Tami Simon: Welcome to Insights at the Edge, produced by Sounds True. My name’s Tami Simon, I’m the founder of Sounds True, and I’d love to take a moment to introduce you to the new Sounds True Foundation. The Sounds True Foundation is dedicated to creating a wiser and kinder world by making transformational education widely available. We want everyone to have access to transformational tools such as mindfulness, emotional awareness, and self-compassion, regardless of financial, social, or physical challenges. The Sounds True Foundation is a nonprofit dedicated to providing these transformational tools to communities in need, including at-risk youth, prisoners, veterans, and those in developing countries. If you’d like to learn more or feel inspired to become a supporter, please visit soundstruefoundation.org.
You’re listening to Insights at the Edge. Today my guest is Jessica Zweig. Jessica is the CEO and founder of the SimplyBe. agency, a personal branding company that helps millions of people worldwide. She’s been named a personal branding expert by Forbes magazine, a Top Digital Marketer to Watch by Inc. magazine, and she’s the 2018 recipient of the International Gold Stevie Award for Female Entrepreneur of the Year. At Sounds True, Jessica Zweig is publishing a new book. It’s called Be: A No-Bullsh*t Guide to Increasing Your Self Worth and Net Worth by Simply Being Yourself.
Going into this conversation with Jessica, I had a lot of misconceptions about personal branding, that it was image-oriented and ego-filled. What I learned from Jessica is that that’s not what effective personal branding is at all—at least not the way she teaches it. Instead, it’s a deep excavation requiring soul-level courage: the courage to value ourselves, to be vulnerable, to share our stories, and to lead with a sense of service and generosity. Here’s my conversation on how to build a personal brand that’s filled with authenticity, with Jessica Zweig.
Jessica, you’re a personal branding expert. And right here at the beginning of our conversation, I’m imagining some listeners to Insights at the Edge—you ready for this? I’m just going to lay it out there—rolling their eyes and saying, “What has happened such that on the journey of personal transformation, the spiritual journey, we need to understand personal branding? Say what?” So let’s start right there. How do you define personal branding and why should someone interested in the spiritual journey, in personal transformation, care?
Jessica Zweig: Thank you for the question, Tami. Knowing your personal brand is understanding what makes you, you. It’s being profoundly, deeply connected to your assignment here on planet earth. It is the knowingness of your value and your worth, and then being able to communicate and articulate and share who you are with the world—which is your assignment, which is your responsibility, which is your job to help make this world, in my view, a better place. And so everyone has a personal brand, whether they know it or not. And it becomes, I believe, a superpower when you begin to own and embody what makes you, you and bring it to life. And for some people that’s on the internet and for some people that’s walking through their lives in the real world.
If you read my book, which I know you have, there are a lot of celestial undertones. All my branding methodology is named after the Pinnacle or the Supernova or Ryan Star or the Hologram. And that was all extremely intentional and nuanced to either consciously or subconsciously let the reader into this cosmic connection to who they are and giving them the road map to express it. And I really love this question, because it’s one that I’m up against a lot. I love the challenge because I hope, with my book, I redefine the space of personal branding and I bring new life to it and I remind people that if you do it well, it’s not an act of ego and vanity, it can be a profound act of service. And everyone, I believe, deserves to feel worthy of shining their light and actually doing it. So that’s how I define it, and I really appreciate the question.
TS: Right at the beginning of the book, you talk about some of the myths that are associated with personal branding. I think it’s important to address that right here at the get-go. I think one of the big myths, and it’s certainly one that I had when I rolled my eyes thinking I’m going to talk to a personal branding expert before I read the book: personal branding is an act of vanity. I might’ve said it’s image-oriented and I’m not interested in image, or it’s an act of vanity. How is that a myth? Isn’t that really what we’re talking about, how I’m going to, like, polish myself all up so people like what I look like and stuff?
JZ: I mean, if you’re doing personal branding wrong, yes, that’s what it will look like, and that’s why it gets a bad name. With the explosion of social media and the world of influencers and celebrity, that’s what those folks surely are about. But most people aren’t those people. Most people don’t want to be those people. We’re all walking through the world with our own unique path and purpose. That’s who my book is for. And so, yes, it’s about showing up and owning who you are. It’s about having a level of confidence. My book is self-worth to net worth. Net worth, as you know, is somewhat of a misnomer. I don’t really talk about money too much in the book. Net worth is an analogy for whatever success looks like to you, but it starts with that inner belief and coming from a place, like I said, of service.
No one cares about you or your brand, people care about themselves. People come to the internet or they’ll come and listen to this podcast, or they’ll come to an event or they’ll hire a service provider not because they care so much about what Tami Simon has for breakfast each day, but what Tami Simon is offering the world through her wisdom and through her experience and through her perspective, which she is clearly sharing for the betterment of the world. And when you come from that place, which does require a bit of polish and putting yourself out there, it will never be received as vanity. And if it is, that’s not on you, that’s on them. That’s on people who have their own stories and projections that you have no control over. And I really do talk about that a lot in the book. It’s somewhat releasing the fear of being perceived as vain in doing this work because your assignment and your job, in my view, is more important than what people think of you.
TS: Let’s talk about that in a little more depth because quite honestly, that’s a fear I have. A fear I have is that people might think, “Oh, this is The Tami Simon Show, or something.” Like, I don’t even care what I had for breakfast. I certainly don’t think our listeners care what I had for breakfast. But what if somebody, that’s what’s really holding them up is they don’t want to be perceived as being vain. How do you get over that?
