NICOLAS COLE

I Teach People How To Build An Audience

Your Style Is Everything You Are

CreativityNicolas ColeComment
nicolascolestyle

Developing your own style isn't an "end."

It's a constant flow. A discovery over time, intended to change. Your style is a reflection of who you are, and it includes everything from your voice to your clothes, your mannerisms and habits to your coping mechanisms and circle of friends. To think "style" only includes what you look like is so limiting. Your style is Everything You Are.

When you begin to intentionally build yourself, this concept of Style begins to take shape. 

The process is usually as follows:

Step 1: Imitation

All learning begins with imitation. You find someone who embodies certain qualities you yourself hope to one day have yourself, and (sometimes without even realizing it) you begin to emulate them. Sometimes you take on their mannerisms. Sometimes you adopt similar habits. Sometimes you simply try to dress the same, and sometimes you begin to speak like them too. But, at its core, it is imitation with the hope of learning.

Step 2: Variation

After imitation has brought you to a place of confidence, you begin to put your own spin on what it is you've "acquired." You take what you have gained and begin to shift certain variables, aligning them with things that resonate more deeply with you as a unique individual. In the beginning, you do not change much (as you fear losing all that imitation has given you), but just enough to awaken to your own unique creativity. 

Step 3: Expression

At some point, variation becomes expression. You are now more of your own self than you are the imitation of someone else, and you can taste the joy that comes with that freedom. You run forward in that direction, knowing that you have unlocked a part of yourself that now feels comfortable enough being naked. And it is from here that your greatest gifts begin to emerge.

Step 4: Reinvention

However, the process is not yet over—in fact, it is never "over." Because with each discovery comes a new depth of self-understanding, leading you to new possibilities within wherein you begin the process all over again: Imitation, Variation, Expression, and then ultimately Reinvention.

Your style, then, is never a stagnant "end."

It is a constantly reflection of where you are right now.

Chase The Dream, Not The Destination

CreativityNicolas ColeComment
nicolascolechasethedreamnotthedestination

This is something that has taken me a long, long time to understand—and something that I will spend the rest of my life practicing to remember:

Chase the dream, not the destination.

I work with individuals that have a vision for what they want to create. Creatives. Entrepreneurs. CEOs. Business owners. I have learned that it's not WHAT you're doing that defines who you are—it's HOW you're doing it, and your unique approach to the work.

But too often, I see the same underlying parallel preventing extremely talented people from pursuing their dream. And their dream, if you inquire enough, is not a destination. It's not a certain amount of money or a mansion on the coast of the Caribbean. It's the ability to do something they love, more than anything else in the world, every single day. It's the freedom to express themselves, and make a living doing so. 

It's honestly the reason why I believe building a Personal Brand is the road to getting there. It's about saying to the world—an audience that tries hard to tell you who you should be—who it is you ARE, and WHAT it is you want to do, and HOW it is you want to do it.

If we know, then, that it's not the destination that drives people, then how is it so many people lose focus on the dream? They worry about what people will think, or whether or not what they want to do will "work."

Dude. Girl. Whoever you are. Of course it's going to work. It "works" because you're actually DOING it. 

Your dream isn't to do it to one day acquire something.

It's to just DO IT, period.

7 Steps To Start Building Your Personal Brand

Self DevelopmentNicolas Cole3 Comments
nicolascole7stepstowardbuildingyourpersonalbrand

In preparation for my new upcoming course, "Build Yourself," (click here to sign up early!) I've put together a free 7 Day e-mail course teaching people how they can start building a Personal Brand for themselves. Here's how it works:

Over the course of a week, I send you an e-mail each day explaining a different step on the journey to building yourself into a personal brand—along with some mini stories from my own journey as well.

To sign up for the free course, just submit your e-mail below. 

SIGN UP HERE!


What is the value of building a Personal Brand?

Having a Personal Brand in today's society is the single most valuable thing you could possibly have.

Why?

