Beatles Business Decision #1 – Spreading the Spotlight

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Over the course of these next few blogs, I’m going to share with you excerpts from Chapter 1 of my book “The Five Best Decisions The Beatles Ever Made.” Sure, the Beatles were a great rock band and loads of fun, but for the sake of our conversation here let’s remember…they were also business people. They were a company, a brand that changed the world of entertainment, music, licensing and SO much more.

“The fact is we were a team, despite everything that went on between us and around us.”
– Paul McCartney

July 6, 1957. It’s a warm and humid Saturday afternoon in the seaport town of Liverpool, England. There’s a neighborhood party going on (the “annual fete”) at a church called St. Peter’s, and at this party, a fledgling musical group is bravely plowing through their small repertoire. Their leader: a cocky, sarcastic—and on this particular day, somewhat drunk—16-year old named John Winston Lennon. And this was his band—The Quarry Men.

The Quarry Men played two sets that day: one in the afternoon, one in the evening. Among the audience members were two young boys, Ivan and James. During the break between sets, Ivan—who sometimes played tea-chest bass with The Quarry Men—
introduced John Lennon to his 15-year old friend, James. James, who went by his middle name: Paul. Last name, McCartney. Perhaps you’ve heard of him.

July 6, 1957. The day John Lennon met Paul McCartney. They were together fewer than twenty minutes, and spoke barely five sentences to each other, but it changed everything. Because on that day, John Lennon had a decision to make. It would turn out to be the most important decision of his career.

See, Paul was a rock and roll fan himself, and he’d brought his guitar with him. At a few minutes before 7pm, he picked it up and launched into an Eddie Cochran tune called Twenty Flight Rock. And John Lennon quickly found out that not only was this McCartney fellow a better guitar player than he was, but he was also a better singer (at least at the time). Plus, we’re talking about Paul McCartney here. “The Cute One.” Yep, he was better looking! That’s a triple-threat! And so 16-year old John Lennon had a decision to make.

And the decision was this:

“Do I keep the spotlight focused solely on me, as the star of The Quarry Men…or do I spread the spotlight, invite this McCartney fellow to join the group, and make the band better, make the team stronger?”

Let’s put some perspective on this decision, shall we? If you’re a man, I want you to think back to when you were 16 years old. Are you there yet? Okay, as a 16-year old adolescent, do you remember what kinds of thoughts were consuming your entire brain, all the time? And I mean your entire brain: the right half, the creative one, trying to imagine what it will be like when it happens; the left half, the logical one, trying to devise a way to make it happen in the first place!

By the way, for you women reading this—if you go back to when you were 16…I know you know what was on the guys’ minds! Still is, on occasion. Any occasion will do. Arbor Day…supermarket openings…your third cousin’s second wife’s birthday. The point is, as a 16-year old boy, you’re basically hormones with tennis shoes.

Well, it turns out biology is no different on the other side of the Atlantic, and John Lennon was a healthy, red-blooded 16-year-old boy. Not only that, but he was the leader of his own rock and roll band. That’s a pretty powerful combination! The last thing you want in this situation is competition. And so if you’re John Lennon, the easy decision—and the one that many of us probably would have made—would have been to put as much distance between yourself and this McCartney triple-threat as possible.

But we all know what decision 16-year-old John Lennon made. He made the decision to spread the spotlight. And the day he made that decision, the Beatles were born. They wouldn’t be called the Beatles for another few name changes and another few personnel changes, but that core team of Lennon and McCartney was born on that day in Liverpool. And all because 16-year old John Lennon made the decision to spread the spotlight.

Spreading the spotlight. It means making the team the star by bringing in diverse talents and sharing the credit. And that’s the decision young John Lennon made in the summer of 1957.

At age 16, John Lennon understood something that many people never really get: When you spread the spotlight, everything gets brighter. When you spread the spotlight, you get better results. Now go out there and produce UNREASONABLE Results.


About the Author:

29-time Emmy Award winner and Hall of Fame keynote speaker Bill Stainton, CSP is an expert on Innovation, Creativity, and Breakthrough Thinking. He helps leaders and their teams come up with innovative solutions — on demand — to their most challenging problems.
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