The Importance of Transparency & Story in Brand-Building

In 2018, consumers are closer than ever to the brands they love. Your users want a deep, emotional connection with the products they use.

David Perell’s research into the concept of naked brands, brands that build engagement by building a human relationship with their audience, contributes significantly to this idea. 

The rise of the naked brand has taken the ad industry by storm, as brands begin to understand the value in transparency and narrative in building relationships with their consumers. 

Brands like Wendy’s understood that their followers were sick and tired of corporate BS on social media, a passive content strategy that rarely varied. 

This departure from the industry standard, taking a human approach to what is typically a bland corporate strategy, resonated with online audiences; specifically on Twitter. 

Wendy’s proved that a culturally-aware strategy that played on humor and virality over safe, dull copy worked. Such a strategy set the stage for brand behavior in 2018. MoonPie expanded on such a stance, and countless brands have followed in their footsteps since.

Ad strategies have historically relied upon brand image; a faultless, perfect product without flaws. Consumers now are seeing right through such a concept, connecting with transparency and awareness more than ever. 

3 Productivity Hacks to Maintain Focus

Most of my followers are unaware that I grew up in a house of seven kids. This high-energy, hectic environment can make it difficult to stay productive for an extended period of time. As a result, I’ve developed a few methods to stay focused on work in environments plagued with stimuli.

It was refreshing to see that many of my favorite tactics are shared by community members on Twitter. Here are a few hacks that have really helped me maintain focus.

1. Set specific, achievable goals before you start your day

Specificity is SO crucial in staying productive throughout your workday. Digital nomads know far too well that it’s incredibly easy to become distracted in a world of social media and perpetual content.

My personal strategy involves using Bear, a note-taking app for Mac, to set my goals for the following day the night before. Take a look at my agenda for November 25th…



I’m super specific about the tasks I need to knock out of the way, even those unrelated to work ie “Coffee and Breakfast”. As a self-employed digital marketer & freelancer, it can sometimes be difficult to separate personal tasks from those related to work. I jot down everything that needs to be done, crossing them off upon completion.

This ritual — completing a task and crossing it off my list — is one shared by many successful individuals, including author Tim Ferriss.

Twitter user David Loki contributed to this concept…


Loki uses a whiteboard that constantly reminds him of tasks that are due, next to his bed. The idea of a giant agenda, constantly staring at you can be daunting but also is a great reminder to stay on task.

Regardless of the medium, figure out a way to hold yourself to SPECIFIC goals for each and every day. Cross them- off, and move onto the next task. By maintaining specificity, you’ll prevent yourself from getting distracted or off task.

2. Ritualize productivity using atmospheric elements

Investor and author Scott Belsky uses an amazing technique to stay focused when it’s time to work — he puts on a dedicated playlist. Belsky goes in-depth on this ritual in the Tribe of Mentors podcast, a must-listen for those looking to learn from successful individuals.

When Scott wants to focus on his writing, he does two things that are completely exclusive to the specific task. Scott has a Spotify playlist and selection of snacks that he only allows himself to listen to while submersed in work. This dedication to atmospheric elements is quite crucial in helping his mind transition into a mode focused on productivity.

The psychology behind this is legitimate, it’s the same reason doctors will often advise those with insomnia to keep electronics or activities unrelated to sleep outside of the bedroom. By priming your brain with the idea that your bedroom is for sleep, it’s easier to transition to such a mindset. This logic applies to the concepts behind an office or living room. By associating atmospheric elements (music, furniture, snacks) with certain activities, your brain will quickly focus on the task at hand.

3. Start your most tedious work early in the morning & manage your willpower!

Kathleen Martin Ginis — an Associate Professor of Kinesiology at McMaster University — published an insightful study on why willpower is almost like a muscle:

“Cognitive tasks, as well as emotional tasks such as regulating your emotions, can deplete your self-regulatory capacity to exercise,” says Kathleen Martin Ginis, associate professor of kinesiology at McMaster University, and lead author of the study.

Ginis explains that cognitive tasks are draining, and can often require some form of rejuvenation after tiring. The psychology behind this is why you’ll often hear gurus advise you to start your day with your most important, most tedious work.

“There are strategies to help people rejuvenate after their self-regulation is depleted,” she says. “Listening to music can help; and we also found that if you make specific plans to exercise — in other words, making a commitment to go for a walk at 7 p.m. every evening — then that had a high rate of success.”

Getting burnt out is inevitable, but can be mitigated by planning your day around certain events that allow you to relax and refresh your brain. Give yourself an hour to listen to your favorite artist, add a meditation session in the middle of your workday, or make specific plans to go for a run. Manage your cognitive energy, and you should be able to maintain focus throughout the day.

The One Percent Method

There is no such thing as "an overnight success"

This point became relevant after a friend had mentioned the ridiculous climb of Ninja, the world's largest Fortnite streamer. A game and community that blew up in early 2018, Ninja's popularity skyrocketed and triggered a massive cultural event when rappers Drake and Travis Scott hopped in a lobby with the streamer.