1) People want to work with people the market trusts (aka: people that have been "validated" or "pre-approved.")

2) People want to collaborate with others who have an audience of their own.

3) People want to hire people who are leaders in their respective industry.

4) People inherently trust people who have a public presence.

5) People gravitate toward those who share similar ideals, beliefs, and aspirations.

Having a Personal Brand accomplishes all of that—and more.

If you are a Thought Leader in your industry, then other Thought Leaders are going to want to connect and collaborate with you. Publications will want to feature you. Clients will want to work with you. Audiences will look to you for guidance. The list goes on and on. Having a Personal Brand is what establishes your value in your particular niche or market—and will do nothing but open doors of opportunity.

Here are a few articles I've written for Inc Magazine on the topic of Personal Branding:

The 1 Thing Nobody Understands About Social Media Marketing (And It's Seriously Mind-boggling)

How To Build A Personal Brand In 5 Steps (And Why Everyone Messes Up On Number 1)

If You're A Social Media Marketer, Please Don't Make This Mistake

If building a Personal Brand is something that interests you, I highly suggest first taking a look at the free 7 Day e-mail course I put together above. That will teach you some of the basics.

However, if you're interested in working with my directly on building, expanding, or monetizing your Personal Brand, get in touch with me here

Nicolas Cole's Reading List

CreativityNicolas Cole1 Comment
nicolascolereadinglist

One thing I get asked about quite frequently is what I'm reading. This is something I post on-the-go on Instagram (usually in my Story), but for everyone looking for a full list of my must-reads, here you go:

CREATIVITY

1. Steal Like An Artistby Austin Kleon

2. Damn Good Advice, by George Lois

3. It's Not How Good You Are, It's How Good You Want To Be, by Paul Arden

4. Contagious, by Jonah Berger

5Manage Your Day-To-Day, by Jocelyn K. Glei

6Art & Fear, by David Bayles

7Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott

SELF DEVELOPMENT

1. The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, by Robin Sharma

2. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert M. Pirsig

3. The 4-Hour Workweek, by Tim Ferriss

4. Enough: True Measures of Money, Business, and Lifeby John C. Bogle

5. Off Balance, by Matthew Kelly

6. Good to Great, by Jim Collins

7. Drive, by Daniel H. Pink

8. Start With Why, by Simon Sinek

9. So Good They Can't Ignore You, by Cal Newport

10. The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho

ENTREPRENEURSHIP

1. Crush It, by Gary Vaynerchuk

2. Never Eat Alone, by Keith Ferrazzi

3. The Lean Startup, by Eric Ries

4. Losing My Virginity, by Richard Branson

5. Purple Cow, by Seth Godin

6. You Only Have to Be Right Once, by Randall Lane

7. The Self-Made Billionaire Effect, by John Sviokla

FICTION

1. Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov

2. Portnoy's Complaint, by Philip Roth

3. The Old Man And The Sea, by Ernest Hemingway

4. The Glass Bead Game, by Hermann Hesse

5. The Firm, by John Grisham

Through Your Eyes: A Tragic Love Story With A Meaningful Ending

CreativityNicolas Cole1 Comment
nicolascolethroughyoureyes

Through Your Eyes is a story about a girl who crossed my path several years ago. If you’d like to read the chapter that comes before this one, Click Here.

This short story begins three years after our relationship ended. After many failed attempts on both our parts to mend, we met up one last time for coffee to talk things through. It was clear she had changed a lot, and so had I. Yet, although we had become very different people, I still recognized what I loved most about her—and despite my best efforts, I was not yet over the girl sitting opposite of me.

As we walked out the door and to the nearest train, there was much left undiscussed. We were both purposefully avoiding it. When it came time to part ways, we began to laugh. We knew each other too well.

“I feel like I need to say something,” I said. Her posture went rigid and her eyes widened. 

“Ok,” she said. I could tell she was nervous.

“I’m still in love with you,” I said. 

The entire city went quiet.

