“It’s frustrating every single day of my life, but that’s something I’ve learned to let roll off my back. In reality, no one is ever completely going to know everything that you do, especially if the things that you’re doing mass media–wise is only one thing. You can’t fault people, because it’s human nature for folks to want to put you in a box.” -Wayne Brady
Many times we fail to commit to specificity because we fear our decision will come back to haunt us at a later time when we wish to branch out beyond our identifiable brand.
In other words, we hesitate to create some of the things we feel passionate about because we’re afraid we’ll become known for that one thing. Then, when we decide to experiment with something totally different, the world wont give us permission because of our catalogue of previous work.
This fear is ungrounded for two main reasons:
1) People will identify you with oversimplified labels no matter what you do. There isn’t an approach you can take to brand-building and personal development that will make you exempt from the possibility that many people will associate you with a single action or piece of work. One of my favorite musicians is Bobby McFerrin. He is widely known and highly respected as one of the greatest vocal innovators in history (click here for a sample of the evidence). Yet, to most people, he’ll always be the “Don’t Worry, Be Happy Guy.” Chances are, the same thing is going to happen to you. You can create 50 million different amazing things and people will still boil the story of your life down to the one thing that resonated with them the most. People will see what they want to see in your body of work. If there’s more to your creative work than what lies beneath the surface, the people who are meant to find it will gravitate in that direction.
2) Creative progress, regardless of the area in which it is achieved, gives you leverage. The experiences you gain, the connections you make, the resources you procure, the confidence you develop, and the skills you sharpen will all be advantageous to you in any future venture you undertake. Michael Jordan, Donald Trump, and Oprah Winfrey are not musicians but they would all have an easier time recording and selling an album, if they wanted to, than most well-trained musicians. The reputation and resources they’ve gained from their prior work constitutes a powerful asset. Of course people will stereotype them based on their most well known achievements. But that happens to everyone anyway.
Here’s today’s two cents:
The work you do now will always benefit (in some shape, form, or fashion) the work you choose to do later, even if it’s a completely different type of work.
So if you want to create something, create it. You’re always better off when you commit to creating the results that matter most to you.
Creativity, even when it leads to being slapped with simplistic labels, is still better than any of its alternatives.
At least that’s the way I see it.