Are you living a Rockstar life?
When I was growing up I studied art and literature at school. I wrote poetry and I devoured book after book, after book. I dreamed of being a writer. I dreamed of telling people stories. Telling them my stories. Those ones that were fighting to get out. My poetry was dark and talked about the struggle to live, to really live a life that people would be inspired to live. My poetry was about love, love that transcended barriers meant to keep it out. Music was as part of my life as breathing. It walked with me on the way to school and was the background in my mind when maths got boring. Yet at the same time my life was characterized by being an A-student, an all-star sports player and someone who people looked to when they needed direction and guidance. A natural leader. Even at a young age I was struggling with two worlds – worlds I continue to struggle with. I wanted to live a Rockstar life. But I feared that by going after it, I might end up being a nobody and just another struggling old man trying to get by paycheck to paycheck. When I was 17, my Art teacher grabbed me by my arm and marched me into his office. He thumped me into the bare wooden chair that sat up against his desk and spun me around to face him. “You’ve got the IQ of a genius and the ability to analyze art like I’ve hardly ever seen. You’re going to be successful at anything you do.” I stared up at him wondering what I had done wrong. “But you need to stay in Art. You need to continue to study it. The Art world and tomorrow’s artists need someone like you.” I stammered, not sure where he was going with his tirade. “Is there money in Art?” I replied, “It is not about money. Imagine the difference you can make.” “Thanks Sir,” I replied, “but I want to make lots of money first.” Even then I feared not having enough money. I feared the difficulty that comes with “not enough” money. I wanted to be a writer and I was good at it. When I was 15, we had to write a few pages for English class. The next day the teacher gave everyone their papers back and then asked me to read what I had written to the class. Most of my peers had written about their summer or a movie they had seen. My story was about a little boy who was travelling through time to find peace. He went from the age of the Vikings, to the Romans, to world war 1 and world war 2 to the modern day. On his last stop, a stranger stopped by him as he sat by the side of the road crying and asked him what was wrong. ‘There is no peace in this world. No peace anywhere.’ He replied, between his tears, before vanishing into nothingness. The class was silent when I had finished and the boy next to me leaned over when I sat down and said to me it wasn’t normal to write like that at our ages. Yet still I refused to acknowledge that I had any skill, for fear that it would stop me from making money to be safe. I went on to study finance after high school as I knew finance equaled money. I went to the best University and started working for the best accounting firm, steeped in my ambition to make lots of money. My starting salary was mediocre, so I studied up on the stock market and made my annual salary trading stocks in just 3 months after starting out. I had a goal in mind. I wanted to be free from worrying about money. 5 years after I started working, I had reached a stage, where I felt that I had to shoot for the Rockstar life, so I quit my job, lived off my savings and got a side hustle to help make pocket money. I was 28 years old and I had reached FIRE. I wrote a novel in six months and got it onto the desk of a senior editor at Hodder & Stoughton. I had things to say and I wanted people to hear it. They didn’t sign me. Panic quickly set in. I had enough money to stay in my studio apartment and live a frugal life, with the odd side hustle to keep me going, but that wasn’t Rockstar enough. So I went back to the corporate world. I put my head down and set my sights on $ 3.5 million. 10 years later, that $3.5 million came and went. My objective kept getting higher. I wanted to be safer than safe for the next time I made a go at the Rockstar life. It has now been 15 years since I’ve been back in the corporate world. I’ve doubled my initial goal and I still fear the writer-Rockstar in me. I’ve written two further novels that have sat silently on my hard-drive for the past few years and now in the cloud. I’m not living the Rockstar life? Wait a minute, what is a Rockstar life? 1. Rockstars have something to say and want to be heard. Rockstars tell us stories. Stories that can make us cry. Stories that can make us dream. They bring their verse to life in ways that touch our minds and our hearts. Sometimes we might say that they touch the very essence of who we are. Their stories can make us brave. They can make us get up and run a marathon. They can make us quit our jobs, dump that bum dragging us down, or move cities and uproot our lives. They can make us change our lives and be better. We all have something to say. It might be about the way we live, about our love affair with plastic, with alcohol, with cigarettes, with sugar. It might be about love, about pain, about loneliness. Whatever it is, whatever you have to say, let it be heard. We are all Rockstars but only Rockstars let their voice be heard. 