Imagine being unexpectedly and hastily canned from a small business without ever receiving an explanation why—a business that you had worked diligently to build up for two years.
And imagine the customers of this business being so distraught at your dismissal that they rioted at the injustice of it.
And imagine this small business achieving worldwide popularity a year-and-a-half later, and your former partners becoming multi-gazillionaires while you scraped around for any job you could find. You could be forgiven for being a tad bitter. In fact, no one would blame you for being indefinitely pissed-off.
But Pete Best opted for the high road. Even while in shock from his abrupt dismissal from the Beatles in 1962 by manager Brian Epstein (Pete never heard from the band members themselves—ever) he talked road manager Neil Aspinall into sticking with the band, despite Neil's outrage at Pete's firing.
Pete knew the band would be hugely successful and he didn't want his friend Neil to miss out. But Pete himself missed out—and watched from the sidelines as the Beatles took over England with their new drummer, Ringo.
Within two months of Pete's firing, the band's first single, "Love Me Do," made #17 on the British charts. Their following single, "Please Please Me," shot to #1. Beatlemania was underway in England, and soon in the world.
So how did Pete deal with it? Well, after seeing his old band mates conquer the globe, Pete tried to make it as a musician with several other bands, but it didn't work out.
He eventually settled down to raise a family and work for the government. Forty years later he's still married to his first and only wife, with two children and four grandchildren—a testimonial, methinks, to his working class values and character. Pete Best found peace, and in his own words he "moved on."
Now there may be a very simple lesson here for those of us who have faced a disappointment or two in life (perhaps recently in this economy?): there are things we can control and things we can't.
Pete recognized he didn't have a choice about the circumstances that befell him—namely being booted from the Beatles and missing out on the fame and fortune they achieved as the most successful group in pop music history.
But he did have a choice about how he related to the circumstances. (In an earlier post I mentioned that we have choice in how we "frame" events.) And Pete had a choice about the actions he would take moving forward.
At first he viewed his fate as a humiliating defeat. But over time he let go of the resentment and made a deliberate choice to forgive and get on with life. In due course he was able to look back in pride at what the Beatles accomplished in his two years as the backbone of the band. (After all, John Lennon in his famous Rolling Stone interview said the Beatles were a better band in the pre-Beatlemania days. "Our best music was never recorded," John observed. "What we generated was fantastic when we played straight rock." Of course this was the time when Pete was driving the band.)
As Pete told me a year ago: "I feel lucky. I have a beautiful wife and two beautiful daughters. I've got my health and happiness." And I would guess that his health and happiness were significantly enhanced by his eventual decision to close the chapter on 1962 and move on. (Forgiveness has its benefits.)
So what's happened to Pete professionally? After working for the government for twenty years he decided to pick up his drum sticks and put a band together.
Twenty years later the Pete Best Band is touring the world, playing small clubs, reminiscent of the early Beatle days—with a new album out. He seems to be having the time of his life, playing in a band with brother Roag, surrounded by family and friends. (Of course it didn't hurt that the Beatles' Anthology 1, released in 1995—which included many of the early demos that Pete played on—was another humongous Beatles hit, giving Pete a much deserved financial windfall.)
Today he happily reports, "Even without the dizzying heights of my fellow Beatles, I still have everything I want." And this from a young fellow who turned sixty-seven this week.
The moral of the story? Good things happen to those who choose the high road—even the long and winding one.