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“A Genius Is The One Most Like Himself”

I have been obsessed with two words this year: impact and legacy. How you create something of meaning in this world and how it has positive and lasting effect on others. This is the tone in which I work with writers and publishers – not how many books they sell, but how much of an impact and legacy they build for themselves and others.

I see so many people running around trying the digital marketing flavor of the day. I saw these promises for an advertisement to a training program about Pinterest this week:

  • How to Get MASSIVE AMOUNTS OF EXPOSURE for your business quickly,
    easily and for free.

  • Learn 3 SURPRISING STRATEGIES for driving tons of traffic to your site
    each day.

  • Ways to improve your SEO by using Pinterest.
  • How to MAKE MONEY PINNING!’

If you close your eyes, you can almost see the person who wrote this lifting headlines from some headline writing book, or some advertisement from 1957. Those same psychological triggers used for generations now in ad copy. The program being advertised here actually looks very good if you have a need to become more active on Pinterest. And after all, as the rest of the ad states, the training program is a $500 value, but you can get it for just $97. Ah, modern marketing.

So how do you not follow the leader like mindless lemmings? How do you not follow trend after trend in social media, always finding a mere 1% of the value that the person you are following found with the same tactics 12 months ago?

This:

“A genius is the one most like himself.”
- Thelonious Monk

That if you want to have an impact and build your legacy, you have to create something unique in this world. And yes, you have to work your ass off doing it.

Thelonious Monk

It is easy to be envious of others who stumble into massive success. Those who wrote a book that is not really original or amazing, but manages to sell millions of copies quickly. Yes, it would be nice to win that lottery. But chances are, you won’t win it. I won’t win it. And I’m fine with that. Because you can create your own luck, your own impact, your own legacy.

I was watching a documentary on Woody Allen, and he described an early job working at a summer resort where a staff of entertainers created an original live revue show every single weekend. The moment you finished one show, you had to begin creating the next one. As Allen describes the experience:

“You couldn’t sit in a room waiting for your muse to come and tickle you. Monday morning came, there was a dress rehearsal Thursday, you had to get that thing written. It was grueling, but you learned to write. From there, I managed to go directly to the Sid Caesar Show.”

The documentary also showed the wide range of activities Allen took on as he figured out his voice, his audience, and worked his way through the business, including boxing a kangaroo on television.

Thelonious Monk

Many call Woody Allen a comedic genius, and like many documentaries of famous people, it shows that it took a lot of time and work for that genius to really find the path to connect his inner voice to the world. In the documentary, the owner of a nightclub describe Woody’s first stand-up gig as a failure, but when he came back 9 months later with the same jokes, he won the audience over. Woody had to find his voice, even though his material was the same. As Monk would say: he had to become more like himself.

What Thelonious Monk learned from years of playing jazz with others was captured in what is called Monk’s Advice. It’s a brilliant document to fellow musicians he would be playing with on stage:

Monk's Advice

Justine Musk shared great advice recently as well that aligns to this:

“When you mimic someone’s style, you are in effect hiding behind them.”

She references a post by Abby Kerr who makes this plea: Stop Mimicking A-Listers & Other Brand Idols. And she shares good proactive advice on finding your voice and honing your brand.

Justine Musk

This week is Independence Day here in the States. It is sometimes easy to forget the price that others paid for such independence. That it took extreme sacrifice to decide to forge a new path. It took great risk and a vision that turned fear into action.

For what you are creating with your life… how are you forging that path? How are you working to create a truly unique impact, and building a legacy that will last beyond a job title?

Thanks.
-Dan

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  • http://twitter.com/Nadine_Feldman Nadine Feldman

    I saw the Woody Allen documentary this past week and really enjoyed it. I enjoy studying how other writers find their process and develop their careers. It reminds me how our journeys can take unexpected turns along the way, and the best thing I can do is to keep showing up, day after day, doing my work and learning my craft. 

    Woody is particularly interesting to study because of his style of success. He doesn’t make big blockbusters, and if he were concerned about box office numbers, he would feel miserable about his career. Instead, he keeps working and exploring for the sake of the work, and he attracts a small but loyal audience. I’ve come to realize that my work is not particularly commercial, and that’s okay with me. I also can’t pop books out left and right like some e-book authors. I have one book that I’ve wrestled with for a long time, but it’s been worth the effort and struggle to try to get it right. It’s not the kind of story that’s going to attract a big readership, but I am going for quality and growth in my writing style — that’s what satisfies me.

    • http://www.wegrowmedia.com/ Dan Blank

      Thank you Nadine, I love hearing your reflections on this. In the Woody documentary, he mentions how if he had control of an early film it would have been MUCH funnier, but much less commercially successful. I think that is an interesting conundrum to ponder… which we would each choose.
      Have a great day.
      -Dan