South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, politician, and philanthropist Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999 and was the country’s first black head of state and the first elected in a fully representative democratic election. His government focused on dismantling the legacy of apartheid by confronting racism and promoting racial reconciliation. Mandela later became an elder statesman and focused on charitable work, combating poverty and HIV/AIDS through the Nelson Mandela Foundation. Reflecting on the scale of his legacy, he gained international acclaim for his activism, receiving more than 250 honors including the Nobel Peace Prize, the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Soviet Lenin Peace Prize.
Nelson Mandela holds a deep belief that is as relevant on the political stage as it is in the hearts and minds of every entrepreneur and reinventor:
“There is no passion to be found playing small, in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”
American painter Georgia Totto O’Keeffe is best known for her paintings of enlarged flowers, New York skyscrapers, and New Mexico landscapes. The Mother of American Modernism has braved dramatic artistic paths with a personal insight into courage that everyone can be inspired by:
“I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing that I wanted to do.”
Malcolm John Michael Creaux “Mac” Rebennack, better known by the stage name Dr. John, created a signature blend of blues, pop, jazz, zydeco, boogie woogie and rock and roll. Active as a session musician since the late 1950s, he gained a cult following in the late 1960s following the release of his album Gris-Gris. He performed a wildly theatrical stage show inspired by medicine shows, Mardi Gras costumes and voodoo ceremonies.
Dr. John’s musical legacy includes recording over 20 albums and a top-20 hit with “Right Place Wrong Time”. He’s the winner of six Grammy Awards, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and is the recipient of an honorary doctorate of fine arts from Tulane University jokingly referred to by Tulane’s president, Scott Cowen, as “Dr. Dr. John.”
Dr. John’s prescription for risk taking is good medicine for entrepreneurs and reinventors:
“I’ve been thinking a lot lately about taking chances, and how it’s really just about overcoming your fears. Because the truth is, every time you take a big risk in your life, no matter how it ends up, you’re always glad you took it.”
Listen to excerpts from Garrison’s classic interview with Dr. John:
Legendary late night talk show host and comedian John William “Johnny” Carson received six Emmy Awards, the Governor’s Award and a prestigious Peabody Award. He was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame, awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and received a Kennedy Center Honor. Johnny Carson continued to be an entertainment icon well into his retirement.
Carnac the Magnificent was a recurring comedic role played by Johnny Carson and it became one of his most well-known characters. The “mystic from the East” would “divine” unknown answers to questions posed by announcer and sidekick Ed McMahon. Somewhere in one of Carnac the Magnificent’s unopened envelopes is the answer to true reinvention happiness in Johnny’s own words:
“Never continue in a job you don’t enjoy. If you’re happy in what you’re doing, you’ll like yourself, you’ll have inner peace. And if you have that…you will have had more success than you could possibly have imagined.”
Howard Schultz knows a lot about building brands. Former owner of the Seattle Supersonics and Chairman & CEO of Starbucks , Forbes ranked Schultz as the 354th richest person in the United States, with a net worth of $1.5 billion. He renamed Il Giornale with the Starbucks name and aggressively expanded its reach across the United States growing the company rapidly and retaining ownership of every domestic outlet. Schultz wrote the books Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time and Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life Without Losing Its Soul.
Howard Schultz’s words should resonate like a strong cup of coffee with every entrepreneur:
“The most powerful and enduring brands are built from the heart. They are real and sustainable. The (brands) that are lasting are those that are authentic.”
What defines rock music as an ideology is “authenticity.” It’s the same yardstick we need to use to measure how real we have been to our self, our life and our career. Just as the litmus test of rock & roll music has always been whether the artist is true to his creativity or has sold out to commercialism, reinvention is our opportunity to find, free and follow our passion or to concede to what significant others throughout our lives have told us would be best for us.
I had the incredible opportunity in the ’70s as Engineer and Head of Recording Studio Operations for London Records, Inc. to be in charge of the final sound that analogically made it to listeners’ ears on such hit singles as “LaGrange” (1973) and “Tush” (1975) and such iconic albums as “First Album ” (1971), “Rio Grande Mud” (1972), “Tres Hombres” (1973), “Fandango” (1975) and “Tejas” (1976) and to work with a band that articulated rock culture’s defining paradox: authenticity vs commercialism: ZZ Top.
Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s has advised entrepreneurs to “Chase the vision, not the money; the money will end up following you.” More than 50 million global album sales and an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame later, ZZ Top has stayed true to its strong blues roots without compromising authenticity and the money did end up following them…lots of it.
The blues-powered “Little Ol’ Band from Texas” has a lot to teach us about staying true to who you are as a person and living your passion without compromise. “Waitin’ for the Bus” wearing a pair of “Cheap Sunglasses” is living the dream as long as you’re doing what you love!
American actor, film director, producer, screenwriter, author and activist Christopher D’Olier Reeve is best known for his motion picture portrayal of the comic book superhero Superman. He has also appeared in other critically acclaimed films such as Street Smart and The Remains of the Day and Chris received a Golden Globe nomination for his performance in the television remake of Rear Window.
Chris Reeve’s reflection is as valid for reinvention as it is for acting:
“So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable.”
"You've had such a varied and impressive career. It's awesome to read about your adventures and reinventions and how you're now helping others do the same," branding expert Dorie Clark, author of Reinventing You, Stand Out and Entrepreneurial You