3 years, I had been lying to myself. 3 years, I had tried to suppress how I felt in an attempt to move on. 3 years, I had shut people out, focusing only on myself and my growth, setting goals and achieving them. 3 years, I had insisted I was perfectly fine without her.

Hearing those words come out of my mouth, “I’m still in love with you,” made me realize that much of my frustration and anger and pain hadn’t been because of her, but because I had not been honest with myself. I coped by denying any feeling whatsoever toward her, and admitting that truth gave me release.

She thanked me for sharing, as was a common practice in our former relationship, and said she would think hard about what I had said—and be in touch.

I never heard from her again.

Until almost six months later, when I received this message:

“Cole, if my boyfriend contacts you and asks if we were ever together, tell him no.”

Through Your Eyes is dedicated to her.


CREATIVE DIRECTION

Before we dive into the meaning behind each one of the songs, I would like to first explain the overall creative direction behind the project and what certain elements mean. Through Your Eyes is an elusive title, intentionally. To see "through" someone's eyes is to know that they are lying, and one of the major themes throughout the story is betrayal and a hiding of true emotions. Second, I would say that I fell in love (and tend to fall in love) with the eyes of a person more than anything else—and that was particularly true in this case. Third, the word "through" can also mean "over," as in, "I'm through with things"—another primary theme. Furthermore, I am a believer that in order to truly grow, you cannot suppress or ignore what it is that needs to be addressed; you have to energetically move through it. 

But the primary meaning behind the title is that the entire project explores this idea of being seen, judged, and fantasized about through her eyes—something I have since questioned about our relationship. Was she in love with me, or the idea of me? The cover in particular is a photo from our vacation together to Mexico. The photo was taken by her, and the way you see me, you are looking through her eyes. And the way I appear is much more of an idealized image of myself than who I am deep down—a fitting representation of the very theme I wanted to explore.

ART DIRECTION

Art, in this case, refers to the textures and colors I chose musically for this project. I wanted a blend between natural and artificial, giving sound to the inner duality of what is real and what is perceived to be real. For the percussion and bass lines, I often chose very round, smooth sounds, symbolizing water. I wanted the "underbelly" of the music to have the feeling of an ocean—and this is especially true on Riding Waves. I left much of the middle and upper ranges empty so that the strokes of the vocal lines could be the most prominent textures. The melodic instruments I chose were also picked for their ambient textures, offering accents and shadows to the vocal melodies. The idea was to use white space as a color in itself.

In addition, I took a very different approach to create these songs compared to my normal creative process. In the past, I have always built the instrumental first and then recorded the vocals on top. This time, I moved in the opposite direction, recording the vocals first to a metronome setting and then building the beat around them. This was revealing in that it forced the vocal lines to stand on their own—as in, I could listen to them acappella and still enjoy their movement; a minimalist approach. Half-way through the project, it ended up being a back-and-forth process, the music and the vocals unfolding simultaneously. 

From start to finish, this project took about 5 weeks.

SONGS

Dear, Ocean Girl

The story opens with a poem. It poses the question that continues to linger throughout: Did you really love me for me, or did you love the idea of me?

The title itself holds two subtle values. First, it begins with "Dear," setting the stage for the entire project to be taken as a letter. Second, "Ocean Girl" was the name of the first poem I ever wrote her. We were seated at Zed451 in Chicago, a steakhouse, with three of her friends in town from Costa Rica. We were celebrating her birthday. When they entered the restaurant, I walked up to her, gave her a hug and pulled her close, and she backed off slightly. She then whispered into my ear, "They don't know we're dating yet. Pretend we're just friends," and for whatever reason I went along with it. She had explained that where she was from was different, and relationships are very serious there—especially with someone "outside the culture." I wanted to be respectful. But at the table, I felt so attracted to her and I was getting frustrated having to pretend. So I pulled out my phone, and in the notepad, underneath the table, I wrote a poem called "Ocean Girl." When her friends weren't looking, I passed it to her and she excused herself to the bathroom to read it. When she returned, she could barely keep from smiling.

