How Our Identity Is Shaped By The Labels We Give Ourselves
Someone out there said everyone will have their own 15 minutes of fame, I can’t say more then a few thousand people out there know that at one point in my Facebook career I had the middle name “WordPress Guy”, fortunately for me those people just happen to be some of the most influential people in my industry. I wouldn’t begin to say that I’m famous, but if anyone knows me through Facebook it’s generally for that little tag in my name… And without a doubt having that little tag on my Facebook profile has lead to hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales of my products and services.
I can’t pin an exact date on when I added “WordPress Guy” as my middle name on Facebook, I know it’s been a few years, but honestly I don’t really know. It was an afterthought really, I really liked working with WordPress and it seemed like a good way to let people know what I do, because that really is everyones first question. It was a conversation starter, and it seemed everyone needs a good WordPress guy!
Why not “WordPress Guru” or “WordPress Master”? Well… Honestly, I’m not a WordPress guru or master, I’m just a guy who knows WordPress pretty well and can build a lot of cool stuff with it.
Recently I’ve dropped the WordPress Guy from my name for a few reasons… To be completely honest it was mainly because it’s against Facebook’s TOS, and no one wants to make our Facebook overlords angry. Frankly I was a bit bummed when I got the notification that I needed to adjust my name, it seemed to be such a part of my identity, literally half a decade of being known as the WordPress Guy pretty much whipped out. That night I had a few martini’s and really started to think deeply about the implications…
First off here’s a few of the thing’s that silly little tag in my name has lead to…
- Dozens of consulting gigs all over the country.
- Working directly with the likes of Andy Jenkins, Mike Filsaime, Frank Kern, Jason Moffatt, Sean Malarkey, Lewis Howes, Amy Porterfield, James Wedmore, Chris Farrell, James Dyson, and many many more awesome people.
- Lots of interviews about using WordPress for business.
- Speaking gigs.
- Course development gigs.
- Honestly the majority of my income over the last few years I can directly trace back to that little Facebook middle name, directly or indirectly.
A few martini’s into reminiscing I had quite a few interesting realizations that I think we all face over the years… and it has to do with identity. Mine more of a literal identity issue, but none the less I’m guessing you’ve faced these issues in the past…
1 – If you give yourself a title, you’re going to eventually reach the maximum potential of that title, and it will eventually serve as a limitation to you.
Truth is, I’m in the business of building businesses, optimizing sales, and marketing products. “WordPress” is just a tool, just like a drill, being an expert with a tool only gets you so far. Would you rather be a construction worker or the architect, or own the company that employs the two? You get to decide that in your mind, they call that a “Mindset” (duh). If you give yourself the title of “drill expert”, fratboy nicknames aside, you’re going to have a hard time ascending to architect, and if you think your only an architect well, you’re going to have a hard time ever owning the business.
The label I gave myself set an interesting limitation in my mind. I feel slightly liberated just seeing my full name now, it’s al little weird but “Sean Vosler” can be anything he wants.
2 – Branding works, but it’s not what keeps customers coming back or referring you.
WordPress Guy was my brand. I give a lot of credit to “WordPress Guy” as a lead generation and sales tool for me. After thinking about it a lot, yes, it did help initially, but it’s never what closed the deal or got new deals, but the fact that I showed up, did the work, and delivered on expectations is what the actual brand was about. I’ve built a lot of stuff with WordPress, but it’s never about WordPress at the end of the day, it’s about what you’re delivering on it.
3 – You need confidence to go by your real name, adding a label is a crutch.
This was a big realization for me, a friend of mine (who actually works at Facebook ironically) told me he was happy that it was just my real name now… it was interesting to hear that and really made me think. WHY did I feel I needed that label? If i’m honest, it was because I wasn’t confident that people would remember me, Sean Vosler, outside of the context of what I did.
I didn’t think I was all that interesting, I didn’t think people would make room in their head to remember just another name in the sea of people doing this kind of work.
That confidence issue showed a lot in my business and personal life. I never really felt like I fit in with the entrepreneurs I worked with, and you know what — I didn’t. But it wasn’t because I’m not smart or talented or engaging or interesting, it’s because I didn’t believe in myself. Everyone has self doubts, but if you don’t believe you belong somewhere you really don’t.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a room of people making $50k, $100k, $500k, per month – and I’m telling them what they need to do in their business and marketing… I never really did come to the conclusion that they actually needed to hear what I had to say.
Some might call that humility, but there’s a difference between humility and a lack of confidence.
One of those entrepreneurs told me once at a party with a ton of influential entrepreneurs, “man you need to realize that you deserve to be here, stop the self deprecating humor, and place your feet and know you belong.” That really stick with me, since then I’ve tried to be more honest with people about what I do, truth is I help people make a ship load of money – millions. And it’s ok to be confident.
Side note, I’m a big propionate of humility, no reason to brag and be a jerk about it, I think we can all agree on that.
4 – You actually can do it.
I look back at some of the things I’ve accomplished and I’m actually pretty proud of them, 90% of the time though when I started I had NO idea what I was doing, and I knew I had to learn fast and accomplish effectively, and fix things when they break.
When I was hired by Andy Jenkins & Mike Filsaime to help on the Video Genesis I had never done something even close to that level. I didn’t BS my way in, they just liked me and you know what, it worked out pretty awesomely. I didn’t know what to do, but I did it. I could have said “I can’t do that, its out of my ability” but I didn’t. I just decided I’d course correct on the way, and it rocked.
But that “WordPress Guy” label held me back. I never did partner with them on a project, I had a HUGE opportunity to, and I didn’t make it happen. I didn’t feel I deserved it, I was just the guy in the back room that built the stuff.
For all the doors that label opened up for me, it held me back from opportunities on a scale that only “Sean Vosler” could have attained. Because “Sean Vosler” isn’t limited to tools or back rooms, he can do whatever the heck he wants.
So what’s next? Well I wrote this post to hopefully inspire you to think of the labels you’ve applied to yourself, even if its just in your subconscious – what limits have you set for yourself?
It’s time to remove them.
Thanks for reading, leave a comment below and share with me some limits you’ve set for yourself in the past and how you overcame them!
Really great post. And congratulations. I believe you also were “right place right time” with the WordPressguy handle, so take credit for that too. Great instinct.
Great Article 😉
Dude! Why would you subject yourself to LABELS? it’s 2015. Seriously though, great piece on being able to be free of the shackles…
…It does have it’s place, but why not be able to do anything you want?
Works for me.
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Love this tip Sean, “If you give yourself a title, you’re going to eventually reach the maximum potential of that title, and it will eventually serve as a limitation to you.” So good.
Love the advice! This cleared up my confusion of whether I wanted to go with my own name or a made up brand name.