Marketing Your Art the Right Way

Selling Art, Not Selling Out

Chris Dessi on Building a Personal Brand, Becoming a Tastemaker, and Defining Success – Cracking Creativity Episode 56

Chris Dessi was fired three times in two years, but that didn’t stop him from building a successful career. Instead of letting those setbacks get him down, he leveraged them into building his own business, writing multiple books, appearing on TV, and running his own summits. In this episode, learn about the power of a personal brand, being a taste maker, and defining success.

Here are three things you can learn from Chris:

Build a personal brand

Building a personal brand is one of the best things you can do to make a name for yourself. Once people recognize you for your thoughts and your work, it becomes easier to get your voice heard. But it’s not always easy.

If you want to build a personal brand, you have to stop taking what’s given to you. Instead, you need to look within yourself to discover what makes you unique, what differentiates you from everyone else. Chris believes we can do this by being introspective. “Building your personal brand is about becoming introspective and not a lot of people become introspective. A lot of people take what’s given to them.”

Building a personal brand is also about defining your goals. “That’s really where the personal branding starts. You need to have a definitive end goal in mind and understand that you have a voice, and then start to play with that.”

Finally, your personal brand is about exploring your curiosity. “If you do anything with fervor and interest and intellectual curiosity, people will start to come back to you and people will become part of your tribe. And if you’re interested in something that scares the hell out of you, at least learn about it.”

Become a tastemaker

Once you’ve built your personal brand, and made yourself known to the world, you have the opportunity to become a tastemaker. Tastemakers are the people you look to for advice and guidance. They’re the ones we turn to when we are looking to make a decision. If you want your voice to be heard, you should aim to be a tastemaker.

Chris believes these people are the ones who make the biggest impact in the world. “It’s the tastemakers, the definitive people that are shaping society, that are shaping thought, shaping businesses, and shaping lives, we’re the ones that do, and go out there and listen to that curiosity and trust their own curiosity and trust that it will lead them to a place that will continue to help them to grow as a business person, as a creative, as a creator, as a human being.”

That’s why Chris thinks we need to stop worrying about our resumes. We need to start worrying about getting our voices heard instead. “Stop tweaking your resume, and create a blog… Don’t worry about the resume, worry about creating your own identity, and then you don’t have to worry about pandering to people to get a job, because other opportunities will come to you, because that system’s broken.”

Define what success means to you

One of my favorite parts of my conversation with Chris was hearing his definition of success. He’s not worried about bringing home the most money or having tons of fans on social media. Instead, he chooses to define success for himself.

The first thing he considers success is doing something that fulfills his curiosity. “If I am doing something that I am being true to myself, that allows me to feel excited, intellectually curious, and fulfilled, and generates revenue, that’s amazing.”

The other thing that defines his success is getting his girls onto the bus in the morning. “I think if I can stick to that, and put my daughters on the bus in the morning, follow things that allow me to continue to be intellectually curious, and things that will potentially generate revenue, I’ll be in a really good spot no matter where I end up, or what I’m doing.”

These two things may not equal success for other people, but they define what success means to Chris. In the end, that’s all that matters. We need to stop letting other people define what success means to us. We need to determine that for ourselves instead.

Shownotes

  • about Chris
    • daughter asking if he was an author
    • CEO of digital marketing company
    • books are his personal journey
    • Remarkable You & Just Like You
      • Remarkable You is about  his personal journey
      • Just Like You born from blog interviews
    • terminated 3 times in 2 years (2007-09)
    • learned how to be cockroach of marketing – learning to survive
    • got offered $250k job from a blog post
  • topic of first blog post
    • talk about what you know and what you’re experiencing
    • loved job he was at, but was there for four years and realized it was time to move on
    • the only people who knew how good he was were his boss and clients
    • bought Harvard Business Review magazine for $15 while traveling
      • read article about the The Fatal Flaw in Pay for Performance (for CEOs)
      • article had nothing to do with his industry
      • when working pay for performance, they are incentive to cook the books
      • worked at a company where they sold cost per acquisition ads
      • issues because affiliates are paid for performance
      • emailed blog post to head hunter and got job
    • people don’t realize how good they are
    • got terminated from VP of Sales job
    • took 3 months off to work with Gary Vaynerchuk
    • bought FacebookShouldHireMe.com
      • rip off of Jamie Varon who bought TwitterShouldHireMe.com
      • sent Gary V a video saying he should hire him
      • got national attention from Fortune
      • took article and brought it with him to Buddy Media
    • being an expert in new apps/tools
      • a little bit like the wild west

16:00 “Being able to blog and being able to flex your intellectual muscles and mapping it against other things that happen outside of your industry is really powerful because you then open yourself up to opportunities that you wouldn’t have previously thought about.”

