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  • Book Excerpt: Marketing Lessons From the Grateful Dead

    The following is an excerpt from David Meerman Scott and Brian Halligan’s new book called Marketing Lessons From the Grateful Dead: What Every Business Can Learn from the Most Iconic Band in History (Wiley, August 2010). They are both friends of mine and people who I admire and respect in the marketing space. David is the BusinessWeek bestselling author of The New Rules of Marketing & PR, which has been translated into more languages than I have fingers and toes (24). Brian is the co-founder and CEO of Hubspot, which was recently recognized as the Best Place to Work by The Boston Business Journal. He also wrote the book on Inbound Marketing.

    Chapter 19: Do What You Love

    In preparing to write this book, we both watched lots of footage of the Grateful Dead. One thing that stood out was how happy Jerry Garcia was on stage—he had a big smile on his face while his fingers danced up and down his guitar fret. Similarly, when we listened to interviews of him and other members of the band, they often talked about how they loved what they did. This passion helped them overcome serious odds to become a huge success.

    Because the Grateful Dead loved what they did, they stuck with it and (obviously) eventually prospered.

    Since they were so passionate about what they did, the Grateful Dead was also able to persevere through some very rough times. On the first gig they booked, they were contracted for performances two nights in a row. They were so bad the first night that the owner of the joint replaced them with three elderly gentlemen in a jazz band! The Band members were so embarrassed they didn’t even bother asking the owner for their one night’s pay. Rather than throw up their hands and give up, the band went back to the studio and doubled down on the practice routines. It actually took several years and a great deal of practice before they really started getting good market traction with their unique sound.

    As is often the case for people starting out in a career pursuing their passion, some of the Grateful Dead members had very humble beginnings. Jerry Garcia, for example, was really passionate about music and playing guitar, so much so that prior to starting the band, he was a guitar teacher making such meager wages that he had to live out of his car! Rather than get a “job,” he stuck with it, and his passion fueled his eventual success.

    We are taught as children that work and play are opposing forces in nature. This teaching is incorrect—it is possible that your work can be like play! In fact, if you do what you love the way the Grateful did, you’ll never “work” a day in your life.

    People often end up in “jobs” they’re not passionate about because they’re living someone else’s dream—their mother-in- law’s, their competitive sister’s, their classmate’s, and so forth. It is much easier to succeed at fulfilling your own dreams for which you have passion than it is to fulfill others’ dreams—this is because you’re much more likely to do great work if you’re doing what you love. When others get tired in your industry, your passion will act like jet fuel to help you overcome barriers that they can’t. You’re much better off working in an industry in decline that you’re passionate about (i.e., even the car business) than you are working in a hot, growing industry for which you have no passion (i.e., management consulting). Not only does doing what you love increase your odds of success, but it dramatically increases your happiness. You spend more than 50 percent of waking your adult life working, so you might as well do what you love. Doing something you don’t enjoy during more than 50 percent of your waking adult life takes a toll on your psyche that goes well beyond the boundaries of the workplace. Conversely, doing what you love pays huge dividends in your personal life.

    The Grateful Dead teach us to live our own dreams – not someone else’s.

    In the months and weeks leading up to Brian’s father’s death, Brian saw him searching to derive meaning from his life and to put his time on earth into a broader historical context. Fortunately, his dad lived a great life full of accomplishment and love, so it wasn’t hard for him. Like Brian’s father, you want those self-conversations at the end of your life to be as fruitful as possible. You’ll never regret on your deathbed that you pursued your passion. However, you may regret spending half of your waking life in a dead-end job or living someone else’s dream.

    Dan Schawbel is the Managing Partner of Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and consulting firm. He is the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success (St. Martin’s Press) and the #1 international bestselling book, Me 2.0: 4 Steps to Building Your Future (Kaplan Publishing), which combined have been translated into 15 languages.

    Posted in Book Reviews, Career Development, Marketing, People, Personal Branding, Success Strategies
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