How to conquer fear

I get scared sometimes.

You know the fight-or-flight response thing? When I am scared, I freeze. Often, I stop breathing. In the most difficult circumstances, I shake uncontrollably.

I’ve done so many things that scare me anyway. From tiny things, like writing this post, the process during which I have frozen and stopped breathing a few times already, to circumstances where I have shaken uncontrollably and have had to pretend it wasn’t really happening, like when I went cliff jumping in Mexico.

I'm not entirely without caution. I know that after I finish writing this post, Gabriel is going to read it over to make sure it’s not too out there. I knew that after I jumped off the cliff, that the water would be deep enough for me to survive, because I saw other people do it first.

I didn’t write or jump because I knew it was safe, though. I did it because I didn't want to miss out on the chance to have the experience of a lifetime. 

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Incorporate darkness into your brand

Imagery is incredibly important for marketing because it is processed faster and remembered better than text

I haven’t put up a photo in a while. So, I decided to take a photo for this post.

I hate taking photos so much that I have to bribe myself to do it. I am probably above average at outsmarting myself. As you can see, I managed to coax a genuine smile out of myself by putting a mini chocolate cake in my left hand while taking the photo.

I had to edit the photo and make it black and white because I originally came out a color that can only be described as marigold. I mean, I am Asian, but no one is this color in real life:

This kind of stuff happens to me all the time in photos. Whatever, I try to have a sense of humor about it, and stuff in general. I freaking love comedy, and I think it is a virtuous and generous activity.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve dealt with darkness on my own because I worry about others. I tried to go to therapists and it didn’t work because I found myself trying to entertain them and solve their problems, and then they told me that it didn’t look like I need therapy.

I often fall into the trap of trying to be happy always, because I know that emotions are contagious. Which means that Europeans probably think I am just exhibiting the typical sunniness of an American. It is common for Europeans to criticize the cheerful optimism of Americans. Their perspective is like, DUH, life is hard, why are you pretending like it’s not?

Fine. I’m a little cagey about my darkness, but I’m trying to be less so. The Europeans probably are on to something when they view our cheeriness with skepticism. Perhaps European realism helps explain the popularity of Swedish pop. 

Swedish songwriters dominate American pop charts by writing the smash hits performed by the likes of Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Britney Spears, and more. Swedish songwriter Tove Lo describes the nation's pop as having specific characteristics, "clear but simple lyrics... a lot about the melody, and also having a little bit of melancholy or a darker sense to it, to not make it too sugary or too bubblegum." The New Yorker pithily boils this down further to, "Three parts formula, one part character.”

I think that the concept of the Swedish hitmaker formula is applicable to brands. Clear, simple, and enjoyable, with a touch of darkness for realism. It is a winning formula because a brand that is not completely sunny rings more true.

What is the balance of lightness and darkness in your brand?

Anti-consumerism and brands

Note: I am using the word “consumerism” defined by Google as, “the preoccupation of society with the acquisition of consumer goods”.

I don’t really buy stuff, in general. I’m horribly responsible, and I do not like clutter. Sure, I buy wine, cosmetics, and replacement clothing, but that’s about it.

When you’ve got six-figure student loans and you’re planning to take on a mortgage and have two kids, how do you really buy stuff?

There’s only one consumer good that I’ve been lusting after for years, and that’s a sick sound system for my home. One day, I’ll probably throw down for it -- if and when I find the perfect one. Bang and Olufsen, maybe. That would be worth it for me.

I just name-dropped a brand and cringed. I don’t have a stake in Bang and Olufsen, but I still cringed. There’s something cringe-worthy about people obviously selling branded goods -- they’ve actually got a stake in it!

The thing is, even if you aren’t receiving compensation to sell a brand, you always sort of have a stake in it when you praise it, because if your opinions are not reliable, then people aren’t going to care about what you say. Whenever you go around saying that you like something, you’re selling it. You might as well be handing out flyers or wearing a T-shirt with the brand’s logo on it.

I only like brands that deliver at least fair value; preferably more than fair. I love spending a dollar on incredible street food when I’m traveling internationally. I’ll tell everyone about my favorite place to eat in Thailand (it’s a street cart in Ao Nang). I also think it’s worth it to spend hundreds of dollars on jeans and thousands of dollars on sound systems that can be enjoyed for years.