I later wrote that poem on a sheet of paper and gave it to her as a gift.

She still had it in her purse, all folded up and wrinkled, the last time I saw her.

Know Me

The first scene opens at the lowest point of our exhaustive breakup, and precisely where we must begin. The music is dark and empty. There are very few instruments. All of the sounds hold a black or silver color, and empty space is left intentionally between the instruments and the vocals. 

For a very, very long time after our relationship ended, I was severely depressed. All the things I loved to do, I stopped doing them out of love and started to do them for the sake of achievement. Instead of using the gym as a personal practice, I went as hard as I could with it—and in turn, got the biggest I ever got, grew out of all my clothes, and practically launched a fitness career. Then, I stopped working on my book and only focused on writing that I could measure online through views and popularity—and I became a Top Writer on Quora with millions of views, and articles published in every major publication: TIME, Forbes, Fortune, The Huffington Post, etc. I had my first short story, "Exitec's Success," published in Quora's 2014 Print Anthology. Then I changed my exterior: I cut my hair, I started to dress well, I worked on as many outside projects as I could and I surrounded myself with goal-oriented, driven entrepreneurs and successful people. 

This is the meaning behind the song's opening: "Everything I am, I owe it all to you." The things I achieved were goals I genuinely wanted to accomplish and things I truly wanted to learn, but where they were coming from in me was not from a place of patience and an enjoyment of the journey. It was coming from a desire to escape, and a hope that my "achievements" would fulfill what I felt I had lost within.

I owe it to her, in a sense, for how much I have grown over the past 3 years, how hard I've worked and what I have learned about myself. But even more so, I find it funny that even before the release of my first book, my first real work of art that I have spent 5+ years chiseling away in hiding, this project emerged. How could I not, then, attribute and even be thankful to her for igniting whatever it is in me that needed to be ignited?

The most revealing lines of the song are as follows:

Know, cuz I've been there.

When I go flow mode, it’s up in air.

Put a pen downtown, get up in there

like you’re my Juliet, we've got an audience, you’re screaming Shakespeare.

Look at me, andante Dante.

Mark Twain, Mozart on coffee.

All the roses want me, want me.

Mother nature, your daughter’s lovely!

I know that I love her to pieces, please let her complete me.

I always will read her, never deceive her,

may I be lucky to keep her?

Under the sun I shall seek her.

And under the moon I shall teach her.

I’ll be the dot to her eyes (i’s),

the one who will always give form to her features.

You don’t believe me?

Have I done something completely?

What kind of question is that?

Do you not see how long I’ve been at this desk dreaming?

I work even without achievement.

All I do is wear sweatpants and t-shirts.

I guess what I’m trying to say is

I’m in love with her, she knows the real me.

During our relationship, I held very different priorities. I spent a considerable amount of time meditating each day, and I spent hours alone studying literature and working on the craft of writing. Nobody really knew this about me, because at the same time I was just getting into bodybuilding and my "exterior self" is what attracted attention—instead of the boy below it.

When we started dating, I recognized this same quality in her. She was a model downtown Chicago, but below the surface was a very quiet, studious, smart and caring person. We joked often that who we were perceived to be—"the model and the bodybuilder"—was so opposite who we were with each other. We would read poetry together. She wanted to be an elementary school teacher. I wanted to write novels. She loved to read, and I saw her as my reader. I rarely share my writing in progress with anyone—even my closest friends. But with her, I shared almost everything—including many, many excerpts from the book I will be releasing in August.

The verse above is written from the perspective of the inner child, the vulnerable one who felt safe being so open and honest with someone. This voice is actually speaking to both her and the art of writing—promising to love endlessly, to always make that the first priority. Until the end of the verse, this feeling arises that she is being taken away, and a sudden questioning of why? Did I not work hard enough? Did I not deserve her?

