Ask the readers: How do you name a baby for success?

bad baby names

Jay Tillery, a Quick Sprout reader, emailed me asking what name he should give to his baby girl.

I am an avid reader of your blog and it’s done some wonders for my career. Anyways, how do you possibly name a kid for success? Steve Jobs, Mark Cuban, Bill Gates, Donald Trump, Jay Tillery. Is it because the names are unique or can a guy like Bill Smith have the same success? I’ve been trying to figure it out. What are your thoughts on naming a baby a name that stands for success? If there is a consulting fee let me know.

Because I don’t charge or provide these types of services, I asked Jay if I could ask you for input.

So what name would you give to a baby girl?

Update: One thing I forgot to include in the post, is that if someone is bound to be successful, their name will have little to do with it. But one thing a good name helps with is branding. If you have a generic name like “John Smith”, it is going to be harder to brand yourself compared to having a unique name. Some things to keep in mind when helping Jay come up with a name:

  1. It should be easy to spell.
  2. It should be memorable.
  3. I am assuming that the last name would be “Tillery” so you only need to pick a first name.

P.S. For more tips on business success go here.


  1. Tanner Christensen :

    A name doesn’t make one successful, it’s the success of the person that makes the name stand for success. So, any name will really do.

    • I agree that a name doesn’t make one successful, but a generic name like “John Smith” is a bit harder to brand.

    • I’d have to agree with Neil. I’m just not convinced that David Brown could draw an audience with a late night TV show.

      On the other hand, Jack Johnson did sell a bunch of CD’s, but “Jack” isn’t really a common name, is it?

    • Tanner christensen, that is exactly the kind of kum-bay-ya answer I would expect from someone who is named Tanner Christensen.

    • Motorcycles for sale :

      yes very true…. a name doent make one successful… any name will do… depends upon destiny where it goes….

  2. There were two fellows that went to the same high school as me. One was named Eric Johnson. The other was John Ericson.

    I think that may have ruined both of their lives.

    • LOL, I can see how that could mess them up. People probably confused the 2 all the time.

      Where they good friends?

      • Mike Tekula :

        I didn’t know them well – mostly knew of them through stories. Which was all the more confusing.

        Oddly enough, I don’t remember ever seeing them in the same place at the same time…

    • Eric Johnson was one of my favorite guitarists ages ago, in the genre as Joe Satriani, in fact I think they even collaborated together.
      grew up to be rich, famous and successful
      must be the same guy
      how many could there be
      thanks and take care

  3. I would call the baby “Ar”. It’s short, it’s unique and very memorizable if you spell it with “Tillery” as the last name.

    J/k, focus on a name that isn’t easy to make fun of and go with it. A name doesn’t make a person successful.

    • That is the same reason I did not give Jay any names. I am still a 15 year old on the inside and have always wanted to name my kids funny names.

      Never thought about “Ar”. Good one.

  4. Your parents were very kind to you in this department :.)

  5. Congratulations on the new baby Neil! Do you know if it’s a boy or a girl yet?

    I’m sure he or she will be a success no mater what you give. 😉

    • Thanks, but it isn’t my kid. 😉

      I am only 23 years old… give me another 7 years and maybe I will be a dad.

  6. Chris Thompson :

    My wife and I applied a simple test to any potential name.

    Say out loud, to each other, the phrase “Supreme Court Justice” followed by the full proposed name, first middle and last.

    It weeds out the weak names in a hurry.

    It’s how we ended up with Alexander, Abigail and Grace.

    Supreme Court Justice Alexander John Thompson. etc

  7. Frank Michlick :

    And then you also have to make sure that you can buy the corresponding domain name 🙂

    • Good idea. 20 years from now, that will probably be very important.

      • Tanner Christensen :

        20 years from now… you don’t think that it’s pretty important to be able to brand yourself online TODAY? Sure, a baby won’t need a domain for 20 years, but why not get them started early on their online reputation? 🙂

        • It is important today, but 20 years from now it will be much more important.