2. Rockstars believe that can live whatever life they want to. Rockstars don’t care what other people think of their way of living. If they want to break the TV set, they break it. If they want to call a president a mother-fucker, they do it. They live by their own sets of rules. They believe they are Rockstars and when they get up on that stage, they are Rockstars. They’ve always been Rockstars and they’ll always be Rockstars, even when people stop buying their music. They’re larger than everyday life because they like it that way. Rockstars don’t buy that house or that car because other people think it is cool or because other people will envy them. They don’t put on the clothes that other people would want to wear. They buy what they want, wear what they want, when they want because it is something they want. They let people see who they truly are and we envy them for that. They are able to really be themselves, all of the time. 3. Rockstars have complete belief in their abilities and that they can achieve whatever they set out to achieve. When a Rockstar writes a song they know it will be a hit. They work on it so that it becomes a hit. They do that because they absolutely believe that it will be a hit. They don’t hide behind the stage worrying about it. When a record label turns it down, they don’t scurry away and change it. They know it is a hit and they keep going with it, until everyone realizes it is indeed a hit. Rockstars stick with it, no matter how hard it gets. Are you living a Rockstar life? Most people don’t live Rockstar lives for many reasons. They’ve lost their voice or don’t know they have it They’ve been modified to believe Rockstars don’t or shouldn’t exist They fear or believe they don’t have ability or talent They’ve forgotten to be Rockstars They listen to the people telling them to get a real job and doubt themselves They fear working hard They fear failing They fear success They fear that they’ll actually become Rockstars They’ve never heard of Rockstars Is FIRE a way to become a Rockstar? FIRE (Financial independence retire early) is certainly the way I chose to comfort myself that I could be a Rockstar– after I achieved a certain level of financial comfort and to give myself insurance that if I failed I would be able to do something else. I feared that I did not have the talent to be a Rockstar. Yet when I look back and see how hard I worked to build a financial fortune, how much I sacrificed along the way, I realize something very interesting. Could I actually be living the Rockstar life and not realizing it? Does being a Rockstar mean living a life outside of the corporate world? If you’ve got this far and got to this question, then you’ve arrived at the most important part of this dialogue. Being a Rockstar is not about being a writer, being an artist, being a singer, being a blogger, being an actor or working in a creative field. Steve Jobs was a Rockstar. Bezos is a Rockstar. Gates is a Rockstar. Musk is a Rockstar. Iger is a Rockstar. A corporate job, hell any job, can be the path to being a Rockstar, but you have to apply the Rockstar rules: Rockstars have something to say and want to be heard. They make sure they are heard! Rockstars believe that can live whatever life they want to. They are true to who they are. Rockstars have complete belief in their abilities and that they can achieve whatever they set out to achieve. They stick with it, focused on their goals! Leaders of corporate teams, sports teams or of companies are Rockstars. Leaders inspire us. They are storytellers and they tell us things that make us want to do things better or in a way that makes us all succeed. Leaders won’t sit back when things are dysfunctional or aren’t working. They go head-first in and they are heard until the change happens. Leaders believe that their companies or teams can be whatever they want them to be. They have complete belief in their abilities and that they can achieve what they set out to achieve. Go back and think of a corporate leader or even a politician that inspires you. Do they live by the Rockstar rules? Are they Rockstars? Most likely they do and they are. We can all be Rockstars! Once you start living your life by the Rockstar rules, you’ll see that you can be a Rockstar in anything you do. Let me go back to myself for a moment. I was 38 years old when I became the Chief Financial Officer of a public company on a high seven figure package. I had over 600 people working for me and I had a voice. I had something to say and I was saying it. I didn’t believe things were frozen and couldn’t be changed, despite the mountain ahead of me. I fought to make things change and made my company better than it had been. I fought for my teams and my peers. I had utmost belief in my abilities. It has now been 7 years since I first became a CFO. I am writing this blog to share how I got to be CFO of a listed/public...
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