Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
November 16, 2011 8:55 PM

Legacy Thinking

It's easy to post to Twitter or update your Facebook status. Not much to think about, right?

Just because something is easy, it doesn't mean you shouldn't think about it. In my last Blog post, Liar's Remorse, I wrote about having one, cohesive reputation (and the struggles/challenges that come with it). I'm often asked why I don't post more personal information in the digital channels about my life (marriage? children? etc...?). The truth is that my work and my business are intensely personal. I spend the majority of my waking days working, growing Twist Image, trying to build my ever-changing vision of how I define "success." I use these digital spaces to focus on that area of my life (and, believe me, I take it very personally). In the creation of content (Blogs, Podcasts, articles, videos and beyond), along with having a vision (much like the editor at a magazine) of how I see/feel the content flowing, I often not only think about who will read, but - more importantly - how it will be perceived long after I am dead.

Legacy thinking. 

Personally, I don't tweet "in the now" (I don't Blog or write in that vein either). Before anything gets published I ask two questions:

  1. Will this content stand the test of time?
  2. Will my children (and their children) be proud of their father (grandfather) when looking at this?

Time is the true test of great content (and reputation).

This is why I don't (or try not to) use bad language, attack individuals, beat brands up and more. It's not the reputation I want... it's not the legacy I want to leave. This is particularly true of my Podcast. Think about it this way: in 40 years any one of your future family members will be able to go back in time and chronologically see everything (Mark Zuckerburg is on to something with the Facebook timeline) in sequential order... Blogs post, podcasts, tweets, updates and more. It won't just be a shoebox of pictures and memories... we're talking about a rich trove of content in text, images, audio and video. Everything. These future generations will, literally, be able to know you - how you were feeling at a moment in time - and parlay that against major moments in our history (think: 9/11, the Arab Spring, Occupy Wallstreet, and beyond). Wow... it kind of blows your mind when you really start to think about it.

Legacies mean something. 

How often do you think about how your cumulative online persona is this reflection of your true character? We're going to be the first generation to have this kind of documented, individual history that is online for the world to see. Most of the great leaders in our history don't have this kind of raw documentation available for the masses to view and review. I don't know about you, but I take that very seriously. That doesn't mean that I'm busy trying to manipulate things to create a manifestation of the reputation that I want (that would be somewhat inauthentic). It does mean that I respect the publishing medium. I respect the value of your time (right here, right now) and would like those who may be reading this decades or centuries from now to have an understanding of what was happening in the marketing industry and what this change means.

Imagine.

Imagine if we had these kind of tools in biblical times? Imagine the kind of discourse we would have had around emerging religion and conquerors. Imagine if we had these kind of tools as the industrial revolution took hold? Imagine the kind of discourse we would have around the power of communications and media. Imagine that we - each and every one of us - has this power right now. We do. It's in the palm of your hands (literally, because now you can create, publish and stream from a smartphone). The true power comes from understanding the legacy this leaves. Odds are, it will stack up to more credible and important content that evolves and finds its voice over time.

The easy thing to do is to dismiss the legacy (and power) and simply turn it into an engine of mindless spam. The hard thing to do is to create content that creates a legacy.

By Mitch Joel


Comments Comments Feed
  • Posted by Noah Barnett
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch, have been following you for about a year and half now and have never thought "why is Mitch not open about his personal life - why so much withholding."

    I appreciate your desire to produce a legacy of powerful content and how you use your platforms, as there is so many that do not have a "vision" for their content (including myself) footprint in the new digital media era.

    The true value of all this "stuff" is really held in the lasting impact that it will have on others, their businesses, their lives, and so on. I know your content has really shaped and help me better direct my early career in all of this stuff, so I would say you are staying on point with your vision for your content.

