American culture shock (from an American) – A lab for hacking SF identity
“I’m over this shit.” I say to myself, taking a drag of my cigarette and blowing it over the early morning dim lights of downtown Makati City. Even though there were a few friends over at my place, I couldn’t shake the feeling of boredom that had crept into my life in the Philippine Islands. “I’ve seen, and done all of this before, it’s just not interesting.”
After 5 solid years living in Manila, I’d developed an on-again, off again relationship with the city and its lifestyle. Perhaps the biggest frustration for me, was seeing how slow the internet and tech landscape seemed to be moving. Advancements I remembered when I left the States in 2007 still trumped the majority of all tech infrastructure in Manila.
My psyche was beginning to tell me in many ways that “You gotta live in the right spot.” Being in this place was limiting my personal growth, and I was about to change it. So, I began to prepare for California and work on having San Francisco be the spot where I would realize my brand’s vision.
Hacking, in today’s sense, is all about short cuts, right? So I started to have some conversations with a few people in the branding industry I look up to about how to build a strategy for digital leadership, and personal branding. With that, I started developing a beta version of what would become a blueprint for becoming an influencer.
Doing this would be a combination of coaching, training, PR, authoring and so on. The goal was a personable, hands-on approach that would guide those most unfamiliar with these concepts. In order to do this, I needed to physically be where my clients were based.
How I Made Money Traveling The World
“Sink, Florida, Sink”, were my thoughts. While I love the state I was born in, it bored me enough to grow up with a sense of “wanting to get out”. So I did, eventually moving in 2007. Set with a determination that I could live on the beach and make tons of money, I found myself in Rincon, Puerto Rico.
I cushioned that jump with a few business partners thinking it would make it a lot easier. We immaturely thought it’d be a great place to run a company. Boy was I wrong. It was tough. It turns out running a staff of a few dozen is very tough to do remotely. So tough, that at one point we had below $1,000 to our name.
At that point we all decided that we’d sit and cold call people until someone said yes for our services. We say every day for about a month doing that until a small number of people said yes. We serviced them as if they were our own projects, and then told them, as part of the payment, to list down 3-5 names of other business owners we could contact about our services.
It worked. Slowly at first, but the sincerity with which we made products, talked to client’s, and responded to items went far and we soon grew to a strong team. This experience was like a drug. It all of a sudden didn’t matter if I ate noodles every day, because I’d done one of the most fulfilling things you can do, create business.
These were the early stages of what would eventually result in today’s work of helping thousands of clients grow their business. Doing this prepared me for the project I’m doing in San Francisco. The culture of my lab encompasses vast knowledge about how to build leadership online, using all the assets available, and how to nurture it.
I’ve seen so many cases where a client hires a company for services, and gets them, but isn’t satisfied with the effect they have online. What’s typically missed is the thought leadership part of the brand representative, and who that representative is.
Hacking my way through San Francisco
“Will the Chinese take over San Francisco?” an Indian Uber driver asked me in a very ‘San Francisco’-esq style of unsolicited Driver/Rider conversation that is so indicative of the US. “I don’t know” I said, thinking “Wow, this is different.” This is a perfect example of how shocking some of the cultural things are in States to me.
When you’ve lived outside the country for almost a decade, and in Asia for the majority of that time, things in your home country look a little weird at first glance. The relentless motivation to prove that “I’m right” and to let other know about it. The hypersensitivity of every driver on the road, and most of all, the unwelcomed conversations that seem to happen often all seem surprising to me. These are trivial matters in comparison of my purposes for moving here.
Don’t get me started on the rental market in San Francisco. There are literally castles that are cheaper than a regular looking apartment for rent in San Francisco.
Here’s How I Hacked It:
- Spend 2-3 hours each day finding places in a good spot.
- Make sure you’ve got people that will take a room if need be.
- Go for bigger spots, they’re typically a better value.
- Wait for each place to stay on the market for a while.
- When the price goes down, contact the realtor.
This may seem simple, but it’s time consuming and can fail easily if you don’t have a good network here.
To make sure I was in the right spot, I’d (in months past) contacted some good friends who lived here and told them that I was trying to decide to live there, and asked them what I could do to make the decision faster. They responded in turn by taking me to all things tech and culture (Two major areas for me).
To hack the proof of concept of my digital leadership brand agency, I met with as many seemingly relevant tech and marketing folks I could find. I also started going to a public speaking class. After about 3 meetings with tech people, and 1 meeting of the speaking class I had my proof of concept. People wanted to be more visible online personally, but just didn’t know how to tie it to their job, career, or brand.
With some valuable professional and personal hacking under my belt, I was confident to get set up and work on some client’s in my lab on their reputation, thought leadership and knowledge surrounding their brand and career. After two weeks, I knew I was on to something. There’s such a thirst for knowledge in San Francisco, and it’s the perfect place to be in the digital industry.
Moving towards a brand launch for a lab who’s focused on visibility, teaching and coaching takes a clear vision. In the next blog I’m going to roll out how I’m involved and what I’m doing to help professionals get more out of their career, their digital footprint and how to do it fast. I’m looking forward to having you on board.