The drug thing

drug-35728__340From time to time I hear political and religious leaders taking shots at the immorality of rock (or rap) music and the corrupting effect it must be having on our youth. So I've decided to update an earlier post on the subject.

I recently found myself in the position of defending the outlandish behavior of some rock acts, as if I were condoning it. (Sigh.)

But my point was not that substance abuse and related activities are success habits of highly effective people but that they are just as common in mainstream business—including the C-Suite—as in the world of rock & roll.

I don’t need to go into the details here of the cases of drug or alcohol abuse, sexual misconduct, or rampant adultery that I’ve encountered as a consultant in corporate America (though I’m tempted to, in order to boost readership). But if you think this is not a feature of the 21st century workplace—including, perhaps, YOUR company—you’re living in Disney World. (And it’s probably happening there too.)

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Singing secular songs

choir-305352__340In the gospel tradition when a talented singer who grew up singing church music begins to perform "secular" songs—especially for money—it’s often condemned as a sell-out, if not selling one’s soul to the devil.

That last phrase was certainly used to describe the actions of blues legend Robert Johnson, who not only chose to pursue music as a profession but was rumored (as described here) to sell his very soul to the devil in exchange for the devil tuning his guitar!

But it’s also been used to describe the choices of dozens of rock, soul, and pop artists from Little Richard to Aretha Franklin to Marvin Gaye to Al Green to Amy Grant to Katy Perry. In the case of Little Richard (as written here) the dude was so tormented by his decision to go secular, he gave up singing rock & roll at the peak of his success and returned to the church as a minister. He would resume singing secular songs a few years later—and continue to be conflicted about it.

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Fail early and often

target-887802_1920As mentioned last month, I came across a new book—An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey—which builds a strong case for using “errors and vulnerabilities as prime opportunities for personal and company growth.” Amen.

This isn't revolutionary stuff for those of us in the "fail fast" school who believe that screwing up—quickly and even badly—is a necessary condition of successful innovation. But Kegan and Lahey take it a step further and build an organizational philosophy around celebrating flaws and weaknesses.

The authors give examples of successful businesses, fanatically committed to personal development, that encourage managers and employees to stop hiding their limitations and to use them as opportunities to develop both themselves and their companies. In these environments, “People’s limitations are seen as their growing edge,” the authors assert. But these limitations have to be mined. “Weaknesses are pure gold if we will only dig into them.”

It reminded me of some successful rock groups who were acutely aware of their constraints but overcame them early and used the lessons from those failures to become massively successful.

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