“My recommendation: don’t be special; don’t be unique. Redefine your metrics in mundane and broad ways. Choose to measure yourself not as a rising star or an undiscovered genius. Choose to measure yourself not as some horrible victim or dismal failure. Instead, measure yourself by more mundane identities: a student, a partner, a friend, a creator.”
― Mark Manson
This is one of the stories I read in the book named – “The subtle art of not giving a *#@&”. Don’t go by the language of this book because when I started reading it, it totally changed my perspective in so many different ways. It helped me look at things really objectively, outside of the view of my value system.
So, here goes the story (of course in my words and with my take on it)
In 1983, there was a metal rock band group which was gaining a lot of popularity. They got their first debut to be recorded in New York. The lead guitarist of the group was also one of the founders of heavy metal, but the rest of the band was fed up with his drinking and drugs problem. Although he was highly talented, they decided to fire him.
It was in April’1983 that Dave was woken up by rest of the band members. He was in an ugly hangover. He was told directly that he was now out of the band. It came without any warning. They had already hired a new lead guitarist. When he was asked for his flight tickets, he was told that they would drop him New York Port Authority Bus Terminal and he is taking a 4 hour bus to California.
It was still one hour to go before his bus would depart. He had total of 5 hours to reflect on what had happened. He was definitely furious. He was fired from a band that he had co-founded. The rest of band was moving on to recording their first album for which he had written majority of lyrics. He felt cheated, betrayed and fumed. However, in those 5 hours – he got over his self-pity and decided that he would take on his ex-bandmates with a revenge and make them regret this decision.
By the time he reached California, he had decided to find his own band and also wrote the lyrics which later on became one of his famous songs. In the coming few years he worked like crazy, he hired new musicians and created his new band. This new band named Megadeth turned out to be a huge hit. It sold over 38 million records worldwide and earned platinum certification in US for five of its fifteen studio albums. It also received 12 Grammy nominations.
However Dave wasn’t satisfied. Never felt successful. Because the band that fired him was Metallica. And it was indeed way ahead of Megadeth. Metallica had sold 125 million records, won 9 Grammy awards, nominated for 23.
Dave is a strong man because he could turn around a negative experience into a productive one in just 5 hours. He put his entire heart and soul to what he wanted to do. He has money, fame, power. He is ranked as one of the best heavy metal guitarist in the world. Yet he fails to feel success inside him. Because for him, he always wanted to beat Metallica which he could never do.
Two decades earlier in 1962, one more similar incident happened. A guy named Pete Best was fired from his band. He had performed for 2 years with them and the band was at the brink of stardom.
The manager of the group called Pete in his office just before their first recording, and asked him to leave because other bandmates did not want him. He was heartbroken, he never met any of his bandmates again. He quietly left for home. In the coming years, he joined multiple bands and but it was no success. He struggled with depression while his bandmates were selling millions of copies worldwide. They came to be one of the most successful bands of the time – The Beatles.
In 1965, Pete attempted suicide from which he was saved by his mother and brother. His mother’s words put in the sense in him. “They want you to die. Think about your wife and your daughter. What would they be without you” she said. He then realized that suicide was a mistake and promised that he will never ever do that again. He took up a job as a civil servant and just worked 9 to 5 job. His main focus now was to be a civil servant, a good husband and a father. In late 1980’s, he picked up music again. He founded his very own The Pete Best Band.
Pete is a happy person because he found solace in being mundane. He found success in serving people and just being a father and a husband. He did not expect more from life and even though depression hit him hard but he could get over it.
He had met his wife when he was still “The Beatles”, however she did not leave him when he was kicked out. They got married and Pete found solace in being with her – knowing that one of his fans is his wife and even though he isn’t popular any more, she still chooses to be with him.
On the other hand, Dave Mustaine made it a mission of his life to beat Metallica. And even though he attained a huge success as a celebrated artist – he is far from feeling content.
The reason this story hit me hard is that even though you might have great ambitions to be famous and successful – your identity should not be that ambition. There is much more happiness in these mundane titles like a good mother, a good daughter, a good father, a good friend, a good public servant can give a lot more success than being a great businessman, a sportsperson, or a rich man.
I do not intend to say that being ambitious is not right. But making that ambition the whole reason of your existence is wrong. Your existence is worth much more than a few billion dollars that you might make in your lifetime. The real value of your existence is known only to your near and dear ones and not to the millions of fans that follow your work.
Follow your passion, earn lots of money and fame but do not let it become your value system. You and I might be laughing at Dave Mustaine because in spite of earning millions of dollars and fans, he still considers himself a failure. This is because you and I have a very different value system than that of Dave.
Look inside your value system. What are you really running behind? Is it really worth it?
“The narrower and rarer the identity you choose for yourself, the more everything will seem to threaten you. For that reason, define yourself in the simplest and most ordinary ways possible. This often means giving up some grandiose ideas about yourself: that you’re uniquely intelligent, or spectacularly talented, or intimidatingly attractive, or especially victimized in ways other people could never imagine. This means giving up your sense of entitlement and your belief that you’re somehow owed something by this world.”
― Mark Manson