Tag Archives: Wisdom from Music

Business, Life, and Alice Cooper?

Having a career that spans 40+ years is an impressive achievement, regardless of industry.  It is certainly not the norm in today’s business world.  The ability to have such a career in a field where success is quantifiable, where lack of sustained performance has seen all too many “flash in the pan” careers, 40 years and counting is amazing really.  In entertainment, and especially rock and roll, it is certainly a rarity.  Then, being selected to your industries Hall of Fame – just sort of legitimizes the career.

Alice Cooper, the glam/theatrical rock star provides some pogniant thoughts regarding business, the secrets to success and simply fundamental lessons in life.  And to think, he was quoted in an interview on Fox – strange days indeed.  Hard to believe, but then again one has to assume a guy like him has quite literally seen it all.

“…if you are living in this day and age there are way too many things to stop your career and not enough things to keep it going,”

“In this business there is two or three things you have to do. You have to be totally professional, always be there half an hour early not half an hour late. Be ready to work and do what you are supposed to do,”

“If you’re doing a movie, know your lines, if you’re doing an album then don’t show up and not know what you’re doing because that’s the stereotypical thing people think rock stars are…it’s not really true. We get in the studio and know exactly what we’re doing.”

“It was just something that was built into us, if you wanted to stick around you really had to be professional. Our band really believed in that. We were over-rehearsed, we never dared come in late,” he said. “What that says to me is that my time is more important that yours, and that is insulting. You don’t need enemies in this business, you need friends.”

The Wisdom of Alice Cooper – timeless truths and lessons – life and business – show up early, be ready, respect others, and just simply do what you are supposed to do.  Nothing magical, nothing sophisticated…the basics.  Though his wisdom has been gleaned in the crucible of life, the credibility of Alice Cooper is only enhanced by that priceless moment from Wayne’s World:

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It’s a Long Way To The Top…

…if ya wanna Rock and Roll.  Or so said Bon Scott and the boys from Australia.  We often hear from folks who are “ready for something more”, who are “looking to move on to a better role”, to “go to the next level”, and we are huge supporters of growing professionally.  Truth be told – our business depends on it.  However, what is often forgotten is that “moving up” tends to require sacrifice – longer hours, greater demands, relocation, more education, more training, taking the “tough jobs” – paying your dues and delivering results.

Yet again the shuffle option on iTunes served up a mid-day classic.  It is a fun, dated, and basic video and song of the seventies.  In a way it is a timeless reminder of a very real lesson – success takes work.  A lot of work, sweat equity, focus, committment, sacrifice, dedication, and yes even luck.  Even AC/DC can offer up some lyrical wisdom.

You have to be willing to pay the price to reach the goal – whatever the goal might be.  There are no short cuts to the top.  Bagpipes are optional.

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The Dichotomy of Lennon

You have to be a bastard to make it, and that’s a fact. And the Beatles are the biggest bastards on earth.
John Lennon

Interesting – we all think of Oprah, The Beatles, and all the other wildly successful entertainers, musicians and artist in the way that they wish to be thought of – benevolent and kind, caring and giving.  However, what we often overlook is that they all posses an unbridled passion to succeed.  To “make it” as John Lennon would say.  And what they ask us to forget is the bastard part.  In doing so a valuable lesson is lost.  Success requires relentless work, focus and drive, as well as a healthy dose of reality – the reality that to a degree you “have to be a bastard to make it”.  Remember – this is John “Give Peace a Chance” Lennon talking.

It is not a contradiction.  In athletes the “killer instinct” is praised.  Michael Jordan was known as the ultimate closer; Kobi Bryant “the assassin”; Lance Armstrong the perfectionist.  We demand it of our athletic champions, yet we do not want to see it or even acknowledge that it just might exist in our entertainers, business leaders and even political leaders.  Dare I say Bill Gates and Warren Buffett for all their public posturing about donating their estates have and had massive reserves of drive and a fair degree of “bastard” in them when it came to their business dealings.

It is not a bad thing having the drive and focus to succeed coupled with the ability to sacrifice and to make the tough, unpopular decisions.  That is the “bastard” trait John Lennon was speaking of from his days with The Beatles.  They had to make tough, cutting, real world business decisions – they had to sacrifice, to work literally thousands of hours, to pour in all they had to become what they became.  It did not make them bad people.  It was business.  Sometimes business and leadership, entertainment and sports, success and achievement requires a bit of the bastard in all of us.  It is not a bad thing.  It is reality.  It is sort of hard to believe – that “bastard” would have been 70 tomorrow.

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Looking Through the Satirical Lense

Getting caught up in the day-to-day minutia that is life is just a fact.  We all find ourselves fighting the fires at hand, all too often taking the close in view and forgetting the big picture.  We make decisions based on what we see around us, what our environment demands.  We can find ourselves bombarded by messages of what is and what is not important.  Sometimes we lose sight of reality, of the things that truly matter.  And there in lies the value of satire.

