3 Things Ambitious Extremers Can Learn From Bruce Springsteen
The harder the grind, the greater the reward.
Now the first thing you’re going to notice is that it’s a freeken giant book of 500 pages long, which may have you turning towards your search engine to see if you can find a cliff notes version. But I have news for you: just like Springsteen’s career, it takes time and effort to get through his memoir. And with that commitment comes one hell of a reward.
I grew up in the 80s. While I can’t say I was a diehard Springsteen fan like my best friend, who had Born in the USA posters all over her walls (those bandanas!!), I can say, like most people of my generation, that his songs were embedded in my youth experience. In adulthood, I have found a deeper love for his music, and now, his story.
Picking up his memoir, I can’t say I was sure that I was going to get through it. But once I started, it had me riveted through all 500 pages with brilliantly told stories winding through many of the music legends of our time (spoiler alert… Steve Van Zandt loved Disneyland… until they got kicked out!.. which is so awesomely Rock n Roll!). However, what REALLY struck me were the lessons that every entrepreneur and leader can take from his experiences.
So here are my top 3 lessons learned from 15 hours spent with Bruce Springsteen:
- IT TAKES GRIT TO BUILD A STRONG FOUNDATION
Springsteen didn’t bust through to super-stardom like a contestant on The Voice. In his 20s, he endured years and years of long nights playing in run down bars on the Jersey Shore with only a handful of people in the audience. Even after he was signed by a major record label, it still took many years before he actually “broke through.” As his story unfolds, we learn that it was the years spent grinding away at his craft, and building his fan base one by one, that built the deep and solid foundation to stand on when he finally did break out into mass market success.
Today we are living in a world of instant gratification. We think that we should instantly achieve success, and if we don’t, we should quit and go try something else. But there’s a lot to be said for having the tenacity to keep going, EVEN when success doesn’t seem like a clear destination on the horizon. If Springsteen’s story is anything to go by, it’s very clear that years of perseverance not only build an incredible foundation, but also develop a deep passion for one’s work. So in the end, with college graduates everyday being told to “find their passion,” the greatest lesson here is that passion is made, not found.
“In the new digital world of three-second attention spans, where the cold hard hand of impermanence and numbered anonymity holds sway, this was irreplaceable. It was real and we’d built it the way real things are built, moment upon moment, hour upon hour, day after day, year after year.” — Bruce Springsteen, “Born to Run”
2. KNOW AND FOSTER YOUR OWN SPECIALIST GAME
Springsteen didn’t come from a family of musical virtuosos, and, by his own admission, when he formed his first band he was “toxic in front of a microphone.” He talks extensively about how his voice doesn’t have a lot of tonal beauty or finesse, but it can “get the job done.” As a result, he needed ALL of his skills to get by and to communicate deeply. As a song writer, a guitarist, and a show man, he recognizes that he is the sum of all of his parts.
The Extremers I interviewed for my book, Extreme You, taught me that those who truly reach their own potential are the ones that understand how their unique blend of skills, style, and passion can come together to create something world class. Instead of fretting about specific areas of weakness, they capitalize on their specialized strengths. It’s often the combination of quite unlikely experiences that form something unique and special later in your career. The lesson here is: don’t give up too soon when you are exploring what really makes you shine.
“It came down to this: I’d studied, honed, worked and sweated to acquire a set of skills that when put into action made me one of the best in the world at what I did. Those skills were at their apex with a hard driving band, and, I’d come to realize not just any band. Time, history, memory, collective experience had made this so….” Bruce Springsteen, “Born to Run”
3. INDIVIDUAL SUCCESS IS A TEAM SPORT
What I loved the most about reading Springsteen’s memoir was the “behind the scenes” look at how the support of many players created the success of such an individual global icon. Many young, ambitious leaders can relate to the desire for individual success and recognition. When we start our careers, we tend to think about our decisions through the lens of what we alone are striving for. But the further you get in your life and in your career, the more you realize that no success happens without incredible partnerships and teammates at your side.
Springsteen talked with deep affection about his band mates, and about the joy that came from the challenges, epic wins and losses, and the real commitment to one another after so many years of journeying together.
You can’t possibly understand in your 20s how deeply valued these long-term relationships will be later in life. So look around you; be aware of those that are playing a supporting role to your lead.
Most of us won’t ever come close to the kind of global success that Bruce Springsteen has achieved, but that doesn’t mean he can’t teach us what it takes to find fulfillment in our unique gifts and ambitions. So as 2018 gets under way, remember: the road is long, so don’t give up too soon on the experiences that might be foundational to your future.
In a world of short attention spans and high expectations of overnight success, it’s so refreshing to see that there are no short cuts to the real fulfillment that comes with sustained success. In fact, it’s life’s greatest challenges that are the cornerstones to our greatest ultimate wins.
“Someday, girl, I don’t know when, we’re gonna get to that place where we really wanna go, and we’ll walk in the sun. But till then, tramps like us, baby we were born to run.” — Bruce Springsteen, “Born to Run”