I have a quote written on my whiteboard from Hugh MacLeod (@gapingvoid): Success is easy. All you have to do is learn to use your career the same way Hendrix used his guitar.
I don’t know what Hugh meant by that, but I know what it means to me and it is one of my all-time favorite quotes. Here’s my take on it:
Jimi Hendrix used the guitar as an extension of himself. He was unconstrained by the idea of “this is how you play guitar” and completely shattered the boundaries of what others thought was possible or useful or even musical. He was a master with thousands upon thousands of hours of practice and experimentation, continually trying to find new sounds. Hendrix did things different and sought the sounds that pleased him, not what he thought would make him popular. He disliked being categorized as any musical genre and was so far ahead of the curve other masters noticed and promoted him well before being followed by the general public.
From Wikipedia: His Rock and Roll Hall of Fame biography states: “Jimi Hendrix was arguably the greatest instrumentalist in the history of rock music. Hendrix expanded the range and vocabulary of the electric guitar into areas no musician had ever ventured before. His boundless drive, technical ability and creative application of such effects as wah-wah and distortion forever transformed the sound of rock and roll.”
So, just do that with your career. Become a master of what you do for the sheer love of it. Go your own way even if it means you’re not understood or popular at first. Push, push, push the limits and then go push them some more. Have the type of bravery to be different, challenged, and misunderstood. Take your career exploring in the places where there aren’t maps because you’re the first one there. Redefine how things are done in your field.
That’s a tall order few can do. Maybe the place to start for most of us is simply using our careers as an outlet for joy and creative expression. Striving for the top for no reason other than a love for excellence. Then see where that takes us.
Today, I’m leaving you with two videos. One is of Jimi Hendrix playing the Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock. The other is of the 2CELLOS playing the legendary Hendrix song, Purple Haze. Why? Because everyone knows that guitars and cellos don’t make those sounds. And everyone knows you can’t do that with your career. Better to play it safe and stick to the maps and the 10-point programs for $ucce$$ and try to get ahead by doing things exactly like everyone else.
What thinks you?