Brands that I like: Seven lessons from Brain Pickings

I’m a bit out of sequence but I wanted to share with you not just a brand that I like, but an article that shares seven lessons – and while not titled as such, it could very easily be called “Seven things to build your personal brand”.

There’s a fabulous blog out there (although blog is probably much too generic a title) called Brain Pickings. Written and curated by Maria Popova for the last seven years, it has grown from one person’s curiosity about the world into an archive catalogued by the US Library of Congress and followed by millions.

Understandably Maria has learned a thing or two along the way, which she happily shares with the rest of us in her seventh anniversary issue. As I was reading through her list of seven lessons, it occurred to me that this was a list of how you build a personal brand.

Now Maria may argue that the brand is actually Brain Pickings, and in response I would agree. But in building it she has also built her own. By way of context for my point I give you Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Thomas Edison, Yvon Chouinard, etc, etc.

For those famous names, the brands they built have expanded beyond just them. However, the starting kernel, the spark that lit the flame, lives in them and as it grew so did their personal brands. But that’s a blog for another time.

Back to Maria and Brain Pickings. Her exploration of things literary, creative, artistic, scientific and philosophical (to list just a few areas she covers) is beautifully curated and presented, wonderfully written and always interesting and inspiring.

Usually in my “brands that I like” blogs I leave you with three things SMEs can learn, but today that list belongs to Maria and her seven lessons. Even if you pick just three I’m sure your work and your brand will benefit.

1. Allow yourself the uncomfortable luxury of changing your mind.
2. Do nothing for prestige or status or money or approval alone.
3. Be generous (seems we concur on that one).
4. Build pockets of stillness into your life.
5. When people try to tell you who you are, don’t believe them.
6. Presence is a far more intricate and rewarding art than productivity.
7. Expect anything worthwhile to take a long time.

You can also follow Brain Pickings on Twitter @brainpickings and on Facebook.

See you next week.

Michel is an independent brand analyst dedicated to helping organisations make promises they can keep and keep the promises they make – with a strong, resilient organisation as the result. She also publishes a blog at



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