Thumbnail: Jason Barnard (the Brand Serp Guy): My Life Journey Revealed

Jason is The Brand SERP Guy – the digital marketing consultant who specialises in Brand SPERPs and Knowledge Panels.

Barnard had been studying, tracking, and analysing Brand SERPs since 2013. Conclusion: Brand SERPs are your new business card, an honest critique of your content strategy and a reflection of your brand’s digital ecosystem. That should pique the interest of any marketer in any industry :)

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He has over 2 decades of experience in digital marketing, starting in the year Google was incorporated with a site for kids that he built up to become one of the 10,000 most visited sites in the world.

Jason is a very productive expert being a regular contributor to leading digital marketing publications such as Search Engine Journal and Search Engine Land and regular guest on others such as Wordlift, SEranking, SEMrush, Search Engine Watch, Searchmetrics and Trustpilot.

He speaks at major marketing conferences worldwide including BrightonSEO, PubCon, SMX series, ITB Berlin and YoastCon. Find out more about Jason Barnard in a special 21CE podcast episode where he reveals his life details like never before.

Jason Barnard’s Introduction as The Brand SERP Guy

[00:00:00] Martin Piskoric: 21st Century Entrepreneurship with Martin Piskoric.

[00:00:26] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Yes. Yes. Yes. I’m telling you that was me. Well, I’ll introduce myself to get us away from this terribly, terribly embarrassing self-centered topic. I’m Jason Barnard. I’m The Brand SERP Guy. I deal with what appears when somebody googles your brand name or your personal name and interesting enough that goes beyond just people and companies. It goes to podcasts. It goes to music groups, music albums, software companies, basically anything that somebody googles in order to either find out more about it or to navigate to the website that will tell them more about it. And it’s something I think within our industry that’s fairly unique. I don’t think anybody else I haven’t heard of anybody else in the industry who is actually looking at this in quite the detail that I am.

The Humble Start of Living in a Small Town in Yorkshire and Being a Punk in The Middle of The Countryside

[00:01:21] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): My neighbors were cows and sheep.

[00:01:24] Martin Piskoric: Okay.

[00:01:25] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): So, doing naughty things was pretty tame. Basically, you got a sad cow looking at you and mooing or a sheep running away and you could be as naughty. I was a punk, and being a punk amongst sheep and cows is completely pointless.

[00:01:44] Martin Piskoric: Where was your town situated?

[00:01:46] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): It was in Yorkshire in the north of England and it was just before the Yorkshire Mall. So, basically, as you go out into the countryside, the road just ends and there’s this village and there’s 25 people who live there. And when I was a kid, I was one of the 25 people that lived in this village.

[00:02:06] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And my neighbours were cows, sheep, farmers, and three kids who were absolutely not my best friends. So, it was a very lonely, probably slightly depressing childhood. But when you have no friends or the only friends you have are sheep and cows, you learn to entertain yourself and motivate yourself to do lots of stuff.

[00:02:31] Martin Piskoric: What is the way of thinking and feeling when you are immersed into punk and that kind of environment?

[00:02:41] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): A bit strange. I walked through the snow. I would like to say in bad feet but it’s not strictly true because it sounds better.

[00:02:51] Martin Piskoric: But it’s good for the story.

[00:02:53] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): It’s good for the story. I walked through the snow five miles, so that’s eight kilometres, to buy my first ever album when I was 11 or 12, 12. I know I must’ve been 12 or 13 actually because it was London Calling by The Clash. And I literally walked 8 kilometres to the nearest town that had a record shop to buy The Clash. That is how sad it is to be a punk in the middle of the countryside in the north of England. When you really want to be part of this punk movement in 1979, and you’re 13 years old living in the middle of nowhere with a cow, a sheep, your mother, your father, two sisters, and a couple of hands.

Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy) on His Ex-Wife and Their Good Relationship

[00:03:39] Martin Piskoric: What did you take from that period of time?

[00:03:41] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): That I would never allow myself to be put in a situation where I had absolutely nothing to do week after week after week after week. But interesting enough talking about my wife, now my ex-wife, incredibly intelligent lady. She and I have one thing in common is that we both have an immense capacity to find things to do and to learn on our own and to move forward without other people motivating us. And for me, it was because I didn’t have anybody. I was in the middle of the countryside. And for her, it was because her parents lived in a big town and they had a really, really active social life. And they would just sit in a corner with a piece of paper and some crayons and say, just draw. We don’t want to hear from you for the next five hours. We’re having a party. And so she learned the same skills that I learned, but in completely different circumstances.

