OK, I’ll admit I was trying to grab the reader’s attention with the headline. And while the statement is true, it is somewhat “chronologically challenged” (credit to Neil Gaiman for that phrase), since it happened over 40 years ago.
The concert was to be held at my old high school, Archbishop Carroll, on May 25, 1974. Maura McKinney, a junior at the school, was an early fan of Bruce and was able to convince Springsteen’s booking agent to cut the concert fee in half to $2,000. However, partly because he was still relatively unknown, and partly because it was Memorial Day weekend, the student organizers were unable to sell the 400 tickets required. Since the administration was unwilling to support the event, the concert was canceled.
I’ll confess to being one of the students who had never heard of Springsteen in 1974. I’m sure it was only the cool students who knew his music, and as you can see from the picture below, I was the furthest thing from cool in high school (as well as today).
I’ve since made up for it by attending multiple Springsteen shows, but I still wonder what it would have been like to see him at the start of his career, at such a small venue.
But I also wonder what it was like for Bruce, only 24 years old at the time, when he found out that he couldn’t sell out a 500 seat venue, at only $5 a ticket. Did it cause any doubts in his mind about the path he was trying to blaze? I’m sure it must have, but somehow he was able to push those doubts away, and continue moving forward.
Seth Godin refers to it as the lizard brain.The lizard is a physical part of our brain, the pre-historic lump near the brain stem that is responsible for fear and rage and reproductive drive. The lizard hates change and achievement and risk, but our job is to overcome that resistance, that voice in the back of our head that tells us to be careful, to take it slow, to not take any risks.
Springsteen was obviously able to overcome his lizard brain, and so have many others.
Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, talks about being on the brink of bankruptcy and barely making payroll in the early years of Zappos, in his great book, Delivering Happiness.
JK Rowling was turned down by 12 publishers before securing a book deal, only then to be told to get a part time job as there was no money in children’s books.
Kurt Warner, won two NFL MVP awards in 1999 and 2001 as well as the Super Bowl MVP award in Super Bowl XXXIV. However, five years prior to that success, not a single NFL team drafted Warner. He was invited to the Green Bay Packers training camp, but he was cut after 5 weeks. He took a job stocking supermarket shelves, trained during the day at his old college, and told anyone who listened that he would play in the NFL someday.
So what is that makes such people push on, despite the many obstacles they faced?
I think the answer is simple – a passion for what you are doing and the confidence that what you are doing matters. Passion and confidence will enable you to keep your focus, to ignore the naysayers, and to learn from your failures.
The lizard brain isn’t going away, but it can be disabled.
By the way, do you think there’s a chance Springsteen would allow my high school the chance to redeem itself? I’ll gladly pay the $2,000 myself…