How to reinvent yourself, over and over again.
Early on in your career, before you've had the chance to make any sort of name for yourself, it's worthwhile to be hyper-focused in what it is that you do.
Nobody knows who the hell you are and you have yet to prove yourself and so to stay top of mind, you need to become known as "the _____ guy" or "the _____ gal".
When my grandfather was growing up in the small town of Francisco, Indiana there was one of everything.
There was one gravedigger.
There was one blacksmith.
There was one carpenter.
There was one milkman.
There was one roofer.
When you needed something done, you knew exactly who to call. And, if you didn't know exactly who to call, you called someone that did.
This is still mostly how folks make decisions nowadays. When we need something done, we thumb through the Rolodex in our minds and if we come up short, we ask those around us if they "know a guy".
Decision-makers with deep pockets at big companies operate in much the same way.
When Nike needs a kick-ass graphic designer to take on a special project for them, they're not Googling "best graphic designers". They're calling their friends over at Apple and asking them if they've recently worked with a graphic designer that blew their fucking socks off.
Where young guns get themselves in trouble, is they drop their trousers, pump themselves full of Viagra and attempt to fuck the world. They attempt to be everything to everyone.
You don't build a career this way, at least not early on; you build a career by choosing a specific skill and then becoming one of the best in the world at that specific skill.
Some examples of folks who've done this incredibly well are Aaron Draplin over at Draplin Design Co., Colson Whitehead who writes novels like The Nickel Boys, Maria Popova over at Brain Pickings (now The Marginalian) and, of course, stars we all recognize who've made careers singing, making art and playing in movies.
However, as you get further along in your craft and you become known as "the _____ guy" or "the _____ gal" and you make a metric fuck ton of money being known as "the _____ guy" or "the _____ gal"... you risk becoming a Caricature of yourself.
The three-part Netflix documentary, Jeen-Yuhs, shows an up-close and personal look at the risks of becoming your own Caricature.
There are artists like Jamie Foxx, Jay-Z and Kanye West who are still setting the world on fire decades after the footage for the documentary was originally captured... then there are artists like Scarface who are now on Cameo.
The difference between lifelong success and ending up on Cameo is reinvention.
Jamie Foxx isn't just an artist, he's an actor who has played astounding roles in Baby Driver, Django and Ray.
Jay-Z isn't just an artist, he's a renowned businessman and investor, who has made a fortune in Uber, Oatley, SpaceX, JetSmart (Uber for private jets) and countless other enterprises.
Then, of course, there's Kanye West who isn't just an artist (constantly pushing the boundaries in music) but who has become one of the most influential minds in fashion alive today.
(Though, his antics off the stage and runway may eventually lead to his fall...)
The reason so few people reinvent themselves is because once you become known for a specific thing and become loved for a specific thing and become paid handsomely to do that specific thing over and over again, reinventing yourself risks you losing... everything.
But, not reinventing yourself might mean you one day looking up to an empty arena, as folks have grown tired of the same joke.
By Cole Schafer.
December 31, 2023
Are introverts creative? The surprising correlation between introversion and creativity.
August 24, 2020
A brief reflection on the prettiest passage in literature: “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.”
July 12, 2021
22 fiery Charles Bukowski lines from his poetry collection: "What matters most is how well you walk through the fire."
August 31, 2020
Steinbeck's audacious explanation of what makes a man, a man and the perils of ambition.
December 5, 2019
What does “On Tilt” mean? And, how this extremely disruptive mental state can heavily hinder your performance in anything (not just in Poker).
March 30, 2020
Bat shit crazy Tiger King quotes that’ll leave you begging for a shower and a bar of soap.
July 14, 2021
Billy Collins poetically warns against the use of transitions in this short, 24-line poem.
January 5, 2022
On falling in love, staying in love, staving off melancholy, whiffing on Bitcoin and turning twenty-eight.
October 8, 2021
The day you became a better writer' might be the best free writing advice ever published on the internet.
July 14, 2021
A young Mick Jagger’s outright refusal to compare The Stones to The Beatles is the best footage I’ve seen this year.
December 21, 2020
The horrific book signing where Stephen King smeared his own blood on 15,000 pieces of literature.
November 19, 2021
Marilyn Monroe, lawsuits, defunct car companies and stag parties –– here’s the lesser-known story behind Playboy Magazine earning its name.
June 11, 2020
Sitting at the typewriter swallowing blood –– everything I know about writing in 2,000 words.
November 22, 2021
We should shovel shit every once in a while to remind ourselves who we'd be if we weren't who we are.
April 18, 2019
Shaving my head was the best thing that ever happened to me as a marketer, writer and human.
April 3, 2019
17 life-changing insights from David Ogilvy (that have nothing to do with advertising).
October 2, 2020
10 lines from Napoleon Bonaparte’s love letters that read like a jealous boyfriend out of his f*cking gourd.
July 22, 2021
Mick Jagger's 1969 note to Andy Warhol about designing the Rolling Stones cover might be the coolest letter in history.
November 13, 2020
Greyhound Bus’s “Leave the driving to us” was the best slogan David Ogilvy never wrote.
January 6, 2021
Kurt Vonnegut's “8 rules of writing a short story” are good rules for writing anything.
July 22, 2021
That time infamous singer-songwriter Kris Kristofferson landed a stolen helicopter on Johnny Cash's lawn to sell him a song.
March 16, 2022
What John Steinbeck can teach us about character, both in literature and in ourselves.
July 22, 2021
Joe Dirt's firework rant about "whistlin' bungholes" and "spleen splitters" is grease poetry at its finest.
March 17, 2021
A couple dozen John Fante quotes that’ll make you understand why Charles Bukowski called him a god.
June 24, 2019