Why Your Best Work Being Behind You Might Be a Good Thing
These two examples will get you started
An unknown musician, barely getting by, plays in a dance band and teaches music lessons to make ends meet.
Among his students are Josefina, and Anna, her younger sister. The musician falls for Josefina, who likes him, but not that way.
Josefina marries a Count.
Only 24, the musician cools the sting of his rejection by writing 18 love songs for Josefina.
Eight years later, the music teacher marries the younger sister, Anna.
He and Anna are a far better match. Happy together, they have six children.
The musician, Antonín Dvořák, becomes a successful, wealthy composer whose work is so renowned and appreciated you recognize his name.
Fourteen years after marrying Anna, Dvořák rediscovers the love songs he’d written to her sister when he was an infatuated 24-year-old.
Life and true love have made him a completely different person. Seeing these old creations through the prism of time and experience, he’s able to convert this inspired, original work into something new.
The new iteration of his old work are now movements for a string quartet entitled Cypresses.
These now famous heartfelt pieces are played all over the world.
One hundred years later, in Brooklyn, New York, the son of two immigrants — a corset maker and a pattern cutter — graduates high school with a 66 average.
After dropping out of several colleges, he heads to L.A. and lands a job in the mailroom at the William Morris talent agency.
It’s 1964, the highfalutin William Morris agency requires employees who want to move up and out of the mailroom to have a college degree. The three-time college dropout tells the gatekeepers at William Morris he studied at UCLA.
When a letter containing the truth arrives from UCLA, the employee intercepts it in the mailroom, switches it out with a letter confirming his version of the UCLA story, seals the envelope and a new fate.
He gets out of the mailroom and eventually, the William Morris agency establishing his own label, Asylum Records. He works with legendary performers — Jackson Browne, Elton John, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young — and groups from the Eagles to Nirvana.
The mailroom employee? Media mogul David Geffen.
Today he’s a philanthropist who’s donated hundreds of millions to the arts, medicine, LGBTQ causes, and early childhood development, among others.
The mailroom story is now a pedestal story included in biographies, documentaries, and countless articles about Geffen.
Yet this story came out 40+ years later when Geffen’s success was not in question. Something else was being created.
The mailroom story is one of thousands about Geffen. It was selected and curated for the purpose of legacy-building.
What can you learn from a musician born in 1841 and a record producer born 100 years later?
You can mind seemingly unrelated work or events from your deep past to add a new facet or profitable element to your career in the here and now.
Jump forward another generation.
Taylor Swift became famous and started producing, winning awards, and making money with songs she wrote years before becoming a multi-award-winning artist.
Sometimes your work needs to age, marinate and mature before its value is apparent.
Your “old” work and experience shows depth of experience where you thought you had little or none and can help you achieve goals in the here and now.
If you can’t recognize the gems and curate your past work and experience,you’re not alone. Find somone to help you.
Your best work may be behind you, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
I help professionals with 20+ years of experience define their legacy and build more profitable careers with the skills and experience they already have. Learn more at https://www.courtneykirschbaum.com/
P.S. Dvořák’s “dance band” played polkas. True story.