[00:04:41] Martin Piskoric: So, she was your good companion. 

[00:04:45] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): She’s wonderful. Yeah. We still get on incredibly well. We’re not together anymore not because of immense disagreement but because…

[00:04:55] Martin Piskoric: Did she find somebody younger?

[00:04:59] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): No. She’s actually got a delightful companion. What do you call it? Partner. He’s a banjo player. I’m a musician. So she just moves from one musician to the other which is wonderful for that. In fact, my part of my story was that we made a cartoon series together. And I was a blue dog and she was a yellow koala.

[00:05:21] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): It kind of took over our lives and I think it affected our relationship. And creating these characters, working together, living together, having a family together, we lived on a desert island in the middle of the Indian Ocean called Mauritius, it was a very strange, very intense, very close situation that perhaps broke what was otherwise a perfectly wonderful relationship.

[00:05:59] Martin Piskoric: And both of you are intellectuals so, probably, there was a lot of thinking.

[00:06:07] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): I think you’re right. We probably have a thought. One thing I would say when you say we’re both intellectuals, in fact, my wife left school at 16 and nobody in her…

[00:06:22] Martin Piskoric: But she’s an intellectual.

[00:06:23] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Yes, exactly. Sorry. That’s what I meant is that she left school, and she self-educated, and she’s incredibly intelligent and everything.

[00:06:31] Martin Piskoric: Even better. No shitty constraints.

[00:06:35] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Yeah. Whereas I come from an intellectual family and did a degree and all the constraints are there. And I now would analyse this and say that she helped me to let go of those shackles. And I can thank her for that.

Studying on Liverpool John Moores University and The Connotation of Getting a Degree 

[00:06:48] Martin Piskoric: Are you a Harvard boy or Stanford boy? That kind of boy or… 

[00:06:53] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): No. Liverpool John Moores University which is the same university as John Lennon.

[00:07:00] Martin Piskoric: Cool. Spanking John Lennon.

[00:07:02] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Yep. Yep. Yep. Yep. Yep. So, it’s actually a pretty crap university. John Lennon didn’t go to the best university in the UK and neither did I. So, it was, how could we put it, it was the least worst of the lower-level universities in the UK. And I scraped in and scraped out with the minimum of what I could possibly have got.

[00:07:28] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And I actually now look back, and I’m going to do an interview in a couple of weeks with somebody who’s saying scrap the degree you, get on with your life. And I don’t necessarily agree a hundred percent with the statement as it stands. But that degree didn’t actually really help me in any kind of meaningful manner. What it did do is fill in four years of my life which I needed. And I think I needed it less intellectually and more because it allowed me the space between leaving home and actually trying to find a job where you just hang out and drink beer and pretend to be an intellectual, which we know is pretty, pretty rubbish.

[00:08:08] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And it did me a lot of good, and I think it was more the gap than it was what I was actually taught or what I actually did. And it was to learn to live alone in a city after living with the cows and the sheep and the countryside living in Liverpool was obviously a big change and pretty exciting to be honest.

Good Experiences and Bad Experiences Throughout Time

[00:08:24] Martin Piskoric: So much beautiful pictures. What was the ratio good experiences versus bad experiences during that period of time? 

[00:08:34] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Oh, well, I can actually pretty much name the good ones and the bad ones in terms of really big ones. Big experience number one was that I learned that having been an outcast at school and it was a self-imposed outcasty-tude because I was a punk, and being a punk, you want to be different and you want to create waves and you do create waves and everyone hates you. Looking back, you’re going fair enough I would have hated me too. I was probably very objectionable. And I went to Liverpool and people didn’t care. So, making those waves didn’t make any effect because everybody was like that or more people were like that. So, I immediately learned that being objectionable didn’t actually count for anything and nobody cared. So, it calmed me down very quickly.