Fair or greater value is about results, and I loathe things that are overpriced. For example, the restaurant that I hate the most in my neighborhood makes perfectly good food. But it has no business charging high premiums when its food is just good and nowhere near a mighty gastronomical achievement. The portions are tiny!

Bottom line is, you can be anti-consumerism and still advocate for brands. You’re doing it anyway, whenever you say that you like something. It just has to be reasonable.

So yeah, if I ever say a brand is good, you can expect that I think that it delivers at least fair, and preferably more than fair value for the price. I think it's a solid criterion. Having an eye for things that are underpriced on the market is what made Warren Buffett who he is today.

What brands do you like, and why?

Succeeding at marketing requires trying new things

One of the best things about Gabriel is that he is so driven to try new things, especially with travel. He is 100% responsible for the fact that we are booked for trips to Dubai and Hong Kong this year, and I love him for it.

I get him to try new things, too, but it’s mostly marketing or technology stuff. For example, this morning I was yammering on and on about how interesting SnapChat is and would he please go on SnapChat and friend me? He obliged, and within minutes, promptly sent me a SnapChat :)

SnapChat is currently one of the top free apps in the Android app store. I guess it kind of has a reputation for being like a teen thing, but I get so curious about what new technologies offer that I always want to try them at least a few times.

Trying new things sparks new thought patterns in our brains. It is so good for creativity because it breaks us out of our mental routines and connects us with new ideas.

I am able to envision how the future of digital communications is taking shape because I love trying and reading about the latest developments in technology, whether they are newly designed social networks, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and so on.

All new technologies that are able to capture significant attention eventually figure out ways to monetize by incorporating marketing. 

Remember five to seven years ago, when everyone was talking about the rise of the sharing economy, mobile, and video? Now, all they talk about is AirBnB, Uber, the latest mobile game craze, Vine stars, and YouTube superstars.

Staying relevant is critical for maintaining your customer base. Love her or hate her, Madonna is a master marketer, and always trying new things, which includes being the first major artist to debut a music video on SnapChat. Not only did doing this get Madonna a lot of press, but it also showed that she is keen on staying on the cutting edge and continually growing her audience.

As attention capital shifts, you will want to have a grip on how businesses like yours are successfully connecting with customers, whether it is through the soon-to-be-released Pinterest “Buy” button, advertisements on Instagram and SnapChat, or even the integration of marketing campaigns in virtual reality.

The best thing about so much of this new technology is how accessible it is. It often only takes a few minutes to try out a new technology. What have you got to lose?

What are some new things that you’ve tried lately? What did they make you think?

The difference between a corporate brand and a small business brand

I like to talk with people who are different from me because I get to learn a lot. This one time, my brother in-law and I were talking about corporate business because he is brilliant at that stuff and I am not.

I’ve known my brother in-law for over ten years and if I had to state his brand in one word, it would be Trustworthy with a capital T. Like, if there was an apocalypse, everyone who survived would end up sort of following his lead and instinctively knowing that it was the right thing to do to increase the chances of survival for the human race.

You know what kind of personalities tend to succeed in large corporations? The people who can act the same whether they are in the office or not. Like, their natural personalities tend to lean sort of corporate at personal gatherings, sort of personal at business gatherings, but it is actually the same personality the entire time, if you really think about it.

It’s easy for those people because they are just being themselves. My brother in-law stands the same way whether he is in a business suit or shorts and a T-shirt, and talks the same way to everyone he meets. He looks just like he does in every picture of him! He is Trustworthy and Consistent with a capital C.

I tried doing that for a while, but I doubt that I ever actually pulled it off. I rarely even look like the photo of me displayed in the sidebar of this webpage. My hair is a wavy mess and I like to put it in a scrunchie. I wear T-shirts and jeans with holes in them. On purpose! I have a capital B for Birkenstocks.

The reason why I used this picture is because Gabriel thought it looked like a good consulting picture. I originally picked a picture of myself where I had a big smile on my face, and he was like, No. He’s a lawyer, and lawyers don’t like to look too happy in their professional photos, because they want to look like they are concentrating on winning. We compromised on a picture of me that has a little smile.

I can tell you all this because the people I want to work with are like me -- small business people. Bright, creative people with independent spirits have brands that are very different from those of corporate leaders, and it works because their markets are completely different.

I mean, I have a relatively professional picture up to show that I’m serious, but I get my market enough to know that it’s cool to be me. That’s one of the best ways to know if you are in the place where you belong -- it shouldn’t be that hard.

