Positioning, Storytelling and Epitaphs for building a network and career

One of the inevitable obligations for celebrities launching a new film, book, or live tour is the press junket.

The press junket ranges from long-form podcast interviews, to chat show appearances, or answering a few quickfire questions over email.

A common question in the last of these is ‘how would you like to be remembered?’

It’s the epitaph question. Thinking back about one’s entire life.

But what we don’t do so much is ask this each year, month or day; or for each chapter we go through in our lives.

Not asking ourselves this question can make things much harder than they need to be.

How would you like this person you’re meeting for coffee to remember you?

Or perhaps more pertinently: what are they going to remember you by?

As frustrating as it can be, it’s probably only going to be one thing.

We all have origin stories, histories, tales to tell, experiences that shaped us.

We’re all interested in different things, have different worldviews. Perhaps we wear a number of hats in our careers or have various hobbies and interests that come in and out of our lives over time. All of these things have stories.

Stories are powerful – they build rapport, intrigue, tension, and desire. Stories with multiple layers can be even more compelling still.

However, if it’s hard for the other person to take away a clear message or insight you may not be remembered in the way you’d like to be.

This is particularly relevant in a careers context.  It’s especially important if you do more than one thing in your work, and it’ll also get a lot more difficult if you don’t know how you want to be remembered.

Knowing this is important because it spreads.

Think about how many times you’ve briefly mentioned a person to someone else and included the one thing you remember them by. The recipient of that information may pass it on to another person, and so on and so on.

The one thing can be a specific, a noun:

She’s a soccer player.

He’s a nurse.

It can contain a verb too:

They do auditing in the restaurant industry.

She runs a podcast company

He does coaching for tech founders

It could be a little more abstract, descriptive, or intriguing:

She helps people find their inner artist

It can also be a more complex blend of concepts, contain a vision, or utilize a ‘why’ before a ‘what’.

There are going to be more story elements here, and this can be advantageous if you get it right, but you’re going to need to work much harder to get it clear and get it to stick.

What happens if they remember you in a different way from what you expected? 

Maybe you got lucky and they saw you in an incredible new light you hadn’t yet realized yourself, but more likely you’ve just put yourself at a disadvantage.

And as it spreads it gets harder to put right. You can find yourself put in a box, and a box you don’t necessarily belong in that’s hard to break out of.

This is why career transitions can be so hard – shifting months, years or decades of viewpoints and perceptions set hard like clay.

One exercise to help with this may be via this Naval Ravikant tweet

Become the best in the world at what you do. Keep redefining what you do until this is true.

Keep refining what you do, and what they remember you by.

Bottom Line: Whether you seek to be best in the world, or just want to plant the tiniest seed, it’s worth thinking about how you want to be remembered. 

What do they remember you by?

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