JZ: Well, I would ask you, what’s your reason for being? What’s the fire in your belly each morning? What’s your “why”? And I’m assuming that you want to live your why, you want to express that fire in your belly. And in order to do that, I believe that, effectively—I mean, Tami, your job with Sounds True is waking up the world. Well, the world is a lot of people. And I’m with you, I’m here on your journey with you, girl. I’m so excited to be a part of this mission. Waking up the world requires touching the world. Here’s the thing that I really want to convey with my book and obviously in this conversation. We all have the power to change the world. We all do.
The reason for that is because we change the world one person at a time. That’s actually how the world is changed, in my view. And we all touch people, and no person is too small. And so by building a platform—like say this podcast, or the Tami Simon personal brand, which is just your platform—the work that you have done, yes, you’re the face, but you’re also somewhat behind the scenes and you have this great reputation and all of these things that I think of when I hear the word Tami Simon. It’s like, she’s in deep service to the world. She’s waking up the world. You’re creating content and you’re building partnerships and you’re putting yourself out there in this way that is aligned to that mission. No one would confuse that. And so, I think you’re doing it great.
TS: Now, I want to go into more of these myths, but before we do, you work with all kinds of clients. How do you know when someone comes to you if, really, they’re interested in personal branding because they are looking to get attention or this is someone who has a genuine “why” that’s about something bigger than themselves? How do you know in that first client meeting?
JZ: Oh, I can tell right away in five seconds. I mean, if someone’s going to come to me and ask me how quickly I can grow their Instagram following or their YouTube subscription or their email database, or how much ROI in dollars they can expect to receive within six months from this, I will say, “That’s not our agency. There’s another agency down the street that will happily take your money to help you do that, but that’s not us.”
Every single one of my clients, and I have a very unique, diverse set of clients—we’re industry-agnostic, so we work across medical, law, creative, technology, consulting, life coaching. We have meditation teachers as our clients. We have Ayurvedic doctors as our clients.
Every single one of them, as different as they are, all have one common denominator: they all have a mission. They all want to improve the lives of other people and the world around them. That is crystal clear, and it has to be when they come and work with me. Many of them know they need a bigger microphone to do it and that’s why they’ve come to me. Oftentimes it’s reluctantly. Oftentimes it’s like, “Well, my marketing and communications team told me I should do this because I’m the CEO and I need to have a personal brand,” or “I see a handful of my colleagues in the law industry who are putting themselves out there. I think I should be doing this too, but I’m really shy and I don’t want to be perceived as vain, help me figure this out.”
And so it’s much more of a mindset shift that we work with on most of our clients versus the tactical, technical, strategic platform building, which we do. But it’s a much bigger transformation, to be frank, that I see my clients go through, which is that self-belief that they are worthy of being seen for who they truly are. And that’s the magic of, I think, a truly authentic personal brand.
TS: What’s your “why,” Jessica? What’s your why for what you do?
JZ: Well, it comes back to the mission statement on my company, and it’s very tied to my brand, my business, and it’s to remind people that when they free themselves to simply be themselves, they give everyone around them the permission to do the same. I suffered from a lot of trauma when I was little and was brutally bullied for most of my young adult life and never felt comfortable in my own skin. Definitely struggled with eating disorders and abusive relationships. I was just horrible with money and had a ton of debt and just really lacked so much self-worth myself. If I had role models, if I had people in my life at that time that I could look to who were fully owning who they were—and I actually found those people later in life. There are many thought leaders that actually come from Sounds True and the world around us, as well as people I know personally, and their authenticity and their freedom and being gave me the courage to do it too.
I want to wake people up. I want people to be reminded that who they were born to be is exactly who they’re meant to be and they don’t have to stuff themselves in a box to be anything else. And they’re robbing themselves of their purpose if they do. I needed that.
As I’ve gone on my own spiritual journey, which is really the biggest part of my life, to be frank, I believe in the power of light and I think we’re entering a planetary shift where light is rising and darkness is being exposed. I believe I am of the light. In fact, I know I am, and I want to wake people up and remind them, actually more than wake them up, but remind them of the light that exists inside of them.
I hope to be an expander and a reflection when people look at my brand and my platform and my success and my joy, which of course is a work in progress at all times, as what’s possible for other people. So when you free yourself to simply be yourself, which I believe I have, you give other people the permission to do the same. And when we do that, that creates a domino effect. That’s what I think my why is.
TS: When I hear those words, “free yourself to be yourself,” it’s contagious. I had a relaxation when I heard that. I was like, “Ah, what a great exhale.” And I hope our listeners too. Free yourself to be yourself. Authenticity, leading with authenticity. We hear that word so much. We hear it so much that in a weird way it’s a word that’s almost become meaningless to me. I don’t know how else to say it. Meaning, like, people use it to blurt out whatever they want to blurt out. And I think to myself, that could have used a filter. I don’t know if that was . . . Or I think people are kind of acting authentic and that’s strange too. So I’m curious, what do you mean by authenticity?
