Thursday, June 02, 2011

Outrunning Youself

Godin on legacies:

Either you're focused on maintaining the legacy features or you're focused on figuring out how to replace them. Driving with your eyes on the rearview mirror is difficult indeed.
In a world of little competition, legacy features are something worth keeping. No sense alienating loyal customers.
But we don't live in a world of little competition. The faster your industry moves, the more likely others are willing to live without the legacy stuff and create a solution that's going to eclipse what you've got, legacies and all.
When you're making theatre on the margins, whether that's producing a play in an under-99 or telling jokes in front of a brick wall, odds are you don't have a legacy.  Not yet, anyway.  A legacy is not a destination, it's not a spot on a map you can chart a course towards.  A legacy is the accumulation of accomplishments, it's conquered territory.

My wife and I went to see Prince at The Forum this past weekend, one of his final "21 Night Stands" concerts.  He opened with a montage of some of his hits, prerecorded on some kind of sample bay built into a baby grand piano.  In the opening moments he took us on a quick review of thirty some odd years of his musical history.  He sang along, he made us sing along.  And then a familiar opening passage filled the arena.

The audience went nuts.  Prince just smiled and shook his head.

"I'm in rehab!" he exlcaimed, and moved on to the next song. The crowd erupted again, this time in laughter and applause. It was a brilliant moment that acknowledged his past and his present; the fact that we were all wondering if he would give us a taste of "Darling Nikki," despite his relatively newfound faith.

The point is, a legacy -- a real legacy -- is not something you have to assert or defend or apologize for. Sure, it may define you in the way that any person is defined by the choices they make and the actions they take. But you are not beholden to your legacy.

You are especially not beholden if you are just starting out. If Prince can acknowledge his dirtiest song with a wink to the audience and move on to the next hit, there's no reason for an artist or a company with a few years at their back to get all self-important and arrogant about their "legacy." We'll check in on you in a few decades and see what that legacy is. In the meantime, have fun, follow your passion and keep your focus where it belongs: entertaining your audience. Let your legacy sort itself out. It will anyway, whether you like it or not.

Here's a better challange:  Try to outrun your legacy.  That's how you become immortal.

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