Following on from my article about the patterns you can spot in the most successful people, I want to share another experience with you that highlights a few more characteristics you can use to help set you up for long-term success.
This weekend, I was very lucky to have seen U2 play in Trafalgar Square in London. Now, I know that while U2 are probably the biggest band in the world, they’re also the most polarising. If you love them, you’ll love this article. If you hate them, try to keep an open, subjective mind, ask yourself why you hate them and see if there’s something you can learn from them.
If you really can’t stand U2 and you don’t think you can learn anything, then you should probably know that I’m a proud Irishman, a proud Dub (an individual from Dublin) and I love them, so it might be time for you to tune out.
When you’re a kid and grow up with an older brother, he takes on a bit of a hero status in your eyes. Luckily for me, my brother was a singer and has great taste in music. He introduced me to U2, specifically a tape of ‘Achtung Baby’, in 1991. For that reason alone, I’ve always been a huge U2 fan but there are many, many more.
The whole reason I was at the gig this weekend is because my brother managed to get me a ticket – my big brother is still looking out for me.
While I was watching one of the greatest bands of all time perform, a few thoughts popped into my head about how I feel they’re such a positive influence and I thought I’d share five of them with you…
Rising above it all
Here’s my take on why people dislike U2… they’re successful. Not only are they successful but they’ve achieved something not a lot of successful artists have achieved – longevity. It’s easy to criticise and condemn but it’s not that easy to be the biggest band in the world.
U2 have done what many others can’t or won’t do. There were sporadic shouts in the crowd on Saturday of “pay your taxes” and a number of other disparaging remarks, but in my eyes, that’s misplaced anger based on a lack of self-fulfilment. Once the gig got going in earnest, those same fans were singing in jubilation.
The lesson: When people have an opinion about you, whether good or bad, it’s a sign that they’re taking notice and you’re doing something right. Even if they say they “hate you”, they probably secretly admire you.
My parents have often told me their story of watching U2 perform to a small crowd in one of Dublin’s parks with my brother in a buggy (stroller). This was around the time of the release of ‘October’ and they didn’t have a massive following – even in their home town.
It wasn’t until their next album that they managed to get a break across the water in the UK Top 10 with ‘New Year’s Day’. It’s arguable that it wasn’t until even 1987 that they really achieved massive success both at home and internationally with ‘The Joshua Tree’. It would have been easy to give up in the early days, but U2 are still around over 40 years after their inception because of their persistence.
The lesson: Never, ever give up.
It might be the title of one of their biggest songs but U2 are also proud – proud of themselves, their nation, their home town, their fans and their music. Four Irishmen opening their set with ’Sunday Bloody Sunday’ under Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square in London has far too many proud and political connotations to even mention, so I won’t. If you’re interested, there’s a lot to be learned. The bottom line is that the performance was celebrated as a symbol of freedom and peace.
Seeing Bono with an Irish tricolour aloft in this setting filled me full of pride for him and my nation. Not only that, but he also showed his respect for the British military with Remembrance Sunday the following day. Describing London as the “capital of the world” was also a huge compliment from a proud Dubliner.
The lesson: Be proud of what makes you unique – where you’re from, you’re upbringing and the lessons you’ve learned in life. Apply them to your music and your career.
Chatting with my friend at the gig, we spoke about how amazing it must be for The Edge to hear his guitar tone change, as if by magic, as the gig goes on. Gone are the days (most of the time) when he pushes his pedals himself. Edge’s guitar tech, Schoo, is responsible for all of this. He handles all of the effects cues throughout the show; this frees up Edge to perform and interact with the crowd.
This is an example of the delegation U2 use to keep the machine going. I know from chatting with a number of people who have been involved with U2 throughout the years that they treat their staff and collaborators very well, they welcome ideas and if you’re in, you’re in for the long haul.
The lesson: Don’t be afraid to collaborate and welcome ideas from others. Free up your time to focus on what you do best.
The best entrepreneurs take risks and U2 are no different. There have been many changes in U2’s style and the behind-the-scenes running of the band. Despite the ups and downs and evolutions in style, the four principal members have been ever-present through thick and thin.
Even though U2 have been working with long term collaborators for many years, they also work with new, fresh talent, artists and producers to help them improve. By “them”, I mean U2. They’re not held back by any sort of stylistic limitations and I think this is most clearly highlighted by their recent feature on Kendrick Lamar’s brilliant ‘XXX.’ Of course, Kendrick returned the favour on U2’s ‘Get Our Of Your Own Way’.
The lesson: Take risks, accept constructive criticism, borrow ideas from other styles and work with the people you find interesting.
So, there you have it… 5 lessons you can learn from the biggest band in the world and apply to your own music, career and life.
On a slight side note… I found it quite strange that David Guetta was playing after U2. That technically made U2 the support act for David Guetta. The real reason is that they finished their set in time to catch some of Ireland’s World Cup soccer qualifier against Denmark. A perk of being the biggest band in the world.
How can you take just one of these lessons/concepts and implement them into your life today? What has worked for you in the past?
Leave a comment below!
professional sounding mix every time…