After our relationship ended, I went through a long period of writer's block. I felt as though my reader, my muse had been taken away from me, and nothing I wrote felt good enough.

Instead, I pursued a much easier reward: External Success.

Brand New

Anger.

This is the most distorted song in the story, and represents movement from the depressive emptiness of Know Me and into what was, for a very long time, a defense mechanism by the ego. 

Brand New symbolizes the person I felt I had to become after we broke up. As I mentioned, I felt as though she had fallen in love with the "artist" in me—and if she didn't want to be with me anymore, that meant the "artist" wasn't good enough.

So, if she didn't like the artist, then I would become the opposite of an artist.

First, I cut my hair from long to short—and that night, actually, I went out with a few friends and ended up attracting a beautiful girl from Brazil (a not-so-subtle sign that I was trying to find "what once was"). I started dressing for a different crowd, replacing my Nike t-shirts and sweatpants with dress shoes and button downs. I went to nice restaurants, rooftop events, modeling parties, etc. I spent as much time as possible hanging around people who had achieved some level of "external success," hoping that I too could obtain those rewards—and deep down, hoped that they would fulfill me.

Got a brand new thing, do you want to?

Eh? Ya, ya, ya.

Got a brand new thing, do you want to?

Eh? Ya, ya, ya.

Got a brand new thing, do you want to?

Eh? Ya, ya, ya.

Got a brand new thing, do you want to?

Eh? Ya, ya, ya, ya.

Simple, but the chorus says it all: I coped by chasing new things, new experiences, new girls, new challenges, new accomplishments, new projects, new everything. If it was new, I wanted it. 

This isn't necessarily a bad thing, and I ended up learning a lot about how to make things happen "out in the world." But it also revealed many insecure parts of myself that needed stretching outside their comfort zones. There were a lot of positives that unfolded throughout the process, and in no way do I regret any of the decisions or choices I made. What needed addressing was the fact that acquiring these skills and knowing how to obtain "external success" is one thing. Hoping that it will fill an emotional void within you is entirely another.

The truth is, I did not want to be in the "here and now." Presence was a big part of our relationship, and since its conclusion, I had come to associate "presence" with "pain." So instead of being present, I stopped meditating, hoping to find something "out there" to replace the quiet vulnerability of "right now."

The verses of Brand New are the underlying anger that rumbled beneath my attempts to cope—hence the distorted and whispery vocals. I kept myself so busy and so focused on new goals and where I wanted to "go," that I could barely acknowledge the fact that deep down I felt a considerable amount of resentment for a girl who had made promises she ultimately couldn't keep. And the longer that anger went ignored, the harder I worked, and the more detached I became from my core self. 

Until eventually, I hit a point of complete unhappiness. I was no longer the meditative writer I had once been. In his place stood a well-dressed young professional on the road to success. And no matter how much I achieved, I continued to feel "without."

Riding Waves

This is the turning point of the story, and our first real glimpse at the narrator's actual feelings. 

Going back to this theme of "moving through" something in order to understand it, Riding Waves does exactly that. It is my admitting how I feel—verbally and musically—and also acknowledging that, in order to move forward, there is nothing else to do but feel what needs to be felt. Like an ocean's tide, you cannot fight it. You can only move with it, until the waters have calmed—and you with them.

What is different about this song is the perspective from which it is written. This is not my former self writing, but rather who I am now looking back in reflection. This is a sign that growth has been made. The voice here is witnessing its own feelings, instead of being wrapped up in them—an essential part of the process.

The outro to Riding Waves may be the most significant part of the song. It first begins with:

I guess I just wasn’t worth it to you.

I guess I just wasn’t worth it.

I guess I just wasn’t worth it to you.

I guess I just…

It then moves into a hypnotic piano melody that eventually carries itself away—a letting go of trying to fight the ocean, and instead accepting "what is" until the rediscovery of land. 

A Page From My Journal

A play on words, A Page From My Journal is a piano composition I have written over the past several years. Here, the keys tell the highly complicated story I strive to tell.