Being a Naive and Enthusiastic Member of a Punk Band

[00:09:24] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Then I met a friend and find that guy who played the guitar and he said, basically, we decided we would play music together and I wanted to be a singer and he was this guitar player. We formed a group called Stanley The Counting Horse which is the silliest name for a band in the entire universe. And it was a blues band and no rhyme or reason for it at all. And I think the reason we named the band like that was because we had an Irish friend from Northern Ireland called Peter Harper who just kept going on about what a great name for a band it would be. And we just thought, yeah, all right, we’ll just accept that as a name because at least then we don’t have to argue about it anymore and there’s no discussion. And, oh, this is great. The drummer in the band, you’ve heard of The Sisters of Mercy?

[00:10:14] Martin Piskoric: Of course.

[00:10:16] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): You’ve heard of their song called Alice which was written by Ben Gunn who was the guitar player? He was the drummer in our band. He went from The Sisters of Mercy to the world’s worst blues band in Liverpool with me and my mate, Dave. And so if you ever wonder what happened today to Ben Gunn from The Sisters of Mercy, after The Sisters of Mercy, he joined my blues band which as a drummer. And he was great. He was wonderful. And we played, I don’t know, maybe over three years, we played maybe 40 gigs, 40 or 50 gigs.

[00:10:54] Martin Piskoric: For a year?

[00:10:55] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): No. Over three years. It was 20 gigs a year. So, it was a gig every couple of weeks. And my memory of it was a) Dave did me a big favour letting me sing in the band, b) we kept getting gigs and I don’t really know-how. And I met up with them 30 years later, a couple of years ago, three or four years ago. And my memory was very much that he was driving it all that he was doing me this enormous favour, and that he was the driving force behind the band. And in fact, it turns out his view is that I was the driving force behind the band. I found all the gigs. He couldn’t believe how enthusiastic I was. And that he was about to give up music when he met me. But he said you were just so enthusiastic. And I had been playing with musicians who were just such a pain in the ass. And you were so naive and so enthusiastic, I just had to start again and it’s thanks to you that I’m still playing music today. And I say, it’s thanks to you, Dave, that I don’t play music at all.

[00:11:57] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And so, you look at it and you look back and you think actually our memories are actually completely different from the same situation and both of us got a really big boost out of it. And it kicked us both in what I would now consider to be exactly the right direction from my point of view, at least, because I then went on to become a professional musician and making cartoons with music for kids.

[00:12:21] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And it’s all thanks to Dave. If he hadn’t shown that faith in me. It’s my perception, but then his perception, if I hadn’t been so naive to think that I could actually sing a song in front of a crowd. And I love that as just these kind of conflicting points of view on the same situation. And that is point number one. That was incredibly big influence on my life.

Learning About People From Different Cultures

[00:12:46] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And another one was being surrounded by people who weren’t from the countryside. Learning that people with different cultures would all come together because in Liverpool you got lots of people who come over from Ireland and Northern Ireland, and you’ve obviously got the religious conflict in Ireland and Northern Ireland in particular. And then Liverpool, what’s interesting is the Catholics and the Protestants put all that to one side or the people I was hanging out with and were friends, and then they would go back to Northern Ireland and they couldn’t talk to each other. Their families wouldn’t meet.

[00:13:20] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): So, you had that incredible cultural situation. You’re going, I was hanging out with sheep and cows which is one thing, and all of a sudden I’m trying to deal with all these different kinds of things you just can’t. I’ve heard about all this stuff because I’m not stupid and I watched the news and I went to school and so on and so forth. But the real-life, day-to-day, living with human beings, who’ve got this enormous set of conflict is both simpler and much more complicated than I had possibly imagined from the countryside. So, that’s point number two.

Having a Traumatic Experience That Made Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy) Leave Liverpool

[00:13:52] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Point number three is that I actually ended, if you’re going to be a psychologist, I was alone at home in Liverpool. And the year before my final exams, people broke into my house. They took me prisoner and they held me, tie me up, beat me up, smash my head, and I thought I was going to die. And it lasted what five, six hours. And that was incredibly traumatic. And I look back now and it’s the reason I left Liverpool was because I couldn’t stand to stay there. But strangely after it happened, I had a year before I did my exams and I stuck it out for a year because I was determined to finish what I’d started. And I was scared shitless walking down the road every single day for a year because I thought I was going to get killed.

