Leadership, Categories of One, and Purple Rain

Real leadership starts when you step up with the courage to be a category of one.

I have a short episode for you this week, honoring the life of Prince and opening up some ideas about leadership, about community, and about building something that matters.

  • Corporate culture (and what to do if you’re stuck in Attack of the Clones)
  • Finding the value in what you do and what you can offer
  • Wrangling the “I’m not talented enough” monster
  • Thoughts on technical excellence and love

If I approached something with that much commitment and passion, what could I become?

The Show Notes

Sonia Simone: Greetings, superfriends! My name is Sonia Simone and these are the Confessions of a Pink-Haired Marketer. For those who don’t know me, I’m a co-founder and the chief content officer for Rainmaker Digital.

I’m also a champion of running your business and your life according to your own rules. As long as you don’t lie and you don’t hurt people, this podcast is your official pink permission slip to run your business or your career exactly the way you think you should.

I had a whole episode ready to record for you, and then Prince died, so I wanted to talk about some thoughts that brought up in me, and see if they resonate with you.

This one will be short, because I just want to give you some food for thought and then send you out on your week to go do something that matters to you.

This is an interesting century

This century really does fascinate me, because it’s the century of claiming our own thing. We’ve seen some massive changes globally in terms of rights for people of every sexual orientation. Still people who are not free, but if you compare the situation to ten years ago, which is a historical millisecond, it’s startling.

Still work to be done. There are certainly still countries where being out about your sexual orientation is a death sentence for some. Still people who are being devalued for culture or skin color or religion they grew up with or whatever it may be. So I’m not saying it’s utopia. But I do see a lot of movement and a lot of possibilities.

Defining ourselves, defining our communities

A lot of you know that I spent a significant chunk of time in a normal corporate job. I wasn’t particularly well suited to it — I was good at the work, I wasn’t so good at the culture.

I’m an inconvenient person. The words “problem child” come to mind. My brain is weird and I have a tendency to throw a lot of, “Why couldn’t we do this” into the mix. When I work on something, I think about it pretty much all the time.

The bigger the organization, the harder it is to work with that, because there are processes and established ways of doing things, and you can’t just reinvent something every five minutes.

I do a lot better in a small organization.

The traditional corporate culture, which was invented in the 20th century, was about playing a particular part. You had to look a certain way, dress a certain way, behave a certain way. The show Mad Men, even though it was about the advertising industry which had more leeway, showed this really well, I thought.

For all kinds of reasons, the culture is moving away from that, “play the part of the perfect corporate clone.” There are still lots of clone-filled workplaces, but now there are more companies that realize the kind of talent you can attract if you encourage people to bring their true selves to work.

But even if you’re stuck deep in Attack of the Clones, you can step out and make something more real. It might not be a business today. It might be an audience today. It might be a blog paired with a strong social media presence that starts to build your tribe.


Invent yourself. Be a category of one.

Step up

We’re so hard wired to want to be valuable, to contribute meaningfully to our community. To bring something to the group and be valued for that. If you aren’t finding it 9 to 5, get out and make it in another space.

You’re good at something. The thing you’re good at might bring a lot of value to someone else. And in fact, it might be the seed of an amazing community that values what you value.

I think we get very tied up in “what we’re not good at.” Maybe you’re not good at selling, or managing, or you have the tiniest sliver of free time, or whatever it may be.

First, we get good at things with practice. And with a lot of things, you can even practice mentally. If you suck at selling, try listening to marketing podcasts on your commute and making notes on your phone. Take advantage of the little slivers of time.

Most people who have a computer have bits of free time we don’t notice because we let them slip away on Facebook or Instagram. If you do any social media or watch any television, you have some time.

Small pieces of time, applied to a problem daily, can create real results. The trick is to get the flywheel moving in the right direction — at a certain point, the momentum will start to give you a major assist.

Prince had an enduring legacy because a) he worked his ass off to become incredibly gifted at his craft, b) he defined himself, he didn’t let anyone else define him, and c) he got in the game. He didn’t stay in his room playing guitar, he stepped forward and shared what he had with others. He was recording demos when he was just 17. He actually wrote his first song when he was 7.

If Prince’s death moved you, or his life moved you, or anyone out there in life is speaking to your heart, get with it. Go do it. Life is sometimes very short, but we can do something epic while we’re here.

I’ll leave you with a fantastic video I found of James Brown jamming with Michael Jackson and with Prince. All three of them are showing up with so much love and also so much technical excellence, which is born of love. Don’t look at this and say, “I’m not that talented, I could never do that” — look at it and ask yourself:

If I approached something with that much commitment and passion, what could I become?

Take care, all, and see you next week with something a little more “strategic.”