Discover more from Steady Beats | Matt Tillotson
The Mix Tape, Vol. 22
This week: Reinventing yourself (whether you want to or not), Damn the Torpedos turns 40, the best SEO newsletters, and the SEO Tip Sheet.
Trust me on this.
At some point, in your personal or professional life, you will have to pivot. The identity you had, the work you did, will no longer serve you.
It will be time to reinvent yourself.
You Are a Brand
Tom Peters popularized the idea of “Personal Brands” way back in the Internet boom—the “real” one, in the late 90s, with dial-up service, Geocities, and sock-puppet Super Bowl commercials—with an article and cover story in Fast Company Magazine, which, in those days, was about as thick as an NYC phone book.
(Note to younger readers: a phone book is … never mind. Just Google it.)
From the classic article “A Brand Called You”:
It’s time for me — and you — to take a lesson from the big brands, a lesson that’s true for anyone who’s interested in what it takes to stand out and prosper in the new world of work.
Regardless of age, regardless of position, regardless of the business we happen to be in, all of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.
This article made a big splash in 1997. It was true then—and, although some of the methods have changed (consultants probably don’t need CEOs to memorize their beeper numbers)—the principles are more relevant than ever:
You don’t “belong to” any company for life, and your chief affiliation isn’t to any particular “function.” You’re not defined by your job title and you’re not confined by your job description.
Brands evolve (if they want to survive). Your brand needs to evolve, too.
Maybe your evolution is a just a nudge—a slight course alteration.
Or maybe it’s time for something bigger.
You’re not quite sure what that change is, but you know you need it.
In that case, welcome to the wilderness. Welcome to …
Dorie Clark wrote a classic piece on personal reinvention in Harvard Business Review. But I strongly disagree with this part:
What’s Your Destination? First, you need to develop a detailed understanding of where you want to go, and the knowledge and skills necessary to get there.
Nope. The “detailed understanding” does not come first.
First is The Wandering.
Wandering is movement, but without clear direction.
You have to reinvent out loud and in motion—you can’t think your way to reinvention.
That makes reinvention more stressful. You won’t know where you’re going when you start. You have to try things out, start and stop, and listen to your inner compass.
The fits and starts are the toll extracted for finding the new path. So let yourself try out some different ideas. Like the legendary Gerry Rafferty said, “If you get it wrong you’ll Get it Right Next Time.”
It can take a long time to get it right.
More from Tom Peters:
It’s over. No more vertical. No more ladder. That’s not the way careers work anymore. Linearity is out. A career is now a checkerboard. Or even a maze. It’s full of moves that go sideways, forward, slide on the diagonal, even go backward when that makes sense. (It often does.) A career is a portfolio of projects that teach you new skills, gain you new expertise, develop new capabilities, grow your colleague set, and constantly reinvent you as a brand.
“Reinvention” is often an excavation project. We have to shed the expectations of others, particularly in service of a specific corporate role. We have to shed the expectations of ourselves, too.
What do you really want to do? How—and whom—do you really want to serve?
I can’t imagine reinventing without a spiritual foundation.
The danger in proceeding without spiritual belief is you’re more likely to head down the wrong path—one that just serves your ego, or pleases another person or group you may not even consciously realize you’re trying to please.
You run the risk of ending up on the wrong path and unhappier and less fulfilled than ever.
Aim to serve something bigger than yourself.
Eventually … you’ll start to know where you’re headed.
You might even have an “Oh, I knew that all along” moment.
You can see the path, and now comes …
Your new path might feel far from the person you were and the experiences you’ve had. But it’s probably not as far as you think.
Clark discusses leveraging your past to serve your new positioning:
Develop a Narrative. You used to write award-winning business columns — and now you want to review restaurants?
It’s unfair, but to protect your brand you need to develop a coherent narrative arc that explains to people — in a nice, simple way so they can’t miss it — exactly how your past fits into the present. “I used to write about the business side of many industries, including food and wine,” you could say. “I realized my big-picture knowledge about agricultural trends and business finance made me uniquely positioned to cover restaurants with a different perspective.” It’s like a job interview — you’re turning what could be perceived as a weakness (he doesn’t know anything about food, because he’s been a business reporter for 20 years) into a compelling strength that people can remember (he’s got a different take on the food industry because he has knowledge most other people don’t).
Change the way you think about your experience and your resume.
A resume doesn’t exist on a stone tablet, an Eternal Truth chiseled in granite to be preserved and handed down for generations.
Instead, your resume is a story that evolves to suit your changing goals and direction.
Career expert Penelope Trunk:
Life is messy and it is not black and white. There is no single, correct story about your life. Because each moment, in each person’s life, has multiple versions, all true.
The biggest problem people have when they are changing careers, or moving up the ladder, or re-entering the workforce, is that they cannot imagine telling a completely different story about themselves than they have been telling for the last ten years.
Did you know that my resume can tell the story of me as a writer or me as an operations genius? I don’t like operations, but if I had to get a job in operations, I could write my resume to indicate that operations has been my focus for the last fifteen years. And I wouldn’t have any lies on my resume. I’d just frame the truth in a different way.