Experiencing Young and Complicated Love

[00:14:54] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And then I moved to Paris and that’s one of the reasons I moved to Paris is to get away from that. Another reason was that I thought I’d fall in love with a beautiful French woman who turned out to have a boyfriend. It was all very complicated.

[00:15:17] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): My mother is a jazz musician, and I met her at one of my mother’s jazz concerts in Paris. And she was 16 and I was 19, and we kept exchanging postcards when postcards was still a thing. And the postcards backs said, I love you. This is wonderful. How much do I love you? I can’t wait to be with you. And it was all very naive and lovely and beautiful. And looking back, you think I can’t begin to think why I didn’t ever think the post person, man or woman, is reading all this shit because it’s on a postcard. How stupid are we?

[00:15:58] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): So, writing all these postcards back wasn’t for us and I just pitched up. After my exams, I just left. I left Liverpool as soon as I possibly could, turned up in Paris and said, hello, we’re in love. This is wonderful. And she went off as she opened the door. This is my boyfriend, and it was this very, very tall guy. And I just went, oh, how naive am I. I thought that I was going to pitch up in Paris with this woman. She was by that time 19 or 20 years old. And that these three years of postcards would mean that we had this meaningful love relationship. I’m mad. I’m completely mad as a Hatter, but it was the idea. And I think that’s what motivates me is that naive thinking. Yeah, this can work out. Why not? Absolutely, why not?

Doing Gigs and Dreaming of Playing on Stadiums One Day

[00:16:50] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And then you go on to joining the band. And you look at that and we were reasonably successful. We sold like 40,000 albums, I think, in total. And we were filling up 200, 500 people for a gig. So, it was reasonably successful. But you’re sitting in that van and we did a hundred thousand kilometers a year driving in van to play these gigs in front of sometimes it was 500 people, sometimes it was three people and a dog.

[00:17:22] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And you would go and you would keep going and you would do a good gig everytime because you thought one day, one day, this is going to be a stadium of a hundred thousand people. I’m going to be a star. This is going to be like the big time. And of course, it’s never going to happen. Of course, it’s not reasonable. And of course, it’s incredibly naive, but if you didn’t have that naive thought, you wouldn’t stick with it. It’s beautiful and sad at the same time because you looking at this and thinking, I’m looking back at it as an older person thinking how naive was I? Very. How lovely is that? And have I truly changed? And the answer is no, because I’m still the same today. I’m still doing the same idiotic things and naively thinking it’s all going to work out, but yeah, it always does to some extent, but obviously not to the extent that you expect it to.

Jason Barnard’s Relationship With His Mother and How It Taught Him About Empathy

[00:18:36] Martin Piskoric: Was your mother egocentric back then?

[00:18:40] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Can I give you a measure of just how egocentric and narcissistic? She left when I was four, runaway with a jazz musician, leaving my father with three children in a farm house they had bought three years before to fend for himself, while she went off to have a jazz life with her new husband leaving her kids behind. Now, if you want to dig into my deeper inner self you go in having had a child, I cannot understand and I still cannot begin to understand how you can do that. I could not possibly just leave my daughter.

[00:19:24] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): One thing it’s taught me is, empathy is one word, but I can’t remember what the actual word is, but it’s appreciation of the other’s point of view. I’m trying to be less empathetic because empathetic implies that I care too much about other people and I have a real problem with being overly empathetic. And empathy, when you were overly empathetic and you think you can understand what other people are feeling, you’re making a mistake because you can’t know what the other person is feeling.

[00:19:55] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): You need to be appreciative of the fact that they have an emotion. You cannot feel that emotion. So, it’s being more understanding and I’m trying to learn very late in life that you can’t overdo it. You’ve obviously got to look after yourself. And I think you mentioned the egocentric or the narcissistic nature of one’s parents in our case. Some people end up being the same and some people react completely oppositely and I reacted completely opposite.

Doing What Is Important and Valuable, Bringing Positive Contributions to The World, and Focusing on What He Really Wants to Do

[00:20:30] Martin Piskoric: What’s right direction for you?

[00:20:33] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): I’ve always done what I think is important or valuable. And what I mean by that is, for example, The Barking Dogs which was the group in France that I played in, and I thought we were a very good group. I thought that we brought happiness, we made parties, we played folk punk music, we made people happy, we had fans. And the point wasn’t that we had fans and I wanted to feel loved. It was that we turned up in the town and it was a party and people were really happy and they were delighted to have us. And I love that idea.