          Ideally you should start branding the baby now.

  8. Herb Firestone :

    I don’t suppose Hillary would ever be seriously considered.

  9. I wanted to name our kid Major Savage but ended up with Jakob and then bought his domain name too.

  10. My full name is both difficult to spell and not so memorable, but I try to brand it and use it as my blog domain name. Have fun with pronouncing it correctly 🙂

    For baby girl – my suggestion are Jessica and Olivia.

  11. It’s a sad state of affairs when we have to consider the name of our children and the impact on their future success in life.

    A name is just a name. It’s what they do with their lives and how we as parents equip them for life that really counts.

  12. Vinh Nguyen :

    We named our daughter of three months Ellie after a character in Ice Age 2. Ellie is a “crazy” female mammoth who believes she is an opossum. My wife loves the movie and we all agreed the Ellie would be a great name. We checked the name on the Social Security site:
    It came out it was a rare name. Because of the originality of the process to find the name we can brag about that… it’s branding!
    We never intend to give our baby a name for success. We gave a name that was pleasant for us and our relatives.

  13. I disagree with you Neil when you say a name has little to do with a person’s success. Why else do actors, singers, and business people change their name? For example, do you remember Malcolm Little or Malcolm X? Would you rather read a book from Samuel Clemens or Mark Twain?

    In my opinion, the name has a lot to do with making you memorable. My name is unique in the minds of people because of a unique pronunciation.

    As for your girl, my suggestions is Asani. It is unique and original plus it holds a pretty strong association with “pure” (DASANI). It is also the name of my daughter!

    • Jay Tillery :

      Isn’t there a water “dasni” made by coca cola company?

      I agree with you James, would McDonalds be what it is today if the name of the company was Smiths? People would order a Big Smith or a box of Chicken Smith Nuggets. I couldn’t imagine calling Ronald McDonald, Ronald Smith. It just doesn’t work!

      I knew coming into this that a name doesn’t make a person successful, but why do most of the successful people have interesting names?

      Even celebrity criminals have catchy, easy to remember names like, Ted Bundy, Lee Harvey Oswald, Al Capone, Timothy McVeigh. I guarantee without doing a search on google you know who these guys are and you can easily associate them with being criminals.

      Does anyone remember David Brown? Yeah, the nutcase cannibal that changed his name to Nathaniel Bar-Jonah, so people can remember him.

      I’m not trying to say name your kid to be a hardened criminal, but your name does help you along the way. With that said, i’m going to watch a film by William Smith AKA Will Smith.

      • There are some exceptions, but a memorable name always helps!

      • Yea, the water is made by Coca Cola.

        I think the main reason people remember some of those names is because of what they did. That is always going to be the determinant of their success. But a good name does help make things a bit easier.

    • Good point. I never thought about it from the perspective of actors and writers. For Average Joes it probably isn’t as important, but you do have a valid point.

      Dasani is a good pick. 🙂

  14. LOL, I now want to name my kid “Dorito”.


  15. I have a unique name, “Deep” and I have a agree that the name doesn’t make you successful, although it does help with the branding. When I introduce myself, people typically remember my name because its unique so I have leverage when it comes to branding in my industry. In particular, since I am in the solar power business and my name “Deep” means, “lamp or one who holds light”, I suppose it falls into the theme of things and really sets me apart in the industry when people ask me what “Deep” means.

    • Actually, I went to college with a guy named Deep Patel. You’d be surprised by how many people there are in the world. Even an unusual name isn’t totally unique.

      I also have to say that these people who think McDonalds wouldn’t be as well known if it were named Smiths… they’re wrong. The only reason you say that is because it’s not what you’re used to. If it really were named Smiths and they had invested the same billions of dollars into marketing over many decades, you would say there’s no way the name McDonalds would have ever stuck.

      • I would have to agree with you on the Smiths point. There is much more to why McDonalds is successful than just the name.

