I’m With The Brand Part 5: The Masters of Personal Branding

Tim Ferriss, Personal Branding at its best.

We’ve talked about the concept of Personal Branding, finding your Personal Brand, developing your Personal Brand, and the things to avoid when it comes to Personal Branding. In this post, I’ll point you in the directions of Personal Branding experts. Some of these guys were working on Personal Branding before anyone had a name for it.

Dan Shawbel wrote what some consider the Bible of Personal Branding, Me 2.0. It’s a fast read full of good information. Dan has created a business around Personal Branding. His success speaks for itself.

William Arruda is another professional Personal Branding guru. His book, Career Distinction focuses on how Personal Branding can improve your career and your career prospects.

Timothy Ferriss is another master of Personal Branding. He doesn’t advertise himself as such. Instead, he’s known as a best-selling author, champion kick-boxer, fitness guru, and chef.  Yeah, he gets around. And yet, he still manages to maintain a consistent high quality Personal Brand. He does this by being a source of good information and a champion of unknown experts. Tim Ferriss spends just as much time talking up people he looks up to as he does talking about himself. His first book, The 4-Hour Work Week changed the way I look at work. His second book, The 4-Hour Body changed the way I look at fitness. His next book The 4-Hour Chef will doubtlessly change the way I look at cooking. (Notice how he brands his book with the ‘4-Hour’ thing? That’s not an accident.)  What do these have to do with Personal Branding? The information in Tim’s books aren’t specifically geared towards Personal Branding. This is true, but using many of the ideas and techniques in his book, you’ll find that you increase your Personal Brand.

As Personal Branding gets more mainstream, there will inevitably be more books and articles about it (like this one). The most important thing to remember is that you are creating your personal brand whether you’re doing it purposely or not. You’re doing it by having a Facebook page. You’re doing it with Twitter and FourSquare. You might as well take control of it.

–          Jack Cameron

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So Much Pretty By Cara Hoffman – A Review

I’ve never been one for feminism. This probably has something to do with the fact that I’m a white heterosexual male. In most feminist philosophies, people like me are the bad guys. We’re the ones who do these horrible things to women. What I’d like to tell most feminists is that there are all sorts of bad guys (and bad girls) and just maybe, a bad thing is a bad thing regardless of what genders are involved. However, there’s a problem with that. The problem is that the feminists aren’t entirely wrong.

I picked up ‘So Much Pretty’ knowing it was about men brutalizing women, knowing it was written by a woman, and knowing that someone like me was probably the bad guy. While there’s truth to all of that, Cara Hoffman’s novel goes far beyond my preconceptions. She takes us into a small town in upstate New York and by the time she’s through, you feel like you’ve walked these streets and know this town far better than you want to. It’s the creepy uncle of America and what’s more disturbing is that you know that there are a lot of creepy uncles out there.

So Much Pretty is told in fragments. It’s as if you’ve been given a folder of relevant information that you have to put together in your head. This sort of narrative is difficult to pull off, but very rewarding when it works, like putting together a puzzle without knowing the picture.

There are invisible lines drawn in this novel. It talks about how the brutalizing and dehumanizing of women has become entertainment. Yet, it’s a novel that involves the brutalizing and dehumanizing of women. This is something I touched on a few months ago about the TV show Criminal Minds. Dead pretty girls have been the focus of both entertainment and news stories for a very long time. From the Black Dahlia to AMC’s The Killing to Cara Hoffman’s own beautiful and doomed Wendy White.

You’d be mistaken though if you thought that all Cara Hoffman was going for here was entertainment. She’s trying to show you something. And yes, you’ve seen the small town with the dark underbelly. And you’ve seen the spoiled rich boys who can do anything they want. And you’ve seen so much of these elements play out before in novels, comics, movies and television. That’s what makes So Much Pretty so impressive because you haven’t seen these elements handled like this before. The third act of this novel plays out the way all great storytelling does; it’s unexpected and inevitable. So Much Pretty is the first novel in years that I’ve read and was unable to put down. If you read novels, you should read this one.