18:52 “It’s really about owning your skill set and I wasn’t pretending to be a developer, coder, or a designer, or somebody with exceptional creative ability. I knew that I was a sales guy, but I told Facebook why they should hire me and that I was a go getter… and these are the things I was going to bring to the table. It’s about just understanding what you’re good at and seeing that there’s a value for that in your dream company.”

  • his beginnings
    • junior year in college abroad (Belgium)
      • students from around the world learning together
      • realizing there’s a world outside your bubble
    • undergraduate in psychology
      • advanced courses, gave credits to MBA students
      • was getting A’s in his classes
      • ex: psychology behind casinos, tasting Coca Cola under different music situations
      • McDonalds has plastic booths so you don’t stay long
      • dad didn’t want him to change his major, but helped get him into program at NYU in direct marketing
      • internet marketing is direct marketing on steroids
      • worked at TIME, then Mediaplex
      • Mediaplex went public, there was a party at SFMoMA
        • founders were billionaires on paper
        • less than a year later, the stock sold for less than $1
        • dad told him that’s the best thing that could happen to him
        • told him to go on informational interviews, and not let getting laid off get to his head
      • Remarkable You
        • leveraging tech. – people can create their own brand the way they want it to be told
        • opportunities doing things he never could have foreseen
        • getting called to talk on TV, becoming a regular and appearing on CNBC

25:45 “I am eternally resilient to becoming unemployed. I am eternally self-sufficient and I think that’s a really important skill set to have as a 40 year old guy when there’s no reliance on what’s happening in our economy and as things shift, and how our culture has shifted, and how… guys my age that have been working at a company for fifteen years are terrified because their company might go away next year.”

27:44 “I didn’t set out to do that. It was just by virtue of realizing that I can control my destiny. I can leverage these tools to articulate what I’m good at, and I can take the reigns of that without passively being affected by outside variables that I have no control over, that I do have control over my career and my destiny.”

  • building your personal brand
    • you can get Chris’s white paper on defining your personal brand on his website
    • when looking for jobs – people look at job boards
      • only fit for one of them
      • encourages people to try to figure out what they want to do
    • Chris’s Inc. article on passion
    • blogging, posting on LinkedIn, and building a community
    • had foundation in marketing
    • when he got laid off, he took time to learn everything he could about social media
      • learned everything he could and immersed himself in it
    • met Gary V. at Wine Library
      • challenged him, asked what he’s passionate about
      • Chris said he didn’t know, he was all about making money
      • said he was passionate about being a dad
    • started blog Dadzilla TV
      • reviewing childrens’ toys
      • worked with video person in Florida
      • learned how to do social media
    • then went to Buddy Media with his pitch
    • first episode he used a flood light
      • local community built around his video even though he was an amateur
    • social media being perfect for introverts
      • becoming a curator
    • purchase firstnamelastname.com if available
    • talking to Brandon Steiner of Steiner Sports on his podcast
      • started business with $4k and turned it into a multi-million dollar business
      • on passion: “You have to start with understanding and then commitment and then the passion comes.”
      • first learn about it, if you like it, then you become a student of it, then you can build a passion for it
    • TV producer found Chris by searching for “social media guru” but found Chris’s article on calling that title BS
      • saw video Chris did as VP of sales
      • did quarterly report on video
      • thought he was telegenic (looked good on camera)
      • was unknowingly doing things to get himself on TV
      • friend asked about his feeling about someone being fired on Facebook
        • he had already written about it
      • took hypothetical scenarios about fake situations and wrote about them
        • already had pro’s and cons for the situation he was asked about
        • already thought about question before he was even asked to come on TV
        • was in auto-pilot mode

28:48 “Building your personal brand is about becoming introspective and not a lot of people become introspective. A lot of people take what’s given to them.”

29:25 “Think about, what do you want to do? What gets you going? And what excites you? I think following your passion is an overused phrase… I think it’s sort of abused. ‘Oh, I gotta follow my passion.’ Yeah, but that’s not where you start. You gotta think about something you can do that can generate revenue for your family, for yourself, that you can tolerate. You do that, you put in the work. You bust your butt. And once you get past the point of tolerating. Then you say, ‘Okay, now I have a little bit of freedom. So it’s about saying ‘I want to be free. I want to do what inspires me, what allows for me to be intellectually curious. And then, once I become intellectually curious, I need to add my two cents about it.'”

31:20 “That’s really where the personal branding starts. You need to have a definitive end goal in mind and understand that you have a voice, and then start to play with that.”

33:29 “That’s where people should start. Figure out what you’re into, what gets you excited, and generate content around it. Have no fear.”

33:59 “If you do anything with fervor and interest and intellectual curiosity, people will start to come back to you and people will become part of your tribe. And if you’re interested in something that scares the hell out of you, at least learn about it.”

35:21 “This is why I say that passion gets people into trouble… If you don’t know what you’re talking about, you’re going to get yourself in a lot of trouble.”