        Who would have ever thought there would be tons of Deep Patel’s. But on the other hand, I never expected there to be thousands of “Neil Patel’s”.

      • yeah I understand that I am not the only Deep Patel in the world, I’ve done a google search on my name and found others. although the point I was trying to make is when I tell people my name, in most cases they have never met another “deep” which is why it helps me stand out from the sea of people they do meet. Its less common then Joe, Mike, Chris…etc…

        I agree with your comment on McDonalds, they could of made McSmiths a global brand if they invested heavily into it, you can build a brand without resources that for sure.

      • Jay Tillery :

        I’d have to disagree with you. Smiths doesn’t have rhythm. I believe the reason McDonalds have success is how they market their name into everything. The name works better than “Smiths”. Even “Wendy’s” sound better than “Smiths”.

        • I think a lot of it has to do with the money they spent branding “McDonalds”.

        • Jay, I agree with you that “Smiths” may not have rhythm, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it would be less memorable. Rhythm is simply an idea created by linking more than one syllable together (like “McDonalds” or “Wendys”). “Smiths” would make its impact by being punchy and short.

          My point is that there are many different ways for a name to make an impact and be memorable, not just rhythm.

          Having said that, if you prefer rhythm to being punchy, then you need to choose a name that has multiple syllables in it.

  16. You could do like that one couple in New Zealand that named their kid Superman, doesn’t that say success?- Seriously…Google it!

  17. “Ryan Walker” has much more of a professional snowboarder ring to it than “Dave Walker”, but “Kevin Walker” probably wouldn’t work so well as a classical musician. And I see “Rick Walker” being more of a Wall St. fund manager name than “Ryan Walker”.

    Personally, I don’t like the trendy names of an era – Carter, Brandon, etc. (sorry to all the Carters and Brandons – nothing personal) – I aimed for the 11-20 group of classic names for our boy. Something that has some lasting power, but isn’t “John” or “Richard”. Mind you, with a last name like Walker, I’d avoid John – unless you are a bartender…

    Neil Walker… hmmm… maybe for our next boy…

    • Neil Walker would be perfect. 😉

      I am the same way, I like a lot of the old “power” names. William or Henry for example…usually the name fit for a king.

      • William Henry Gates III has a much more powerful and royal ring to it than Bill.
        If you want a successful child, my favourite is still: Max Power

  18. Website design Company :

    Advice him to name with any Indian name. It looks different and a bit stylish. Like Shilpa ( from Shilpa Shetty) got international fame from Big brother.

    • Indian names aren’t bad, but they are also hard to spell. For that main reason, I would actually recommend staying away from most Indian names.

  19. Asela de Saram :

    Interesting post! A person’s name defines them both inside and out… choose the name wisely and make sure that it symbolizes something both pure and unique for that person.

    When my sister asked me for a second name to give her daughter, she wanted a saint’s name + something precious & pure. I suggested Mary-Lynn; Mother Mary and Lynn means flowing water…

    I don’t have children of my own yet but when I do have, I will definitely come back and ask Neil for his suggestions. 😀

    • Thanks! I also think a name symbolizes a lot about a person. It shouldn’t be something taken for granted and you should put a lot of thought into picking a name.

  20. I named my son “ONE Love” his last name is Grant..

  21. Here is a great article on how to not set your kids up for success.

  22. Chris Turnquist- CEO of an Web Design Company :

    Take a look at highly successful celebrities. Their agents work with them to come up with unique stage names. Most of the time these names help create a powerful brand.

    • Actually, Will Smith got famous by being in the rap group “DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince”. Will Smith was “The Fresh Prince”. Then he did a TV sitcom called “The Fresh Prince of Belaire” which made him even more famous. You can’t take some one serious with the name “The Fresh Prince”. So he began using “Will Smith” to break away from his young adulthood association with rapper/loony comedian. I don’t think the generic “Will Smith” could have done it without the “Fresh Prince” moniker.

    • Is Arnold good? He had big muscles, he basically owns the phrase “I’ll be back” and he has a thick accent. Oh yeah and he is the Governator.

