Madness meet Method. Method meet Madness. You two will get along just fine.
Those seeking to build an audience to surround a personal (or business) brand often follow a common chronology. They start by providing value through guides, tutorials, and checklists hoping to establish themselves as experts. If (and that’s a big ‘if’) they are successful in doing so, they become so distanced from their origins that they lose touch with their audience. The trouble with presenting yourself as an ‘expert’ is that you have to hide your flaws and people don’t trust people without flaws.
When starting my blog, I modeled it after people like Pat Flynn and Ash Ambirge who chronicled their triumphs as much as the did their failures. They’ve both developed massive success (Pat makes upwards of $100K per month) and yet their audiences still feel a deeply personal and entirely relatable connection to them.
What separates “arrogant humblebraggery” from “valuable personal stories”?
In response to the topic of humblebraggery referenced in ‘Harshly Justified Criticism’, King M. replied with a though provoking response, stating:
“The thought crossed my mind as well a few times — particularly with the play by plays of meeting girls or being approached with countless opportunities for interviews and the like. It was almost like moving back in time to 2007, reading a ‘pickup’ field report. … But ultimately I said nothing because the value I get from your emails as a whole outweighs the mild friction caused by any unintentional humblebrags.”
Eloquent in it’s simplicity, King’s comment inspired a simple question, “Do you think the humblebrags and the lessons are different elements or are they tied together?”
Expecting a simple reply, his 821 word response case study blew me away. I’ve shared the excerpts connected with me along with the notes I shared with King:
“I think the perceived humblebrags and lessons are definitely tied together. For me it comes down to two things: 1) how much of the story supports the lesson and 2) the lesson itself.”
Responding to King, I resonated with his point as the excessive elements of story are something I’ve been lectured on often, but never in this way. People always tell me to cut elements of the story and I refused, but this is a method to that madness.
In regards to the lesson, King stated:
“If it’s a kickass lesson and it blows away the reader, then things that seemed like humblebrags no longer do — they just become part of a very detailed story that had a killer punchline.”
Again, another way of stating that the story can be longer if the value received at the end is bigger. An astonishingly simple, yet equivalently powerful, framework.
Dissecting the ‘Clubbin With Compliments‘ email, King shared his perspectives:
“As you described what you were doing, you also described why and how you were doing it. So we hear about your motives, your actions, and the outcomes- which makes the story as a lesson much more valuable. … I remember very distinctly thinking “wow, it wasn’t about looking cool or trying to seem high value — just having fun and bringing other people into that fun mindset” and the whole story was just example after example, cementing that lesson in.”
While the balance wasn’t intentional at the time, King’s identification that the addition of the “why and how” converted a humblebrag into valuable content provided easily followed guidance for the future. I also pointed out that the “bring other people into the fun mindset” sounded familiar and might have been justification for taking drugs, but my memory is fuzzy because… it’s compelling logic.*
*Take a breath Mom, that last part may or may not have been was a joke.
“For how long the email was, the takeaways were markedly short in comparison. … The juicy nugget within was supposed to justify the rest of your email, but in this case it didn’t. This was an instance where the story seemed a bit long winded and braggish because it wasn’t anchored to a solid lesson.”
I shared that it came from my brain being scrambled and me needing to write. It was an experiment in that it was completely different from my normal topics and formatting. I needed to write it for me, but curious of how all of you might respond. It was one of the most engaged emails to date, but King made an astute point:
“You, I, and all of your other readers are at different stages in life. … While the lesson may have been solid to you, it wasn’t relevant to me because I don’t have collaborations, opportunities, or women coming my way all the time- we’re at different stages of success.”
This is the reason I had prefaced the email with a clarification and an offer for people to back out if it wasn’t relevant (something I’ve been trying to do more). King’s comment about the relevance of the message struck a different kind of chord. The message wasn’t solid to me. I was trying to make it more relevant to the context of the list’s origins as a business/marketing audience. As I’m seeing, anywhere I need to “try” is going to cause a break in energy and will be something I need to re-think.
To summarize King’s brilliantly simplistic formula for authentic engagement when speaking from a platform and not trying to speak “down” to people:
- Counterbalance perceived humblebrags with equivalently powerful lessons
- When telling a story, make sure to put emphasis on the ‘how’ and ‘why’
- Focus energy on having fun and aim to bring others into that mindset
- Recognize people are in different stages of life, you can’t please everyone
King, you’ve quantified the unquantifiable. You’re majestic in the objectivity of your eloquence and neither I, nor this list, will ever be the same as a result of your words.
Stories are a part of the human experience, how will you share yours?
P.S. I wrote this email in entirety and then went back to write the two opening paragraphs with a mix of summary and context (to stop you from reading something that doesn’t interest you based on your ‘stage’ in life). Curious to hear your feedback.