How to Find Your Freaks – An Interview with Chris Brogan

Chris-Brogan-Pinterest-2014Do consider yourself a freak? Do you know how to find other freaks like you? Do you know how to let your true passion and personality shine through to make a business out of it?

If not, then you’re not alone. A lot of small businesses don’t truly know how to “find themselves” and their desired audience. By finding and connecting with your desired audience you can find something you love to do while serving people with the same mindset.

This week, we freak it up with best-selling author, business strategist, and public speaker Chris Brogan, to learn more about how to let out our inner freaks and embrace what makes us special.

Big Ideas:

Chris Brogan, are you a freak?

  • Oh my gosh. I am the freakiest freak. I mean, think about it. I get paid thousands and thousands and thousands to stand on a stage and ultimately talk about pee and poop.
  • I’m definitely a freak. Freaks are people who sort of have tattoo level passion about the things that they’re into. They’re obsessed and they want to work with the people they want to work with on the things that they want to work on and really do it their own way.
  • There are freaks in all styles and sizes of business. They’re the people that really just want to do the most amazing job for themselves.

It seems lately that for the freaks, nerds, and geeks, that our time has finally come…that people are finally coming around to our way of thinking. Do you feel the same way?

  • I saw a kid walking down the street the other day with a Legend of Zelda hoodie and all I was thinking was the fact that you can just buy those at Hot Topic continues to blow my mind. Like, that there’s a mall place that you can get nerd video game clothes pretty easy – that’s not hard to get – and then I was thinking if I wore a Legend of Zelda anything in my day, I’d get beat up! No question.
  • I got beat up once, this one kid, Keith, beat me up in 8th grade, winter time. I get smashed into snow bank. My nose is bloody. He takes my musical instrument and smashes it on the ground and I’m like, “what the hell? Why did you? What the hell’s going on?” And I was a pretty big guy and everyone always thought I was really tough but I wasn’t really into fighting much until then. I said, “why did you break my instrument?” and he said, “because you play clarinet.”
  • I was like, “what? You’re mad at what instrument I play?” and he goes, “yeah, it’s a queer instrument and don’t be a queer.” And I’m like, “oh…okay.” So I take my clarinet home and I’m crying at my mom and I’m like, “ahhh, I can’t play clarinet anymore. It’s queer. I need to play saxophone.” Never in my mind did I not think I should be in band. Like, that I wouldn’t get beat up again just for being in band because he really very specifically said it was the instrument.
  • Yeah, I needed a “manstrument.” So, like Bill Clinton and sax. Literally, I grew up the same way you did. I was playing Dungeons & Dragons with all my friends but we would never talk about it at school.
  • This one kid, Chris, I remember it so vividly. I was very much on the outside of my school and these football guys were standing right next to me and he comes running up and is like, “dude, I just thought of the coolest thing I could do with my ranger character.” I was like, “who are you?” I totally rolled over. I in no way owned my relationship with this kid. They immediately stuffed him in a locker beside me and I did nothing because who would?
  • I remember pulling him out of the locker and he sort of just kept going. “Yeah, you know what I was thinking was what if you could be half elf?” I was like, “dude, they just smashed you into a locker! That doesn’t blow your mind?” and he’s like, “oh, that just happens. It’s whatever. I’ll just kill them later.”
  • I thought, “okay, two things come from this. One, always be friends with this kid so he won’t kill me. Two, don’t talk about Dungeons & Dragons at school.”
  • So, you’re totally right. The world has changed. I mean, Dungeons & Dragons is cool. If I played it in Brooklyn, I would probably be a hipster for doing it.
  • But the thing is, that alone doesn’t make anybody any money. What I kind of lay out in the book a little bit is that there’s plenty of weirdos who still live in their mom’s basement, but there’s this magic trick you can do if you are freakish in a way that’s useful to anybody else or that connects with some other methods then you can actually make business from it.
  • It’s not that everyone has to have face piercings and this is certainly not a kids business and it’s certainly not for small versus big. It’s just all about this real opportunity to do good stuff.

So, I’m reading your book and it seems that it’s geared towards helping people who are creative, on the outside, or have amazing ideas, and tells them how they can take those skills or ideas and run a business so they can make money off of it. Would you say that’s true?

