Famed musician Billy Joel needs little introduction. I find the back story of artists and musicians full of lessons for entrepreneurs – especially during the halcyon period of the music industrial complex circa 1950-1995. But today I read some things about Billy Joel which really inspired me:
Firstly, he didn’t finish high school because he took a gig playing in a piano bar at nights to support his single mother. At the end of the year he didn’t have enough credits to graduate:
The final irony is that he now has 6 honorary doctorate degrees from famous colleges.
I’ve recently come to the conclusion that the most important thing I have ever not done, is my homework at school. Most of grade school and high school, I basically didn’t do my homework. I knew it was due the next day. I worried a little, but not enough to actually do it.
While other kids were doing their homework after school, I was out playing with the other kids, getting up to mischief. Riding my BMX, playing games (footy, cricket, building tree houses etc). I can home late, often. Mum would yell at me and I had to think of an excuse as to why I was late. I would have to provide at least some kind of creative response. Then after dinner I’d be too tired to do my homework. So I’d promise myself I’d get up early and do it in the morning. When morning arrived I’d be too tired to do it then either… In short the homework would rarely get done. Almost never. When I got to school, the same charade would occur. That is, me thinking of creative reasons why my homework was not getting done. Firstly to the teachers to try and avoid an after school detention. Again later, explaining to my mother why I ‘had’ an after school detention. In hindsight it was all a little stressful. Thinking on my feet for answer. Answers I didn’t have at such a young age, with little fast thinking experience.
Turns out this was a pretty good career move, or even ‘life skill’.
In the end, years of being naughty, taught me how to do something far more valuable than having high grades in senior school. It taught me how to think on my feet and how to present to an audience that wants answers. But it also did a lot more than that. Eventually it showed me how to read the play on different peoples reactions to bad news, that rules could be broken if you could sell an alternative.
It even goes a little deeper when I think it through….
I wasn’t just watching TV when I wasn’t doing said homework. I was out in the street playing. Building things with other kids. Under taking projects, playing games and interacting. Doing real things with real people. Operating in ‘live’ human environments, where the results, in this case the ‘fun’, was based on my ability to motivate other kids and organize them. All this, rather than spending my after school day light hours memorizing a bunch I’ve crap that someone had deemed it important for me to regurgitate in some test.
And now as the years have passed I’m reasonably certain that the key to any success I’ve had in life has been due to my ability to influence people. I’m also pretty sure that not doing my homework was where it all started.
I am a fan of the rock band Talking Heads. Not only their music, but their lyrics. Some of which I find incredibly provocative to this day. Actually – most of them are ahead of their time and almost only starting to make sense to me now almost 30 years on.
One song called Seen & not seen is almost spooky. At no time in history have we been able to transform ourselves like we can now. Both socially and intellectually. As entrepreneurs – that’s our journey. Becoming an entrepreneur is all about social and economic evolution as a person. it’s about unlearning the lessons of school and previous jobs we’ve held. But more so it’s about having a vision and transforming our mind, and maybe, just maybe our physical disposition.
Read these lyrics – and just think about it. I’m not trying to be weird – rather to open your mind.
He would see faces in movies, on t.v., in magazines and in books….
He thought that some of these faces might be right for him….and
Through the years, by keeping an ideal facial structure fixed in his
Mind….or somewhere in the back of his mind….that he might, by
Force of will, cause his face to approach those of his ideal….the
Change would be very subtle….it might take ten years or so….
Gradually his face would change its shape….a more hooked nose…
Wider, thinner lips….beady eyes….a larger forehead.
He imagined that this was an ability he shared with most other
People….they had also molded their faced according to some
Ideal….maybe they imagined that their new face would better
Suit their personality….or maybe they imagined that their
Personality would be forced to change to fit the new appearance….
this is why first impressions are often correct…
Although some people might have made mistakes….they may have
Arrived at an appearance that bears no relationship to them….
They may have picked an ideal appearance based on some childish
Whim, or momentary impulse….some may have gotten half-way
There, and then changed their minds.
This song is worth a listen to as well if you can find it on itunes or the net.
If school didn’t start at 9am what time would we turn up?
If tax returns didn’t have to be done by a certain date, when would we do it?
If childbirth was possible at any age, when would we conceive?
If our stomach didn’t have an eating deadline, when would we feed it?
Nature is smart and builds in deadlines for us.We ought understand the nature of deadlines.
Quite often in startup land we try to shun the usual behaviour of more established institutions like schools and corportations. And in many area this is a valid concept. But as far as deadlines are concerned this is something we should adopt. We should be strict on deadlines in the same way we had exams, and due dates at work. It’s a simple and vital discipline.
Work expands with the time allowed for it’s completion. So the time must be stamped. With an agreed deadline, we must cram to get it done. We must be accountable and our business will benefit.
If we don’t embrace the simple discipline of deadlines our more astute competitors will evolve much quicker, and more quickly make their stuff awesome. Deadlines ensure we continue to make our company, product or website awesome. Because each deadline is an incremental improvement. Without deadlines all we end up with is awesome and ever evolving blueprints, which our customers never see, or gain any benefit from.
Startup blog says – embrace deadlines and win.