What The Boss Can Teach Us About Our Careers

I listened to the latest installment of Marc Maron’s WTF podcast yesterday. I would highly recommend it if you are new to podcasting or if you haven’t yet listened to Marc. He’s one of the best. Marc has a disarming approach that puts his guests at ease. This makes for a relaxed, yet interesting conversation. The icing on the cake… Marc’s ability to fuse in a little comic relief.

In this week’s episode, Marc interviewed The Boss! Yes, Bruce Springsteen. I am a huge Springsteen fan. I’ve been to many concerts and I was lucky enough to bump into him last spring during our family vacation. While we only exchanged a few words, he was incredibly down to earth and gracious enough to take a picture with a diehard fan. I just hope he didn’t see right through my man-crush...

Now, back to the podcast. Marc and Bruce talked a lot about Springsteen’s recent book, Born To Run. They covered a lot of ground, but primarily dug deep into Springsteen’s childhood and how it all began. It was far from glamorous. In fact, it was a story about a kid from nowhere that had a deep desire to live out his passion for music.

Here are two takeaways from the interview that had a profound impact on me, especially as you consider your career aspirations:

What is your cause to follow? We all need to do internal work to understand our purpose. Are you passionate about your work or is it simply a paycheck? Springsteen talked about his journey compared to the arc of his Dad’s life. He described his Dad as someone, “lost in the wilderness”. Springsteen emphasized the importance of finding your center. How well do you know you? Springsteen explained his life as a project where he was constantly learning and retooling. That’s where it all begins. It’s tough work to unpack it all, but it is certainly worth it in the long run.

What drives you to succeed?  Each one of us has certain motivational drivers, some positive and some negative. Whatever those driver are, they move our dials. For some of us it is shaped by external factors - money, status, etc. So, what really gets you out of bed in the morning? In Springsteen’s case, it was never about the money. He joked that in 1969 he could live on $20 a day to get by and have a good time. Springsteen’s music was his measuring stick. He would constantly ask the same questions, “Is the music getting better, am I getting better”. Springsteen had faith in himself and believed that things would ultimately work out as long as he stayed true to his muse. That’s a powerful lesson, as we all are often swayed by the next title or paycheck.

Good stuff, right? Does it offer some perspective in your journey? I hope so, it certainly did for me. I’d like to leave you with one very poignant excerpt from one of Springsteen’s greatest songs, Darkness On The Edge Of Town:

“Tonight I’ll be on that hill ‘cause I can’t stop, I’ll be on that hill with everything I got. With lives on the line, where dreams are found and lost, I’ll be there on time, and I’ll pay the cost for wanting things that can only be found in the darkness on the edge of town.”

Yes, as with any Springsteen song, this has a lot of depth. Here’s my take… We all face our challenges. So, what are you going to do about it? Are you going to take that hill and confront those tough questions or opt for the path of least resistance? You will pay the cost, but isn’t it worth it if you can fulfill your dreams? I think so. My interpretation may not be right, but that’s the beauty in Springsteen’s music. It’s poetic to interpret yet fun to listen to because it’s just good old fashion rock and roll.

As an entrepreneur, I am always looking for inspiration. Do I have those sleepless nights? You bet. Will I have any regrets? Perhaps. However, one thing I do know, is that I’ll never regret giving it a shot and taking that hill. Thanks, Boss.