  • That really is the deal. What I’m really trying to get done is I’m saying to people is it’s not enough just to be a weirdo and I’m also saying this isn’t just a weirdo’s game.
  • The strangest thing happened after this book came out is that California’s leading trial attorney said to me, “I’m totally a freak.”
  • These two CPAs who do a podcast for accountants said, “We’re freaks. We love this book.”
  • This guy just the other day wrote me and he’s a dentist and he’s like, “oh, I love this book. I’m such a freak.”
  • I just didn’t expect that. I didn’t expect main street America, shingle on the door kind of people, to be the first people to go nutty.
  • I expected rock ’n rollers, face-pierced people, and whatever, but it’s really true. The other thing is that there’s a lot of books on entrepreneurship out there, but they’re written for people that kind of wanted to go to Harvard but didn’t.
  • This book isn’t that. This book is for people who have got their hands in it. I put my email address all through the book with the very intention that people would write me and I’m getting a lot of that.
  • I met a guy who runs a flooring company and he says, “I’m only part way through your book, but I had just thrown in the towel on my business because I just couldn’t make it work. I couldn’t make enough money off of it. So instead I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to do this and then your book comes along and you kind of laid it out to me. I’ve gotta go find the kinds of people I want to do business with and then it’ll work a lot better.” I said, “well, merry Christmas and that’s the plan.”

Do you have any advice or tips on how we can connect with our own freaks? How do we find people who are as passionate about what we’re talking about as we are?

  • I’d say the very first thing to note is the reason why there’s bats all over the cover of the book is because I couldn’t get DC Comics to let me put a bat signal on because that would be even better.
  • All these new tools we have and these abilities to do things like blogs, newsletters, podcasts like this one, and that sort of thing, all allow us the opportunity to connect with the people who are like us. People who would hear something and go, “oh, I really definitely have some sort of connection with what this brings up in me,” will then want to do business with you.
  • For instance, R.J. Diaz runs this company called Industry Portage. It’s accessories and stuff for guys, so for instance – duffel bags, messenger bags, and stuff like that. He’s in the construction and architect industry and that sort of thing. His things are kind of rugged looking and have this kind of nice, I don’t know, Brooklyn people would love him kind of look, and (I’ve picked on them twice in one day) I would say that he’s done a great job.
  • When he writes his blog post and whatever, he’s appealing to those kinds of people – the kind of people who like Gentle Mint, which is like Pinterest for dudes, would be his crowd.
  • I think you start to find the community where you feel comfortable. Reebok did it by connecting with CrossFit and they have a huge partnership and they also did it by connecting with the Spartan Race. They created shoes. The all-terrain series is made for endurance people doing these obstacle course races. So then they said, “how do we serve you?” So they found a community where they felt like could serve and then they brought their offerings to them.
  • To me that’s the big opportunity. It’s a matter of then crowing to them and talking to them and saying to people, “here’s what I’m into. Because I think you’re into it to, what do you think?” I guess that’s where the big opportunity comes. We go a little wrong there too because we worry about talking about ourselves too much.

How do we know that people will be attracted to our message? At what point do we need to find that balance between what I want to talk about and what you want to hear?

  • It’s definitely a matter of you will lose some people along the way.
  • Let me give it to you in a really straight and personal way. My business, a good chunk of my business, is professional speaking. I charge quite a lot of money to have people have me come and stand on their stage. The people who can afford me are mostly big companies. So, if I wrote a book like my friend John Chance called Duct Tape Selling: Think Like a Marketer, Sell Like a Superstar, Cisco System goes, “I need him at our sales meeting.” Ford says, “I need him at our sales meeting.”
  • I basically wrote a book called “This Book is for a Bunch of Weirdos.” I wrote a book that says no corporation should immediately think to hire me and I’m going to have to really sell it. So I very intentionally made a book that tells the big guys, “you probably shouldn’t hire this guy for speeches.”
  • My first point to you is you will lose some of your clientele when you really announce who you’re gonna work with.
  • Here’s the game – the game is you must find the people that you can serve and you must make sure they know who you are. By the way, when you make an announcement like this you should be smart and have a little extra money for when the money drops off the floor and you don’t notice that’s going to happen. I did not do that and ouch…financial ouch.
  • That said, what I learned is next time don’t do that. What I learned is that when you start find the people you love to serve they will start finding you in this incredible, strange, magnetic way. This takes work. There’s no part of this that’s “just sit there and life’s gonna be fine.”
  • Here’s the deal. In the last three days I’ve closed business that I’ve never thought I would close with people I really want to work with – a brain surgeon and his wife, a guy who is a sports medicine professional for a professional football team, a whole bunch of really interesting, very successful in their own little niche kind of people who are not the kind of people who should work with Chris Brogan.
  • A guy who was in a tug of war with the U.S. military between the military groups who wanted to keep the military huge and this guy who’s part of this tribal doctrine that wanted to make it small. Who is written up in several government documents good and bad who had a great time talking with me because we had a mutual friend in Steven Pressfield. All that’s happened since my declaring exactly who I want to do business with.
  • Believe me. I would love Sony and all those guys who’ve spent money on me in the past to call me up and say, “we’ve got a bag of money with your name on it here, can you come deliver value?” But I’ll tell you. The magic trick, the beauty of everything that I’ve been doing is that I found exactly who I need to do business with, Rich Brooks. That’s priceless.

