How to reinvent yourself, over and over again.

Written by Cole Schafer

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.