As shocking as it might seem, out of that crucible of debauchery known as Guns N’ Roses emerged not just one talented writer, but also a great lesson. Okay, let’s call it safe that there were several lessons to be learned from the Guns N’ Roses saga. Megalomania, addiction, personality conflicts, management issues and other classic issues of rock stardom aside, there lies one amazing story of committment, focus and dedication.
It’s So Easy: and other lies by Duff McKagan is actually a really good read. It is not some self-centered, money grabbing tale of another washed up rock and roller (or politician, executive, sports hero, or whatever) that is out to pad or rebuild their bank account. Of course it is a lot of stories, but what lingered is one incredible story about the conviction and vision it takes to make it to the very pinnacle of your field. Duff McKagan is more than just the former bass player and current columnist for ESPN, he is also the one that realized and drove home the point that if the band was to really make it, they had to be committed. Every member had to put the band above everything. And he relays a great tale of how early on they determined who really had that level of committment.
Now granted, we are talking about a group of guys in the mid 80’s with absolutely nothing to lose. They were in their early 20’s, living a life without responsibilities, and frankly enjoying all that a city like LA would have to offer someone who embraced the “rock and roll lifestyle”. But what is interesting is that even in that environment, they had members who were hesitant, who were not willing to take the chance. When the idea was floated that the band should go on the road for a totally shoe-string, seat of the pants, pile 5 guys in a car west coast tour, 2 of the 5 members hesitated. The level of risk, the level of committment required was just too much. 2 guys baulked. Actually 2 guys walked out; they quit rather than stick it out. 2 other guys stepped forward to fill the void…a guy named Steven and a guy named Slash. And the rest as they say is history.
Amazing really – even with literally everything to gain and nothing to lose, some folks still cannot commit. It is not a bad thing, everyone has their reasons. However, when you are putting together a team with the intention of winning, of being the best, of rising to the top of your field, you need folks who share the vision. You need folks who are committed. It is not about having folks say they are committed, it is about finding folks who have demonstrated real committment. Use the G N’ R test – call the verbal bluff and see who will go on the road with you. Just try to keep all the other rock star issues out of it!