      I don’t think he is excellent at his craft. I think he jumped into Hollywood at the right time, when flicks like “Conan the Barbarian” couldn’t have done a film without the use of his muscals(Popeye).

      He became famous because he was an Oddity.

      Now William Hung, on the other hand, was determined. 😉

  23. Jay,

    you make a really good point, I bet more people know will smith around the globe as “The Fresh Prince”. I supposed that name helped him get to where he is at now, the name was an integral part of his branding…..

  24. Will Smith couldn’t live without the breath Fresh Prince blew into him.

  25. Doyle Lewis :

    Whatever you do, don’t name the kid Abcde:

  26. One can only be identified from their work and success, there may be millions of bill but people knows the bill from his professionalism,
    If one talking about Bill in IT than he must be Bill Gates,
    and one is talking about Bill in Politics and Society than he must be talking about Bill Clinton.
    It doesn’t matter what the name you have, only matters your work and expertise.

    • Valid point. So that means you probably shouldn’t name your kid after someone successful in an industry you want them to go into.

    • I’ve never associated Bill Gates with IT. Nor have I ever associated Bill Clinton with politics.

      In the real world we associate Bill Gates with Microsoft, the “Blue Screen of Death” and crappy software (sorry Microsoft heads). We associate Bill Clinton with Monica Lewinsky…

      I think where you are headed is too broad. You can not possibly associate any one of those with a whole industry.

      I do, however, agree that a name isn’t a name until you make it a name. I see that now, but I do want to make it memorable.

      Just my 2 cents.

      • I also do not “always” associate their names with a hold field, but sometimes I do. To me Bill Gates is not just Microsoft, he is one of the pioneers in the computer world. Although his software may suck, he did a lot for the computer world and his company also invested over 100 million (or something close to that number) into Apple when they were doing bad.

        Bill Clinton on the other hand, I am not too sure about. This is probably not because of Monica Lewinsky, but due to the lack of political knowledge I have.

        • Gates has done a lot for Microsoft end users, I agree. I am a *nix man.

          As far as memorable moments in politics, the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal was probably the most memorable for BC.

        • Yea, I only know Bill Clinton for the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal. Not sure what else he did in office, but I also don’t know what any of the other presidents really did.

  27. Rambod Doushzadeh :

    Trying to name your child so they are easy to brand is super hilarious. “Son I named you Awesome Patel because I knew you would be much more marketable that way.”

    • LOL. I may want to name my kid “Awesome” now. I always wanted to give my kid a messed up name, but not sure if it will happen because my future wife may veto it.

  28. Internet Shopping US :

    If one could be successful from the name only, i would like to have my babby name “SuperMan”…Lol.

    • If you name your kid Superman, your kid will probably be in newspapers right when it is born.

      Now you just have to figure out what last name to give the kid.

  29. Well, Gwen Stefani just gave her new baby boy the name “Zuma Nesta Rock Rossdale”. Poor kid.

  30. As someone named Shilo Nikelle Urban, I can vouch for the fact that having a unique name has made me felt more special in this world- I can’t imagine being an Amy or Michelle.

    That said, PLEASE do not name your child something like Charisma unless you want to be certain he/she will have the personality of a doorknob. Name your girl Athena, kid will be a dumb ass. Name your boy Hero, and he’s gonna wash dishes his whole life.

    Just sayin’

    • The cool thing about a unique name like yours is that it can help build character. If you have an average name it seems that you may be more likely to blend in.

  31. I really do believe a name does affect someone in business and life to a certain degree. I think ethnic names may make you more want to identify with your ethnic group while generic names like you said make it hard to stand out and you may feel lost in the crowd.

    • The problem with some ethnic names is that they are too hard to pronounce and spell. Using an ethnic name isn’t a bad idea as long as it is easy to say and spell.

