Hey Penguin Week of September 7

Going from zero to one. Personal branding by a brilliant blogger. Thoughts on wisdom. A preview of my conversation with Deepu Asok.

First, one must determine precisely “what-and-what do I wish to say and present,” before you may write. Writing must be mimicry.

- Friedrich Nietzsche


Welcome to this week’s edition of Hey Penguin.

New? Here’s what to expect.

  • Previews of my upcoming podcast episodes

  • A section dedicated to my community of unstuck creatives

  • Thoughts on art, writing, and content creation

  • Tips for staying creative without burning out

  • Real world examples of great personal branding

  • Any interesting and useful things I’ve read and heard lately

From the community

My buddy and future podcast guest Deepu Asok released his new podcast. It’s called The Happiness Hypothesis. Here’s a preview.

I talked to Deepu for more than two hours on an upcoming episode of The Penguin Latte Podcast. He’s grounded, humble, and incredibly well-spoken. Deepu is going to be an excellent podcast host. He’s also got a keen eye for designs that pop. Keep an eye (ear?) out for his show. I can tell it’s going to make waves. Good work, Deepu.

New from Paul

Speaking of Deepu Asok…

Here’s a preview of my upcoming conversation with the aforementioned Deepu Asok. Deepu is also the creator of the Visual Wisdom newsletter. (Missed the trailer? Watch it here).

Zero to one

Three weeks ago, I started my personal brand consulting business.

Three weeks went by. Nobody responded.

But on Wednesday, September 2nd, I woke up to an email from a career coach. They scheduled a 60 minute consultation through my Calendly site. It took three weeks, but I went from zero emails to one email. And today, I woke up to another email. So, if I’ve got my math(s) right, that’s zero to one and one to two in three weeks and two days.

How did I get to this point?

I went online. I got to know people.

I got to know people by first getting to know myself. What am I into? What do I like to do? What weird stuff can I bring to the table?


I have no template. Only a few recommendations.

Go online. Start talking to people. Use mediums and formats and tools that let you speak about the things you’re curious about.

Start a blog. But not just any blog. Start your blog. About the things you’re obsessed with.

Start a podcast. But not just any podcast. A podcast where you get to talk about the things you could talk about for 20 hours straight.

This is the first business I’ve started. I’m experiencing the whole smorgasbord of doubt, impostor syndrome, and an enthusiasm to deliver beyond expectations (which I need to organize into something concrete to provide my clients.) But all these thoughts and feelings come prepackaged when you take these plunges into the unknown.

Which brings me to…

Wisdom as a commodity

I’m all for understanding ourselves. I love seeing practical tips on how to run successful businesses and projects that make an impact. But is anyone else getting tired of Tweets of Wisdom? Tweets like, “If you want to be X, you shouldn’t do just X, you should do X and W and Q.”

(I know I’m being hypocritical. I once tweeted, “don’t start a podcast…start a movement. Don’t start a blog…start a community.”)

Harry Dry of Marketing Examples tells us, “wow them on the platform they're already using. Or get ignored. “

The reason why I enjoy seeing my friends starting their own creative projects is because they’re not spending time trying to force their way into enlightenment. And they’re not trying to force anyone else into enlightenment either. No, they’re taking the real (and least sexy) path to enlightenment. They’re stepping into the unknown. They’re making things that have no template.

Ultimately, making things that have no template is what matters most. If there’s a template, if someone can figure out what you’re doing by looking it up in an instruction manual, you’re never going to stand out among the thousands of others in your field.

Which brings me to…

Great Personal Branding: Julian.digital

I want to introduce you to Julian.

Julian is from Berlin. He currently works at Stripe. In his spare time, he likes to write about technology, the quantified self, books, productivity, and other things that make our lives better.

This is Julian’s blog. It’s utterly fantastic. I’ll point out my favorite aspects and why they work.

The first thing I noticed is that every link is highlighted.

Look at this link: (Link) See how boring that it is? We’ve all seen underlines before. But how many of us have seen links that pop out like book highlights? Brilliant.

But what the hell do highlighted links have to do with personal branding?

Think about why we highlight our books. Highlighted sentences are like hyperlinks to behaviors we want to change or habits we want to start. So he’s got the psychological component down. What also makes this so brilliant is that the color matches the color scheme of his website. Perfect synchronicity of design elements.

The next thing I noticed is are the different typefaces. Digital + handwritten.

This makes it feel as if I’m reading from a friend’s notebook. And it adds to the casual yet professional mood of his website.

Personal branding is about how your audience feels after engaging with our work. It’s about how they talk about us behind our backs. I don’t know Julian personally. But I get this sense that he’s friendly around everyone he interacts with. And that he’s able to get things done effectively without taking himself and his work too seriously.

The final thing I love about Julian’s work is his writing. His writing reflects everything we’ve covered so far. I imagine the way he writes is similar to the way he speaks. Clear, direct, and cuts to the chase while combing through the little details. He never wavers from his subject matter. And I can tell that he enjoys what he writes about.

One of the most important aspects of personal branding is using the medium to express yourself. Expressing yourself means sharing your thoughts on matters that matter to you. That’s it. Sharing your thoughts could mean painting, or coaching, or mentoring. You have these thoughts. Why not share them with others, everyday, for the rest of your life? Do that well, and you’ll have built a great personal brand.

Speaking of writing…

Why should we write?

Last Saturday, I put out a blog post about how a life well lived reflects good writing. But there’s something else I want to talk to you about that I didn’t mention in that post.

I want to talk to you about going viral. I’ve been seeing a lot of “How I got to the front-page of (popular website)” posts lately. Getting to the front page of Reddit is nice. I’m sure that feels great. And if you’re writing something that’s useful and thoughtful, then it’s wonderful that you’ve been given a chance to help out a lot of people.

But going viral is a byproduct. It’s not the point of writing.

The point of writing is to solve problems.

And the most important problem for any writer is: how can I turn my experience into writing?

Simple. Start writing.

But like anything simple, it’s not easy.

This is one of those simple answers that’s hard to execute consistently. It’s why many people choose not to write.

The least important problem for any writer is: how can I write something that gets a million likes and retweets? (Oh, and throw in a million bucks too while you’re at it.)

A lot of people have solved the problem of how to go viral. Which must mean that the answer is easy to execute. If a lot of people can get results with a particular method, then it must be easy, right? Go on Indiehackers and I’m sure that within seconds, you’ll find a post about how someone went viral on a popular website.

Perhaps many of these writers-gone-viral were intent on going viral. There’s nothing wrong with that. Popular things help out a lot of people. Can you imagine what life would be like without toilet paper?

Popular articles are popular because they check off the popular boxes.

Please, don’t throw your laptop out the window if you haven’t yet written anything that made the front page of the Internet.

Instead, ask yourself which boxes you’re checking off.


If you have any suggestions on how to make this newsletter better, or if you just want to say hey, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter. I’d love to hear from you.