I was a woman on a plane.

Sitting alone. Feeling alone. Being alone.

I was headed to Jamaica for the very first time, not to bask in the sun and sip margaritas, but to immerse myself in a global conference of 350+ entrepreneurs from across the globe who were all impacting the world in a big way.

I knew nobody.

As I stepped off the plane in Montego Bay, I felt a swirl of anxiety. Who would I run into first? What would I say about myself? What would I ask them? Do I belong here?

I quickly learned that this was a radically inclusive and loving group of people, who were less interested in what I did and more interested in who I was.

Not the shiny, PR-backed version of myself. Not the girl who has successfully run two companies and traveled the world for a billion dollar corporation. Not the girl who has been lauded a “Snapchat expert,” a “personal branding pro,” “a social media maven,” and a Top Digital Marketer to Watch according to INC. No one gave a shit about any of that.

(To be honest, after A-Fest, I care way less about that, too.)

Doe-eyed me...on my first night of A-Fest.

Doe-eyed me...on my first night of A-Fest.



People connected with my authentic self, and I connected with theirs.

Which got me thinking about personal branding in a totally new light.

At SimplyBe, we help define, polish, and strategize our clients’ personal brands to make them stand out from the noise. Nine times out of ten, the content that strikes the biggest nerve with any of their audiences is the content that is the most raw, real, and vulnerable.

A great example of this is Glennon Doyle Melton. (To be clear, not a client. Just a woman whose personal brand I greatly admire.) Glennon’s built a following of millions, written NYT best-selling books and has become part of Oprah’s Super Soul 100. All under the premise of one thing: telling her truth. Her gloriously messy and beautiful truth.

I am not saying that in order to build a personal brand you have to emotionally vomit your problems all over the Internet. Quite the opposite. You do have to be intentional, consistent, constant, clear, and always of value (aka, strategic.) But you can’t avoid being you. That’s what people find the most compelling. That’s what turns a follower into a true fan, a fan into a supporter, a supporter into an advocate, and an advocate into a genuine connection.

And building genuine connections is the real ROI of having a super strong, clear, and authentic personal brand. After all, we don’t do business with products, logos, or letterheads. We do business with people.

Since coming home from A-Fest, my perspective on my business, my clients, and my own personal brand has radically shifted. I took home so many lessons, learnings, moments, and experiences from Jamaica, and in true “value-mindset” spirit, I am sharing them with you today. I have broken down 15 steps (one for every day!) to practice.

Some of these are simple little thought prompts, some will require you to get out a pen and paper and start journaling, some provide a link with more info, and some might seem absolutely ludacris. That’s good. We find our true selves not in the cozy confines of our comfort zones, but when we stretch beyond our limiting beliefs of ourselves and the world around us.

I hope they move you closer to you.

Your real personal brand is waiting.


Switch out your elevator pitch for your S.N.A.A.P.

Lisa Nichols was one of A-Fest’s keynote speakers (she’s also a MindValley master trainer) and introduced us to the concept of the SNAAP: superior networking at an accelerated pace. The SNAAP reverse-engineers your elevator pitch, since most people are less interested in your process and more interested in your results.

I’ll use myself as an example. Traditionally, I would say: “Hi, I’m Jessica. I’m the founder of SimplyBe. We’re a personal branding agency based in Chicago. We help our clients, who include execs, entrepreneurs, artists, creatives, restaurateurs, and politicians become thought leaders by helping them build their personal brand identity, creating a strategy to reach their ideal audience, and support their needs through execution like blogging and ghostwriting, social media management, strategic partnerships, pitching them to speak, etc…” Are you bored yet? I am.

Now, here’s my SNAAP: “Hi, I’m Jessica, founder of personal branding firm SimplyBe. As a result of my work, my clients become magnets. Magnets for audience, revenue, speakings, sponsorships, and partnerships. I work with leaders across all industries looking to take their expertise out of obscurity and become thought leaders. Do you know anyone who’s looking to uplevel their brand to make a bigger impact on the world?” Oh, snap! (Thank you, Lisa!!)