JZ: I’m so happy you said this, because again, I’m up against this too when it comes to personal brand and the word authenticity, these buzzwords that are so nauseating at this time. And again, I hope my book breathes new life into the word authenticity. I really do. I think that the work of authenticity is an inside job and it’s not an outside projection of who you think you should be, and really taking radical responsibility for how you show up. The internet, for whatever it’s worth, is not a place to process. It’s not a place for your catharsis. It’s a place for you to glean your wisdom and value based on the things that you’ve worked on outside of the internet, in your own life personally. It’s a claiming of both your light and your dark, because we all have it. We all do.
I want to also let people a little bit off the hook, because authenticity is a journey, is a daily practice. It’s not a destination. You’re not like, “I’m authentic now, and I’m done,” like a piece of toast. You’re always exploring this, who you are, and owning that messiness, to be honest. But in a way that’s of service to other people; it’s authenticity. And I also think that authenticity looks a lot different to every single person. So in a way, who are we to say what authentic is and what authentic isn’t. If it feels like it’s coming from ego, that’s not authentic. But if it’s coming from your heart, it is. But my expression of my heart might not be for you, and that’s OK.
I’ll just use myself as an example. You’re looking at me today, Tami, with like dirty hair and like gray colors and whatnot, but I wear a lot of yellow and I can be very polished and I have a very branded presence online and I’ve gotten the reflection that, “How can you talk about authenticity, Jessica, when you’re so polished and everything is perfectly stylized and you’re always looking so glamorous or whatever?” And the truth is, Tami, I’ve worked really hard to own that part of myself. I’ve worked really hard to claim that that’s a piece of who I am and an authentic, confident expression of myself.
And so for other people, authenticity might be dreamcatchers and flowy skirts. And for me, it’s a power suit. But that’s each of our expressions. And so I really want to kind of tear down the judgements that we have about what authenticity is and what authenticity isn’t. And if we’re coming from our hearts and you can feel that it’s an energy, it’s a vibration, then to me that’s authentic. People are constantly going to be in that dance and we should support that and celebrate that versus knock it down.
TS: That’s beautiful, really, what you’re saying: authenticity is an inside job. It’s not about some external measurement, but it’s something we can feel. And I do think you can feel it with somebody. I mean, in a way that’s kind of underneath the name Sounds True. You can feel when somebody . . . I don’t say “sounds true” a lot. I only say it a few times. But you can tell when somebody sounds true or not. It’s visceral. You can sense it.
- So here are a couple of other myths that you bring forward in the book. You say a personal brand, this is the myth, is a two-dimensional projection of what we want the world to know about us. And you’re saying that’s not true. I think most people think, oh, I’m going to go see a branding expert and they’re going to help me project—once again the word image—this image that I want. But you say, no, that’s not what your personal brand is. So help us understand that.
JZ: Yes, your brand is a 360-degree expression of your soul. It’s what you do professionally, ideally if you’re thinking about this in the context of your career, and what makes you great at what you do, and owning that. Personal branding is not an act of vanity, but it’s also not an act of sheer humility. You have to own what makes you great. I think the world needs more of that, for the record. We’re far more self-deprecating and self-critical than we are self-celebrating. And so there has to be a bit of that in the message. So that’s what you do. But your personal brand is more than what you do. Your personal brand is who you are. That includes your emotions. That includes your fears. That includes your failures. That includes your moments of triumph.
I use a couple of examples of people in the book. We’ll just take Oprah Winfrey. I mean, she’s iconic and I get that, but she was sexually abused. She has this really traumatic life story before she became Oprah, and she never hid it. She didn’t exploit it, but she used her trauma and pain in service of the greater good around her. And when she recorded The Oprah Winfrey Show, which she had thousands of episodes, the topic of sexual abuse was one topic she shared more about, like I think 200 episodes plus, bringing light to her dark. She also became Oprah and a billionaire and a mogul, but she was real along the way.
I think that that’s what makes you magnetic—when you really are willing to infuse your humanity, which is flawed and imperfect and also magnificent, into your message. That’s why people will want to be in your world. That’s why people would want to hire you or join your network or meet you over coffee and become a friend. This is going back to your first question in our conversation, which is “What’s a personal brand?” It’s knowing what makes you, you, and then articulating that, putting words to that, becoming comfortable with that, sharing that. It’s far more than a two-dimensional projection. Your personal brand and your professional brand should not be different. They should be combined into one holistic story.
TS: I think part of what you’re pointing at there, and that you also point out in the book Be, is kind of who I am at home, who I am with my friends, who I am when I’m playing with my dogs at the dog park. That is part of my brand as much as the person that gets all whatever and comes up on video and gives a talk about something. There’s no dividing line. I think sometimes people think, oh, my personal brand is this thing I’m projecting, but who I am at home padding around in my pajamas is an unrelated person. But you’re saying, no, it’s all one thing. That’s interesting to me. It’s a very different take.
JZ: Yep, it is, and it’s the basis of my work and what I hope to really reteach people when it comes to this space.
TS: Just one more myth. You write, for the person who thinks, “I don’t have a presence online. Therefore I don’t have a personal brand.” And you say, “Oh, that’s a myth.” Can you explain that?
JZ: Absolutely. We all walk through the world. I mean, probably a little less so because of COVID, but we work with human beings offline in the real world, which is in my view where your personal brand actually matters more, because it is hard to get that 360 depth from a social media channel. But when we interface with people, based on the way we make eye contact, the way we dress, the way we smile, the way we sit, the way we treat people, that’s all telling a story. That’s all leaving behind an impression that it becomes your brand. It’s what people say about you when you’re not in the room.
