I talk a lot about personal branding.
I encourage people to build a personal brand.
But there is a risk.
Building a personal brand without realizing that you are building and reinforcing a myth and an illusion can be an extremely dangerous exercise.
It boosts your ego.
Until you realize it.
As you keep building your personal brand, it can become difficult to get out of that brand that you have created for yourself.
You can get trapped inside it.
You will start thinking that you are your personal brand. And then you will start doing foolish things.
I almost got trapped inside “Digital Deepak”.
I say I’m Digital Deepak…
But am “I” Digital Deepak?
Whatever you perceive as “me” is the perception I have built and the image I’ve created for myself.
An image as a Digital Marketing expert.
As someone who speaks at conferences. As someone who blogs. As someone who travels in a private jet.
As someone who has two dogs. As someone who is an author of a book. As someone who posts pictures of his luxurious life on social media.
I make you believe in “Digital Deepak” through my activities.
But in truth, in reality, in objective terms…
“I” am not the brand I have built…
I am not Digital Deepak.
It’s a perception.
For a long time, I used to think I am “Digital Deepak” until I realized, it’s just a myth I have reinforced over the years. And there was nothing more liberating than that.
I would like to remind myself, and you, that “Digital Deepak” is a figment of my imagination. I am the father of this brand. I gave birth to it. It’s my kid. But it’s not me.
To understand that “Digital Deepak” is a myth, a brand, consider this possibility.
Tomorrow I can become a “Data Deepak” talking about data science.
And I can build a personal brand as a Data Science expert. Launch courses on Data Science. Have conferences on Data science. Deep Data Summit maybe?
Then what would happen to “Digital Deepak”?
All of a sudden you will realize that the brand “Digital Deepak” is a myth that I believed in, that you believed in, and one that many other people believed in.
A myth that I have relentlessly reinforced over the years. A brand that doesn’t exist in the real world. It only exists in the imaginative world.
If I choose to, I can destroy this brand.
Or if I choose to, I can make it live forever.
Digital Deepak would still exist as a brand for the new people who have not heard of “Data Deepak”.
For the new subscribers who still sign up for my free course and get it delivered via email, they would still believe in “Digital Deepak” and continue to get emails from “me” or a digital version of me. A “Digital” Deepak.
I will continue to spend money on ads, build my email list, send automated emails, sell from landing pages, reinvest the revenue into ads, without being actively involved in it. (Maybe I won’t do live webinars). But the brand can exist forever.
And if I appoint people to take care of it, it can exist even after I die! What a better way to leave a legacy. My ghost in your machine.
The digital version of me will take care of it.
Then is it me that’s sending the emails?
There is no me. Just a perception of me. An illusion of me.
If I can become “Data Deepak” one other day and make sure “Digital Deepak” continues to work… then it is clear as daylight on why all this is an illusion.
A brand exists only in the shared imagination of many people.
If only I believe in it, it’s within me and doesn’t become a brand. If only you believe in it, it’s within you and it’s not a brand. But if all of us believe in it, it becomes a “brand”.
To understand branding… let’s take, for example, the most powerful brand in the world…
Apple is a brand.
But Apple is not the logo.
It’s not the iPhone. It’s not Steve Jobs. It’s not the people who work in it. It’s not it’s office. It’s not it’s factories.
If Apple changes its logo, to god forbid, even an “orange” and calls itself Apple, the brand Apple will not cease to exist.
If all iPhones are destroyed one day, the brand Apple will not cease to exist. They can make more of it. Apple is not its founder and did not cease to exist when Steve Jobs passed away. It will not cease if all the people who worked there right now left and found other jobs. Apple can hire more people.
Apple is not its office. It will not cease to exist if they get a new headquarters on the moon.
Then what is “Apple”? What is it in its truest form?
It’s a myth that all of us believe in.
A shared myth. An inter-subjective imagined order.
That’s what you call a brand.
Similarly “Digital Deepak” is a myth, a brand.
Just because it is a personal brand it doesn’t mean that it is me.
Calling myself “Digital Deepak” and not by my original name has been the best decision I have made because it led me to the path of realizing the nature of my true self.
What I think of “myself” is an image that I have built.
That’s what we call ego.
Digital Deepak is ego by design. A personal brand is an ego.
Many people wonder why I am not disturbed when someone talks negatively about me on social media. And they are surprised because some of the comments are very hurtful.
I am unfazed because I do not believe that I am Digital Deepak.
They are not talking about me. They are talking about the brand I’ve built. By design.
What they are trying to put down is a perception of me. A myth that I have created.
It doesn’t hurt me because it is not me.
Now here’s the best part…
This has led me to understand that my ego, in the real world, is also a myth.
My ego is a personal brand in itself.
Forget Digital Deepak.
Think about the “Deepak”.
The “me”, which I thought of, and you think of, as “Deepak” is also a myth.
It exists in the shared imagination of my parents, girlfriend, friends, enemies, relatives, teachers, students, and anyone else whose life I have touched, in a positive or a negative way.
Deepak is not my name, not my body, not my gender, not my profession, not my nationality, not my caste.
Then who is this “Deepak”?
It’s a myth in the shared imagination of all the people I have come across.
That’s my ego.