First Movement: 0:01 - 1:23

The first movement signifies the rekindling of our broken relationship. It is sad and quiet, but with a hint of hope. This was when we had first started talking again, and some part of me thought that maybe things could return to the way they once were.

Second Movement: 1:24 - 2:23

The second movement represents all of the underlying emotions I have long suppressed, finally rising to the surface—fury, anger, resentment, and most of all, a loss of respect, specifically her asking me to deny, to her new boyfriend, that I had ever existed in her life in the first place.

Third Movement: 2:24 - 4:09

The third movement sees the truth. It is the breaking of the illusion, seeing things as they are instead of wishing for what they could be.

Fourth Movement (Repeat): 4:10 - 5:51

The fourth movement then repeats itself as a reflection of the beginning. After going through the reflective process, all now is seen in a different light—as permission to move on once and for all.

From The Heart

As if coming out of a dream, From The Heart begins with a solitary voice. It is naked and vulnerable, and purposefully illustrates two things: The honesty I have grown comfortable sharing with the world and what it is I create, and the rediscovery of the boy with the long hair who knew who he was deep down and how to find fulfillment from within. 

The introduction melody is very reminiscent of my early years playing classical piano. It is inspired by the Mozart and Beethoven of my childhood. It is then layered with more modern sounds and melodies to create a portrait of unity: acknowledging the practices that I had originally held so close, as well as all the "outward" knowledge I have learned over the past few years. This song is the climax of the story, and the final realization that it is not one or the other, the meditative writer or the "successful professional." You can have both—and it's actually through having both that you can find inner fulfillment and outer reward. 

Lastly, although the song begins in vulnerability, it quickly transitions. This symbolizes the fact that the boy with whom she fell in love with was very much "a boy." Back then, I lacked the belief in myself required to share any of my best work—and have often wondered if we had stayed together, I would have ever found the courage to share a project like this, or any heartfelt project with anyone. 

Never thought I had to say it, but I guess I will.

If you hadn’t gone and tore me up

I wouldn’t be this ill.

When I think about the boy I was

and now who’s making deals,

I would never go back

even if this time you turned out real.

Never thought I had to say it to you.

I never thought I had to play into it.

So tell me why you make me play into it?

Don’t try to tell me how you’re always tryna play it coolish.

I been around. Why you always gotta play the nuisance?

My new goal is to make you watch right now.

Thought that you’d never see me?

I’ma be all over town.

Try to say it wasn’t me?

Hope you love my new sound.

Everywhere you try to go

you’re gonna hear Chicago.

Chicago.

You didn’t like Chicago.

Yeah, you know that I’ma be about it.

That’s the motto.

Prolly never see me cuz you never go where I go,

and if I do I’ll know it’s cuz you’re back to playing model.

You said a lot, said a lot.

Said a lot, said a lot, yeah.

Said a lot, said a lot.

You said a lot to me.

You said a lot, said a lot.

You said a lot, said a lot.

You said a lot, said a lot.

You said a lot to me.

Don’t forget it.

Now It's Gone

The last scene of our story, Now It's Gone, is actually a goodbye to two things: Her, and the person I thought I had to become. 

First, the song is in a minor key with haunting overtones, some of which clash and create dissonance. This symbolizes the inner struggle I have felt in thinking that some amount of "success" or "achievement" would ever fulfill what can only be satisfied through being present and enjoying the journey—a never-ending lesson.

Second, the song is written completely from the place of the ego. This symbolizes what life feels like when your worth is based on the external. It lacks true depth.

The chorus is then both a final statement to her and a question to myself:

What, you didn’t want me there?

Well, now it’s gone.

What, you didn’t want? 

What, you didn’t want?

What, you didn’t me there?

Well, now it’s gone.

What, you didn’t want?

What, you didn’t want?

What, you didn't want me there?

Well, now it’s gone. 


To download the full lyrics to Through Your Eyes, submit below.