Wim Hof (the "Ice Man") with Jim Kwik

Wim Hof (the "Ice Man") with Jim Kwik


Take an ice bath

As I did with Wim Hof, aka the Iceman. (You can catch the video here.) It sounds crazy, but never have I ever felt so alive inside my body and ready to attack the day. It came from learning that I am in control of my breath, my mindset, and my life. Take the plunge.

Become a music snob.

Find the music that you feel, not just hear. I took international DJ David Block’s workshop on the consciousness of sound and learned that the music we listen to physiologically changes our vibration. Get into a state that makes you feel your most “you” by listening to the right tunes.

Flow baby, flow.

Take Steven Kotler’s Flow Genome Project test to discover how you personally get into the flow the easiest. When you’re in a state of flow, only your most authentic self emerges.

Flow everyone, flow.

Find flow-inducing activities within your company, which leads to better productivity and more joy. Work in 20-minute sprints of hyper connectedness, disconnect to have time to play, take your team meeting outside in nature, etc. Hack flow with little practices that uplevel a sense of harmony and ease, and see how your team (and company) expands.

Our mind doesn’t learn by consumption. Our mind learns by creation.

If you really want your brain to grow, step away from the computer, the SmartPhone, the TV, and even the book. Start moving your body, playing, doing, teaching and creating.

Learning is state-dependent.

Think about that book on your nightstand. You know, the one you’ve been reading for three months. You pick it up at 10pm to help you relax before you doze off to sleep. How much of that book do you retain? Probably not much. Because you’re in a state of preparing to sleep. This applies to all learning. When you want to absorb information, make sure you are in an awakened and aware state.  

Behavior is belief-driven.

Believe you can, and you will.


Hugging someone can change your entire life.

Forget the handshakes. (It’s flu season anyway.) Hug the next person you meet, even if it’s awkward.

Remember that we live in Star Trek. Not Hunger Games.

Stay in a state of constant wonder and awe, with respect for all who inhabit this weird, beautiful world. Remember that we are all the same. And that there is enough to go around.

Find your tribe.

Practice making direct eye-contact with people and holding it. Yes, this is awkward because we don’t do it enough. Do it anyway.

Tell your most vulnerable truth to a stranger.

One of the most compelling conversations at A-Fest was with an incredible guy from New York. He shared with me how he spent eight years of his life trying to become an FBI agent, and only through a chain of events outside his control, did he get denied. He joked that his spirit animal was the jellyfish, as he’s felt like he’s been floating most of his life. This touched my heart and endeared him to me forever. That’s the power of the truth. Don’t be afraid to share yours and hold space for others when they give you that honor.

Compliment someone.

If you’ve ever been complimented out of the blue, you know how good it feels. At A-Fest, I was given a preview of what the world could be like if we were all nice to each other. It takes such little energy to tell someone you see them, that they’re doing a good job, that they’re smart, that you like their sweater, etc. Make it a goal to compliment someone everyday for a month, and see how good it feels to make someone else shine.

Trade your cleverness for bewilderment.

If you’re an entrepreneur, your brain leads more than your heart. We gather information. We tell others what to do (and sometimes how to do it). Instead of “knowing” everything, allow yourself to feel bewildered. By nature. By the guy next to you. By shit you don’t know. By the miracle that we’re all glued to this orb of an earth by something called gravity. Step outside of your comfort zone and be, think, do, and feel something completely unexpected.

Download the Quests App.

I know, I know. Who was time for another app? This one, you do. If daily personal growth is one of your goals for 2018, look no further. Quests is a global learning platform where you can master skills with some of the world’s leading experts. From meditation, fitness, public speaking to speed learning or removing sugar from your diet, there’s something here for everyone to master.

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