I got a compliment once years ago. It’s an infamous story now, I tell it all the time. It’s in my book. It was just an aha moment I had with a client who met me on the internet. She found my business on the internet and then I met her in person for coffee. We were talking about her business and I was taking notes. She was taking notes and she threw down her pen in the middle of the session and she was like, “Jessica, you are so integrated.” I had no idea what she meant. I was like, “What does that mean? Thank you?” She said, “Who you are on the internet is exactly who you are offline. If I were to meet you offline and then go look you up in person, they would be the same connected person.”
I thought that was one of the best compliments I ever got in my career, and that’s what I really try to teach people. You can leave an impression far more effectively on a human being when you meet them in person than you can on the internet. And so I would just highly encourage people to become aware. It’s an act of self-empowerment to know how you show up and walk through the world and affect people. Everything is energy, so manage yours. Become conscious of yours, I should say. And that becomes a superpower. That’s why everyone has a personal brand whether they like it or not.
TS: We’re going to talk more about how I can build and how our listeners can build personal brands based on authenticity. But before we do, really as way of background, share with us your story, Jessica, about how you became a personal branding expert. It wasn’t your first career out of college. There was a journey on the way, how did you get there?
JZ: I went to college, actually, for acting. So I got my bachelor of fine arts degree in acting. I went to an incredible school. I went to the University of Illinois in Champaign. It’s a conservatory program, and so I graduated in the class of seven and I was trained. I knew how to act when I graduated college. I became a working actor and I did a lot of side jobs and hustling and cocktail waitressing and bartending and nannying and temping. It was a really incredible chapter of my life. I did it for about five years out of college. But then I kind of got really burnt out on the industry of just—talk about vanity and narcissism. I was extremely young. I was extremely insecure and I was being put in casting rooms with models and it just did just terrible things to my self-esteem.
And yet I believe that being an actor really taught me, in many ways, how to be a marketer, how to be an entrepreneur, how to communicate effectively about myself—the product, right? And then after my acting career, I actually walked away from it when I founded my first business, which was an online magazine for the women of Chicago. It was called CheekyChicago.com. I created it with a business partner and we were really young. Neither one of us had business experience, but we found this hole in the market for an online resource for women in the city of Chicago about where to go, where to eat, drink, shop, whatnot, and we created it. We basically launched a business in nine months and grew this massive platform over the course of seven years.
We had over 100,000 local readers. We’d worked with all of the major brands as our clients. I mean, Fortune 500s, at least 150 brands in those seven years. And this was at the dawn of social media, 2008, when I launched this magazine. I formed my own personal channels as face and founder of this magazine. Cheeky was its own entity and its own platform, the business, but Jessica also created her own Instagram channel and her own Facebook following and whatnot. I didn’t even realize during those seven years, Tami, that I had been building the story about myself as a brand as well, as this personal brand, until I left in 2014. I had a really tough relationship with my partner and it had run its course and I was just ready to move on and do another thing.
And so I left Cheeky. I departed this very successful business that I had built up over seven years, the third biggest market in the country, to go start this little one-woman consultancy called SimplyBe. agency. I just wanted to consult and kind of keep it simple. I had no clients. I had no business strategy. I had no website. I had nothing. All I did was send out an email to my network, BCCing a couple hundred people, probably like 150, 200 people, and I put a Facebook post up. That’s all I did to announce I was leaving this very successful magazine to go off on my own to consult. And within a week, I had five figures worth of revenue. I just had a line out the door. I was only one person. Out of the woodwork, clients came.
No one knew what I did. Everyone knew the story of what I did. That was my aha moment about my own personal brand. I thought to myself, well, I didn’t even mean to do this. This was a happy accident. What would it look like if I got really intentional with my brand and started to architect a brand that actually told the truth; because I had this very fun, popular magazine that I was running externally. Everyone saw this really cool, sparkly, hip startup led by two females in Chicago, but what was happening on the inside was a very, very different story. No one really knew what I had been through and the trials and tribulations that I had experienced as an entrepreneur.
When I started SimplyBe. and I got all these clients, I was like, well, I’m going to start to create content and promote myself and simply be alongside of that. I decided to talk about what I’d been through. On top of my expertise in marketing and branding and social media, that had definitely become my sweet spot. But then all of a sudden people were like, “Tell me more about your spiritual path,” or “Tell me more about what it’s been like to walk away from a company.” That’s what they were more interested in. And so I really started to see the fruits of this.
I was like, well, if I’m going to do this for myself, I know some things now about marketing. I worked with the biggest brands in the world for seven years on content and storytelling and conversion. Why don’t I bring that to people? Why don’t I help human beings instead get online, tell their stories, grow their businesses, drive their dreams, but doing it in a way that was authentic and honest and of service. That was really the foundation of SimplyBe. And over the last few years, it’s really grown into this company.
We have a client on every continent, amazing clients, a full-time staff of 12, and I’ve got accolades by Forbes and Inc., who called me an expert. It’s a little strange to call yourself an expert, but I guess after 10,000 hours of something, you can call yourself that. And so I definitely take a very different approach than most personal branding “experts.” I lead with the story, I lead with the humanity. I really want to draw out what makes someone real, and bring that to life in a way that is of service to other people. And then if the Instagram followers come, awesome, but that’s not what we do it for.
