Miles Davis, who died 27 years ago today, was one of the greatest musicians ever and, also, one of the most cutting artists of his era. He was infamous for his blunt feedback, malicious musings and no-holds-barred commentary.
And Davis' alleged classic, surprisingly quizzical statement about fellow horn player Herb Alpert is the ideal North Star for your success:
You hear three notes and you know it's Herb Alpert
It could be an insult. It could be a compliment. The important part is that it doesn't matter. You should aim for this.
Ouch... or thank you?
Davis passed away almost three decades ago, and the history of the quote is shaky at best, so we don't know if the legendary musician was praising or criticizing the relatively commercial Alpert.
For instance, in an otherwise-straightforward interview, CBS Sunday Morning opened up a conversation with Alpert with the quote as if it was a compliment.
Whether thrashing or praising, it is ultimately what you want because it makes you one thing: distinctive.
Like a smelly goat
It reminds me of my recent Inc. column on distinctiveness:
"The straightforward and good person should be like a smelly goat-- you know when they are in the room with you." Marcus Aurelius
Would it better that your detractors not even know who you are? If people don't have strong feelings about your product, service or approach, then your biggest advocates won't have strong feelings either. And without advocates, you don't have success.
Davis himself knew this truth: Being distinctive is more important than being liked.