Why your old love letters hold your next career move

Updated: May 8

Picture this:


A musician, barely making it, plays in a dance band and teaches music lessons to make money on the side.


Among his students are Josefina, and Anna her younger sister. The musician falls for Josefina, who's likes him, but not that way.


She marries a Count.



It's 1865, he's 24 and writes 18 love songs for Josefina. 


In 1873, the music teacher marries younger sister, Anna.


A far better match, they're very happy and have six children.


The musician, named Antonín Dvořák, goes on to become a successful, wealthy composer.


In 1887, Dvořák rediscovers the love songs he'd written as an enfatuated 24-year-old, and converts them to string quartet movements entitled Cypresses.


They're still played all over the world today. 


-----


100 years later in Brooklyn the son of two immigrants - one a corset maker the other a pattern cutter -  graduates high school with a 66 average. 


After dropping out of college... a few times...

he heads to L.A. and lands a job the mailroom at the William Morris talent agency. 

It's 1964, the highfalutin agency requires even mailroom employees to have a college degree. The three-time college dropout tells them he studied at UCLA.


He didn't. 


When a letter from UCLA arrives containing the truth, the new employee intercepts it in the mail room, switches it out with a letter confirming his UCLA story.


He goes on to found Asylum records (among other things), works with groups from the Eagles to Nirvana, and today, he's a billionaire many times over.


The mailroom employee? Media mogul David Geffen. 


The mailroom story has been published in a biography, a documentary and countless articles.


This story came out 40+ years later, after his success was well established. They call that legacy-building.


What can you learn from a musician born in 1841 and a producer born 100 years later, both who achieved massive success (and made lots of money) in the same business?


They mined seemingly unrelated work or events from their deep dark past to add a new facet or profitable element to their career in the here and now.


Jump forward another generation: Taylor Swift becomes famous and starts producing (and winning awards for and making money with) songs she wrote years earlier before anyone ever heard of her. 


Sometimes things need to age, marinate and mature before their value is apparent. 

Your "old" work and experience can be an accelerant that catches fire to make you more money, give you experience where you thought you had none and help you get what you want now. 


It's easy to learn how to recognize the rough gems, curate your past work and experience and profit from it. Why shouldn't you? It's yours! Cha-ching.


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Courtney


P.S. Dvořák's "dance band" played polkas. True story.

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