Take a look at the chart above, showing Ninja's stream performance over time. Originally a professional Halo player, the streamer began his journey on the platform in 2013, but didn't become truly prominent on the platform until late 2017. This month the streamer accumulated 2 million new followers, 37 million views, a CNBC appearance, and cultural relevancy.

Five years of work led to his break just this year, the hours and hours of work that went into developing Ninja's on-screen persona and gaming abilities are now culminating into what is the largest stream on Twitch. 

Ninja's path to success is the sole path, putting in work to become great 1% at a time, slowly building your brand or your capabilities over years. One-hit-wonders happen, but rarely are sustainable. Becoming great at anything requires consistency. 

Success requires being committed to a project every day, to "ship" new content every day on schedule. I'll be pushing myself out of my comfort zone to do the same...

  • One New Blog Post Everyday
  • One New Success-oriented Instagram Post Everyday
  • One video or podcast every week

Think about the inevitable outcome of nothing more than maintaining this schedule. By the end of 2018, I will have published 279 new blog posts, 279 success-oriented Instagram shots, and 40 original videos or podcasts. Without even thinking about exposure, imagine my improvement in each respective field by taking reps everyday? It's this repetition-based practice that leads to growth in any field.

On the Legality of Bitcoin

SEC’s recent ruling regarding securities and ICOs has been the origin of quite a bit of discussion within the past two months. San Francisco’s “Bitcoin Social” event looked to extend some of this discussion in the means of a roundtable hosted by Thomas Hunt of World Crypto Network. The panelists included Lindsay Lin of Stellar, Reuben Bramanathan of Coinbase, and Sarah Hody of Perkins Coie. The answers listed below are notes I took from the live discussion, so feel free to watch the recording of the event to hear everything in full.

Is Bitcoin a currency, commodity, both, or neither?
Lindsay: The CFTC has said that Bitcoin is a commodity and is subject to CFTC regulations, and that the way Bitcoin is used is similar to that of a currency. It’s analogous to a medium of exchange, and trade of value.

Reuben: It’s different things depending on who you ask. Fundamentally, it’s different to anything we’ve seen before. The same technology is creating things like security; can be a lot of things. There are a million ways to answer this question.

Sarah: This technology can be used as a currency, security, or a commodity.

Is Bitcoin legal?

Sarah: It depends on what you’re using it for. It can be used for lots of legal and illegal things. At a technical level, nobody is saying Bitcoin as a technology is illegal.

Reuben: Is the internet legal? It’s the same challenge.

Lindsay: What does it mean for a cryptocurrency to be legal? Can you use it to pay taxes, send payments day to day? The US government doesn’t say you can’t use it to transact. Although it can’t use it to pay taxes or interface with the government, there are no restrictions on private transactions unless illegal.

On taxation: You would have to pay taxes whenever there is a transaction with Bitcoin. Capital gains taxes. Or if you receive BTC as payment as salary, etc. you DO have to pay taxes. No taxes to pay on just holding.

Reuben: Coinbase is taking on the IRS regarding user privacy. IRS wants customer records from Coinbase users. Need new laws that make sense for cryptocurrency and taxation. You don’t want capital gains taxes every time you buy a coffee; we need more sensible taxation for cryptocurrency.

Moving between exchanges, do you have to pay taxes?

Sarah: Asking Coinbase to report on taxes, Coinbase has no idea if I’m sending my Bitcoin to my wallet. That looks like a taxable event, so anything they report to IRS would make it look taxable. How do you identify what is a taxable event? The answer is no, only when you dispose of property. No taxation on transferring between wallets.

What about altcoins (Litecoin, ETH)? Are these legal?

Sarah: Again, it depends on what it’s being used for.

What about privacy altcoins? (Monero/ZCASH)

Lindsay: Monero/ZCASH can be used to commit crime. But you wouldn’t get rid of the internet to get rid of crime. Maybe limit? Unless ZCASH/Monero become predominantly used to commit crime, it won’t really be an issue.

Sarah: I think it becomes a similar reporting problem as we have today in restaurants with cash. If nothing changes about how tokens are generally taxed, then I think you end up with the same problem as you have with cash-based transactions today. I don’t think the IRS will come shut it down (right now…) but it could become an issue. Coincenter is hard at work tackling these issues.

What about New York and the BitLicense? Should we have unique licensing laws in each state?

Sarah: It’s a hard question to answer. It’s a major pain in the ass. It’s pretty obnoxious to have to look at every single state and figure out what the laws are. It’s not just for money transmission, it becomes a problem with securities as well (different state taxes). Do I see it going away anytime soon? Probably not in the short term. States are trying to work together on more long-term regulation. The US is where a lot of innovation is happening, not best world scenario but is solid bet for innovation.

Reuben: This is the US getting it’s act together and KEEPING innovation here.

