have to create a proper plan before quitting your job.


The first and most critical part of your plan will be your finances. Whether you are in a job you love or you are in a job you really need to leave, you should be considering how you are creating and managing your financial runway. Your financial runway is an account, ideally a savings account, that is used to store cash for future monthly expenses. In the most ideal scenario, you should be saving enough money to have three to six months of your total monthly expenses covered if you aren’t working. These expenses include your average monthly expenses for food and general outings, your rent, and your bills (credit card, student loans, etc.). The best way to make sure that this actually gets done is to automate your savings.


Once you’ve established what that exact amount is and you actually save that money, then you should consider what your mini-retirement will look like. The only goal you should set for yourself when designing your mini-retirement is making it so that you learn something. I say this because there will come a time, very early within your mini-retirement, where you will feel aimlessness kick in. You will want to work, work on anything, to feel a sense of purpose and to tackle your inevitable boredom.


During my first mini-retirement, I wanted to learn what was I doing wrong when it came to connecting with my past coworkers. It was a time for self-reflection and the goal was to become a better team member in future jobs. During my second mini-retirement (the one I am doing now) my goal is to learn how to be a better writer.


You want to make sure you have a clear goal to make sure you maximize your mini-retirement. That goal can be something as simple as, “I want to learn how to cook all of the recipes in that cookbook my aunt bought me last Christmas.” Keep the goal simple and if for whatever reason you don’t accomplish it during your first mini-retirement, you can always do another one in the future!

Telling your boss you’re leaving and what to expect afterward

Once come to terms that it’s time to leave your job, saved your money, and designed your mini-retirement, the next step is to tell your boss. The best way to approach this is by sending a simple 30-days notice email (or two-weeks notice if you are really in a hurry) and setting up an exit-interview. I suggest doing this so you can leave on the best of terms, in the case that after your mini-retirement you have an epiphany and realize that you actually like the job you’re in and want to come back.


You don’t need to be too specific when letting your boss know your future plans. Your reason for leaving can be as simple as, “I’m doing this to focus on my mental health,” or “I am taking a break from work to reconsider what I want from my career.” If you are a great asset to your team, your boss and your HR representative will try their best to keep you. Stand firm and let them know that you put a lot of thought into this decision and won’t be swayed. Even if there is ill-will between you and the boss (or any other member of your team) take the high ground and be as polite as possible throughout the entire transition period.


Once the news that you are leaving spreads across the office, your coworkers will inevitably ask why you’re leaving and what you are planning to do next. How much information you want to tell them is up to you, but I personally tend to be vague unless I have a strong connection with whoever is asking me. Most people won’t understand why you’re leaving if you tell them that you’re quitting to take a six-month break to work on yourself. Save yourself the time and let them find out on their own after you leave.


After your last day at work, your immediate challenges will be:

  • dealing with boredom,
  • avoiding work for work’s sake,
  • and immediately going into a new job.

You will not be the only person that has ever taken a mini-retirement. One way to help yourself stay true to your decision and keep pushing forward will be to research what other people have done or are currently doing during their own mini-retirements. Reading The 4-Hour Workweek or watching videos on Youtube are two resources to leverage. And remember, if at any point you feel like you want to end your mini-retirement early, that is okay too. You are in complete control.

What to do when you want to go back into the professional world

Now while reading this, I am sure at some point you asked yourself, “This sounds great and all, but what do I do after the mini-retirement is over? How do I get my next job?” Use what you’ve learned and the story of planning your mini-retirement in your resume. It certainly makes for a more interesting story if, during your mini-retirement, you made an adventure of it and traveled. However, if that isn’t what you did that is fine too.


Showcase the positives of the mini-retirement. What did you learn? How did it make you a better person? What did you come away with? If you can answer these questions and use them to create a narrative, the hiring manager interviewing you will be more keen on what you have to say. If you want to know how to actually write this in your resume, there are resources on LinkedIn that you can use if you research, “how to explain resume/career gaps.”  There are a ton of career experts who have written about this topic and their information is free!

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 may need their own mini-retirement. If you have any questions, you can send me a tweet or a message on Instagram. I hope this article helped you consider the idea of a mini-retirement. You don’t need to wait until you’re 65 years-old to enjoy some much needed time off.