– Jack Cameron

Stories I Only Tell My Friends By Rob Lowe – A Review

It took me a long time to be a fan of Rob Lowe. I would see him from time to time in movies, but he was never the reason I was watching the movie. And even when he was playing charming fuck-ups like in St. Elmo’s Fire, I still didn’t like him because ultimately he looked like the guy who went out with your girlfriend after she dumped you. A bit too sharp. A bit too good looking. He rarely played the guy I wanted to be. Then I started watching West Wing. On West Wing, he played Sam Seaborn. He was a writer. He worked at the White House. And thanks to West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin, he was very smart and said amazing things.

So I grew to appreciate Rob Lowe, but I didn’t know much about him. I knew somewhere in his past he had inadvertently pioneered the celebrity sex-tape scandal, but I didn’t know anything beyond that. My point here is that while I liked Rob Lowe well enough, I didn’t read his autobiography because I was a Rob Lowe super-fan. I read it because he titled it ‘Stories I Only Tell My Friends’ which I thought was a great name for an autobiography.

It turns out one of the many things Rob Lowe has in common with his West Wing character is that he too is a writer. This book sounds like him, which is really the best you can hope for in an autobiography. He writes with potential. There is something inspirational in his tone even when he’s talking about bad things. There are times it sounds like the writing of a politician, but I mean that in a good way.

If you take the time to read ‘Stories I Only Tell My Friends’, you’ll find two things:

1. That Rob Lowe has always wanted to be an actor and worked hard at it.

2. That Rob Lowe was phenomenally lucky.

He gives example after example of both of these things. He starts out as a kid in Dayton, Ohio doing children’s theater. He goes after every opportunity he can find to get on stage. Then after a fairly devastating divorce, his mother moves him out to California where he just happens to go the same Junior High School as Sean Penn and his brother Chris, and Charlie Sheen and his brother Emilio. This is what I’m talking about. He does work at it, but he gets these breaks that are one in a million. What makes it work is that he doesn’t seem to take any of them for granted.

Rob Lowe may have had some incredible luck, but he’s earned his place in Hollywood. Reading his autobiography, I was amazed by great people he’s had populate his life. And yes, the whole, work hard-get famous-go on a bender-go to rehab-come back better than ever thing can be seen on every single episode of VH1’s Behind The Music. But the reason that show works and the reason this book works is that each of those stories is personal. Lowe’s descent is entirely due to the unique circumstances he found himself in. What makes Lowe’s journey worth reading is that he’s a good storyteller and he never comes off as the pompous ass I originally thought he was. He’s not that guy. He’s one of us…or at least he tries to be.

One other note. It has occurred to me that every autobiography published in the next thirty years is going to have a chapter on 9/11. I think we should take all of these chapters and put them into one book.

–          Jack Cameron

King of Methlehem – Book Review

Most novelists, even successful ones have day jobs. This is just an economic fact. If you’re a resident of Western Washington, you’re probably at least remotely familiar with the name Mark Lindquist, but there’s a good chance that you don’t know him from his novels. You know him as a Pierce County Prosecutor. Just last night he was on the local news prosecuting someone who killed three-year-old. While his actions in the court room are admirable, that’s just his day job. When he’s not prosecuting criminals, Mark Lindquist is a novelist and after reading his latest book, ‘King of Methlehem’, I’m happy to report he’s a good one.

As you’ve probably guessed by the title, ‘King of Methlehem’ hangs its plot around the significant problem of meth amphetamine use and the damage it does. This problem is personified in Howard Shultz, a Tweeker with an obsession for cooking up meth subsidized by identity theft scams. The mentality of a hardcore meth user and cook is so well captured in ‘King of Methlehem’ that if Mark Lindquist were anyone else, you’d ask him how long he had been on it.

