When was the last time you asked yourself something? More specifically, when was the last time you asked yourself what you’re really good at.
When was the last time you offered yourself an honest answer about what you’re really good at? When was the last time you were honest enough to realize what you just weren’t good at any more?
Have you ever had the guts to tell someone else what they’re really good at? Or had the courage to let them know that they weren’t good at something at all?
I feel like this is a big problem with people, society and business today. The problem is: There are too many people out there trying to do things, be things or be a part if something of which they are not proficient enough to innovate or even create progress. For now, let’s call them “Numbnuts”.
Numbnuts are people who get stuck doing what they’re not good at and force themselves to continue to do it for various reasons. Those reasons can include: ego, greed, profit, pride, stupidity, laziness, stubbornness, close-mindedness, plain ignorance and blind faith. Some might add “hope” as a reason to dutifully continue doing something you really suck at, but there’s a difference between hope and blind faith. Hope is informed.
As these folks force their lackluster contributions to humanity down the throats of everyone around them, they essentially prevent the world and it’s people from evolving. Numbnuts unwittingly stunt the growth and progress of humanity. How do they accomplish this? By preventing the right people, those who are truly progressing and contributing, from achieving the correct positions where they can succeed.
Here’s an example: (My friends have heard me make this argument) It’s the Superbowl. It’s 2001. You’re planning the halftime event. You need a musical act that will appeal to the masses and entertain millions of people during halftime. You choose Aerosmith. You’ve heard of them before, somewhere on the radio or MTV. They’re in the midst of their “Just Push Play Tour”, the band’s 16th Tour since 1971, when they started playing rock music together thirty years earlier. You run the idea by a few folks and they’re happy because Aerosmith will drive ratings and keep the core Football audience rocking during halftime. You believe you’ve done the right thing. And as far as I’m concerned, you can’t be blamed entirely for this travesty.
But consider Aerosmith’s band manager. The person who gets the call from the Super Bowl and is ecstatic to hear about the gigantic fee the aging hair band will earn to put towards another mansion somewhere. He just earned a healthy commission without even lifting a finger. And he always (rightfully) thought the band’s heyday was over in the late 70’s. Nope, they got a fourteenth wind, thanks to a bad decision by the event coordinator and a complete lack of courage by everyone involved. Now, the band manager believes he has done the right thing as well, earning his employer a high paying, high profile gig in front of millions of people. Job well done. Congratulations.
Now, consider Joe Perry, the lead guitarist. He grew up outside of Boston, attended a boarding school in southern Vermont, where he began to rebel and play guitar. He learned to rock and quickly earned a reputation for playing loud, hard rock with his new band, Aerosmith. They quickly gain a solid following in and around Boston and are soon compared to the Rolling Stones, but quickly break out of that mold and become an American rock band success story. The mid-late 70’s are insanely successful for the band and they write/ play some of their best material. They also do tons of drugs and blow most of the money they’ve earned getting raked over the coals by record companies.
Joe drags himself and Aerosmith through the Eighties and by 1986, they had to make a comeback, so they grabbed hold of whatever was cool at the time: Run DMC and hip hop music. Wonder of all wonders, Aerosmith is reborn through the association to hip hop and a music video that MTV drilled into every kids head. Soon, Aerosmith gets back to the business of making records and limps through the 90’s, milking the record industry and sapping rock music with a rehashed sound and lame ballads with super-high production-value music videos that fuel their popularity and keep them on the airwaves. They’re clean, sober and now a functioning business, complete with tours, merchandise and marketing. The machine is firing on all cylinders now and the band is making more money than ever. To cap it all off, the band is invited to play the Super Bowl 35 halftime show. Sweet, sweet emotion.
Here’s the problem: Dozens of hard-working rock bands never made it big during the 90s and early 2000’s. They never got noticed, never got airplay, never got a chance to play a big gig, never sold 100,000 records. This was not because they did not deserve it, and not because they were not good rock bands. Plenty of them had what it took to be huge, and plenty of bands have that today.
The reason these young rock bands never made it big was that not enough people bought their records, came to their shows, and supported them when they needed it most: during the years when they were progressing and innovating the hardest. And therefore no Superbowl halftime show coordinator had the courage to think about changing the paradigm and hiring a young, exciting upstart band to headline.
Why? Because they were all too busy spending money on crappy Aerosmith records, t-shirts and overpriced concert tickets. And to top it all off, the music industry stood by and allowed Aerosmith to orchestrate Reunion Tour after Reunion Tour, further milking the music economy for every dollar their hard-working and blissfully ignorant fans would spend to hear shitty, unoriginal, overhyped rock songs.
So what actually happened here? Joe Perry never had the foresight and courage to hang up the Les Paul once and for all. He still hasn’t! His greed and sense of self-entitlement prevented him from realizing that by lengthening the already long life of his band, Aerosmith, he was singlehandedly preventing dozens of future guitar heros and hard-working rock bands from achieving success. And by doing that, Aerosmith was preventing the rock music industry from evolving, growing and progressing, putting another nail in the coffin of Rock. Maybe that was their goal? IE: If we can’t have it anymore, no one can.
So, stay in touch with yourself.
Know what you’re good at and be honest about what you’re bad at. Let other people do what they’re good at, especially when they’re young, ballsy and really pushing their limits. Encourage them and don’t interfere with their success because you’re afraid of what it might mean for you some day. Stop lying to yourself, you suck! Let it go, and be good and what you’re really good at. Or go find something new to be good at and let someone else come up from the ranks to succeed when they deserve it most.
If you live and let live, we all progress. If you decide to interfere, prepare to be interferred with, because you’re shortening the lifespan of humanity by sticking to your now impotent guns…Numbnut.