  32. DoublePlus Ecommerce :

    Neil, how common is your name? Although I didn’t Google it, my guess is that it’s pretty common – but that the top results would come back for your name. Mine’s pretty unique; I think there’s one other person in the world with my name. And yet you’ve built more of a brand around your name. It really just comes down to marketing.

    • I think it is both. If I had a less common name it would have been easier to brand myself. One flaw in my name is that many people misspell it. I don’t mind, but that also means I have to rank on Google for “Niel”. 😉

  33. Wife and I just had to go through this thought process ourselves lately.

    2 kids 1 and 3

    It was hard because the way we met through social media and specifically online dating sites had colored our perceptions and language after much debate we finally gave up on first name “cutebaby69” and LMAO as her middle name.

    Unfortunately young “Twitter” is already beginning to have language development issues and refuses to speak sentences any longer than 140 characters.
    thanks and take care
    bryan Bliss

  34. Vakfıkebir :

    Your parents were very kind to you in this department :.)

  35. Oooo be careful now.

    ● Boys with names that are difficult to remember will obviously suffer consequences, however having a unique name might help with differentiating and branding oneself.

    ● Resumes with names that sound black are more likely to get thrown out (it’s sad that it’s 2009 and this still happens).

    ● Resumes with names that sound black are less likely to get a callback.

    “One important study that should be mentioned demonstrated how “racialized” names trigger racial schemas. Researchers responded to more than 1300 help-wanted ads in Boston and Chicago with fictitious resumes. The resumes were crafted to be comparably qualified with the only difference being that half of the resumes were randomly assigned stereotypically black names (e.g., Lakisha Washington). The other half were assigned “white” names (e.g., Emily Walsh). The white resumes received 50% more callbacks.”- Huffington Post

    If I were black and I found out someone threw out my resume or didn’t want to work with me just because of my skin color I’d call them up and cuss them the f**k out, that’s what I’d do.

    Wouldn’t you?

    â–ˆ Kris Tian â–ˆ

    • Ouch, I would have never thought that about names that sound black. I don’t think that will last forever though. It is all about hiring people based on their abilities.

    • Unfortunately young “Twitter” is already beginning to have language development issues and refuses to speak sentences any longer than 140 characters.

  36. Prem | Baby names portal :

    Hi Niel, since I own a portal which specializes in baby names, I can surely add my 2 cents to this long comments list. Here is my list in no particular order.

    Pick a name that pleases you and your spouse
    Don’t pick just one name, have a choice and decide on one name
    Be gender specific
    Avoid silly sounding names

  37. This was broken down and analyzed by Steven Levitt in his book Freakonomics. There was mention over what Kris said in regards to racial bias.

    Just as a side note, a couple decided to name their kids Winner and Loser. Check out here to see how their lives played out.

  38. cash loans uk :

    I think names hardly matter, unless its weird, but of course, it will not harm in heeding to your advice. One important thing would be, what kind of success is one looking for. Say, for a girl looking to be very popular with peers, a cute name may strike a chord. Even in different professions, say fashion different names may have different influences. But in the end the effect is really very small.

  39. This was broken down and analyzed by Steven Levitt in his book Freakonomics. There was mention over what Kris said in regards to racial bias.

  40. @ Pdf : Nice to see another reader of economics.

    Back on topic – the name has little to do with success. With the internet being as anonymous as it is this shouldn’t stifle any entrepreneurship.

  41. Textbook Rental :

    I would agree about the uniqness factor my grandma wanted to name me Maximlillion and I found when I did a telemarketing job that people would ask “who?” when I would tell them my name and next thing you knew we were generating repore….

  42. i would like to have a name unique but cool , and guess what, nothing comes to mind

  43. people have the ilution of giving advantage with the name, i dont agree with it but thats just me

  44. I disagree with you Neil when you say a name has little to do with a person’s success. Why else do actors, singers, and business people change their name?

  45. lavender bath salt :

    Hi there to every , as I am in fact keen of reading this blog’s post to be updated on
    a regular basis. It carries good material.

  46. yes it’s true Neil

Speak Your Mind