For devout music fans, the most fascinating part of a rock documentary about their favorite band is often the way the film humanizes its members. Of course, stories of how any famous band becomes the super group we know and love to listen to will vary with each group. But rather than focus on the more commonly known backstories that loyal fans may already know, a documentary filmmaker usually has a different objective in mind: Shed a light on the much less publicized aspect of a specific bands road to success by giving us an intimate look at the events in their personal lives that shaped them as people. After all, it is the person that makes the music, not the other way around.
Legendary Canadian rock group Rush will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this Thursday, April 18th. Coincidentally, I happened to catch a recent airing of the Rush documentary Beyond the Lighted Stage, chronicling Rushs origins and long road to its current legend status. In watching this film, I noticed many parallels between the many obstacles and philosophies shared by members of Rush during their formative years and my own history of personal and professional growth through entrepreneurship. When we examine these similarities, its really fascinating how similar a rock stars path to superstardom mimics my journey as an entrepreneur who seeks to put and keep my company on the path towards realizing a similar level of success.
Upon deciding to form a band, many musicians will attempt to learn a feel for each others style, to learn each others technical prowess, tendencies, and preferences musically. Rush had to learn and play other peoples songs at first, and similarly, I try to learn from the best. As an entrepreneur, I dont want to carbon copy someone elses successful companyI want to achieve their level of success. That doesnt mean following in their footsteps; it means figuring out the formula, and adjusting my own philosophy to accommodate the finer points of itbut never imitate it. Uniqueness and individuality are defining characteristics of the origins of the longest-lasting companies out there.
In countless interviews throughout their career, Rush have maintained a humility about their own achievements and aptitude. When someone interviews and compliments Rush and their skill, they answer with We work really hard. I dont think thats them ducking the question at allI think thats the truest answer they can give. Nothing comes easy, especially as a professional; and the moment you become arrogant about your performance or your ability, you start losing the essence of what elevated you there in the first place. Rush believes that, I believe it, and anyone who strives to better themselves believes it.
Early in their lives as musicians, Rush were careful not to interpret their rising in overall popularity as proof of longevity. Equally, I try to temper the excitement my own team feels from winning notable projects and clients; I stress the importance of maintaining appropriate perspective for each project, to avoid letting off the gas just when my team gets momentum they can feel and be excited about. Of course I want my team to be excited, but we cant be too enthusiastic about one big win; success as a goal means Im building something that lasts, not a one-and-done scenario whose peaks are just as steep as their inevitable crash. As a company, we have a responsibility to constantly build on our foundation of hard work.
Beyond spends a portion of the film detailing the struggle many members of Rush felt with staying in and completing school when they were teenagers. To Rush, it was clear that what they wanted to do in life did not involve nor require a formal education, thanks to their natural-born ability as musicians. While this philosophy may seem a divergence from a traditional entrepreneur who typically spends at least a few years in advanced academic institutions, the practice of constantly reassessing your life plan is not only normal, to me its essential: If I dont constantly ask myself Am I on the right path?, its presumptuous at best, and arrogant at worst.
Geography had an early effect on the momentum Rush generated as they got increased radio airplay and otherwise gained popularity by word-of-mouth in the mid-70s, being as those were the only two mediums other than live venues that bands could gain notoriety. As such, they constantly faced scrutiny from naysayers who claimed Theyre a Canadian band, how good can they be?
I can certainly relate to geographic bias. We work in mobile tech at Interapt; the first region that comes to mind when people think of our industry is naturally Silicon Valley. Because of that, it does occasionally feel like my company is out to prove that Interapt can do anything Silicon Valley can do. And not only can we do it, but in some cases we can even do it better.
A pivotal part of Beyond describes how Neil Peart, Rushs drummer, contributed to Geddy Lees lyrical composition of Fly By Night. Lee had been the only lyricist to that point, but had noticed Neil always had his nose in a book while the band was on tourthe bus, the hotel room, the bars, everywhere. His lyrical contribution proved invaluable to the success of the song, and now Peart writes virtually all of Rushs lyrics.
Similarly, contribution from every part of my team is a driving force behind the robust creativity of my company. To me, defining someones role is essentially limiting it, something more designed for corporate bureaucracy. I empower my staff to make important decisions and give honest feedback. Thats the purpose of getting a team together: Support each other to make the whole more successful. Do that, and teammates will often surprise you using the same talent and ability that got them the job in the first place. It’s helped Rush come from their humble beginnings to the legends they are today, and it’s what I hope will drive our team from just a few offices to a future where we’ve established offices around the globe. Who knows?
Make sure you follow us tomorrow for the conclusion of our Entrepreneurs Can Learn from Rush blog series! In the meantime, you can contact me by clicking my link above, or email at email@example.com to discuss my recollections here.