Tucked away inside Parade Magazine’s annual “What People Earn” list was a celebrity earning an estimated $27 million in 2016.
The only quirk was that he hadn’t done a single thing in 40 years—because he died in 1977.
And yet Elvis—the King—is still out-earning most of his modern-day peers (only Michael Jackson earns more posthumously).
Think about that for a moment.
If you were gone tomorrow, how long would your work stand up? A year? Two? More?
And we’re not just talking about earnings—although it would certainly be nice to pass on a treasure trove.
This is about influence and impact.
What are you working on right now that will be here in 40 years?
That question may scare you—heck it scares me too.
What happens when we start using that as a yardstick in what we produce? (Not the only measure of course—our ideas and work must resonate right now or we won’t be in business very long.)
But when we focus on doing our best work, consistently—operating in our unique genius zone for the clients and buyers who truly matter to us—the reaction can surprise us. In a good way.
One of my clients co-wrote a book based on discussion groups held in their living room—that went on to be a gradual best-seller. In 25 years, they’ve sold over 3 million copies—and that’s not counting a long list of spin-off products. Their big idea is still relevant today—and with careful tending might just get them to forty.
That’s not the norm. In fact, I just saw a lament that some of the brightest minds in the world right now are focused on figuring out how to make us click on links.
Hey, if that’s their big idea, then that’s exactly where they should be. But what if they REALLY wanted to be inventing the next technology play or curing cancer? Then we will all miss their might-have-beens.
I had dinner this weekend with a marketing consultant who loves his work—he waxed poetic about the difference he was making and why it’s important. And then he got even more passionate about the idea he’s working on the side: a three novel series about his personal big idea. He welcomed working on both simultaneously because each one freed him to do his best on the other.
There is no one right track—that’s what makes the journey so interesting. We each have to forge our best path based on our experiences, talents, preferences and vision for the future.
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