The Google Guru and the Art of Storytelling

Ananya Vahal
May 30, 2018 · 5 min read

9 ways to develop your brand as an expert.

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“The Google Guru” by Loso F. Perez

When I was in grad school, I remember my professor saying “do not use the word ‘guru’ to describe yourself on LinkedIn.” The more time I spent in the professional world, the more I realized how many people needed to hear this advice but clearly never received it.

When did the word ‘guru’ become associated with cheap branding and self-promotion? As an Indian-American, it personally hurts me to see this word, historically used in my country of birth to refer to someone highly esteemed by the community, taken by Americans and turned into cheap marketing. But my personal feelings aside, let’s look at what being a “guru” really means.

I know many people who don’t necessarily refer to themselves as “gurus” but still present themselves as experts on how others should live their lives. They use social media platforms to tell you how they can make you rich, successful, and “spiritual as hell” — to quote my favorite fake guru — J.P. Sears.

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The irony is that most of these “gurus” are under 50 years old and aren’t actually rich, successful, or “spiritual as hell” themselves in real life. Many of them gain their “expertise” from the 3rd page of Google or YouTube University. These “gurus” only pretend to be experts on the internet. I get it, they are relying on the overused “fake it ’til you make it” strategy and I’m all for it. However, if you’re going to fake it, fake it well. If you half-ass your faking, you’re never gonna make it. That’s where the storytelling skills come in.

I’m not a guru. I’m too busy figuring out my own messy life to tell others how to live theirs. However, I do have an M.F.A. in writing and a couple of personal brands that I have been developing over the last five years. I can tell you that the best way to sell yourself and gain followers on the internet is to have a good, relatable story. If you want to be a “guru” on the internet, you need good storytelling skills. If you don’t have a relatable and interesting story to back up your brand, you have no substance.

You can tell people all day that chasing their dreams and following their hearts will make them rich and successful, but if you don’t have concrete examples from your own life about how you became successful and the strategies you used to get there, your words are meaningless fluff. If you want to teach people how to be more self-aware, how to make more money, or how to have better relationships, show them your story. That is your brand. If you don’t have your own story about the topic on which you are advising people, you have no authority to be a guru. No one will care what you have to say.

Here’s a little checklist to help you strengthen your brand’s story:

It isn’t easy to build a strong, authentic brand which is why there are professionals (like me!) who help people with storytelling and brand development (yes, that was a plug). But seriously, get help. You can be a successful “guru” on the internet by having a good story and a strong brand. For example, I know many people who love the lifestyle “guru” Gary V. He motivates a lot of people even though I’m yet to meet someone who became successful because of him. But, it doesn’t matter because he has a strong brand that is working for him. He has a whole team of people employed under him just to keep the brand going. You may not have all the skills to develop a strong brand on your own so be honest with yourself and get help.

Once again, I don’t claim to be a guru, but I do have a bit of knowledge and experience with storytelling and I’m just tired of seeing people in my network selling themselves short. Now, excuse me while I go back to my messy life.


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Loso F. Perez is a cartoonist with a passion for teaching. You can see more of his work on and follow him on Instagram @prime_vice.

Originally published at on May 30, 2018.

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