[00:21:20] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And then from there with my ex-wife, we made the Boowa and Kwala cartoons which are cartoons for kids, preschool kids, a blue dog and a koala. And that was valuable educational content that kids and parents loved and we were bringing positive things to the world with the content, with the cartoons, with the songs, with the activities. And I was convinced that that, and I remain convinced that, is amazingly good content, and I’m very, very, very proud of what we did.

[00:21:53] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And I meet people today. I met a guy who interviewed me. He said, actually I listened to those songs because my kids listened to it 15, 20 years ago. And I meet people who were fans of The Barking Dogs from 30 years ago. And they say, we loved it. And I don’t meet people who say to me, I absolutely hated your band, or I hated you, or your blue dog and yellow koala, and there might be people in the world who think that. But the general feedback has been that I’ve created things with the other people, with the singer, and the drummer, and the mandolin player, and the violin player in The Barking Dogs with my ex-wife and the people we made the cartoons with the team in Mauritius who were brilliant. 

[00:22:40] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And we made positive contributions to the world, and I am motivated by that much more than I’m motivated by anything else. And right now, I spent several years paying off the debts from that particular episode, doing work simply to make the money. And recently, I’ve gotten to a situation where that is no longer necessary. I don’t need to pay off the debts of that service sorting themselves out little by little, and I’m in a reasonably comfortable situation.

[00:23:14] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And I can focus on what I really want to do. And it turns out what I really want to do is understand how Google functions, not how it functions, because you can’t understand how it functions, it’s too complicated, but be able to approach Google with something like understanding. But when Google does things, I don’t think I’ve got no idea why that happened. I have a good idea about what’s happening and I’ve got a good idea of what I can do to affect how Google will represent me, my company, my products, whatever it might be. And I think what I’ve now realised I’m in a position today where I think within my industry, I’m respected and appreciated and my work is accepted as being important and interesting and insightful.

[00:24:09] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And still my driving ambition is still the same is I just want to understand. I want to figure this thing out. And it’s one of those wonderful things in life, and I didn’t think I would ever say this, I’ve come across a problem that I know I can never solve. Something I will never, ever, ever even come close to understanding. The machine is running much too fast for me, for all of us.

[00:24:33] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): But I’m enjoying the ride and I’m enjoying trying. And it’s one of those things, as you think, I’m actually enjoying trying to understand something I know I will never get to grasp, to grips with which is mad. It’s an eternal cycle that I will never come to the end of, and I love it.

[00:25:07] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): People tell me that music is similar. Obviously, I played music and I was a double bass player and a singer. And once you get really into music, the more you learn about it, the more you realise that you’re never going to get there, the more that you’re learning and you’re learning and you’re learning, and it’s 12 notes, it seems so simple. And however much you play, however much you learn, however much you play with other people, however much you contribute, and however much you can digest from the rest of the world, you’re always on this kind of losing race. So, master it because you never do.

The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard) on Writing About His Life and How He Managed to Find a Bottomless Well of Positive Energy

[00:25:57] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): I was thinking very vaguely about writing a book, but in fact, what it would, I think we all do, when we think nobody else is going to be interested, but I could break it into six chunks.

[00:26:09] Martin Piskoric: So, excuse me, you’re meant to say my first book. Yes? 

[00:26:13] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): No. It would be six books in fact, because, well, that’s the thing is that I can break my life into six chunks and each of the chunks ends with a disaster. Something that you going to think, yeah, that should have laid me down and I should have not got up again, and I’ve got up every time. And it’s not say one, this American drivy person who keeps getting up and fighting. But it is that slow persistence of thinking, okay, now what? Now, what do I do? How do I move forward? And it’s that kind of constant forward movement. It’s not being a bully and it’s not being get up and go Americany. It’s perseverance. And there’s a really nice word in French for that which is la niaque. And la niaque is the equivalent of American drive but with a really kind aspect to it. It means I just got energy. It’s having positive energy to move forwards rather than drive to make loads and loads of money in the amount of consensus I would understand it. And I think that the one thing that runs through my life is that so far, at least, luckily, a bottomless well of la niaque that I’ve managed to find.

