By Peter Kozodoy, EO New York
Last year, I turned 30. That was depressing.
For some reason, I didn’t take it well. More precisely, I actually sailed through my birthday without a problem. Oh, this isn’t so bad, I thought to myself. Then, two months later, I got really depressed. I just hadn’t achieved what I thought I would by this age. After a few years of triple-digit growth, my agency was stumbling. I was also exhausted, deep into renovating a tiny house in a suburb of Connecticut. When I stepped back to look at my life, it just wasn’t the image I had in mind ten years ago. And yet, here I was.
Where was my beach house? Where was my yacht? Where was my success!?
So, I did the only logical thing any entrepreneur would do in this situation. I started ignoring my business and sat down to write a book.
Allow me to digress: Since becoming an entrepreneur right out of college, I’ve learned 10% more about business, 100% more about people and 1,000% more about myself. This past year had some trying times in the kingdom, but writing a book turned out to be the most powerful pursuit in helping me creep out of the darkness.
The book started as a methodology for marketing; a primer for all those business executives out there struggling with reaching, attracting and retaining millennials, both as employees and as customers. It was cool to sit down, organize my thoughts and write down my beliefs in one place. But, what was even more cool was that the entire process allowed me to develop personally.
Although I started out thinking I would be an author, I ended up becoming a personal brand. Through the process of writing and self-reflection, I learned that I didn’t just want to write – I wanted to speak, mentor, inspire and more. I had a story to tell. I could be a personal brand, if I wanted to. And I did. Through the weeks and months after my fateful 30th, I got myself some speaking engagements, I continued to develop my book and I submitted articles to fantastic publications like Inc. and Forbes. My fantastic team built me a new website and I got some snazzy new business cards. Most importantly, I rebranded myself to be … well, myself.
The process was entirely freeing. Unencumbered by my company and my team (amazing as they are), I could be free to talk to whomever I wanted, whenever I wanted, about whatever I wanted, and it was all on me. Just me – alone – able to be myself and sell myself. In developing my personal brand, I reflected on my personal abilities and stepped back to ask more critical questions about what success means personally, instead of what it means as a function of my business.
When I submitted my book proposal, two agents responded favorably right away. However, another two responded to the effect that the premise was good, but that this was the wrong book. They saw a higher purpose in it; a book about truth in business and about broader communication frameworks that existed outside of the millennial bubble alone. Their ability to look at the project this way prompted me to ask a very important question of myself: What prevents me from asking myself what the broader picture is in my life? It was a good question, indeed, and served as a hell of a learning experience.
My agency is doing just fine now – in fact, we’re having another banner year. But, more importantly, I’m personally having a great year with my new, personal brand. For anyone who is debating whether a personal brand is right for you, my unequivocal answer is: Yes – do it! Even if you don’t launch it, the process of decoupling yourself from your business can be extraordinary, just as it was for me.
And, if you do end up officially launching your personal brand, you never know where the process might lead you. Perhaps your book will end up right next to mine on the shelf at Barnes & Noble. Crazier things have happened.
Onward and upward!