Building Your Brand: Interview with Kaplan Mobray

By John Black

Describing Kaplan Mobray as inspirational is a little like calling Tom Brady a pretty good player. Spend a few minutes talking with him on almost any subject, and you walk away full of ideas—not his, but yours. That’s how he inspires you. He makes you think. Ask anybody who has read his best-selling book, The 10Ks of Personal Branding, and they can tell you how Kaplan Mobray has inspired them to be their best in any given situation. Through his career as an author and motivational speaker, Kaplan has inspired and transformed countless lives through his insightful approach to personal branding and leadership development. Through his innovative presentation style, he teaches organizations how to transform their businesses and increase their brand reputations. He also motivates individuals to become effective leaders at all levels. Get ready to get branded.

Can you tell me more about what you do as a leadership coach and motivational speaker?

“As a best-selling author and motivational speaker, I spend sixty to seventy percent of my time on the road, speaking to corporate groups and individuals. I talk to them about personal branding and taking ownership of the path they are on. I do a lot of individual career counseling, helping people in a leadership role become better leaders, or helping people who feel their career is in a slump get out of the negative zone and become more positive and more directed by taking more control over their own careers.”

How did you get started in your career?

“I’ve been an entrepreneur since 2010. I worked in Corporate America for about fifteen years before that, and I was on the fast track to success. Then in 2006, I was invited to speak at NYU, and they told me it could be on any topic I chose, as long as it pertained to business. That’s when I came up with my ten points of Personal Branding. It was a great success; one of the students came up to me when it was over and told me that I had changed his life. That’s when I knew I was on to something. I reworked those ideas about Personal Branding and turned them into a more formal presentation and started picking up a lot of speaking engagements. I eventually turned my ideas into a book, The 10Ks of Personal Branding, and it became a best-seller.”

Before we go any further, can you explain what you mean by “Personal Branding”?

“Personal Branding is all about taking control of who you are and the image you project out into the world. People leave too much control in the hands of others, especially when it comes to social media. You need to take back control and project what you want people to see when they see you. And it’s not just on social media. You project who you are when you meet people in person or when you hand a prospective employer your resume at an interview. Take ownership. Present the person you want to be on every possible level.”

What does a typical day look like for you? What’s the most rewarding part of your job?

“I traveled more than 200 days last year.  So on a typical day, you’ll find me in a cab heading to or from LaGuardia Airport. I usually fly into a city and check into a hotel. The next day I give my presentation.  Then, depending on the time, I either head back to the hotel, or to the airport. I keep track of it and last year I actually traveled for 205 days and spoke in seventy cities in five countries, so I’m on the move a lot.  But I love what I do, because I get to help people. There is a great sense of fulfillment in knowing that you’ve helped someone. Sometimes it comes in the form of a person coming up to me and telling me how much what I spoke about meant to him; other times I see it in the face of a person who was asking some pretty tough questions and walked out of that hall with a lot to think about. Either way, I’ve made a difference, and there’s no better feeling.”

If you weren’t working as a motivational speaker, what would be your dream career, and why?

“I play saxophone and piano, so I guess my dream career would be traveling around the world playing music with a great band. I’d also like to be a professional magician; I have since I was a little kid. In fact, I play a song called Mr. Magic on saxophone when I perform. It’s kind of my secret admission of that childhood dream. And if I can’t be either of those, I love to run, so maybe a professional runner.”

What’s one thing that a lot of people may not know about you?

“If there is a piano in the hotel where I am staying, I will get up in the middle of the night, go downstairs, and play it for a little while. When I’m through, I go back upstairs and go to sleep. It’s my quiet time.”

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? What are you most passionate about?

“I love to run. I’m a big believer in the idea that a healthy body means a healthy mind and spirit, so working out is very important to me. Running is great because you can get into a rhythm where your body just goes, and you can free up your mind to think.  Also, I love to salsa dance. Not too many people know about that, but you can watch me on YouTube.”

What advice would you give to younger generations of men who are trying to get their foot through the door?

“Decide the type of person you are. Are you content to be average, as long as you’re happy? Or are you the type of person who wants more out of his career and his life? It sounds simple, but your honest answer will shape the rest of your life. Personally, I never want to be average. I want to be extraordinary in everything I do. People need to set goals, and I don’t mean goals like, ‘I want to be a millionaire.’ Set goals that you can achieve with a reasonable amount of effort. And when you achieve one, give yourself the credit that you deserve for making it happen…then set another goal. That’s how you build confidence.”

How would you define success?

“I think you find success in the fulfillment of meeting those goals like the ones I just talked about. There’s always success to be found in meeting goals. And I think you find success when you appreciate the life around you. I know when I wake up and it’s a beautiful day I take time to appreciate it. It’s another day to do something extraordinary in your life.”

Who and/or what inspires you?

“My parents. I was born in Bermuda, but they moved here to the United States, because that’s where the best opportunities for me could be found. They had nothing they could give to me; they had very little themselves. But they made sure I was in a position to get the best chance possible to make something of my life. So when I was in junior high, I did as well as I could, so I’d get into a good high school program. In college, I did the same and graduated at the top of the class. It’s an attitude I bring to everything I do. I see an opportunity and I do everything in my power to make it happen.”