If you liked this blog post and want to get updated when the next one is published, click this button to subscribe:



What Idea Would You Die For?

This question first came to mind while I was reading Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires by Tim Ferriss. In the book, he interviews writer and journalist, Sebastian Junger. Sebastian poses this question to anyone who lives in a modern, first-world country.


It is important for us to at least think about this question on a regular basis, for as Sebastian puts it, “Who would you die for? What ideas would you die for? The answer to those questions, for most of human history, would have come very readily to any person’s mouth…In modern society, it gets more and more complicated (page 423).”


The answer to this question doesn’t come easily for me. Of course I can quickly answer, “who would you die for?” I would die for my family. Who would I die for outside of my family? I suppose that, if necessary, I would die for anyone younger than me. I would sacrifice my life to save a child. Although, this thought brings into question the ethical “age limit” for sacrificing your life. I could go into a philosophical spiral of questions when it comes to dying for other people. So instead, let me try to think about ideas I hold dear.


“What ideas would you die for?” Well if I had to answer Sebastian, I would have to choose only one idea. That idea would be that we should have the freedom to learn. The thought that even today, some people around the world still do not have a decent education or complete access to information truly scares me. I try to imagine a life where I am restricted in what I can learn about, either because of a lack of finances or because of restrictions placed upon me by some religious institution or government.


As an American, I have not really considered how lucky I am when it comes to my education. I never had any restrictions on what I could learn, even though I went through New York City’s public education system. Even today, I am extremely fortunate to have the ability to continue learning. I have constant access to the internet and I am not restricted in what topics I can research.


For someone who grew up with the privilege to be curious, the thought of being restricted on what I can and cannot know also angers me. So I would certainly give my life to defend the idea that everyone should have the freedom to learn anything they want.


The one idea I would sacrifice my life for is my ability to be curious without restrictions. What would you die for? Take a moment today to think about the answer to this. It isn’t often that we encounter a question that helps clarify what is truly important to us.

If you liked this blog post and want to get updated when the next one is published, click this button to subscribe:



Fear Setting vs Goal Setting

I quit my job

As of January 17th, 2020 I will be self-employed. I am leaving my comfort zone to travel the world with my girlfriend. I’m planning on sustaining myself through remote work (copywriting and online teaching to start).
How did I get here? How did I decide to make such a frightening change? I credit fear setting as the main catalyst for this big life-changing shift.
Fear setting is a mental exercise I learned from Tim Ferriss. Instead of defining your goals for 2020, I recommend defining your fears instead. Tim describes the exercise in far greater detail but, simply put:
Fear setting is a mental exercise where you define your fears, how you could repair them if they occurred, and how putting off the decisions that may change your life are affecting you and the people closest to you.
I did the exercise in my journal (pictured below) and it helped to bring clarity to my whole situation. After speaking to my girlfriend about it, it turns out all of my responses to the questions in this exercise are highly accurate.


Once I had established what I was really afraid of and the cost of inaction, it made more sense to take the risk. I have been an English teacher in China for a year and eight months now. The experiences I have had in this country will always stay with me and I will be forever grateful for what I’ve learned here. However, it is time for me to continue my journey around the world and challenge myself to grow more.
My suggestion to anyone reading this is to sit down after reading Tim Ferriss’s blog post or watching his TED talk and do this exercise. If your life seems boring or unfulfilling, it most likely feels that way because you are postponing an important decision out of fear. Do not be afraid of failure.
After doing this exercise, you’ll realize that the failure you fear isn’t fatal and even if you fail you can always start from square one and try again.
I have no idea if this new change in my career will be a successful one. What I do know is that if I don’t try to do this now, I will end up losing out on a big opportunity to see the world and growing my writing skills. Most of the people I admire have done something similar to this. It would be a great disservice to myself if I don’t try taking travel more seriously.

Below is a quote from author Sebastian Junger that I often revisit — found through one of Tim Ferriss’s books. It sums up why fear setting is so useful.

School programs you to always succeed which makes you safe. You have to learn how to fail in order to learn.”

— Quote from Sebastian Junger, Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers by Tim Ferriss, page 422


If you liked this blog post and want to get updated when the next one is published, click this button to subscribe:


Scroll Up