Reflections on Reflecting

Reflections on Reflecting

“My first album I made was an album called Reasonable Doubt. Which in small circles was considered the album. Like a classic album. Like the album for that generation and a voice for people who were going through similar situations. But it didn’t sell massive numbers worldwide. It was still very niche. In my second album because of Reasonable Doubt and because of its lack of commercial success I tried to make these records that were bigger and would be more popular, which was a failure. Going for that success, really messed up that project and set a bad tone. It was a huge learning lesson for me, that if I was going to be successful I had to be successful at myself. I couldn’t be successful doing what other people were doing. I had to do what I believed in and what felt real to me and felt true to me. Because the worst thing to be is to be successful as someone else, that is a very difficult thing to upkeep and is very tiring. I feel sorry for someone who has to walk out the house everyday as someone else to make this art and to make something that people connect to. And whatever you have made is not you, you’re not happy about it, but it’s successful. Just to maintain that level of success has to be very draining and you know a very sad existence because at some point you have to go home. And when you go home all the lights are off and everything is off and you have to look in the mirror and look at yourself and say I like who I am or I am not very happy with who I am. By my third album I had the combination of failing with those pop records and the true and real music I wanted to make. And I blended those two together to make a song called ‘Hard Knock Life.’ And that album is when I knew I could do it.”
- Jay Z

Jay Z’s music is a reflection of his life experiences, his interests, all the things that ultimately came together to make up his purpose. He took his own experiences, the ups, the downs, the good, and the bad, and turned them into something sharable. And because he combines a pure manifestation of his purpose with a talent that he could be best in his world at, he was able to flourish.

Jay Z reflects himself.

But this idea doesn’t stop with the creator. The idea of reflecting one’s self also applies to the audience. People choose products, services, and ultimately brands because they see a reflection of who they are or who they want to be in those brands. This is referred to as aspiration. For example Supreme is a reflection of the the founders, James Jebbia and the initial skaters who works in his store. There are many people with similar values and aspirations who grew up enjoying street style and skate culture. They choose Supreme because they see parts of who they are or who they want to be in the way the brand, what it stands for and how it feels. The more people identify with this energy the more the energy expands. When a product is a pure reflection of a founders core values and the customer FEELS that energy they are attracted to that product.

We are tribal beings. We build our identities by who and what we choose to associate with. There is no difference between an ancient tribe tattooing its members with unique symbols and a young person wearing a Supreme t-shirt to associate with the tribes of street style and skate culture. It all comes from the same place and it is critical that we recognize this behavior so we can apply it to the sharing of our own creations.

Your highest calling is to manifest a reflection of what makes you special. And then share that reflection, be it a product, service, brand, or work of art, with people who have aspire to similar wants, needs, and desires. You reflect yourself in your creations and they reflect themselves in their consumption and self-expression. The combination leaves both sides fulfilled. In a world where human creativity is the last remaining sustainable competitive advantage and the principal driver of value creation your most potent weapon is you. Or as Oprah explains it, “There is no greater gift you can give or receive than to honor your calling. It’s why you were born. And how you become most truly alive.”

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