I was driving home from work … frustrated and a little depressed.
I’ve been working on something for months (for you) and just can’t seem to drive it home.
I turned into my neighborhood and Pharrell Williams’ song ‘Happy’ popped on the radio, just in time to keep me from walking into the house and spreading my self-pitified* gloom all over the kitchen floor … a karmic mood-changing moment. That’s some good work by Williams … making some guy (and family) in suburbia happy 3 years after releasing the work… a guy he doesn’t even know!
I smiled and recalled an interview with Williams I heard a few years ago on NPR where he talked about developing the song. (He got his 7th Grammy Award with it. He now has 11 Grammys from 32 nominations.)
With ‘Happy’ I went through everything that I thought was possible in my mind based off of what I understood about Gru [the character in Despicable Me 2, the animated film the song was produced for] and what I thought the people needed in terms of what the studio was looking for, and none of it was working.
It was only until I was tapped out that I had to ask myself the fundamental question. They’re asking for a song that’s happy. They’re asking for something where Gru is in a good mood, and that’s when I realized that everything I needed was right there.
I began to ask myself, ‘What does feeling like a good mood feel like?’ That’s where ‘Happy’ came from and that’s how that happened. And it would have never happened if the studio wouldn’t have kept telling me, ‘No, it’s not good enough. No, it’s not good enough.’”
More inspiration from Bruce Springsteen below…
Something similar happened with Bruce Springsteen back in the 1980s.
Apparently, toward the end of putting together the best-selling album of his career (Born in the U.S.A.), his producer Jon Landau felt they still needed a hit song (there ended up being 7 from the album). According to the New Yorker, Springsteen was annoyed and said, “Look, I’ve written seventy songs. You want another one, you write it!”
So I wonder…
How many times have I allowed someone to push me? How many times have I discouraged someone from encouraging me to something better because of my ego? Am I coachable?
How many times have I wimped out in my leadership by not pushing or coaching someone to something better because of my avoiding the difficult conversation (and not Loving My People)?
How much have I (we) lost as a result?
A few more notes below and a little fun from the Happy song mentioned above.
*Self-pitified isn’t a dictionaried word (yet) … neither is dictionaried but I’m having fun now … say ‘self-pitified’ like a southern preacher and have a little fun yourself.
That thing I mentioned above … the thing I’ve been working on for months … I’m hoping we have it by the end of January. A new message, of course!
Regarding Williams … while I’m not a fan of everything he’s done (he’s got some work I’d prefer my kids don’t see or listen to), I’m still inspired. If you’re not familiar with his song ‘Happy,’ you can enjoy the video below. I don’t know how anyone couldn’t be moved to a better mood after watching and hearing this song. He also made a 24-hour video version of it that’s really out-of-the-cage (come on … if I said ‘out of the box’ that’d be in the box, wouldn’t it?). A few of my favorite points are the little kid here, the little kid here, and Pharrell himself here (I love a gospel choir). The NPR story is here.
On Springsteen … he’d probably be the first to tell you that best-selling isn’t what he’s after when he’s writing songs. In fact, when writing about Dancing in the Dark, he said, “It went as far in the direction of pop music as I wanted to go – and probably a little farther. My heroes, from Hank Williams to Frank Sinatra to Bob Dylan, were popular musicians. They had hits. There was value in trying to connect with a large audience.” (♫ I get up in the evening, And I ain’t got nothing to say, I come home in the morning, I go to bed feeling the same way … I ain’t nothing but tired, Man I’m just tired and bored with myself, Hey there baby, I could use just a little help ♫ … a little frustration turns into something big.)
Finally … a few years ago, I was going to do an online talk and one of my fellow Smovers (what’s a Smover?) suggested I do something a little different. Initially, I was annoyed. It meant added work I didn’t feel was necessary … one of my poor lead-by-example moments. After a little childish huffing and puffing (a little self-pitifying), I went after something different. It ultimately became the framework of my book Lead Simply, which is now helping tens of thousands of leaders and organizations create better teams and cultures (and what I think is the most important thing I’ve written so far). I’m glad that Smover gave me a push … and I’m glad I listened.