TS: Well, let me ask you a question about this. You write in the book, you’ve already even pointed to this. You write, “The biggest secret to personal branding is that no one cares about you. Guess what? They care about themselves!” And I thought, that’s really true. People care about themselves. So the person listening right now, they care about themselves. They care about the journey they’re on. So the question I have for you is how do you tell, in a vulnerable way, your personal story, what’s happened to you, such that it’s actually being told in a way that’s a gift to other people about themselves. What’s the jujitsu there, or whatever you want to call it, that makes it work; where it’s not a self-indulgent self-reveal, it’s actually somehow an educational gift for people about themselves?
JZ: I love this question. I think, going back to what I said earlier about the internet isn’t a place to process. All right. The fact that people care about themselves is a beautiful thing, that’s human nature. So when I made that joke, no one cares what you have for breakfast, Tami, that’s a micro example. But people don’t care that you’re going through a heartbreak or you’re struggling to make your rent. They really don’t truly care about you going through that. They care about what you’ve learned that can help them go through the same thing. And if you’re going through it, if you’re in it, if you’re processing it, it’s really hard for you to understand the wisdom behind it, to understand the lesson, the silver lining, the divinity, right?
And so I would really ask yourself, if I’m coming on the internet to be heard, to scratch this itch and to feel, like, less alone, then don’t share it. But if you’re coming from a place where you’re really clear that you’re helping other people feel less alone in it, then OK. And it’s going to feel vulnerable when you share the truth of “I went broke at 33, I was $75,000 in debt and couldn’t pay my phone bill.” Could I have shared that moment in the moment? No, I had way too much shame around it, way too much self-loathing. But once I was able to really move through that, and not just clean up my debt and pay up the payment plan, no. But when I was able to take radical responsibility for my cocreation—in that in that I was actually horrible with money and made really bad decisions—and could look at that and own that and understand how I got there and how I was going to change that, then I could come on and talk about it and service other people who were going through debt too.
So that’s a really great question because it’s such a nuance. And only you can really intuitively know when you’re in it or when you’re through it. And so that would be my advice for people to really consider coming on and sharing whatever it is they feel called to share.
TS: Now, you named your agency SimplyBe. and you tell the story in the book how you looked down at a certain point and saw the tattoo on your wrist. Why did you put the words “Simply Be” on your wrist as a tattoo? What was going on in your life at the time that you did that?
JZ: To be honest, Tami, it’s not that exciting of a story. I mean, I got a piece of art from my dear girlfriend Tenny. She was super into art and she bought me a painting and it said “Simply be” on it. It was a papier-mache, beautiful piece of art. I hung it in my apartment when I was in my mid-20s. I was just sitting in my living room one day doodling, because I like to doodle, and I was staring at it and I like saw, it was kind of hidden inside the papier-mache. I was like, oh, this is “Simply be.” I doodled it and I liked the way it looked on this paper. It was almost like a cosmic calling. I looked at this, and this is it on my wrist. It’s my own handwriting.
I looked at it and I really liked the way it looked and I just was like, I need to go to a tattoo artist and put this on my wrist and look at it every day. It wasn’t until years later, at the end of Cheeky, that chapter, when I actually had a full-on nervous breakdown one day dealing with the stress of that business, that I actually looked down at it and actually saw it for the first time and heard my higher self. I heard an inner voice. I heard something that was not me but connected to me come through my crown chakra, speak to my heart, and it said to me, “You need to leave Cheeky. You need to leave this thing and you need to go off and do something else. And it doesn’t matter what it is, but call it SimplyBe. because it will remind you every day to live in your own truth.” Because I wasn’t. I was so out of alignment at that time in my life.
And so that’s really the story behind it. It came from a random piece of art that a girlfriend gave me, but it turned itself and came to life in its own way.
TS: I actually love that story because it points to how odd synchronicities and things like that might have meaning in the future. We don’t even know we’re just taking the next step. This thing that you didn’t think meant so much became so important later on. I think it’s a beautiful story.
- You draw a connection between our self-worth and our net worth. I thought, this is really interesting. The first thing that occurred to me first of all is, is that even true? Is that even true? I was like, is that true? What do I think? But then you were careful in this conversation to define net worth not necessarily just in terms of how much money a person has. Maybe you could be more clear about that and how you’re so sure there’s a connection here between self-worth and net worth.
JZ: Well, net worth is, again, a metaphor for abundance, right? Whatever makes you feel abundant. That can be time in your day. It can be a sense of freedom. It can be joy. It can be the ability to spend your time doing what you want to do each and every day. As someone who lived in scarcity, to be a frank, for a long time, I mean, up until recently, Tami, like a couple of years ago—this shift into abundance, into this experience of abundance, this energy of, wow, my life is really full and rich with blessings didn’t come first. I had to do the inner work—inside job, like I keep saying. And believing that I was deserving of it in the first place, and that I was actually abundant despite what was in my bank account, that I was abundant despite what my schedule looked like, that I could choose a Jessica, inherently had value.
That was really the biggest crossroads moment of my entire life because, yes, my business expanded and I guess I made more money, but I became far more joyful and confident in who I was and accepting that, honestly, not everyone was going to like me. I tried so hard in that scarcity for everyone to like me, and that just created more self-loathing. And so I think that—I say this in my book—self-worth is the cause and net worth is the effect. My book is really a permission slip to let yourself off the hook for trying to please everyone and have it all figured out and to be in the journey of abundance. That was the biggest catalyst between my journey from feeling like I was worthless, to be frank, until I was about 35 years old to now.