Experiencing Depression and Rebuilding His Self

[00:27:41] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): I’ve been really, really, really, really, really loud after several of these episodes and looked at it and thought, well, that’s it. And then, it comes back. And I’m not a religious person in any stretch of the imagination, but I think as humans, we have a soul. There’s something in us that makes us the beings that we are for good or for bad, for better or for worse, whatever it might be.

[00:28:14] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And the blue dog and yellow koala story is the one where my business partner took it away from us. I was the blue dog. My wife was the yellow koala. I got to the point where I actually think I thought I was the blue dog. Not a good way to be functioning. And then he took me to court in Mauritius where, let’s say, the courts aren’t very fair. And he took the whole thing away from me and it was literally like somebody had ripped out my soul and I had nothing left, literally nothing.

[00:29:01] Martin Piskoric: Except you. Except yourself.

[00:29:03] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Well, actually, no. I didn’t even have that for maybe three months.

[00:29:08] Martin Piskoric: Maybe not on a conscious level.

[00:29:10] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): No. Sure. But I literally could not figure out how I would get through the next three or four seconds let alone a day for three months. And I’ve been in that kind of hole, and that was stunningly, stunningly difficult. I thought this is it.

[00:29:29] Martin Piskoric: But the learning process, beautiful learning process.

[00:29:32] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): I actually literally thought there is nothing left in me.

[00:29:35] Martin Piskoric: I understand. But it was a beautiful learning process.

[00:29:39] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Yeah. Trust me. If anyone’s been in a very serious situation of depression or that kind of very low situation is I would struggle to get through every second of the day. Then, I would wait for the evening with bated breath thinking I can’t wait for the evening. I would get to the evening, go to bed, and I would be so scared of going to sleep because I wake up with ice in my veins. So then, I would be begging for the morning to come. And then in the morning, I would spend the entire day waiting for the evening to come and so on and so forth which is a very, very, very difficult cycle to be in.

[00:30:20] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And the day I thought I have pulled myself out of this, it took me three months. And I remember very, very, very vividly the exact moment when I thought, yup, that’s it. I’m building this back up again. And from my point of view, it was rebuilding what I would consider to be my soul. And I would now argue to anybody that it is possible, and there might be a time in your life when you think it isn’t. And it sounds awfully American and awfully motivational.

[00:31:26] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): I rebuilt, and it’s not rebuilding my career. It’s rebuilding myself. And I think that for me with the biggie that was, what is it? 13, 12, 13 years ago now. It still makes me cry. You probably hear my voice. I’m crying. Thirteen years later, it’s still a very kind of deep, powerful part of me and that three months remains very vivid in how I, as soon as I talk about it, I perceive it. And one thing I did was read a lot of Confucius.

[00:32:09] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And he actually says, and when you’re in it, you’re just repeating time and time and time and time again to everybody who will listen. And you are so boring to everybody around you. It’s so difficult because you think it’s going to make you feel better. And Confucius says, stop repeating it. Every time you repeat it, it’s like vomiting. You’re vomiting the poison that’s making you feel more and more ill, and it gets worse and worse and worse. Stop talking about it, and things will start to improve. And I learned to do that. And every now and then, I do talk about it like today. But as a general rule, I just simply don’t talk about it.

Fear and The Gradual Process of Healing

[00:32:53] Martin Piskoric: What’s the word for that period of your time for those three months?

[00:33:06] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): It was pure fear for three months. If I had to put one word on it, it would be fear. In terms of imagery, it’s like having a big black dog right on your shoulder the entire time who’s about to bite your head off. And you have a mixed feeling of thinking I’m so scared that I would rather just die. You’re human. Pardon me?

[00:33:32] Martin Piskoric: And after the fear, what was the next emotion?

[00:33:37] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And the thing about that is it’s really gradual. So, there isn’t a moment when you think, oh, the black dog’s gone now, I suddenly feel better. It’s a really, really gradual process. I told you I remember the exact moment and that was because something in me triggered a specific, it was a film that I saw and I thought my daughter would love this film. And that was the moment that I knew that I’d stop thinking only about myself because for those three months of fear, all I thought about was myself. All I thought about was my fear.