A relatively unknown master of satire is back and has again provided a wonderful tongue in cheek look at much more than just the cycling community.  From the hipster to the hip hop culture, our marketing societies obsession with gear, brands, and “high-end” products, to our entertainment and music; everyone gets a turn in the barrel.

It is a gift really – the ability to bring a real, valuable, and sometimes uncomfortable message to what might be a less than receptive audience.  To make them laugh while opening their eyes – a wonderful skill.  Though the below are aimed at cyclist, the jabs apply to any group, in any situation.   Stop and think about it for a minute – is your car, your house, your hobby, the gear you demand, the gadgets you cannot do without, the labels on your clothes – are they really all that important?

Sometimes it is worth it to spend a few minutes and look at yourself, your surroundings, and your life through the satirical lens.  Who knows what you will see.

The latest offering from MC Spandex – “It’s Time to Get Dirty”

And for those who might not have seen the video that started it all, below is the 2009 classic “Performance”

In the interest of full disclosure – I do have a carbon frame.  It was so worth it…

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Born to Run…Both of Them

Word association.  The game, the foundation of some classic comedy skits, and the stereotypical tool of psychologists.  “Born to Run” … “Bruce Springstein”.  How can you not – seriously.  But now a new wrinkle has come into play.  “Born to Run” … “running barefoot”.  What?  Where did that come from?

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen is journalist and correspondent Christopher McDougall’s first book, and he nailed it.  Over the last year his book has quietly become an “it” book – the talk of water coolers, gyms, and many a shoe store.  Not only a fun and enjoyable read, the book is an anthropological history of man, of running, of evolution.  He introduces us to the Tarahumara Indians, to the sport of ultra running, to a cast of characters so colorful that they have to be real.  The lessons in marketing, consumerism and our buying habits are truly enlightening.  The phrase “eat like a peasant” will enter your lexicon.  And yes, it is about running barefoot. But in the end it is a story of people who love what they do – a simple and timeless story.

In our society, fitness and specifically running, is something that is forced.  As adults the idea is that we have to run for fitness, to offset our poor diets, or to look a certain way.  For our children it is equated with punishment, especially once they get into organized sports (run laps, gasers, “conditioning”, “two a days”, “run until you puke”, “no pain no gain”, etc.).  All the rewards of our culture are sedentary (extra food, sweets, relaxation, video games, computers, phones, sitting out drills, etc.).  The irony is priceless.  The Tarahumara Indians run early and often.  They want to run.  They run because they love it.  They reap the rewards in health and happiness.  In our society we are taught early on to hate running and exercise, and the results are all to often reflected in our societies relative lack of health and happiness.

Thanks to word association and Christopher McDougall it seems only fitting that “Born to Run” now prompts “love what you do”  or “bring the joy back into what you are doing”.  So why the Bruce Springstein “Born to Run” and what does it have to do with any of this, other than word association?  Well, if you want to see a great example of loving what you do and pouring every ounce of energy and heart into something, take a walk back to the days of MTV.

Now there is some motivation…get out there…we were all Born to Run…

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The Student, The Grinder and The Natural

The Edge, Jack White, and Jimmy Page – the Student, the Grinder, and the Natural.  While watching the movie It Might Get Loud in which the 3 guitarist discuss the instrument and their experiences and techniques, the below clip is what stayed with me:

It is interesting, I keep thinking of those 3 as a textbook illustration of hiring in business.  The Edge is the classic technical/fundamental student of his craft.  Very gifted, but he is always working at it, studying and learning, using all of the latest technology and innovations.  Jack White is the grinder – able, but he makes it off of sheer force of will and effort.  Then there is Jimmy Page – an absolutely gifted genius in every respect.  He sees it, is a student of his craft, of its history, and simply  is just one of those special few that come along once in a very long while.

In the end it is all about fit – both for the candidate and the company.  What type of person – a student, a grinder or a natural is needed for the company and their role.  Conversely, a candidate must know what sort of person they are – a student, a grinder, or a natural and select the right roles and corporate cultures.  Typically any of the three are successful.  However, make no mistake, there are very few naturals out there – very few.  Just watch The Edge and Jack White – even the best know when they are in the presence of a natural – it is a special moment.

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New Jobs – You Are Starting Over

As only John Lennon could put it so clearly, “it will be just like starting over…”

The sense of relief of having landed the new job is palpable.  Candidate’s are relieved to have weathered the interview and selection process, and are at times relieved to have landed on their feet professionally and financially.  Transitions, either seemless and of your choosing, or dynamic and forced upon you, are stressful evolutions.  However, that sense of relief must evaporate before the first day on the new job.  Much as graduation ceremonies are referred to as commencement, acceptance of an offer is not the end, but rather the beginning of a journey.

