“Never Eat Alone” by Keith Ferrazzi : A Relationship-Centered View on Personal Branding?
Well, it’s taken about two years, but I finally got to actually sit down and read Keith Ferrazzi’s book, “Never Eat Alone.” Despite the big build up of accolades, reviews and commentary during all this time, I wasn’t disappointed by it. In fact, it’s probably one of the best career-advice/networking books I’ve read.
Buy or borrow the book… it’s worth it!
The central theme of “Never Eat Alone” is to describe what it means to develop your network of personal relationships by authentically connecting with others. The author describes how to develop a lifestyle and career built around relationships and he explains why that should matter to you. He gives his own experience as an example and peppers the book with a good variety of content that will make you want to read it more than once.
A few things stuck out to me as I read the book: 1) It doesn’t have a “acknowledgements” preamble at its beginning. So I’m thinking, this man is a networking/relationship guru and he doesn’t have any props to give out to his peeps? But after reading it, I see that the book iteslf serves that function. By spreading the gratitude around into the narrative, the end result is something that comes across as more sincere — and more relevant to the reader — than any preamble would have done. That could just be my interpretation, but I think it’s deliberate. 2) Although he started his career over on the East Coast, Ferrazzi is now based in L.A., and much of this book’s advice on integrating your work and personal life has to be taken with a grain of Pacific Ocean salt. 3) Early in the book, Ferrazzi gives what could have been a refreshing new take on the whole “Personal Branding” meme:
Each of us is now a brand. (…) I would argue that you relationships with others are your finest, most credible expression of who you are and what you have to offer. Nothing else compares.
He could have stopped there. However, towards the end of the book, Ferrazzi devotes several chapters to the conventional “Brand Called You” dogma, ie, become an expert in one thing, give yourself a singular mission statement, keep it simple, beat your audience over the head with your brand message, etc.. Not that there isn’t some truth and value in applying principles of brand marketing to career development, but <RANT> I feel that it’s gone way too far, especially given our current climate of hyperspecialization and commodification, which, in the final analysis, may do more harm than good for people, particularly those in the earlier stages of their career </RANT>.
I liked what (I thought) Ferrazzi was saying initially — that a person’s “brand” is simply the sum total of their relationships. But that’s not what the Personal Branding meme is about. It’s about commodification and productization (no, your spellchecker won’t recognize those words) of an individual. An individual who is multi-faceted, who is complex, who is changing. Relationships are multi-faceted, complex and changing. “Brands” — in the classic sense — may have a few facets, but they are simple and enduring.
I’m sitting here watching Dick Clark ring in the New Year. Everyone feels bad for him. The ball is dropping. The man is a brand.