Reinvention — the key to sustainable relevance.
At the most basic level, to reinvent means to change a thing, a process, such that it almost feels, looks and appears new.
Before the world became this developed, I believe there was a time when we had few artisans, countable number of skilled craftsmen.
They were so few that 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.
We still operate this way.
When we need something done, we thumb through our phone contacts and if we come up short, we ask those around us if they know a guy.
Decision-makers at big companies operate in much the same way.
When Nike needs a graphic designer to take on a project for them, they’re not Googling "best graphic designers". They’re calling their friends at Apple and asking them if they’ve recently worked with a graphic designer that blew their minds.
Where young guns like myself get in trouble, is we drop out trousers, pump ourselves full of Viagra and attempt to fuck the world. We 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.
Good enough to be the guy who comes first to people’s minds when they’re looking for someone with that skill.
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 'fill in the skill' guy.
However, as you get further along in your craft and you become known as The guy, made a shit ton of money and fame being The guy , you must reinvent yourself.
Yes, you must reinvent yourself or 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.
I've watched the documentary over 3 times and here's one of the things I've learnt so far.
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.
This is not me shaming Scarface, I promise.
The difference between lifelong success and ending up on Cameo, showing up once or twice on life’s scene, 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 rapper, he's a renowned businessman and investor.
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.
Reinvention helps sustain relevance.
Bringing it home, we've seen the likes of Don Jazzy who reinvented himself from just being a shy genius producer who doesn't talk much to a business investor and influencer.
We have MI Abaga, arguably the GOAT of African rap reinvent himself from just being a rapper to being a label president, founder, CEO and literally, The Guy.
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.