Personal Branding Author Interview: James Marshall Reilly


Today, I spoke to James Marshall Reilly who is the author of Shake The World: It’s Not About Finding a Job, It’s About Creating a Life and the founder of Guild Agency Speakers Bureau & Intellectual Talent Management. Reilly was honored at the White House as one of the Top 100 entrepreneurs in the U.S. age 30 or under. In this interview Reilly shares an aggregate of stories from leaders in humanitarian and corporate ventures, what success looks like, the role personal branding plays today, and much more.

What inspired you to write Shake The World?
I left a job and (like many people) didn’t know what I wanted to do next but I knew I wanted it to be something different, something productive and meaningful in more than just a financial way. That got me thinking about the amazing people that were doing things to change the world (e.g. building schools, reducing malnutrition, leading multi-million dollar companies). This book was a way to showcase the stories of the ones we often don’t hear about.

You interviewed inspired leaders and entrepreneurs, is there a common thread they all share?
Let me share that Reilly interviewed humanitarians to corporate leaders including Scott Harrison, founder and CEO of charity: water to Cameron Herold, former COO of 1-800-GOT-JUNK, Tony Hsieh, CEO of, Inc. and Blake Mycoskie of TOMS.

There were several common threads, which is ultimately the underlying argument of the book. The core set of commonalities and the biggest, most important is to “act as a disruptive force” whether that’s within an industry or your own life. This action will lead to the greatest result. Tony Hsieh disrupted the shoe industry with Zappos and the industry, consumers and his company are all in a better place. Shawn Fanning created disruption in the music industry and while he got in trouble, 10 years later, we’re able to consume music better and easier and record labels are paid for it.

What does success look like?
Each person defines success different, for one it may be donating 65MM shoes and for another it may be personal happiness. For most of these leaders success is when daily life+work intersect in a way that Sunday and Wednesday are interchangeable.

Take Ellen Gustafson who was working at the UN shortly after being inspired, in a nearly obsessive way, by food and healthy eating, during a ski trip. While partnering on a project with Lauren Bush they developed the original FEED bag to address global hunger and malnutrition. After the UN declined the project and several other groups and companies passed on them, they opened their own company. By 2010 the GAP was selling their FEED handbags and products. Half a million bag sales later, fifty-five million children have been fed and their little company has generated millions in sales too.

This is just a sample of the type of story you’ll find in Shake The World, and how anyone can turn their passion into a business.

How relevant is personal branding, for anyone, including job seekers today?
Personal branding is incredibly important whether you’re Tony Hsieh or Joe the Job Seeker. We all have a personal brand. Take any of these rising companies (e.g. TOMS Shoes, Zappos) and there are strong leaders in front of the brand. We all know the CEO and feel like we know the CEO personally; look at the impact when Steve Jobs was lost. We all felt as if we know him. When we like the company or brand’s leader, their businesses do well.

The same goes for a job seeker or employee. If I’m an intern at a company and I post a bunch of pictures on my Facebook account, that’s my personal brand. If I tweet a bunch of socially relevant things, that’s also my personal brand. The most important part of anyone’s brand is authenticity. People respond to authenticity.

What one piece of advice do you want to convey about Shake The World?
Avoid settling. Don’t be afraid to fail. Take small risks when you feel it’s worth taking them and know that it may not be that you’re going to start a business but that half-baked idea you have today may turn into something big in 3 years.

Keep an open mind and pursue your own interests.

Shake The World was released with Penguin Books in late December, 2011 and can be found at, your local bookstore or on your Kindle.  After reading it myself I’d say it’s definitely worth $20. If you’re not inspired to start your own business, these are stories of great leaders you want to know of, about and get connected to. Who knows, maybe they’re building companies you’ll be part of someday soon.