It’s not because I have this business and this office and the tools and the team and the product and the sales. No, it’s because I, Jessica, took that first step in deciding that it was me, that I actually had full deservingness to claim whatever I wanted, whatever the vision of my life I wanted. And that took a lot of work. It was a really, really painful journey to be honest. But I’m on the other side and I want to teach other people that it’s possible.
TS: Yeah. And let’s talk more about it because I certainly can appreciate the depth of that transformation, and also the person listening who perhaps has one foot in both worlds. One foot of them is like, “I see my goodness. I see my light. I appreciate myself.” And another part of them is like, “God, I’ve got so many things that are wrong with me. So many reasons I’m actually a worthless piece of you-know-what.” They have both scripts happening as they’re listening to you and they want to move more into this self-worth world, but they have this real script going on in their head about all of the reasons that they’re not as cool and smart as Jessica is.
JZ: If you only saw me a few years ago, Tami. I have a chapter in my book toward the end of the book called “Find Your Edges.” It’s actually my favorite chapter in the book. It’s all about pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone to reach into the far deep edges of life, your life, but also life itself, to really feel your own potential and to scare yourself a little bit, to be frank. Some of those edges—whatever your comfort zone looks like, step out of it. So only you know that. But for me it’s been one of the most transformational parts of this journey of “one foot in, one foot out,” is having people help me. Doing the work and investing in healers and coaches, therapists. And not just people who are going to love me and tell me I’m awesome and that I can do it, but people who are actually going to tell me the truth and give me the feedback and call me out when I’m not being in integrity or playing small, or operating from a place of scarcity.
I mean, I still do it. I don’t certainly have it all figured out. I’m really not that cool. I’m in the journey just as much. That has been instrumental in really getting through that hurdle from one foot in, one foot out. Life is hard. It’s okay to own that and we shouldn’t do it alone. Really I call it my emotional army. I have a support staff. I use them at different times for different reasons at different moments, but that has really been a critical tool and an edge. I call it an edge because it shouldn’t make you comfortable to do that work.
I also think that meditation, I mean, you talk about this often with your work. I think going within, like truly physically going within has been transformational. I’ve really learned to be totally not self-critical when it comes to meditation. I like to sit, I listen to music. As long as I can get into my heart and hear my own thoughts spin—whether that’s sitting in front of my altar, which I go to pretty much every day, or just taking a walk in nature—but really being with yourself, that is a critical part. To be alone, to be in solitude, to have deep, rich, alone time with a capital A. That, I believe, has been a critical tool to give myself the faith that I can fully cross over and that I’m safe, that I’ve got me. And I commune with my angels and spirit guides and have deep, profound conversations and affirmations from them that I’m heading in the right direction.
It’s not all going to be perfect. I certainly take two steps forward, three steps back often. We’re all human-ing. But creating that sacred space for myself as a modality and a practice. And I talk about meditation at a high level in the book in the Edges chapter. [It] has been really, really helpful.
TS: How have you seen, both in yourself and with the people that you work with, this transformation of self-worth manifesting in, as you call it, the effect, the blossoming of net worth, how do you see that connection?
JZ: Oh my gosh, I see it all the time. I have these clients who come to me and they’re thought leaders, they’re experts. They’ve had these incredible stories and careers and they haven’t taken the leap to share themselves. That’s the beauty of SimplyBe., to be honest, like we’ll help build your beautiful website but we’re also going to be your cheerleaders. We’re going to be your partners on that path. I mean it’s unlimited, what I’ve seen our clients do. They get clear. They know they’re worthy of being seen as that person, as that expert, as that thought leader, as that community builder. And then they take the leap, even when they’re scared. We’re all scared. They do it anyway. And then the return is, the ROI is unlimited.
Yes, people will make more money, sure, if that’s a goal. And we can build strategies toward that goal, but it’s the community that they receive. It’s the press that they get. It’s the joy, like I said, in the abundance, in that fulfillment of purpose that they have never experienced before putting themselves out there. I mean, I have some very skeptical people who come through my doors and they take a look at our yellow wall and whatever, me and my blonde hair. Their arms are crossed and their legs are folded and they’re like, “What are you going to do for me?” We really crack people open and give them the wings to fly. It’s every day I see that transformation from self-worth to net worth. Like I said, it’s not just about money. It’s about this experience of being free to be who you are.
TS: I’m very comfortable with you and your beautiful blonde hair. But I think the yellow wall would terrify me, to be honest with you. I know you have a thing for yellow, but I think if I saw a whole bright yellow wall, I’d be like, I need to wear very dark glasses in this room.
JZ: I would so appreciate that. Yellow has a lot of meanings for people. And for me, it represents the sun. It represents light. That’s why I chose it, but I respect it.
TS: Now, you teach people a lot of different techniques to how they can start to animate their personal brand in the world in the book. We’re not going to have time to go into most of them, but let’s just go into one, which is you teach people how to create a Personal Brand Hologram. You mentioned that you like these cosmic metaphors. I like them too. So explain what a Personal Brand Hologram is and how our listeners could start to map that out for themselves.
