As some of you know, I am an avid reader & have been for basically my entire life. Here lately though, in addition to reading, I have also gotten into podcasts a bit. Because I’m old school & don’t have Spotify or Apple Music, or whatever other platforms people use for podcasts, I just find them on YouTube- you know, the “old fashioned” way. Ha! Anyhow, as far as books, I do love fiction & still read more of that than anything. But I also really enjoy autobiographies & memoirs, particularly from rock stars I admire. So it should come as no surprise that a lot of the podcasts I enjoy are also essentially interviews with my favorite rockstars.
Obviously I enjoy reading/hearing about the lives & backgrounds of musicians whose work I enjoy, but beyond that I also really enjoy hearing about their struggles to find success & how they managed to do so, particularly at a time in history when being a rock star is nothing like it was back in the 70s or 80s. The people living the old school “rock star” lifestyle aren’t actually rock stars now- they’re rappers, pop stars, or even country singers. Rock & metal are arguably more “alternative” & outside of the mainstream now in the 21st century than they were in the 20th century. The point of this is that anyone who finds a way to make a living doing this kind of music nowadays (really any music, but especially rock/metal), whether you like the music or not, is worth a second look. Because, believe me, they haven’t gotten there by pure chance or luck.
Having said all that, between the various books, interviews, & podcasts I’ve consumed about a variety of bands, as well as a handful of athletes that I find interesting (Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Gronk, Baker Mayfield, Arian Foster, to name a few), there are certain trends I’ve noticed in these people. Just about all of them will acknowledge that some of their success is due to luck or genetic factors over which they have no control, but lots of other people have those same factors or experience the same type of luck & don’t achieve the same kind of success. So- what sets these people apart? Let’s take a look.
(Keep in mind that most of my examples here will be musicians but that doesn’t mean these traits aren’t applicable to other fields- even those of us “regular Joes” with normal jobs.)
- Successful people have unwavering, unshakeable self-confidence. This kind of confidence may even come across as arrogance sometimes, but the fact of the matter is, if YOU don’t believe in you, why should anyone else? It might not be fair but that’s just the way the world works. In a recent podcast Aaron Rodgers talked about how he envisioned being an NFL quarterback long before it actually happened. That might sound ridiculous, but as the host of the podcast (Marcus Aubrey) stated, Rodgers would never have made it there if he hadn’t first believed he could.
- Successful people do not embrace a victimhood mentality, even when at times it might be justified. Instead, they embrace a “no excuses mentality.” Look at Lzzy Hale. She could have said “You know what? Female rock stars rarely make it. Screw this.” But she didn’t. Diamond from Tetrarch could have said “I don’t see any other black female guitarists in metal bands. This is going to be too difficult. Forget it.” But she didn’t. Ronnie Radke could have said “I’m stuck in prison & my band fired me. I’ll never make it now.” Instead, he formed a new band & wrote an entire album while in prison. And he was performing on the main stage of Warped Tour within a few months of his release (& it’s only been up from there)! From Ashes to New could have said “Man, we lost our singer. No one cares about nu-metal anymore. Forget it.” But they didn’t. And they’re doing better than ever now! Leland Melvin could have said “I don’t know any other black guys who are astronauts or scientists. Forget this.” But he didn’t. Tom Brady could have said “Damn, I was a 6th round draft pick. I’ll never be a star.” But he didn’t- & now he is arguably the best quarterback to ever play the game. Zoltan Bathory of Five Finger Death Punch came to the US knowing almost zero English. His first guitar was made out of a wooden coffee table. No excuses- he made his dreams come true. And the list goes on & on . . .
- Successful people are willing to suffer & take risks to achieve their goals. They know that the route to the top doesn’t come easy & they’re willing to do whatever it takes to get there. If that means touring in a crappy van & barely making enough money to buy Ramen or food from the McDonald’s dollar menu (hello, Motionless in White), they’ll do it. Palaye Royale used to tour the country in their mom’s SUV with guitarist Sebastian doing the vast majority of the driving. How he survived, I’ll never understand because there is no way he was getting more than a few hours of sleep each day. Andy Biersack/Black of Black Veil Brides dropped out of high school as soon as he turned 18 & moved from Ohio to Los Angeles to pursue his dreams. At times that meant living in his crappy, old car that barely even worked. But he did it. The guys in Lamb of God used to come off tour & go straight back to being dishwashers & construction workers. It wasn’t glamorous, but that’s how they could pay the bills & continue to pursue their musical dreams. Asking Alexandria moved from England to the US & lived in an RV in a Wal-Mart parking lot in their early days. It wasn’t glamorous either, but it’s how they eventually got the success they have today.
- Successful people work harder than anyone else in the room. They don’t count on talent alone to make them successful because they understand that “hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” Ice Nine Kills just opened up for Metallica- the biggest metal band in the world- but one of their guitarists (Ricky Armellino) went straight back to work on his other band’s music after the show. Could he have basked in the glory of his accomplishments? Absolutely. But he knows that the constant grinding is a large reason why he’s achieved what he has so far, so why stop now? Long before their current success, Ice Nine Kills frontman Spencer Charnas used to sell his CDs at Warped Tour. His band wasn’t even playing the show! He was just wandering around talking to people & somehow convincing them to buy his music. And he set an insane goal- I think it was 1,000 CDs a day or something like that. And as one of his bandmates recounted in an interview, he never left until he met his goal. Talk about dedication! And talk about an insane belief in yourself to even attempt such a thing! Hats off to you, Spencer.
- Successful people are willing to adapt & admit to their own mistakes. A lot of the musicians I’ve listed here have struggled with drug &/or alcohol addiction at some point in their lives. Yet all but maybe one of them are now sober & thriving. Why? They realized their addictions were ruining not just their careers but their lives. And they were willing to do the hard work of addressing why they were using those addictions as coping mechanisms in the first place so they could come out on the other side bigger & better than ever. On a less serious but still important level, think about the bands (or even TV shows) that have really stood the test of time. Most of them don’t sound the same now as they did on their first record. Why? Because they grew & evolved & experimented with new ideas over the years. And people appreciate that because that’s what we as human beings should do- we should grow & evolve & experiment with new ideas over time. And even if we never have to overcome something as crippling as heroin addiction or alcoholism & the gamut of problems that accompany such substance abuse, we should all be “big enough” to admit to our own mistakes & constantly strive to do better.
I talked about this in a previous blog post, but it seems like nowadays people feel like they have to tip toe around their successes for fear of making others feel bad. There is also a lot of focus on self-help books & prayer but not a lot of focus on getting out there & doing the real dirty work that actually leads to success. As I also discussed in the same previous post, we all have a different vision of what success looks like to us, & there is nothing wrong with that. For example, as much as I love rock music & reading/hearing about the artists behind the music, I have absolutely zero desire to live that kind of lifestyle. I’m very happy to be a “regular Joe” (or perhaps I should say Jane?). But I still find a lot of utility & inspiration in hearing about the struggles my favorite artists have faced. My challenges in life may be very different but the mindset I need to overcome those challenges needn’t be so different. And the same is true for you.