    Reply
  • Posted by Mary H. Ruth
    Mitch Joel

    Awe Some post. Mitch, I wonder, how old are you? You are certainly one of the oldest souls I've ever encountered. What a profound message this is in a single, humble post. I will forthwith proclaim it to the cloud. About time we start taking ourselves seriously.

    Reply
  • Posted by Kevin Taylor
    Mitch Joel

    Thanks for this great post and all the awesome inspiration that I have garnered from your podcasts, blog posts, and tweets over the years.

    My social media understanding and approach has been heavily influenced by you, although that may not always be easy to tell. :-)

    I believe over-thinking on legacy may impead one's ability to fully express ideas and feelings, but a certain level of mindfulness of purpose leads to good contribution.

    Sometimes raising mutual awareness can appear less than a reflective discourse.

    Reply
  • Posted by Ari B. Adler
    Mitch Joel

    You make a valid point, Mitch, but it seems to me the best way to leave a solid legacy is to leave a legacy that reflects the truth. One of my great hopes is that when people who only know me online meet me in real life they will think, "He's exactly the same in both places." Who I am, what I say and how I say it are generally very similar across all channels and in person. I don't have to think too much about how I'm presenting myself online versus how I'm presenting myself in person. They are the same and, I believe, an honest representation of me. I don't want to filter anything I'm doing because I'm worried about my legacy. My legacy is based on who I am. What you see is what you get and I'm fine with that. Cheers!

    Ari
    @aribadler

    Reply
  • Posted by Leo Saraceni
    Mitch Joel

    I was discussing when would be the best time to start a facebook for our 3 yo. How do we begin his legacy? Do we leave it up to him? What about his several youtube videos? It's not easy.

    Reply
  • Posted by Prude
    Mitch Joel

    Very Interesting post you have here. What you have written here inspires me a lot. It is very important to leave a good legacy because whatever legacy we leave, it will greatly contribute to the future generations.

    Reply
  • Posted by Ben Watson
    Mitch Joel

    I agree 100% with your POV as a content professional and marketer but I feel compelled to challenge it for a second as a human. Social media is a conversation and as such should be allowed to be wrong, emotional, explosive, inspired, enthusiastic and amazing. I also see no reason not to delete. Not everyone is producing a legacy of content. Some people are just talking about stuff and honestly most of what I read, your blog included, is not going to be gone back to even a year from now, let alone in twenty years to look for gems. The gems of the future will hopefully be posted in the future.

    I am not debating whether or not people should produce thoughtful content - I do see a place and necessity for certain types of people to do that. To me, the wonder of my Twitter stream is in the moments people have, the real emotions and live expression of our collective humanity. Perhaps the only people who are not consciously 'deleting' these moments already and forever are the data team at Twitter.

    Reply
  • Posted by Ernest Barbaric
    Mitch Joel

    Great post Mitch.

    Quite like the term "cumulative online persona". I recently gave a speech at a college about personal branding and this is one of those realities that may shape their future. What's interesting is the crossing of generations and development, meaning that you and I knew a world without internet and we grew up with it at a time when we were psychologically and developmentally in a more adolescent or mature place. Same goes for most managers and CEOs of today.

    However, younger generations are plunged into this world almost immediately and may lack the maturity and experience to truly understand how what they post about at 12 or 16 or 21 may shape their future few years down the road.

    Thinking "timeless" and legacy is definitely an argument to uphold.

    Reply
  • Posted by Norlinda
    Norlinda

    I've been pondering and heavily researching lately what it really means to be "authentic" online as well as in real life. What I've learned so far is that being authentic doesn't mean revealing details about your life outside of work, but having the courage to speak your mind on the issues that move you. And as a long time reader of your work, I feel you do this well.

    Reply
Add a Comment

Please complete all the fields below, including the spam filter (to prove you're not a robot).

  1. Fill in your email address to have your Gravatar photo included with your comment.
  2. Please type the word pixels here:
TrackBacks

TrackBack URL: http://www.twistimage.com/movabletype/mt-tb.cgi/2650