How do you connect who you are with your professional brand?

Balancing connectivity and creativity

Connecting with people and creating good products/services are both necessary for small business owners. The good thing about owning your own business is that you can grow it in a way that fits with your life.

For me, that means I can’t go out more than three or four times a week; otherwise, it will ruin everything. I was hoping that working out at the end of the day would help me go out more frequently. So far, my finding is that doing so is minimally helpful.

The best way to describe what happens when I go out too often is that I get a caged feeling in my chest, like I have to cry, but it won’t come out.

This is not a complaint, but an observation. I am really excited for the upcoming four days! There is a book party, a women’s networking event, a family dinner, and a birthday party. I’m going to bring flowers, make friends, eat my favorite food, and bake an Italian dessert.

The flip side is that I’m freaking out because I have so much stuff to do, and I need to take a little break from working on my book so that I can handle everything. I was so exhausted the last time that I went out that I fell asleep right before I left and took a nap twice while I was out. This is happening more and more often -- falling asleep in front of other people.

It’s not out of laziness. I can work like a demon when I want to. But something about connecting with people is so draining for me, even when I love them.

Maybe it has to do with being a so-called creative person. Ever since I was a child, people have always told me that I am creative, and I have never really understood why.

It’s like this. I make an observation. Lots of times, the reaction I receive is, I have never thought about that before. When that happens, people probably think that I am being creative. I do not think that I am being creative. I think that I am being logical.

To me, creativity is closer to a literal interpretation of the word: creating something good. And I only have so much creative energy to use per day.

If I’m going to be with people, I have to conserve my creative energy to share with them so that we can have a good time. If I’m going to be home for the day, I have enough creative energy to pour into all the work that I want to do. It doesn’t really work for me to treat the two things as if they were completely different activities.

How do you balance connectivity and creativity? Are connecting with people and connecting with ideas similar activities for you?

Branding with love

One day, I was like, hey, Mom, it looks like your website could use an update. She agreed; it had not been updated in about a decade.

You have to be comfortable marketing your business to your own network, because that is where most of your early business is likely to start.

You never, ever forget the first person who gives you a job. My first client for my branding and marketing business was my mom. 

We refreshed her brand and highlighted her knowledge, connections, and accomplishments in the new website that I built for her. I also went with her to the photo studio to style her hair and makeup for her new headshot. As the photographer snapped away, I made funny faces behind the camera to make her smile.

My parents were born in Korea during the war and were high school sweethearts. After they got married, my father, a Merchant Marine, and my mother, a nurse, came to America on my mother's nursing visa. My mother passed the licensing exam for nurses in English on her first try. Everyone else who took the exam with her failed, including the native English speakers.

A few years later, my mom figured out that she could make much more money in the real estate industry than she ever could nursing. The rest is history. My mom has owned her own real estate business for almost thirty years, and she is incredible at what she does.

Not too long ago, my mother and I were in her kitchen. She was doing this and that as usual, and I told her that she is pretty.

“I’m not pretty,” she mumbled.

“You are SO pretty,” I shouted. “SO pretty!”

She is. She is amazing, and it shines through in her brand. That’s why she’s been such a raging success.

Your brand is what you stand for, and it will help set you apart from the pack.

If you ever want to buy or sell real estate in New York, let me know. I can introduce you to my mom.

Heart of an entrepreneur

I had a job that I hated so much that I used to daydream about slitting my wrists and bleeding out in the hallway.

I had similar feelings during high school. That’s why I cut so much class.

I think that the thing that really killed me was the meaninglessness. During high school, the thing was to sit still and look like I was paying attention for six or seven hours a day, when I was able to teach myself everything in less than half the time by simply reading the books.

When I stopped attending classes, that’s exactly what I did. I ended up graduating early with an A- average and an attendance record that showed that I had been marked absent for at least a semester.

Some people think that you can force people into being someone they are not. I tried to force myself so many times, but it would just end up in meaninglessness and pain.

I mean, the job that I hated looked all right from the outside. It was an easy job. So easy for so many people.

For whatever reason, I could not take it. Inside, I wanted to die so much that I could visualize my bloodstain growing on the carpet.

You don’t get to choose who you are. I was born an independent thinker. Maybe it’s in my blood; my parents are entrepreneurs.

Speaking of blood, I haven’t gotten my period in over two months and my doctor is trying to figure out why. I’m not pregnant, but when I do become pregnant, please do not think that all of the lessons from the experiences above have been wasted on me.

