Bob Dylan is one of the most revered artists of all time. He is called “the voice of a generation”. It’s easy to look back and say that he is amazing because that’s the consensus, but damn, the road wasn’t always easy.
The guy was booed off the stage at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival. Bob frigen Dylan, booed off stage. But we know him today as one of the most successful artists who ever lived.
Bob Dylan is a groundbreaking artist for more reasons than I could list, and here’s three really important lessons in success that I have learned from him.
1. Perseverance in the face of adversity
Bob Dylan was booed off the stage in front of one of his formerly most appreciative audiences. If he can be booed off stage, anyone can be.
Did he let it keep him from writing literally hundreds more songs? Did he give up playing electric and swear that he’d only play acoustic from then on?
Many of you might say that he had already “made it”, so the press only made him more famous. But that’s not the moral of this story.
It’s that anything can happen to anyone. We have a nasty habit of dehumanizing people who achieve fame and success. Well the guy is human! Hell, as often as it doesn’t seem so, all rock stars are human! How quickly would you be able to bounce back if you were booed off stage in front of thousands of people?
You need to be confident and passionate in your direction, because no one else will believe in you until you believe in yourself.
The road to success looks more like a treacherous maze filled with unseen hazards than a smoothly paved road. It’s not that nothing goes wrong for wildly successful people, it’s their reaction and perseverance that makes them who they are.
2. Everyone who’s not doing it is a critic
The second tip comes from a live concert video I watched in my “History of rock and roll” class in college (attendance for me was not a problem in that class).
Bob Dylan plugged in his electric on tour soon after the infamous Newport folk festival debacle. One of the fans in the audience booed him and yelled, “You suck! You’re a fraud!”
Now I won’t recommend actually arguing with fans in the audience at a show, but Dylan managed to make it sound awesome. To loosely quote him, he replied to the audience member,
“Hey fella, that may be so. But I’m up here doing this. What are you doing? Who are you?”
Phenomenal. Who are you? he asked. What does that guy do? On what level does he deserve to be a critic of the direction Dylan decided to take his art?
There will always be people who tell you how to do things. The right way, the wrong way, the way it’s supposed to sound. Who are they to tell you?
You should already have clear goals in mind for your project. It’s fine to take suggestions, but don’t let others second-guessing you affect your decisions. The critics will always be people who aren’t in your shoes, who didn’t put themselves out there to be heard.
Anyone who has the time to criticize what someone else is doing isn’t focused enough on making their own dreams happen.
3. Playing it safe has its consequences
The final lesson that we take from Dylan today is that people are quick to react. Don’t be scared of trying new things for fear of audience reaction. One of my favorite quotes from Steve Jobs highlights this.
“A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them…” – Steve Jobs
The Dylan song that I hear most often today is “Like A Rolling Stone”. This song was from the album that the controversy would amass over. At the time, people didn’t know what the hell to think, they had never heard a folk artist do this. Many reactions were “He can’t do that, he’s a folk artist! He crossed the line!”
Dylan knew what he wanted to try, and he did it. He could have played it safe and never picked up an electric guitar. But this decision is part of the reason he is infamous now. And today, almost sixty years later, we hail his decisions and change of direction as a staple in the history of rock and roll.
People won’t always be quick to catch on when something big is happening. How many people every single day play it safe for fear of failure? If you have an idea that shines bright to you, try it out!
If you fail, you have learned a lesson. If you succeed, the success, like your idea, can be bigger than you ever imagined.
Bob Dylan is a strong inspiration to me, and I believe that to succeed and follow through on your dreams it will greatly help you to develop a mindset similar to this.