Whatever your new path is, you have related experience that lends credibility to that path. Use it.
Put another way:
Don’t expect to fully “reinvent”: While the concept of “reinvention” is tantalizing (think: “fresh slate” “unrealized dreams” etc.), most people don’t construct a new career from scratch at midlife. The stories you read about the accountant turned cattle rancher – or the doctor turned vineyard owner – make for great press, but they are the exception, not the norm. In reality, most people choose a second-act career that is in some small way, shape or form related to what they did before. They figure out which parts of their old career they most enjoy (skills, people, industry, etc.) and then blend the “old” pieces with “new” interests, hobbies, and passions.
After your re-positioning, you’ll probably discover you still have some gaps. And that’s fine. Take online classes. Volunteer. Pick up some clients to do your new work on the side. The gaps are not insurmountable.
Just Keep Going
(Or, you know, swimming.)
This reinvention thing—it’s exhausting, frustrating, and, hopefully, exhilarating.
We don’t generally see the hard work of reinvention. Online, we only see the “after” stories of triumph and happiness and unicorns, etc.
We don’t see the long slog to get there.
But the world has never been hungrier, or offered more opportunity, for authenticity. If you need to shift, you can. You can find a market to serve. You can find your authenticity and make your way.
There are many examples of this today:
A teacher turned full-time online fitness coach
A marketing agency employee turned SEO consultant and teacher:
And an extreme example: Steve Ballmer, raving maniacal CEO of Microsoft …
became Steve Ballmer, raving maniacal owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, where he’s stealing all the buzz and cache from the rival Lakers.
People turn themselves inside out and find unique and authentic ways to impact the world and make a living.
You can, too.
If you’re struggling with reinvention, I’ll leave you with something Steven Furtick of Elevation Church conveyed in a sermon called “Trapped in Transition:”
“God is most active in moments of what I perceive to be instability and transition”
So just keep going (swimming).
You’re not alone, and you’re on the right path, even if you can’t see the path yet.
Yes, I am obsessed with WeWork
Can you blame me?
You couldn’t write a movie character who behaves like Adam Neumann. Too outrageous to be believable.
Damn the Torpedos Turns 40
Last week, Tom Petty would’ve turned 69. This week, his greatest album, “Damn The Torpedos,” turns 40:
As Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers prepared to record their third album, they faced roiling complications. Legal entanglements pertaining to an unsavory record contract and publishing deal signed early in the band’s career threatened to slow their hard-won momentum, and tensions simmered between members as Petty’s long-gestating ascension—from first-among-equals to full-fledged focal point—came to fruition. Estranged from their label, short on cash and alienated from the dream that had long sustained them, the group marinated in uncertainty.
Petty teamed up with producer Jimmy Iovine and launched the band in superstardom:
Side 1 of Damn the Torpedoes plays like a primer on Petty’s great songwriting strengths. The bold-stroke melodrama of “Refugee” segues into the effervescent charm and Byrds-copping jangle of “Here Comes My Girl,” which is followed by the underdog manifesto “Even the Losers.”
Here is “Refugee” from Petty’s last show, at the Hollywood Bowl in L.A. in 2017:
My favorite SEO newsletters
I list 14 of my favorite SEO newsletters here, but if you want a top three:
Marketing Examples (Detailed case studies with step-by-step implementation instructions.)
Total Annarchy (Content strategy and writing advice from Ann Handley, partner at MarketingProfs.)
Bonus: Ann’s book, Everybody Writes, is a killer reference guide to help you write more effectively, more efficiently, and more interestingly for all kinds of communication vehicles.
Gaps (Glenn Allsopp is great at SEO and is an excellent content marketer. But his super power might be his creative research methods.)
These newsletters cover more than just SEO.
The insight, expertise, and actionable advice shared by the writers make them must-read for digital marketers.
A roundup of what I found interesting in the world of SEO this week.
Overview of Google Maps and Google My Business (GMB)
Tip: Business owners can “publish … offers, events, products, and services directly to Google Search and maps.”
25 ideas for on-site SEO, and 25 for off-site SEO
Search by filetype—PDFs, for example
Includes a full list of filetypes Google can index
SEO experts often face the question “if you’re so great at it, why don’t you rank for “SEO,” or “SEO in [your town].”
Ironically, SEO isn’t generally a great lead source for SEO pros.
The question tends to come from lower-knowledge, highly price-sensitive prospects.
Tremendous list of free tools in many different areas of SEO.
A favorite: Answer The Public, a cool visual tool for generating keyword ideas.
Big brands focus on User Experience first—because your best customer is the one you already have.
Think “call-to-value,” not “call to action,” when labeling your buttons.
Write from the perspective of what the user will receive, not what you want from the user.
Buzzstream: Tool for finding out who’s writing about a given topic—great for content marketing outreach and linkbuilding (free)
httpstatus: checks URL redirects (free)
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