Pursuing Howard is Tacoma Police Detective Wyatt James. From the beginning, James is almost as addicted to finding Howard as Howard is addicted to meth. The dialog is quick and fun. You can tell that Lindquist used to write screenplays. The whole thing is written in present tense which gives it a feeling of urgency.

Aiding Detective James is his friend and prosecutor, Mike. While Wyatt is the cowboy, Mike is the guy who tries to keep Wyatt grounded. When Mike gets going in the court room, you can really see Lindquist’s day job influencing his writing. You get the feeling Mike’s frustration echoes his own.

If you’re a Tacoma native, you’re going to feel right at home with ‘King of Methlehem’ . Lindquist uses real bars, businesses, streets, people, and history. In fact, there are times when I think he overdoes it. In one chapter where two characters are driving down Tacoma’s 6th Ave., he manages to mention seven businesses on one page.  So while the book is seasoned with local color, I’d have to say sometimes it’s ‘over-seasoned’. This is as close as I can come to a criticism of ‘King of Methlehem’.

Ultimately, if you’re a fan of crime fiction, and definitely if you’re a local, ‘King of Methlehem’ is well worth your time. It’s like a local version of The Wire. And as anyone who knows how I feel about The Wire, that’s high praise indeed. I look forward to his next book and may check out his other books.

– Jack Cameron

Where Good Ideas Come From (Review)

I was about half way through Where Good Ideas Come From when I decided I was going to read any book Steven Johnson comes out with regardless of subject matter. I had previously read The Invention of Air and The Ghost Map and enjoyed Johnson’s way of making connections I never would have thought of. Odds are that if anyone else was writing a book called Where Good Ideas Come From, I’d probably just be mildly amused by the concept and moved on, but if anyone might be able to figure out such an ethereal thing, I’d put my money on Steven Johnson.

While it would be relatively easy to take a handful of famous good ideas and point out what they all have in common, Johnson goes much further than that. Sure he talks about the invention of the printing press and air conditioning and television, but he also talks about things like coral reefs and evolution. He doesn’t restrict the concept of ‘good ideas’ just to famous and/or profitable things or even just to human innovation. Instead, he talks about all of this and adds to it the sort of habits and environments that promote the cultivation of good ideas.

Johnson’s informative, but what makes him so readable is how engaged he is in the subject matter. Reading a book by Steven Johnson is like sitting at a bar with the smartest person you know as he tells you his latest research project with all the enthusiasm and intensity you’d expect from an evangelist. He’s not preaching, but he’s definitely making a case.

He dispels the myth of sudden ‘eureka’ moments where ideas arrive fully formed or that closed off, secretive research and development labs are the  best places for good ideas. Many of the typical notions when it comes to coming up with good ideas aren’t nearly as prevalent as one might think. It turns out that ideas, much like people, work better when they are free. The more an idea can float around and bump into things, the better the idea can get. It might take years, but an idea can become a good idea when it interacts with just the right other idea.

Where Good Ideas Come From is one of the few books I’ve encountered that has actually changed my life and the way I create. I don’t think there’s higher praise I can give a book than that.

-Jack Cameron

The End of Ruin Your Life

Almost exactly three years ago, I published Ruin Your Life. It had taken me the better part of five years to put it all together and when it was done, I was proud of the result. Ruin Your Life did not go on to become a worldwide bestseller, but it was never meant to.

It did succeed in making me a few dollars and selling a few hundred copies. And for a book with no distribution deal and a marketing plan that consisted of word of mouth and some stickers, I’m astonished by the results.

Ruin Your Life has gone throughout the country and the world. There are copies in Afghanistan and Iraq. There are copies in prisons. And people are still buying copies of it. That’s fairly impressive, all things considered.

I’ve done what I set out to do with Ruin Your Life and I’m ready for what’s next. This is why I’ve chosen to stop publication of Ruin Your Life. New copies will no longer be sold by Amazon.com and the digital copy is no longer available. For those of you who have copies, thank you for buying them and enjoy the fact that you now own an out of print book. For those of you still interested in Ruin Your Life, I do still have a handful of copies left in my possession. If you’re interested, you can click the Ruin Your Life tab above and buy one. I’m still selling it for $5.00 plus shipping.