[00:34:17] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And the moment I saw something and thought, yeah, my daughter would love this. I would love to show her this film because I know she would love it. I suddenly realised, oh, I’m not completely self-obsessed anymore. That fear and that complete self-obsession has now started to dissipate. And it didn’t disappear for a minute to the next. It’s I had one moment when it disappeared. And from that moment on you say, okay, I can build on that one moment. I can build more moments like that until eventually, you build what I would consider to be your soul back again which is caring for other people. In my case, who knows what anybody else’s soul is built off, but mine is caring for other people and being kind. And that three months was the period when I couldn’t think about anybody or anything except me, my problems, and the big black dog.

[00:35:18] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): I don’t think the fear is a weakness. It’s a human emotion where I was talking to a doctor about it, about the cycle. You were talking about people who overthink, and this is typically from what I understand that something that happens to people overthink who tend to be people who are relatively intelligent and I don’t want to throw myself compliment. What happens is your brain go, for me at least, my brain went into a cycle of thinking things through and keeping thinking and keeping thinking. And it was a cycle that just got kind of bigger and bigger like a whirlwind and your brain just can’t handle it. You can’t handle that kind of thought process that just goes round and round and round and round and round, especially with fear.

[00:36:05] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And one thing, and I think that’s the reason I’m saying it’s a step-by-step process to build out of it, is that you learn that you can break that cycle and you can break it the first time it will break for a second. And you think that’s pretty crap, only a second. I wanted hours and hours because you just want some relief. And then you realise I can build on that second, and the next time it’s going to be a second and a half, and the next time it will be two seconds or the next time it will be three seconds. And literally, you’re looking at seconds. You’re not looking at minutes or hours or days. You’re looking at a second of relief.

When you get to talking about how to solve depression, when you get it up to ten seconds and then you have an episode where it only last five seconds, it’s incredibly tempting to think that’s a failure, but it’s not. It’s still five seconds. It wasn’t the ten seconds you got earlier in the day, but it’s still five seconds. It’s still positive.

jason barnard (the brand serp guy)

[00:36:43] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And I think the trick that I used to pull myself back to something like normality was just to think every time I grab one of those seconds, it’s a positive thing. And it’s not a negative thing that I then lose it again. And that’s really hard to convince your brain to accept that as a thing is to say, I’ve got to focus on the positive thing that I got a second, and I’ve got to focus on the next time I’m going to try to make it a second and a half. And then when you met, and this is the other thing is, when you get to talking about how to solve depression when you get it up to ten seconds and then you have an episode where it only last five seconds, it’s incredibly tempting to think that’s a failure, but it’s not. It’s still five seconds. It wasn’t the ten seconds you got earlier in the day, but it’s still five seconds. It’s still positive. And the next time you can work up to six and seven and those kinds of two steps forward, one step back is all part of life for all of us every day. And if you can see in that kind of circumstance that those two steps always want to step back is actually still progress, you’ve got to chance.

[00:38:00] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): But then, I’m not saying that’s a solution to everybody’s problems for everything, but I think the temptation, and it’s a very big temptation, is to focus on the fact that you’ve lost something you thought you had which is the ten seconds. And that by having the five seconds you’ve lost something. And in fact, the five seconds is still a gain. But at the same time for life, I’m trying not to philosophise too generally here, but life is all about that kind of forwards, backwards, forwards, backwards, forwards, backwards, and trying to assess whether you’re actually moving forwards or not. And in the comfortable Western world that I live in at least, it really shouldn’t be very difficult, but it can be.

Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy) on Developing Both His Creative Side and Pragmatic Side

[00:39:14] Martin Piskoric: Regarding your way of thinking and doing things after all you went through, do you think you have developed creative part of your brain or analytic part of brain?

[00:39:28] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Well, yeah. I think actually that particular story, difficult that it was, didn’t actually help in any particular way either side of my brain. I think I was lucky when I came, basically, when my mother left, she was very artistic. My father is very intellectual. I ended up with the father, very intellectually focused childhood. You need to succeed at school, went to Liverpool, and realised that you don’t actually have to succeed at school at all. You can play in the Cavern Club and pretend you’re the Beatles, and that’s absolutely fine. And you can be naive and think you could play in a band and sing in a band, and that’s absolutely fine too.