Realization that the hard work is ahead, not behind, is a tough pill to swallow for many.  What you did is in the past. It might have been a key component in getting you the new job, but rest assured, it is now squarely all about what you will do going forward. You were hired to perform, not to rest on your laurels.

Starting over is never fun, and it is never easy.  There is always uncertainty, possibly some bruising of the ego, and maybe a little crisis of confidence.  It will take time to hit your stride, to come up to speed.  It will also take work, effort, commitment, and good old fashioned sweat equity.  Knowing and accepting that you are starting over is half the battle.  Having the energy and will to fight the battle that is starting over is what ensures victory.

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Stop worrying about the neighbor’s yard

“Don’t be angry, don’t be sad, and don’t sit cryin’ over good times you’ve had.”

Stephen Stills

We have heard it many times over the years, the all to common theme “there must be something better out there.”  At no time has it been more pronounced than in recent months.  Call it dissatisfaction with reduced income potential or earning, increased pressures and expectations, forced or preceived needs to change fields, firms or roles.  Many have felt that their current role is lacking, that there are better options.  However, these are anything but normal times, and maybe it is wise to remember that the grass is not always greener elsewhere, that the past might not have been that great – holding what you have and maximizing the opportunity at hand might just be the right move.

How much is missed by the never ending pursuit of what might be next?  Of course there is a time and place for moving on, for turning the page, for searching out “the next great job”.  Owning your career and professional growth is critical and something that you must always manage.  However, being in a constant state of wonder about what might have been, or what might be, is not a foundation on which success is built.

The time, energy, and above all opportunity cost of being in a constant state of interviewing demands payment.  In the end, that source of payment is drawn from either your current employer, your professional reputation, or from time with your family. There is only a finite amount of times one can go to the well – eventually the cost becomes unsustainable.

We have said it many times before – interviewing and finding the right opportunity is very similar to dating and getting married.  Eventually you have “played the field” too much, your reputation as a “player” preceeds you.  In the professionl world being a job hopper is still a flag.  In the good times being “diversivied” or “well rounded” were somewhat accepted.  Now it is all about minimizing risk, and a lack of consistency and sustained superior performance is a concern no matter how you might “explain” it.

In the final analysis maybe, just maybe it is worth knuckling down and giving your current job/career focused attention and commitment – they are paying you after all.  It might not be as bad as you think it is, the past might not have been as great as you remember, and everyone else might not have it quite as good now.  Some even say hard work and performance is still rewarded.  Give it a shot.  Stop worrying about everyone else’s yard and tend to your own – you might find things get better.

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A silver lining – somewhat

So maybe Eric Idle was onto something when he reminded us to “always look on the bight side of life”.  There is certainly some validity to that whimsical piece of melodic advice, and one I have come to embrace and share with others as the situations around us have all become a touch more challenging.  

Over the course of the last several months I have had the pleasure to work with several clients who have embraced the “opportunity” afforded by the economic environment.  They have taken time away from their professional careers – either by choice or by circumstance – and truly reflected on where they have been, the successes they have enjoyed, the price they have paid, and the legacy they have left to date.  For some it has been a chance to recharge, to reaffirm their overall commitment to their path and their profession, and they could not be happier.  

For others, this pause has given them arguably their first chance to ever really stop and think, to reflect on all aspects of their professional and personal life.   They have realized that there might just be a need for adjustment.   There is nothing wrong in either scenario, but it is certainly a very healthy, wise and sophisticated aspect of ones life journey to pause and reflect, to adjust and grow.  

We are seeing and helping folks find their passion, their calling.  Sometimes it is a reaffirmation of their past. For others it is starting on an entirely new path.  We are seeing families become reconnected, or at least better connected. We have listened to others realign their personal and family goals.  Place different values on different things, to realize some things are more or less important when viewed through a different prism.  We have seen folks regain their physical fitness, awaken the dormant athlete, or further their professional education. Of course there are real world challenges confronting everyone during these times, and by no means do I advocate a fanciful assumption that all will be well without some serious action.

However, I can say without question that the opportunity to reflect, evaluate, and above all take long overdue action on one’s lives goals has been one constant silver lining to the cloud of uncertainty that has hung over the economy for the last six months.  Many would not have asked for this “opportunity”, or at least not have requested that it arise quite in the fashion that it has, but many are grateful for the chance to really tackle some core issues – issues that all too often were lost in the noise of our day to day lives.  They have been given a gift of time.  

It is refreshing and encouraging to hear from those who have embraced and taken advantage of this “opportunity”, this gift of time.  It is a theme I have shared with many a client, take advantage of this gift.  How it was given to you is not the issue – the fact is that you have the chance – take advantage of it.  In the immortal words of those comedic geniuses Monty Python – always look on the bright side of life!  

(Whistling slowly fades away)

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