If I am not hurt by anyone who comments negatively on “Digital Deepak” because it’s a figment of my imagination, a myth, an illusion…
Then I shouldn’t be hurt by anyone who comments negatively about “Deepak” either.
Because “Deepak” is also a brand.
Just a personal brand, for other close people in my life.
“Deepak” is something that the world around me created.
My parents did not give birth to “Deepak”.
My parents just gave birth to a baby boy.
I was not even named until I was a year old.
After I was named, I didn’t even know my name was “Deepak” for probably another two to three years.
I was taught to say my name is “Deepak” when people asked my name. I didn’t even choose this name myself.
Then as I grew up, I started realizing that my name is “Deepak” and I was born in India (my nationality).
I am a son to my parents, I am a cousin to other kids, I am a student of a specific school, and I belong to a certain caste.
I have a specific purpose in my life (to do engineering and become an engineer), I am supposed to marry, have kids, get a house, pay EMI for it, be afraid of losing my job, take shit from my boss, get stuck in traffic, be a father, change those smelly diapers, grow old and die as a dignified man. Seriously?
F*ck all that.
Deepak is just a brand that the world around me has tried to build… and tries to manipulate me into living up to those expectations.
In reality, I am a ghost, riding a skeleton, on a rock called earth floating aimlessly in space.
This ghost before coming into this body was independent of nationality, race, gender, and all kinds of identity that has been applied to me after I took birth on this planet.
I came here out of sheer curiosity to experience life in this time-space reality.
I just wanted to know what’s going on this planet called earth. And before I knew it the people of this planet made me their version of human by making me believe that I am the same as my ego.
I am not Digital Deepak.
I am not Deepak.
I don’t have a nationality.
I don’t have gender.
I am not a CEO.
I am not an entrepreneur.
I am not a blogger.
I am not an admin of a Facebook group.
I am not an email marketer.
I am not a son.
I am not a father.
I am not a boyfriend.
I am not a boss.
I am not a colleague.
I am not an Indian.
I am “not”.
That’s what “I” really am.
Now take a moment and go think about who “You” are.
Think about your “Personal Brand”.
And realize how much you are trapped inside this myth.
And how it is destroying your peace of mind. Your bliss.
Animals do not have an ego. They just exist. And they exist blissfully.
People should behave like animals. We usually say that in a negative way but what’s better than living like an animal, with no ego, without past or present. Just, in, the moment.
What you are until now becomes your ego’s past. What you will become in the future becomes your ego’s future. Who you truly are, you exist only, in, this moment. Everything else is an illusion.
If you are seeing other people based on their past and their future you are not seeing them. You are seeing their ego.
You introduce yourself to others based on your past and your future, you are not introducing yourself, but your ego. Your personal brand. An image of who you are.
You are projecting your self-image into the world and become paranoid about how that image is perceived. Celebrate when that image gets a boost. Cry when that image is hurt.
Grow up. It’s just an image of you, you idiot. Why do you care?
Your ego, your image about yourself, is coming in the way of you experiencing your life on this planet. Without judgment.
Live without judgment.
Don’t judge “Others”. Don’t let other people judge “You”.
“Others” is a myth.
“You” are a myth.
Real enlightened artists (Like A.R.Rahman) reject and cringe at any praise or award that is given to them because of this very reason.
Every time you praise them they put an effort not to end up believing that they are the same as their ego. And in the long term, most artists like to live a private life away from the ego-driven world.
You hesitate to build your personal brand because you are afraid that by building a personal brand, you are building yourself.
You are not building yourself when you are building your personal brand.
You are just building a brand. A myth. And the brand is not you. So why do you hesitate?
Once you realize this truth, it becomes damn easy to build a personal brand as I’ve done.
What people usually call “ego” is the personal brand they have among their friends, family, and social circle. Everyone has a personal brand whether they realize it or not.
Just because you don’t blog and don’t speak at conferences, it doesn’t mean you don’t have a personal brand.
All of us have egos and that’s the personal brand.
You are already playing the personal branding game. If you wear clothes, have a Facebook profile, and have a name, you have a personal brand.
It is called a self “image” because duh, it’s an image.
Your “personality” is your self-image.
Your ego. Your personal brand.
Wear it like a cloth on top of you but don’t become that.
Realize this. Let that sink in.
And go build an amazing personal brand.
This myth called “You” has been created more by other people and less by yourself.
When you build a personal brand for yourself, it is the greatest exercise you can do in terms of changing and overcoming the myths others have created for “You”.
You create “You” the way you want it and permanently alter the labels and perceptions that the world has given for you.
It’s an act of rebellion to build a strong personal brand. There is nothing more bad-ass than that. Be a rebel.
There is nothing more spiritual than to build your ego in a grand way with a deliberate intention while still staying an arm’s length away from it.
Practice social distancing with your own ego.
Your ego is your art.
Your ego is your brand.
Build your ego but don’t get attached to it.
You can build a personal brand and you can destroy it whenever you want to.
Like an artist with a blank canvas, leave your mark on this world.
People are looking forward to inspiration and leadership.
Someday, you might get a new canvas (#thatwasdeep).
Don’t thank me.
If you thank “me”, who are you really thanking?
There is no “Me”.
You are welcome.