How To Find Your Voice, Dare To Be Vulnerable & Live Your Brand

A few months ago, on a Thursday evening, I got a call from a friend. He was part of an organizing committee for a WordPress conference to be held in Calgary that weekend. It turned out one of their morning speakers had to cancel at the last minute and now he was looking for a replacement that would speak on something related to blogging in 2 days time.

And that is how I came to give the most naked and vulnerable talk of my speaking career. In front of about a 100 bloggers, developers and entrepreneurs.

Instead of preparing one of my usual strategy and principle loaded presentations, I gave an honest, unrehearsed account of 6 years of failure to find my voice – and three defining moments that allowed me to find it for the first time.

If you are struggling with being your authentic self, or sharing that authenticity with the world – I hope this talk helps you on your journey.

Here are a bit more details on those three defining moments that changed everything for me:

A September Morning

I woke up one September morning, after months of taking personality tests, reading about authority and authenticity, and trying to figure out my WHY. Something changed during the night.

All this time, for over 5 years, I’ve been creating content I thought others would like. I would come up with the same tired titles as everyone else: “5 Best tips to…”, “Marketing trends for 2010″… and so on.

I got no joy from writing those posts and it was a purely mechanical activity. Come up with a title that’s about a popular marketing or social media topic, add three to five subheads and fill it in. Repeat.

This morning was different. The evening before I read an article by Sir Ray Avery where he talks about his approach to life. He calculated he has about 30,000 days of life in total – and based on that, he prioritizes certain things in his life and business.

Based on my own calculations, I came up with 26,000 days of life in total. And so, 26K was born that morning – a podcast where I interview people who I find inspiring, who I believe are doing meaningful work and building an extraordinary life.

FIRST REVELATION: Write, record, draw, design and create content that moves YOU. Ideas you are genuinely passionate about.

Website Designer Named Paul

One of my first 10 interviews was with a Victoria-based designer named Paul Jarvis. I first came across his name because someone happened to share a Fast Company article on my Twitter feed. It was about how marketing should stand for something. The article resonated strongly with my views so I reached out to Paul to see if he would hop on a podcast with me.

In our conversion and my research, it turned out that Paul didn’t write about the same things as other website designers would, like “What website colours are popular this year” or “5 Tips to make your logo stand out”. Instead, he wrote about fear, and creativity, and focus, and expressing yourself. In fact, he now has 5 books – the first of which was a vegan cookbook.

His content was coming from a different place. It was coming from passion and the willingness to share his most personal insights into struggles and learnings from life and business. His content allowed him to build a subscriber base of over 13,000 (and steadily growing) professionals. And I am happy to be one of them – his is the ONLY newsletter I subscribe to.

SECOND REVELATION: Create what you’re genuinely passionate and excited about. Share your journey and insights. Some people will like it – others will not. The ones who don’t are NOT YOUR PEOPLE.

Taking a leap of faith

After recording about 15 interviews for the podcast, along with some of the reading I was doing at the time – I started noticing patterns. It seems like people who do meaningful work have certain common habits and behaviours.

So, I began writing a new article on December 26th, 2013. It would not be about marketing, or sales, or social media. It would be about some of those habits I found so fascinating.

I wrote the article in one sitting – experiencing one of those flow moments, where I didn’t notice the time, the need to eat or even go to the bathroom. And that was the easy part.

The next part was an immense amount of irrational fear. I questioned and doubted myself: What if nobody likes this? What if my clients read this and drop me? What am I doing writing about anything but marketing? How much traffic will I lose if I post this? What if other marketers think I’m a weirdo for writing this kind of content?

It took me two days to muster up the courage to hit “publish”. The article was published sometime in the evening of December 28th, 2013.

And it was my most popular article to date. My Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn shares went up by 400%. It was picked up by Good Magazine. At one point, the traffic I received crashed my server. I got my first genuine thank you e-mail from a reader in Maine.

I thought… this must be a fluke. So, over the next couple of months I wrote about marketing topics as well as things that genuinely interested and moved me. Every single time, the articles that were about meaningful work, passion projects and making a difference outperformed all others in all metrics, by a wide margin.

THIRD REVELATION: Dare to be vulnerable. Open up the kimono to your life, your interests and your passions – and write from the heart. Write about things that move you.

I still struggle with sharing my insights and passions – as evidenced by my lack of posting this year. There are over 20 posts and 10 podcasts ready to be edited and published waiting in the wings. Waiting for the moment when fear of failure and vulnerability lowers its defences.

These were three moments that allowed me to begin my journey to being my authentic self – and sharing that with you. And I hope this helps you on your journey as well.

Be well and create from the heart,

– ernest.

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