  • the journey vs. instant success
    • Westchester Digital Summit – online only next year
    • bought 67 domains for digital summit
    • lost $17k of his own money for first summit, second summit made $3k, third summit lost $3k
    • asked himself why he’s doing it if he’s not making any money
    • journey, branding, network, and people were great, but it wasn’t working
    • making it online and free
    • mention Chris Dessi at Bookinabox
    • writing two books at once, and the the brutality of doing it, but having a sense of accomplishment too

42:48 “The journey can be a blast. It can be fruitful. Sometimes the journey can be a dead end, but you’re going to pick up some learning and you’re going to pivot.”

44:21 “There’s an infinite joy in being in the process and seeing whether you can do it or not.”

  • talks about everything in his books

“I talk about the brutal, ugly, honest, truth. It’s not be popping bottles… It’s about the sludge and the response has been astronomical. I encourage everyone that’s listening, that if you’re a struggling artist. If you are just starting out building your personal brand. If you’re just starting out selling your artwork, your photography, your design work, or you’re a freelancer or you’re anything along those lines, be as transparent as is comfortable to you because we’re all human beings. We’re all looking for connection, a deeper connection and when you posture and you are full of bravado, and you’re not being true to yourself, to your core, people sniff it out 100 miles away, and it’s never going to work. But if you’re normal, and you are who you are… the beautiful things that come afterword are disarming.”

  • luck vs. serendipity
    • talking to his mother about his interview
      • preparing for the interview in the evening, but also for his entire life
      • you create your own luck
    • story about Picasso creating expensive drawing for woman
      • took his whole life to make it
  • valuing our work
    • Oren Klaff in his book: Just Like You
      • wrote a book called Pitch Anything
      • being valued for your time, work, and energy
      • why you need to value your work vs. begging people to buy from you

“You really need to define parameters for your time and your effort, and to hold yourself in high enough regard to ask for payment for your work. You should be paid for your good work.”

  • doing good work and being an active member of the community you’re in
    • having no fear when he was learning social media
    • not knowing who the players are
    • Fred Wilson’s blog AVC
      • leaving a comment on his blog and getting a response for the thoughtfulness of it
    • reaching out to people smarter than you
    • that’s how he wrote Just Like You
    • talking to speakers at Westchester Digital Summit after their talks
    • David Kidder’s The Startup Playbook
    • didn’t set out to right book, he wanted to learn from people that inspired and challenged him
    • when you are curious, magical things happen
    • starting a dialogue with people you learn from
    • learning from each other instead of thinking you know it all
    • starting my podcast because I wanted to learn from other creatives
    • everything can be accomplished in different ways

“When you’re in an environment where you’re learning, or you’re in a community, it’s not just about look at me, look at how good I am. It’s about listening and it’s about learning, and it’s about being an active participant in that community.”

  • Inc.com articles on the word toxic
    • multiple perspectives being a good thing
    • wanting the answers to the test and not getting them
    • no one is going to tell you what the questions or answers are, you have to figure them out for yourself
    • find out what you are passionate about, what gets your blood going, what makes you curious, etc.
    • former guest Mark Guay talking about education and the Industrial Age
    • teaching methods are outdated

“It’s the taste makers, the definitive people that are shaping society, that are shaping thought, shaping businesses, and shaping lives, we’re the ones that do, and go out there and listen to that curiosity and trust their own curiosity and trust that it will lead them to a place that will continue to help them to grow as a business person, as a creative, as a creator, as a human being.”

“Stop tweaking your resume, and create a blog… Don’t worry about the resume, worry about creating your own identity, and then you don’t have to worry about pandering to people to get a job, because other opportunities will come to you, because that system’s broken.”

  • Remarkable You podcast
    • 300 executives who were fired from ESPN are screwed because there’s no other ESPN
    • they were let go because the business model for ESPN is changing, younger generations are watching from their devices instead of their TVs
    • Chris has been reinventing himself every day for the past 15 years
    • Gary Vaynerchuk uses social media because it works, because he’s a marketer and a salesman
    • Gary V. would be the expert in almost everything he does
    • find the spots you can be good at
    • the platform that’s best for you might not be the best for someone else
    • working with a team to leverage your strengths and someone else’s strengths to your weaknesses
    • Gary starting with Wine Library before building the success of Vayner Media
    • Gary also worked with younger people who would run through a wall for him
    • Chris’s dad quitting his job 2 weeks after getting job offer because he got an offer from a job he liked more

“Figure out what you’re good at, and go for it full boar.”

“When you go to college, when you go to university, you’re taught the corporate mindset. You’re not taught to be an entrepreneur… Universities don’t teach that. They don’t teach to be independent and build your personal brand which is why I go to universities and talk to universities.”

