Why the Beatles are Legends and You’re Not. Yet.

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So there was this band from England. Not London. Somewhere up north—a place called Liverpool. They were a hit in their hometown, but hadn’t really made much of a splash anywhere else (except for a few clubs in Hamburg). They had gotten a recording contract, and even put out a record—a simplistic little song called Love Me Do. It was nothing particularly special. They were a young band, and they were still looking for their first hit.

And their producer found one for them. It went on to become a number one hit song. But not for this little band. Because this little band—the Beatles (duh!)—turned it down.

A number one hit song. A sure thing. And they turned it down. Smartest move they ever made. So my question for you is this: Would you have made the same move? The answer, in all likelihood, is no.

The song the Beatles’ producer, George Martin, found for them was a pleasant enough tune called How Do You Do It? It became the first number one hit for Gerry and the Pacemakers. Had the Beatles released their recording of it (they recorded a demo version that Martin wanted to release), it would probably have become their first number one hit. But the Beatles didn’t want a number one hit as much as they wanted a long-term career—a career they could be proud of. So instead of releasing somebody else’s second-rate song, they told their producer that they wanted all their singles (which were the big thing back then) to be Beatles originals. Turns out that decision worked out pretty well for the band.

So why would you have not made the same move?

Because most of us would rather have a modest success than a colossal failure.

Most of us would rather play it safe than take the chance on something really big. A lot of times this is because we’ll get slapped if we screw up. Slapped by our boss, slapped by our team members, slapped by our shareholders. And that’s a real shame, because it means that our boss, our team members, and our shareholders—people who would no doubt love to be a part of Beatles-level success—would also rather have a modest success than a colossal failure.

You can make a nice little career out of modest successes. You can retire with a gold watch (or whatever it is they give to retirees these days). Nobody will ever say about you, “That guy really messed things up.”

But you don’t get to be the Beatles.

Legends aren’t made by playing it safe. Legends aren’t made from modest successes. Legends are made by grabbing hold of something you believe in (in the Beatles’ case, it was their songwriting) and riding it for everything it’s worth.

This isn’t for everybody. Not everybody has the desire, the determination, or the sheer guts it takes to do this. And that’s fine. There’s a place in the world for all of us. I’m not asking you to become a legend. But I am asking you to make the choice for yourself.

You can be a one-hit wonder, or you can be the Beatles. Both are success stories. Only one is a legend.


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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