[00:40:15] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And then moved to Paris and joined this band. And that was probably the biggest liberating experience was just saying, we’re just going to travel around Europe and play in the street. And we don’t care because we can just set our musical instruments up, play a little gig, people will give us money in our heart. We’re begging basically, we’re playing, we’re busking in the street, and it worked out fine. And that made me realise that or that allowed me to be just completely free and be who I felt like I wanted to be.

[00:40:45] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And then from there, I tried to get a record release. Nobody would release it so I started a record company. I paid for three nights in the studio. And that’s where the pragmatic side came into play. And so I had, from that moment on, I think throughout everything I’ve done the creative side, playing the double bass and singing, writing songs, and the pragmatic side of saying, we need to make a living, creating the record company, making the records, releasing the records, talking to distributors, the businessy side, and then with the blue dog and the yellow koala. It was quite similar in the sense that we had the whole business side is you need to make money, but the very artistic side which was I want to make great cartoons that are educational and helpful to children, preschool children.

[00:41:35] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): So, that whole time it was that duopoly as it were going on. And I think probably the saddest part was after the periods of deep fear, I ended up with quite a lot of debt and spent 10 years just pragmatically working and working and working and working to dig myself out of a hole. And the creative side went completely out the window or not completely, almost completely out the window. And I think that’s probably the saddest period in inverted commas. Not that it was bad, it certainly wasn’t bad, but you saying that the pragmatism had to take over because otherwise I would not have made it through from a financial point of view.

[00:42:28] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And that’s the interesting thing. I was talking to some people in the industry and they said, you obviously know what you’re talking about, but we’d never heard of you two years ago. Why not? Why you’ve completely come out in that field? And the answer was, I’ve been keeping my head down, making the money because I needed to pay the debts off. Now the situation is easier, I can actually start spending some time doing the creative stuff which is giving conferences, doing podcasts, creating this platform, which I’m creating today which is Kalicube, I’m building this platform with my own two little hands, with writing the code, and doing the Schema out of the databases.

[00:43:10] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And I’ve got 10 million things in the database and they all interconnect and it’s all both pragmatic and creative at the same time. And I absolutely love it because it’s got this incredible pragmatic side where it’s a database with all these connecting chunks. And if there are any misconnections that all goes horribly wrong and falls apart, and as long as I can keep it all connected, which it does. It’s really well built. It’s built sufficiently well that it does what it needs to do. It’s functional. I can then dive in and I can think, I wonder what happens if I do this. I wonder what happens if I dig this information out, and I’m discovering incredibly interesting things about Google from this massive data that I’ve collected in this database. And so you’ve got that incredibly structured, pragmatic, practical thing of thinking, how can I organise this so I can then play with it in a creative manner to figure out things that other people haven’t seen? And it sounds pretentious, but wow.

[00:44:13] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): I discovered the other day. Well, actually, I wrote about it year and a half ago. Nobody really wanted to listen to me, I don’t think, about the fact that Google’s got a Knowledge Graph and it’s got algorithm updates within this Knowledge Graph. And I discovered literally last Thursday, that I can figure out the day that they press the button that updates the algorithm. And this is from this massive data, and I’ve been sitting on this massive data for a year and a half. And I only thought, ooh, I want to see what happens when I do this. And I looked in and I found these peaks and they’re really obvious peaks when the Knowledge Graph just goes completely crazy. And there must be somebody at Google. They obviously work on it and then they’ve got this button and they press the button and it updates the entire thing. And through one day, just the whole thing goes a bit mad and then it settles down again.

[00:45:06] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Finding nice, obviously, it’s discovering something and it’s such a lovely feeling you think. It’s the imagination that I have that allowed me to do that because if I’d been purely pragmatic, I just would have seen the data as data. And I wouldn’t have imagined the a) what I could find and b) what it meant when I did find it.

[00:46:01] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Now, this is actually really nice conversation because I’m suddenly thinking of trying not to swear, but wow. I’m back. It’s pragmatic with imagination and creativity all merged together and I’ve just spent literally 13 or 14 years just being pragmatic and I’m so tired of it. So, thank you. Not thanks to you obviously, but it’s just made me realise that.

Published by 21st Century Entrepreneurship March 5, 2021. Host: Martin Piskoric. Guest: Jason Barnard, founder and CEO at Kalicube. 

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