In July of 2011, I had ventured out in the world to search for meaning. And it’s been an eye opening experience.
During which, I decided to create a travel persona called the CouchSurfingCEO. I created a blog and Twitter handle with the brand name. And dedicated significant time and resources into effectively launching the project.
But in that time, a few things became apparent that I did not, nor could not have foreseen. And while I’m still traveling as a minimalist, digital nomad, I have decided to kill the “personal brand” for the following reasons:
The spectrum of leaving a legacy in the 21st Century is complicated.
I once heard Google’s Eric Schmidt mention that there is more content created in two days, than the sum of all content created from the dawn of man up to the year 2002. So needless to say, there is a lot of noise out there. And remarkable contributions to society can easily be lost in the mix.
In the days of early humans, content was the drawings on the walls of the cave. As papyrus took hold in Egypt, that content was transfered to sheets. With the advent of the printing press, content became duplicatable. And with the rise of the social web, content has taken on many forms.
From the time of hieroglyphs & pottery art to today’s videos, posts, & status updates, content creation is evolving.
Ok, back to the legacy spectrum. On one end of the spectrum we have accessibility. If no one knows you exist, your contributions are meaningless. Think of a monk in a monastery high in the mountains. This man may have the answers to all of life’s problems. Yet, he has no means to spread this message beyond the temple walls.
The interconnectivity of the web solves the problems of accessibility. Hitting send on an iPhone can make any message instantly accessible to anyone else in the world with an Internet connection.
But this ease of accessibility is overshadowed by the fact a billion or more people are able to hit send on a daily basis.
Which leads to the other end of the legacy spectrum. Permanence.
Do a search on Twitter for any term you’re interested in and watch how the tweets build up. Or go to Google and search for that same term, take a screen shot of the results, and return two months later. The page will most likely be radically different.
Blogs, social media, and the multitude of rising abilities to create and share stuff has shattered the permanence of content.
In history, an etching in stone was permanent. A sacred papyrus guarded in a temple was permanent. A book held in an institution was permanent. But none of these were accessible.
Accessibility in the 21st Century requires content to be delivered instantaneous. Or it will suffer from content competition.
Permanence in the 21st Century requires content to be created remarkably, demanding it to be shared, reviewed, and saved. Or it too will suffer from content competition.
Therefore, the catch-22 of leaving a legacy comes from developing a strategy that is both accessible and permanent.
But when done correctly:
What we do today, will carry on for a lifetime.
Which leads me to the second point:
I have nothing against couchsurfing. I can’t count how many times I’ve crashed on a vague acquaintance’s couch. And I don’t plan to stop.
However, as my company New Methods expands and I continue to grow my network, I don’t want to send people to a body of work that isn’t my name, Bradley Gauthier. A “personal brand” is only effective if that name is all you want to be known for. Which is fine for many people. But personally, I have high aspirations for my legacy and CouchSurfingCEO isn’t one of them.
Also in a year or so, had I continued the CouchSurfingCEO blog, it would most likely have a substantial amount of quality articles and a growing audience. But outside of that audience, my entire societal contribution would be based on quick assumptions.
It’s been six months since I started the Twitter handle and blog and in that time I have met many influential people. None of which understood or embraced the “brand” openly. Only other digital nomads and others interested in lifestyle design, understood it. And while you may be thinking, who cares what others think. In some circles, you do. When dealing with high-powered entrepreneurs, investors, and leaders, the secret is this:
You only have a split second to make a positive impression.
It sucks, but it’s reality. But anyway, onto the third point:
In 2008 when I quit my job in search of a better life, I had no idea where the road was going to take me. But for the past few years, the road I thought I wanted to travel down was that of a digital vagabond. Of a person who created enough passive income to finance fun and exciting adventures without any rhyme or reason.
And so, in the summer of 2011 I had recently partnered with Greg Hartle to build a company that would provide digital training to anyone with an Internet connection. This would allow for a digital nomad lifestyle without any 9-5 desk work. I thought that I would want to make enough money to provide a healthy living and that’s it, no bigger motives other than helping a few people learn some skills while I travel.
But then something remarkable happened a couple months ago. On one of Greg and I’s weekly strategy calls, we started talking about the economy and how there is a growing gap in those people who magically “get it” and the majority of those, who don’t. While the topic of the conversation was nothing new. (It’s the very reason we founded New Methods in the first place) The remarkable thing was, we found a sense of clarity. That we have an extraordinary opportunity to change the lives of potentially billions of people. Society en masse could benefit for what we are building over this coming decade.
At that moment, nothing else mattered. I had connected the dots. I was on this planet for a reason and I have a miraculous opportunity to help create a meaningfully better society.
While I know this is a lofty goal, the subsequent conversations with Greg and other’s in my network have continuously reinforced my eureka moment. I have a higher-order. And it’s to help you, your family, your neighbors, our society, and our future generations.
The point is this: in a time of high unemployment, record foreclosures, a student loan epidemic, money in politics, growing income gaps, climate change, and the rest of the near endless list of problems in the world, I am making it my life’s work to do anything and everything I can to help.
And the best way to do the above is by focusing all of my effort on building New Methods into the best “for-benefit” business it possibly can be. To contribute meaningful content to the world with accessibility and permanence in mind. And to become an example of what possibilities there are in life, given the right kind of motivation and perseverance.