Lindsay: We should lobby for regulatory approval of reciprocation between states, so you don’t have to apply for licenses in individual states.

Thomas: Like a marriage license!

What’s an IPO (initial public offering)?

Sarah: A set of filings and offerings that are submitted to FCC when you want to sell shares or investment contracts to anyone interested in buying.

Thomas: A lot of forms, big event, etc. RING THE BELL!

What’s an ICO? (initial coin offering)

Reuben: Unlike an IPO (very structured / nobody IPOs on day one), an ICO is a sale of a digital token on blockchain that represents some set of rights, regulated thru small contract sale.

Thomas: It’s like giving a restaurant ten years of profits in advance. Is this a good idea?

Lindsay: It might be a good idea in that it provides initial capital to tackle grandiose products, some startups might have trouble with funding large products. Can be smart for long term projects. Might be bad because you have to know how to spend this money wisely, don’t keep in Bitcoin (which tends to fluctuate), attracts regulatory attention.

Is it good to have so much money in advance without the structure of an IPO?

Reuben: Fundamentally, an ICO should be a way of raising money for a new protocol or application. If you want participants to have skin in the game, it makes sense. If you’re just trying to raise money, then raise VC money or traditional money. ICO is NOT good for raising money for everything.

What is the HOWEY test?

Sarah: It’s a 1946 verdict that basically says an investment of money into a corporation with the expectation of profit is an investment contract. An investment contract is a security. Just like an IPO, then you have lots of paperwork with such a contract.

Can / should you pre-sale a utility token?

Sarah: Utility is the magic word. Presale can get into a number of problems, where if you’re not able to deliver then that becomes either an advanced sale of a commodity that the CFTC cares about or it can be structured as a security (it depends!). When you hear the utility buzzword, then you’re trying to be under SEC regulation and also becoming a virtual currency. Field goal is if the token actually has a purpose, fail HOWEY test and not a virtual currency. Sale of a commodity is not a sale of virtual currency.

Reuben: We hope SEC will say that tokens have utility and so then it’s not a security. BUT we don’t know if that’s going to be the case. SEC says it looks like people investing in venture fund expecting profits. The other end is that it’s a utility token that does X gives whatever feature, should be less like a security but nobody can say that for sure right now.

Lindsay: Unless SEC gives on-point guidance, nobody can say a utility is not a security. All 50 states have their own securities regime. Even if the SEC says it’s not a security, California could say that it is a security. California says club memberships could even be a security.

SEC found time to warn us about the DAO, but didn’t take action because funds were returned.

Sarah: It was a good warning. What the SEC said didn’t surprise anyone. Yes, the DAO looks like a security. SEC picked an easy target that was an obvious security, and so it shows that they’re paying attention. They aren’t taking an aggressive stance. Some tokens may not be a security.

If a future token goes down and people lose $500m, will the SEC step in?

Reuben: Yes. There are straight-up scams in for a rude awakening. SEC used DAO as a warning shot.

Lindsay: SEC did the right thing, it acts as a clear signal to the public. They released their report a year after the incident, relatively slow reaction time. If you have an unregistered security, you might be subject to lawsuits from investors. Will see more action; SEC is pretty busy.

SEC: “If an existing company makes claims they’re making an ICO, be EXTRA careful.” Will this second warning work?

Reuben: This is about the effect of ICO hype on stock market price. Goes to show how hot this space is right now, traditional companies can create an expectation that they’re doing something they’re not by using these terms. If you can raise money traditionally, why are you doing an ICO? There’s something wrong there.

Bitfinex received a letter (July 25) that referenced the security exchange act of 1934. Specifically about the situation with DAO and Bitfinex. Could exchanges be at risk?

Lindsay: If a cryptocurrency exchange sells tokens that are later cat as securities, they have to go by requirements as a securities exchange. Because they’d like to avoid this complexity, US exchanges may delist securities tokens.

Will Coinbase have to potentially delist some coins?

Reuben: The SEC report refers to BTC and ETH as currency, not securities. That’s why Coinbase is very conservative about our digital assets and currencies. We only add coins with longterm value + that meet customer’s demand.

Will all US exchanges flee?

Sarah: No. As annoying as it is, this is where innovation is happening. This will continue. Companies will figure out how to navigate this. Will exchanges in the US continue offering tokens that are securities? Maybe not. Institutional exchanges may.

What about LocalBitcoins? Will that exist?

Lindsay: I think you can’t prevent these small over the counter transactions from happening.

What’s a decentralized exchange? Is it like BitTorrent? Is it legal?

Sarah: You could get in trouble. The activity that is regulated is for buying and selling dig currency for other currency. You don’t have to be an exchange to be participating. You could get in trouble for un-licensed transmission. Enforcement headache.

You can see the full, in-depth answers to all questions listed above (and more!) from World Crypto Network’s recording of the panel. Feel free to also stay for the Q&A session that followed the roundtable.