My husband is an angel, and maybe if I get lucky, I will have a child like him. A child so lovable and talented that his soccer coach named his own child after him. A natural in organizations both large and small, well-liked by colleagues, and beloved by my parents as if he were their own biological son.

Or maybe I’ll get lucky in another way. Maybe I’ll have a child like me. Maybe I will understand that child so deeply, that I will be able to fight off all the bad dreams that could have happened. Maybe she’ll get to be homeschooled. Maybe I’ll teach her how to be an entrepreneur.

Being an entrepreneur isn’t easy. How would you describe the experience?


Going out for work

Lots of people are surprised when I tell them that I am an introvert. This is because I have gotten pretty good at talking with people. The trick is to pay attention, ask open ended questions, and try not to say anything inflammatory.

The truth is that I am so introverted that it is almost scary. I can go for days without talking to people or going outdoors, and I will generally feel fine. If I happen to feel a little sickly, I just sort of pop outside on the balcony for a few minutes of vitamin D absorption and feel better, ready to hole up again with my work and entertainment.

This is the part where I tell you that I have to go out seven out of the eight upcoming days. That’s right, folks -- and I’m doing it because I want to.

My strategy for this week is to save my workout for right before I get ready to go out instead of doing it in the morning. I’m hoping that doing my nerd stuff first, then working out for a late burst of energy, then socializing, will be the magic formula for me to do well at all three things.

Every successful entrepreneur has a warm network, and if someone like me can put in the effort to keep her relationships warm, then anyone can.

Do you go out for work? What is your strategy for balancing nerd work with going out for work?

A book worth marketing

I am writing a book. It is about one third completed.

Actually, this is not the first book that I have written. I finished the other one in 2008, decided it was crap, and that I didn’t want crap floating around with my name on it.

A lot has changed in the past seven years. The book that I am writing now is not crap.

Let me tell you why the first book was crap. It was a fiction novel about a doomed love story. The main character was boring, and so was the love interest. Above all, it didn’t really offer anything of value.

Actually, there are tons of books that magically become raging successes despite the fact that they fit all of the criteria above.

In any case, I didn’t want that to be my book. So I canned it.

The book I am writing now is nonfiction. There isn’t a main character. And it offers a ton of value.

I’m researching ways to market it, and as with most things, you really just have to do the research, put yourself out there, and do your best.

However, one of the better links I found on marketing a book is this one by Peg Fitzpatrick. She’s also got a great Twitter feed for people who are into online marketing.

I can’t wait to tell you more about my book. I’m trying to make it really fun to read so that you will love it.

Are you funny? How did you get so funny?

Marketing online when you do not like taking pictures

Marketing online when you do not like taking pictures

When I created this website, I knew that it would need photographs. Free images that amplify specific messages are hard to come by and often require a lot of time to find. So, I put my digital camera on a table to remind myself to shoot photographs for this website.

I’m usually very good at going through my task list, but when it came to that item, I would pick up my digital camera, then put it back down. I did this for days before I finally realized how much I do not like taking pictures. I neither enjoy being behind of nor in front of the camera. It’s as stressful for me as looking for free images. 

So, here’s how to market online with pictures when you do not like taking pictures or searching for free images.

Hire a photographer for quality structural photos

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Is your brand cool?

It is very difficult to balance blending in the right way and standing out the right way. Things that are cool tend to diverge from the norm enough to distinguish themselves. However, if they diverge too far from the norm, they run the risk of being not only not cool, but also strongly disliked.

Brands that blend in may seem safe, but what they really are is replaceable. Conversely, brands that stand out in a way that does not make sense strike out entirely.

How do you find out if your brand is coming across the right way? Tip: Don’t ask your friends. Your friends are invested in preserving a relationship with you. What you want is honest feedback from people who can give you an outside perspective and walk away more or less scot-free after telling you the truth.

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How to be more popular

I know what it’s like to be different.

I grew up in a very (VERY) Christian household, and I am not religious. While attending school, I was always the punky looking kid in the nerd classes. One time, I was sitting on a swing and some kid called me a chink. Whatever.

I also know what it’s like to be popular.

There were two times in my life when I was super popular. It just happened. I wasn’t trying to do anything differently at those times. 

Looking back, I don’t think that my popularity in those environments was a coincidence. The environments that I happened to be popular in were atypical in two respects:

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