JZ: Sure. It’s actually the first tool that I teach in the book and at its core it’s a framework. I named it the Hologram because we are not two dimensional projections, but we are three-dimensional beings of light walking through the world. And when you shine light at a hologram, it illuminates. So that’s where the name came from. Branding is an exercise in clarity. If you’re going to remember anything from this podcast about branding and what it means, it’s an exercise in clarity, if nothing else. And at the same time, we’re talking about personal brands, right? People, we don’t have much clarity. We’re complex. In fact, we’re the opposite of clarity. We are dynamic. We are multifaceted. We have 80,000 thoughts a day according to science. We’re very, very dynamic human beings.
And so, how do you reconcile that? How do you reconcile if branding is an exercise in clarity and yet a personal brand—being a person is complex? The Hologram is there to help you do that. What it essentially is, is a circle with four boxes around it and little bullet points inside of those boxes and inside of the circle is what’s called your headline. So Sounds True: waking up the world. That’s your slogan, if you will. And your mission, what’s it for you? If you were to come up with that for you in a series of words or a single word or a statement or a question, what is that? What do you want people to feel, think, know the second they hear your name? And if you can achieve that, then you’ve achieved your 100 yards down the line. You have achieved a high level of clarity.
But those four pillars is really where it gets interesting. So you can’t talk about everything and anything you want anymore if you want to be seen as a clear authority on anything. If you want to be associated with a thing you want to be associated with, you have to tell that story and stick to the script. And so I’ve come up with four different brand pillars. Those are what those four boxes are, essentially the topics you’ll exclusively cover in your messaging. And four is that sweet spot we have found to achieve that clarity while also demonstrating depth. And so those four boxes should include what you do, what your work is, your professional expertise, why people would pay you money, per se, or invest in you, but also who you are and your passions and what makes you interesting and relatable and likable and vulnerable. Those belong in there too.
And then the insights, which are these three to five little bullet points that we’ll extract inside of each pillar, are really where it gets good. It’s about articulating what makes that pillar exclusive to you. Tami and I could both, in fact I bet if I were to do your Hologram, you’d have spirituality somewhere in there. I have spirituality as well. But Tami and Jessica are different people. Tami and Jessica have different DNA. We have different life experiences, we have different ages, we have different parts of the world. So her expression and what makes her spiritual pillar hers is going to look and sound different than mine. So this is really about drilling into your stories, your nuances. What are you for, what are you against? Really looking into what you’ve been through, to be frank, that led you there and why you care so much about that pillar. And that becomes the foundation to your platform and all of the tactical things you’ll then create and share.
And so the Hologram is really, really essential. It’s the foundational tool to any work that we do. And that’s why it’s the first tool in the book because messaging is what will cut through the noise and help you reach the right people, because you don’t need to reach everyone. You just need to reach your right people. And the last thing I’ll say about the Hologram, why I love it, is it doesn’t matter how well you understand your own brand. You’re supposed to. What matters is how well someone else understands your brand, who’s never heard of you before, in less than 30 seconds. The Hologram is there to help you do that.
TS: You mentioned that branding is an exercise in clarity, and I really like, that’s a very clear statement. You also write in the book that content on the internet lost its crown years ago. People used to say “Content Is King.” Clarity, you write, is the new king of the internet with its royal, loyal queen consistency. So what’s the role of the queen consistency with king clarity.
JZ: Here’s another secret. I have a few secrets on personal branding that I’m going to reveal.
TS: That’s right. A big reveal right here.
JZ: You are who you say you are over and over and over and over and over again. Consistency makes you legitimate. If you dabble in to a topic on chakra cleansing for a couple of weeks, you’re not going to be a chakra cleansing expert. If you talk about it every single day in some shape or form, online and offline, for a year or two, people then begin to see you as the go-to chakra cleansing guy or gal. And so consistency has to play a role in that marriage with clarity. You have to know your message. You have to have that razor-sharp, crystal-clear story, and then stay the course if that’s how you really want to build the expert platform that I think a lot of people do.
People expect to grow by dipping in, dipping out and jumping on a podcast and doing six episodes and then spending a month or two on LinkedIn and then wondering where the results are. So you have to really stay the course and stick to the narrative. I can speak from my own experience. All I did was get on the internet back in 2016/17 when I started SimplyBe., and started to talk about personal branding every single day. Whether it was a blog, whether it was an email, whether it was a conversation over coffee at the local coffee house, whether it was an Instagram post, I just talked about this topic in a multitude of ways, but I stayed in that clear course and I was consistent, and that’s how I got clients. That’s how I became the go-to, simply because I kept saying it.
I didn’t call myself an expert. I just started to share my passion and my knowledge, and then the clients came and then the media hits came and somebody else called me an expert, but that’s how it started. It was really just a choice and it was rather simple. Now, it took courage for sure, but it was not that complicated, and that’s really what I want people to take away, among many things, from the book.
TS: Jessica, you mentioned one of the chapters toward the end of the book called “Find Your Edges.” That was also one of my favorite chapters in the book. And perhaps it’s obvious, this show is called Insights at the Edge. I’m interested in exploring my own edges, helping other people explore their edges, and that’s where we’re going to go right now. There was a section that got my attention. Earlier in the book you ask people: Who do you think people are more interested in following on social media? Do you think they’re interested in the OWN Network or Oprah Winfrey? Do you think they’re interested in the Virgin Brands or Richard Branson? And you give several examples, and then you say, of course, people are interested in the people and they’re not interested in the brands. People are more interested in people than a company, than a brand, than an organization.
