For those who slept through the early 90s, Vanilla Ice is a rapper best known for his song “Ice Ice Baby.” It was the first hip hop single to reach the top of Billboard. What looked like a hit career, however, turned out to be just a one-hit wonder and Vanilla, or rather Mr. Van Winkle (his real name) endured a decade of missed expectations and ridicule.
It wasn’t until he made fun of himself in a Verizon mobile campaign in 2009 that things started to turn around for him. But his latest move is I think the most informative. He’s completely reinvented himself in a new series on HGTV called The Vanilla Ice Project in which he makes over houses. And yes, that’s irony you smell.
I mention Mr. Van Winkle’s experience because I think it adeptly illuminates a very human problem–working hard to create something and then actually being successful. The effect can be intoxicating and not in a good way. Like one has to down more drinks to chase a good buzz, chasing success can be a losing proposition and even worse if it becomes self-defining.
Vanilla Ice is not the only victim. A July 2010 Vanity Fair article on Michael Jackson argued “The mistake that Michael Jackson made is that he didn’t recognize that Thriller was a phenomenon and he spent the rest of his life trying to chase the phenomenon.”
Instead of seeing a big success or any achievement really for what it is, many spend an inordinate amount of time trying to duplicate it. As the old saying goes, lightening doesn’t often strike twice. But the missing part of that old adage is this: in the same spot.
The key is to be present when something good is happening to you, appreciate it, and move on. It seems Mr. Van Winkle is finally doing that. The good news is that when you reinvent yourself, when you see yourself as more than just one thing or one achievement, you open yourself up to all sorts of new success and the world again can seem limitless. Which it is. You only have to try something new.
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