  • Chris’s plans for the future
    • scary and exciting question
    • he doesn’t know and likes to keep it that way
    • his vision begins with putting his daughter on the bus in the morning
    • talking, being on TV, being a good writer, and knowing what people are looking for are Chris’s strengths
    • if you don’t like what you’re doing, figure out how to change it
    • not enough people allow themselves to make that a priority
    • realized that if he wanted to do good work and be there for his family, he had to go to bed earlier
    • how he changed his routine to meditate, write in the morning, and be with his children
    • hustle does not mean exhaustion

“If I am doing something that I am being true to myself, that allows me to feel excited, intellectually curious, and fulfilled, and generates revenue, that’s amazing.”

“Every time, in my life and my career, that I’ve tried to say ‘I’m going to become that’ it backfires. When I find something that gets my juices flowing, and I say… “That’s a ridiculous goal, I’m going to go for it,” then it works.”

“I think if I can stick to that, and put my daughters on the bus in the morning, follow things that allow me to continue to be intellectually curious, and things that will potentially generate revenue, I’ll be in a really good spot no matter where I end up, or what I’m doing.”

“I will not let anything get in the way of my workouts. I will not let anything get in the way of my meditation, and the way that I do that is I tack on an extra day a week, and it’s a dirty little secret, but I get up at 5 AM every morning.”

“Hustle does not equate exhaustion. Hustle equates performing at your optimal level in an optimal way, and the only way that you can do that is when you’re eating right, when your body is healthful, when you’re getting enough sleep, and you are surrounded by people that love and support you, and you are focused on them and loving and supporting them and giving back to them and having definitive, deep relationships with them.”

  • Brandon Steiner on his podcast
    • talking about a sales book from 1905, and it had all the same basic fundamentals as we try to follow today: live healthfully, be part of a supportive community, get enough sleep, exercise every day, etc.
    • principles seem intuitive, but they aren’t, espically for entrepreneurs
    • not much has changed in the thousands of years people have been around
    • The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday – Ryan’s perspective on Roman Marcus Aurelius and dealing with the same struggles we have
    • using the lessons of people who’ve come before you instead of trying to figure it all out yourself
    • taking care of yourself is seen as begin weak

“Understanding The Obstacle is the Way, understanding we’re all human beings, and we all have limitations, and we all need to take care of our ourselves, and we all need to take care of each other is profound.”

  • favorite quote
    • Jeff Pearlman – NYT best-selling sports biographer – blog The Quaz
    • interviewed Chris’s dad, where they talked about his life
    • creating a life for himself and having ALS
    • asked Chris’s dad – Do you ever have a ‘Why is this happening to me moment?’
    • translated the quote into Italian
    • father faced death in the eye, and didn’t let his diseas affect his relationships

“I’m not dying today and I’m not dying tomorrow, so fuck you. I don’t have time for this shit.” – Chris’s dad

  • morning routine
    • starts working at dining room table and writes
    • finds time to meditate
    • plays with girls
    • hangs out with daughter, and takes her to bus stop then heads to work
    • the importance of getting stuff done in the early morning
  • books, podcasts, documentaries, etc.
    • listens to audio books while driving
    • comes in to work with a bunch of ideas
    • Ready Player One – only fiction book he’s read/listened to
    • writes nuggets about non-fiction books
    • doesn’t recommend anything specific because everyone learns differently
    • Pitch Anything – listens to it frequently
    • Eckhart Tolle books
    • The Secret by Rhonda Byrne
    • Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
    • being moved and motivated

48:04 “You need to read and you need to learn. If you don’t have time or feel like ‘I don’t have time to sit down and read’ or you’re not a good reader… download Audible.com. Download audio books. And it’s a game changer.”

49:04 “Immerse yourself in everything you can get your grubby hands on.”

50:00 “Allowing for yourself to learn, I think, is hugely compelling.”

  • creative people
    • Gary Vaynerchuk
    • David Kidder – challenges you to talk to the smartest people you know to solve big problems
    • Dan Harris – wrote 10% Happier
      • having nervous breakdown on Today Show
      • power of the brain and quieting our brain to get into flow
      • old school world of media but talks about new school subject
  • definition of creativity
    • third listen of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic

56:09 “I think being creative is more about being brave to allow yourself to be true to what gets you going… because I don’t consider myself a creative person… however, I think after listening to Elizabeth Gilbert articulate Big Magic and creative living beyond fear, I think I am a lot more creative than I’ve ever given myself credit for. And being able to put forth ideas in the form of books, or podcasts, or television, or tweeting, or engaging. That’s creativity at it’s core… It’s about allowing ourselves to share ourselves with other human beings bravely and with transparency.”

ChrisDessi.com  |  Twitter  |  Instagram  |  chrisdessi@silverbacksocial.com

"DON'T MISS AN EPISODE"
Receive email updates for the latest podcast releases!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

*