When you say you’re working with these people. Do you mean you’re consulting these people that you mentioned?

  • No, I did something even crazier. I started a super small private mastermind group. The goal is not to make me the center of this gooey thing. It’s that all of these people contribute.
  • My brain surgeon talks to my other friend who’s a lap band surgeon. The person who is doing the sports thing talks to other people in the group that have a fitness mindset. We all sort of work cross-pollination with each other on any of our business challenges. Because if all they had to count on was my brains that’s pretty finite.
  • We quite literally developed a brain trust. Two dozen or so in there and it’s just growing a little bit a time because I have some requirements. One is that I’ve had to spend some time with you in person and all that. In that process that little tiny brain trust I’ve built this business that’s a lot of high energy. There’s a lot more work to it. We don’t built it and then pay no attention to it.
  • It’s just ridiculously rewarding. The experience I’m having in there is very different than “let me help you build a webinar to get some leads.” It just goes so much deeper at all levels. So, I’ve been having the time of my life with this mastermind group and along the way I’m building other stuff that will help the people who aren’t the right fit for that kind of group so that I can still deliver value there, but still the whole way through serving freaks.

And this has all come about from this book and basically you planting your flag in the ground and saying, ‘this is who I am. This is my type of freakiness” and then through the nature of the universe people have been drawn to you?

  • No question. I asked a few smart people. It’s really funny because just sort of watching Twitter as a background noise while you and I are talking their names are both side-by-side in my stream. So, Kamal Ravikant who wrote a book called Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It, who’s done a lot of investing and startup type projects and things like that. Fascinating guy and looks like an anime character. James Altucher, who’s known for having done a lot of interesting business deals, and made and lost a hundred million bucks a couple of times over and that sort of thing.
  • I asked them questions like, “listen, I don’t really seek advice from very many people because it’s usually horrible advice but I think both of you are weird enough to give me the right advice.” And they said exactly the same things. They said, “just go with this. Go as deep as you can with this because it’s going to make your world better.”
  • I’ll tell you that it’s been a magical thing because pursuing exactly what the premise is of the book. If I boiled the entire ocean there’s three things.
  • Number one, business is about belonging. Find the kinds of people you want to serve and serve them deeply.
  • Number two, the manchu is the media. Manchu is an Okinawan word and it means “one family.” It’s sort of the people that you would choose as your family versus the people you just get as a family. It doesn’t mean your client base. It doesn’t mean your peers or your mentors. It’s the people that you’d most want to see succeed in life no matter what format.
  • So the manchu is the media is saying make all your storytelling about the people that you serve. That’s changed my business deeply.
  • The third one is a hair more esoteric but it actually drives to what you need to make these kinds of things happen which is commit to clarity and integrity. Which is to live that brand inside and out.
  • Which is that thing I was saying that fear of needing to serve big business because they have big wallets really held me back for a long time. I had both communities in my world for six or seven years but I was only serving big guys. I was just kind of gently loving on the little guys because I didn’t want the little guys’ money. It’s too hard to take.
  • I couldn’t see immediately how I was going to do both and then I finally found a way when I decided to really commit to the clarity of my vision and the integrity it takes to deliver it. That’s the whole book in a nutshell.

Last question – who is your favorite character in Guardians of the Galaxy?

  • That’s a toughie! It’s Drax the Destroyer. He’s just so mean and angry and he’s just got so much going on and I just have a feeling that he’ll be the one to watch in the movie.

Juicy Links:

Rich Brooks
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