How do you create something timeless and leave a legacy? You operate in your sweet spot.
Sweet spot: (noun) an optimum point or combination of factors or qualities.
How do you find your sweet spot? Success in other industries leaves clues.
It’s very fitting to share this in advance of Memorial Day weekend. A time when we honor the legacy of all men and women who have died in military service.
Related: Is Your Personal Brand Disruptive?
A shining example of how to find and operate in your sweet spot is music legend and patriot Lee Greenwood. We can all learn from his example and in the process create a timeless legacy like he has. I spoke with Greenwood to find out how he discovered his sweet spot and share some of his insights along with some questions for introspection.
In 1983, Greenwood wrote “ God Bless the USA,” a purpose-driven song designed to unite our country. Writing the song was something he wanted to do all his life but hadn’t. Five albums into his career he finally followed his heart. His intention wasn’t to rebrand or make a name as a patriotic musician. His intention was simply to create music for positive change and unite our country.
The song’s legacy is well documented. Released in 1984, it reached number seven on the charts, was played at the Republican National Convention that year, enjoyed a resurgence In 1991 during the Gulf War, Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and also following the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001. Thirty years later, you know you’ve created something timeless when Beyoncé performed a cover of the song during President Barack Obama’s campaign. It’s widely considered the most popular patriotic song in America.
How can you find your sweet spot?
The same way Greenwood did, by following your heart and listening to the market. Greenwood explained to me that it was intended to be just another song on his album, but his audiences fell in love with it and it’s what his career stands for. In essence, his sweet spot found him.
Sometimes we find our sweet spot and sometimes it finds us. When you operate in your sweet spot it enables you to cement your legacy.
To quote the American philosopher, Jerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead: “Don’t be the best at what you do, be the only one at what you do”.
Garcia certainly did that in the band's genre, and Greenwood has taken it a step farther. He’s built a brand that transcends music. He isn’t merely a musician, he’s a patriot. Music is just the vehicle for delivering his message.
Don’t compete, create.
The takeaway for us from Greenwood’s body of work is that when you’re operating in your sweet spot, you’re not competing, you’re creating. There is no competition.
For example: Volvo is in a class by itself when it comes to automotive safety and Google owns search engine market share (67 percent). Greenwood owns patriotic music that transcends any individual genre.
What do you do that’s in a class all by itself?
Greenwood realized quickly that his brand wasn’t music, it was the feeling his music evoked when his audience listened to it. That feeling is patriotism. Great brands know their sweet spots, embrace it and as a result create a feeling in the market that transcends the brand.
Southwest Airlines isn’t in the business of air travel, it is in the business of loving customers. You feel the love when you fly Southwest -- your suitcase feels the love because on Southwest it flies for free. (The company's stock ticker symbol is even LUV.)
What feeling does your customer associate with you?
Embrace who you are.
Provide your audience with more of what they love about you. Greenwood’s audience loves his patriotic songs. With over 20 albums to his name, Greenwood is a country music icon, but in the eyes of his audience, his brand transcends country music and is synonymous with patriotism.
What is your brand synonymous with above and beyond your industry?
Don’t deviate from what works for your brand -- it’s a recipe for failure. As a patriot, Greenwood knows he represents a great cross-section of America and is very intentional about not straying far from what works so well for him. He performs military tribute concerts, the national anthem at sporting events and writes books on patriotism. He is conscientious not to stray from his sweet spot.
Remember when McDonalds tried selling pizza and ESPN came out with the ESPN cell phone? Both were epic failures because they strayed from their sweet spots.
What course corrections might you need to make to get back in your lane?
Do good and good will follow.
Greenwood has performed 30 USO tours and serves as the national ambassador for HelpingAHero.org, which has built 100 homes for wounded warriors in 22 different states.
How does your sweet spot align with a cause you’re passionate about?
Create a legacy through a sense of purpose. Operating in your sweet spot is mission critical because it facilitates your ability to leave something of lasting value in your industry.
What will your legacy be for future generations?
Excellence never goes out of style and Greenwood is proof that one person can passionately express how millions of others feel. When you care enough to do one thing really well, people will stand up and take notice. It’s the difference between creating a movement vs. creating a moment. Moments enjoy 15 minutes of fame and fade away quickly. Movements however, demand your attention and withstand the test of time.
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