And I thought to myself, and this is the edgy part, I thought, God, I’m so much more comfortable with people being interested in Sounds True than I am Tami Simon. And I thought, OK, that uncomfortableness is exactly what Jessica is pointing to. I want to hold up Sounds True all the time. I don’t want to hold up myself. I’m a hard working person kind of obscured in the mix. Great, good, wonderful. And I realized that that’s an edge. So I wonder if you can speak to that to me and to that person who says, “I want my organization to lead the way, not me. I don’t want it to be about me.”
JZ: Well, I’ll just tell you a little quick story that Jeff Mack, my audio producer at Sounds True, told me about you. I’d been following Sounds True for years before I got this publishing deal. I had heard of you and I had known of you, but I knew Sounds True if not equally or if not more so. And when I met Jeff, I asked him about you and he told me the story about how you used to go to talks, basically, and you’d stand up at the front row and you’d get your little recorder out and you would get these amazing speakers on audio basically, and that’s how Sounds True started. And you kind of became this go-to person for this. And the growth of Sounds True really stemmed from this organic moment and this organic way of building a business and your deep service—for wanting to bring and democratize this great content to more people.
And as I was getting ready for this interview today, I just I was reflecting on that story and it really caused and created within me an affinity for Sounds True. More so than just seeing the success of Sounds True, hearing the story of where it came from and what an incredibly tenacious young female entrepreneur you were when you started this business. I admire that and I relate to that. This made this interview even more exciting not because of the understanding of this amazing mega publishing house you’ve built but because of where it started. I have just such amazing respect and relatability towards that. No one can tell that story like you. That story is yours. That doesn’t belong to Sounds True and this organization, how it started. And I bet there’s millions of stories, Tami, that you have like that.
And so architecting a message in tandem with the brand, Sounds True, I think can help spread it further and wider and reach more intimately in to people. And so if you’re running an organization and you’re a founder and you’re apprehensive like Tami is, look at your strategy, if you will. Look at your overarching communication plan for the business, and then how can you weave in your face and founder in a way that’s within that strategy, tactically speaking, and cohesively, but also that can leverage more of that connection through storytelling, through thought leadership that, again, only a person can do. And so I would really consider people to put thoughts to their marketing strategy in where they can implement themselves because I guarantee you’ll get a different type of return.
TS: You write close to this section on “Find Your Edges” more about comfort zones. I want to read this part of the book because it moved me. You write, “Comfort zones stand between you and your full potential. Comfort zones prevent you from building your unapologetically, authentic, personal brand. Comfort zones hold you back from making a meaningful difference in the world. The most inspirational people in the world are those who quite simply got uncomfortable.” Getting uncomfortable, it takes courage, yeah. What else does it take? What does it take to be willing to … I mean, of course we want to be comfortable. We want to eat comfort food. We want to have comfortable bedding. I like having a comfortable couch. I mean, it’s pretty obvious the benefits of being comfortable. Help our listeners get uncomfortable.
JZ: I mean, I talk about this in the book. I mean, it’s really kind of looking at something that you feel like you could never do and taking one small step toward it or making it your own. Like in the book, I give an example of how travel has impacted my life. I’m a really adventurous person. I’ve done some crazy stuff. I have pushed myself out of my comfort zone in so many directions across the globe. In the book, I give an example, OK, maybe you’re not willing and ready to go get on an airplane and fly to the Amazon and go deep into the jungle and look at jaguars. Well, what you can do is travel your own city by going out to dinner and having a conversation with a person from a totally different culture and part of the world.
And instead of talking most of the time, listen, learn. Get their vantage point, get their perspective. Open up your eyes. That is a courageous act. That is getting outside of your comfort zone, by being willing to hear and learn a brand new point of view that makes you uncomfortable perhaps. And so, I think it does take courage. I think it takes a little bit of … To me courage and “faking it until you make it” is the same. Like, just go. The more you practice those edges, and they can become more expansive the more you try them, the more that muscle becomes bigger and grows.
I just think that being unafraid to get things wrong and to be willing to risk a little bit of that uncomfortability, whether that’s a physical sense or an emotional sense or a mental sense, but I think if you take a baby step and try out, make it your own. You can definitely use my book as a resource of a handful of different edges. I give the reader how to soften it a bit, but keep leaning in to the edges, keep leaning in to the edges and they become less and less comfortable. It’s in fact, this is personally speaking, but when I feel too comfortable after I’ve pushed myself through enough edges, I know it’s time to push myself even further. So everyone has a different threshold, but I would recommend that you at least take one step and try.
TS: I’ve been talking with Jessica Zweig. She’s the author of the new book Be: A No-Bullsh*t Guide to Increasing Your Self Worth and Net Worth by Simply Being Yourself, a book and an audiobook that show you how to have a personal brand that is built on simply being; being yourself, being who you are, being the authentic you. You’ve inspired me, Jessica, and I know our listeners. Thank you so much.
JZ: Thank you for everything.
TS: Thank you for listening to Insights at the Edge. You can read a full transcript of today’s interview at soundstrue.com/podcast. And if you’re interested, hit the subscribe button in your podcast app. And also if you feel inspired, head to iTunes and leave Insights at the Edge a review. I love getting your feedback, being in connection with you, and learning how we can continue to evolve and improve our program. Working together, I believe we can create a kinder and wiser world. SoundsTrue.com: waking up the world.