Warhol was right: At the end of the day, others will define your brand for you.

What Andy Warhol and Joe Paterno Have in Common

Have you ever listened to Songs from Drella?

The album is Lou Reed and John Cale‘s brilliant tribute to Andy Warhol‘s life and art. It’s fascinating, personal, and emotionally raw.

The penultimate verse:

They really hated you, now all that’s changed
But I have some resentments that can never be unmade
You hit me where it hurts I didn’t laugh
Your Diaries are not a worthy epitaph






Your legacy is all your atoms and bytes.

When Joe Paterno died on Sunday, I wasn’t so much surprised as saddened by all the glowing words being said about him. Calling him a “flawed hero,” or talking about how he handled the Penn State scandal “with grace” (seriously?). Somehow I don’t think this is what my high school English teacher had in mind when she was teaching us about Shakespeare and¬†Aristotelian¬†tragedy.

You can be really great at something (for Warhol, art; for Paterno, winning football games), but you don’t get to write your epitaph. And the consequences of your words and your actions all become a part of your legacy.

Your brand, at the end of the day, is what other people decide it is.

Here’s the question: What would you like your epitaph to be? Will it?

Photo by Podknox (Flickr).

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Comments ( 4 )

  • Bingo! Spot on. If you’d like to get a little riled up about it, then read Google News about what Nike’s head said during the memorial. And got a standing ovation! Really? For covering up a sex predator’s activities? On site no less? Sorry. For me his “brand” has become inextricably linked as a predator enabler. Ad you’re right: this does not rise to the level of Aristotle or Shakespeare in the flawed hero department.

    • Thanks, Keith. It’s not that Joe Paterno didn’t do something remarkable in his career; it’s just that your reputation is all you do–not just the pieces that are “nice” and/or convenient to tout.

  • Blanie C.

    I couldn’t think of anything to write on my epitaph. It’s too morbid to think about it yet. How about you?

    Thanks for this hard question. I’m thinking about it now.


    • Hi Blanie,

      Good point. Maybe the way to re-frame this: What do you want people to say about you NOW (when you’re not in the room)?

      At the end of the day I believe it is about living your personal and professional life, and running your business, in such a way that you can stand by and own your choices, your decisions, and how you treat people.