Being sick at home all week sure has its perks. I've been battling what seems to be a cold and nasty allergy cough, and rather than force myself out to spread some germs, I canceled everything on my calendar, moved meetings to satellite calls and gave myself some self-imposed cabin fever. While at times it drove me nuts, not having to go anywhere left a lot more time to get caught up on things like emails, reading and writing. I'd started Marc Ecko's Unlabel last fall; after seasons of slowly making my way through, I powered through the second half of it in one night this week. Boy, was it worth it!
For those who don't know Marc Ecko, he's a cultural ingenue in the realms of streetwear, hip-hop and graffiti. Most famously, he's the founder and face behind Ecko Unlimited and its family of streetwear collection brands as well as the figurehead behind Complex Magazine/Media. As Unlabel will show you, Marc's had many other endeavors in art, video games, high fashion and more. He weaves all of his entrepreneurial successes and failures into a brilliant story on personal branding and starting your own business. He even appeals to the analytical brains by conveying his points with an algorithm; each chapter highlights one piece in this algorithm that eventually comes together in a formula for 'unlabeling' yourself.
As you can imagine, a white Jewish kid from Jersey had a hard time establishing a name for himself in graffiti culture, then in streetwear, then in mainstream fashion. This is where the 'Unlabel' flame is ignited. Ecko shows how he overcame the presumptions and the hardships put in place by the 'gatekeepers' of these 'scenes'; that despite what label one might place on him, he didn't have to live in a box, limited by what that label meant.
I could go on forever about all the things I resonated with in Unlabel - the trials and tribulations of entrepreneurship, personal branding, being a creator, breaking down barriers, being vulnerable, thinking strategically, etc. - but what struck me most was his consistent return to 'remembering your core strengths.'
That could be your most popular, best-selling service or product, or it could be the passions, personality traits and skills you know you're strongest in. No matter how far Marc strayed, he always came back to his core strengths.
How often do we stray from our own core strengths?
I do it all the time. Anyone with a smartphone or internet access can probably say the same. I started this sick week almost bored from forcing myself to rest and not knowing what to do. I didn't like anything on TV, so naturally I'd reach for my phone and scroll endlessly. After reading Unlabel, I thought about all the things I'm truly passionate about doing (besides working out.) Reading, writing, blogging, marketing. I should never be bored b/c there's always something new to read about, try, analyze and try again in those four fields alone. Return to your core strengths, Jess.
So while Unlabel was a great marketing / personal branding read overall, I thank Marc Ecko for renewing that fire within me. Sometimes it takes a little sickness and some quality reading time to re-anchor ourselves to what's truly important to us.