Contrary to the headline, this isn’t the end of Ruin Your Life. Eventually I’m sure I’ll do something else with it, but this is the end for now.

Thanks for all of the support.

-Jack

Betrayal, Murder And Greed

           

 

             I don’t read a lot of true crime books. This is mainly because I’m not really all that interested in the lives of criminals and that’s usually what those books are about. What interests me are the people who deal with criminals on a daily basis. The people who brush against that world and manage to retain their values and their sense of self fascinate me. I found out about Betrayal, Murder And Greed because I’m friends with the son of one of the authors and he mentioned it. I read it because it’s about a bail bond agent, a bounty hunter, and their careers in Tacoma. I’m writing this review of it because you should read it too.

            Unless you’ve been bailed or bailed someone out of jail, you probably don’t know much about the bail bonds business or how things work in that industry. And unless you’ve skipped bail, your only experience with a bounty hunter is likely watching Dog, The Bounty Hunter. Of course watching Dog and thinking you know what it’s like to be a bounty hunter is like watching Cops and thinking you know what’s involved in being a cop. Betrayal, Murder And Greed isn’t interested in making things more exciting than they are or glamorizing anything. It’s too busy telling you stories of what this sort of life is like.

            The book is split into three sections. First you hear Pam Phree’s story of how she got started in the bail bonds business and how it went from being just a job to something she loves. Then you hear Mike "Darkside" Beakley’s story of how he was a Tacoma cop who got shot, left the force, and went to the ‘dark side’ and became a bounty hunter. Once you’ve gotten to know these two, the book really takes off with the story of Pam and Mike. The whole book reads like you’re hanging around at a bar with these two swapping tales over a few beers. They aren’t tall tales. They’re just stories of things that have happened in the thirty years they’ve been in the business. One of the things you learn early on in the book is that the criminals aren’t always just the people getting bailed out of jail. The bail bonds industry has more than its fair share of criminals as well.

            Both Mike and Pam have a highly developed sense of morality and justice that is continually tested on all sides. For Pam, it’s working with unscrupulous people who are often committing as many crimes as the people they’re bailing out and don’t always respect that a woman can do what’s traditionally been a man’s job. For Mike, it’s the fact that he’s a former cop doing a job that most cops have zero respect for despite its similarities. While a good portion of the book tells entertaining and interesting stories of people skipping out on bail and being chased down by Mike and his partners, there’s also a good amount of information about what the bail bonds industry is and isn’t and more importantly what changes should be made in the industry.

            As a lifelong resident of Tacoma, many of the higher profile cases and situations are events I recognize and remember reading about. Betrayal, Murder And Greed isn’t really a Tacoma crime history book, but it does a good job of showing what dealing with the criminal element of Tacoma is like. These are the stories of things that happen every day without most of us even being aware of it.

            Bounty hunters risk put their lives on the line like many other public servants and like anyone else, there are good ones and bad ones. This book doesn’t shy away from that fact. Unlike police officers, bounty hunters don’t have any back up. They’re largely on their own. This is what makes the job dangerous and also what makes some criminal types gravitate to it. This results in Mike occasionally working with the sort of people he would have put behind bars in his previous job. There are times he wants to and does give up on the job, but his desire to do right and help make the industry what it should be is too great for him to stop. Meanwhile, Pam tries to keep clear of the corruption that seems to permeate so many aspects of the bail bonds industry. Ultimately, they form their own bail bonds company in an effort to show how to do the job right by example. Betrayal, Murder, And Greed is a good read for anyone interested in the bail bonds business or anyone who wanted to know what actually goes on at those places we drive by and hope we’ll never have to call.

-Jack

Link: http://www.betrayalmurderandgreed.com/