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Legacies Take Work

Founders often equate startups to a baby. It is a good analogy because, like a baby, startups are in a constant state of transition. As the “parent,”  what worked for a founder in one phase doesn’t always work the same in later years. I have found this recently in terms of storytelling.

Legendary entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk always says, “Document, don’t create.” This has always resonated with me, especially when working with early-stage companies. In the beginning it is better to say something and learn than be paralyzed by perfection. We live in a world of noise. If you want to be heard, you’ve got to shout. Over and over again. So you’d better get started.

While I am a huge supporter of that approach, I have been thinking a lot lately about the transition that happens next. What do you do when people are actually listening? How do you say things that are not only heard but remembered and, better yet, repeated?

The approach needs to evolve. Being viral is quite the opposite of having staying power. To be remembered, you have to put in the research.

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There is no better example of that than the timeless classic, How to Win Friends and Influence People. Dale Carnegie published this book in 1937, and yet it still sits atop most lists of must-read books for entrepreneurs. Carnegie didn’t just bang out his top five tips he learned from his own life with a catchy click-bait headline. He put in the work. From his own introduction to the book:

“In preparation for this book, I read everything that I could find on the subject — everything from newspaper columns, magazine articles, records of the family courts, the writings of the old philosophers and the new psychologists. … I recall that we read over one hundred biographies of Theodore Roosevelt alone. We were determined to spare no time, no expense, to discover every practical idea that anyone had ever used throughout the ages for winning friends and influencing people.”

We all want to be thought leaders. But to truly lead takes a lot of work. That is where these two philosophies come together. Say you want to write the next classic book. As you’re doing your research, share your findings in short-form content. Build up your personal association with a topic. Get feedback from others. Refine your thinking. Over time you will have developed a true expertise and will be able to create a final product that can stand the test of time.

You will have not only survived the transition but come out the other end a true thought leader.

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