The entrepreneurial spirit of John Lennon

I studied The Beatles as part of my A-level music curriculum. I remember hearing the lyrics to Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds and thinking wow! and my teacher, Mr. Baker, eulogising about John Lennon. From that day, Lennon was one someone I followed.

I was never into Beatles music apart from those songs written and sung by Lennon. He was dynamic, controversial, radical, and confrontational plus a whole lot more. His social conscience, attitude, and acerbic, verbal wit in his lyrics, and cutting, humane and distinct voice made him one of the most talented musicians we’ve ever seen. He epitomises disruptive creativity.

Lennon’s brutally confessional solo work and his political activism were a huge influence on subsequent generations of singers, songwriters, and social reformers. He made people think, he made me think. His image has become a staple of T-shirts and posters, used as a symbol of individuality. He had interesting things to say and was more interested in pushing boundaries than just making music.

Forty-three years ago today, December 8, 1980, Lennon, returning with Yoko to their Dakota apartment on New York’s Upper West Side, was shot seven times by Mark Chapman, a 25-year-old drifter and fan to whom Lennon had given an autograph a few hours earlier. Lennon was pronounced dead on arrival at Roosevelt Hospital.

On Lennon’s birthday, 9 October, Yoko goes to the island of Videy in Iceland for the annual lighting of the Imagine Peace Tower in honour of her late husband. You can check out the tower, which is a beam of light shooting straight up into the sky, here: It’s a stunning web site in terms of image, technology, and emotion. You’ll need to have your audio switched on.

I thought that I would share some of John’s words which have inspired my own entrepreneurial journey, and that they may have an impact on you too.

Reality leaves a lot to the imagination.Find something you love and do it better than anyone else. Lennon was inspired by American rock legends like Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry. He took the music from these pioneers and put his own touch and Liverpudlian spin on it. The outcome? It was an entirely new take on a genre, which no one was expecting.

It’s hard to create a completely unique business concept in your market, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be unique. Consider what you do, what you’re good at, what you like and then create a new idea from it that’s utterly different and reflective of you.

Time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted Lennon was a thinker, he had a thirst for knowledge, hungry for new experiences to stimulate his creativity. Socialising you own startup idea with other entrepreneurs will help shape, inform, and improve your thinking, never miss the opportunity for gaining and sharing insight.

It doesn’t matter how long my hair is or what colour my skin is or whether I’m a woman or a man, startup success is not restricted to culture, gender, or heritage. Successful entrepreneurs rise up from every conceivable starting point, so we never use your own state of being as an excuse for never achieving great things. One person with a dream, and a willingness to do whatever it takes can make it happen.

I get by with a little help from my friends Not one of us can do it alone. Without the support of a team, a startup founder won’t get off the ground. A vibrant, relentless, and talented team is vital in a startup, it lift us up when we are down, believes in each other when no one else does. The best startup teams are there in fair weather, and there when storms rage. Startup team members know when to speak and when to keep silent.

You don’t need anybody to tell you who you are or what you are. You are what you are! Stop listening to what others say you are. You are what you are. Ignore the naysayers, your startup is your road of self-discovery. Listen to your inner voice and stand up tall knowing who you are. I just believe in me Lennon once said, and he meant it. Have ambition that reaches way beyond your current horizon.

Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. I don’t think John would have been content playing his guitar at weddings and parties in Liverpool. With The Beatles, he branched out early to London and Hamburg, then worldwide while still in his early 20s. Later he travelled to India and integrated the country’s musical influences into many songs. He was amongst the earliest adopters of a global perspective, embracing new ideas and culture.

There’s nothing you can know that isn’t known. Nothing you can see that isn’t shown. Nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be. Constantly evolve and grow, create your own space. It’s striking to hear the evolution of Lennon the musician from She Loves You to The Long and Winding Road – even more so to realise that these songs were created in a mere six years time span. Lennon never stuck to one recipe for making music, he grew and continued to be relevant for over 20 years. Lennon adapted to change and achieved success by creating his own space.

There’s nothing that you can do that can’t be done. Keep working, it makes you happy. The Beatles were incredible workaholics, they knew they were on a roll and kept churning out incredible hits until they broke up in 1970. Even after they split, they all continued to make great individual music. Work ethic is the fundamental component of success. Whether you’re a musician or a software developer or own a mobile sandwich truck, you have to keep working no matter what. Hard work pays off.

If there’s such a thing as genius — I am one. And if there isn’t, I don’t care Create the unexpected. I particularly enjoy listening to the Beatles White Album. The diversity in this album is incredible. From the beautiful melodies of Julia and Blackbird to the pounding beats of Helter Skelter and Revolution, it is truly unexpected.  The Beatles were the first artists to record in stereo. They were the first band to experiment in the studio. They were the first band to list lyrics on their album.

Your audience or customers are craving the unexpected – give it to them. They want to be wowed. Why not come up with some novel, out of the box ideas like Lennon did, and give them a little clue about the depth of your uniqueness.

I’m not going to change the way I look or the way I feel to conform to anything. I’ve always been a freak. Focus on your strengths and be different. Lennon found his calling and focused on his passion. This began as performing, then evolved to focus on writing, and ultimately recording in the studio. Discover what you don’t like doing and stop doing it. Perhaps this is what Einstein meant when he said Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them.

In today’s competitive environment, we have to be different to be seen. Lennon was a restless, curious individual, never satisfied with the status quo. He continuously sought self-growth, learning new philosophies, new chords and instruments, and anything else he could do to break new ground. This helped him grow as an artist and human being, and further distanced himself from others as being unique. Do the same for you, and your startup.

What we’ve got to do is keep hope alive, because without it we’ll sink. I don’t believe in yesterday, by the way. Risk failure by aiming for the sky. Lennon fits this description well. He didn’t conform to standard education, which greatly contributed to his unorthodox style. In fact, like many great musicians, he held his instrument the wrong way. He experimented with made-up chords, new concepts – and had some celebrated failures in the process.

But Lennon thought big. Even in the early days when starting out he used to say To the toppermost of the poppermost! and he believed it. This is not unlike Andrew Carnegie’s secret of having a lofty goal and continually reinforcing the belief that you will reach that goal. Lennon aimed high and got there, in no small part because he believed he would get there. He stated in an interview that they treated each deliverable (i.e. song) as the hit, which is why their B-sides are better songs than most people’s A-sides.

Part of me suspects that I’m a loser, and the other part of me thinks I’m God Almighty.  Be Authentic. It’s fine to emulate someone you admire. Lennon didn’t begin in a vacuum.  Lennon studied his idols, such as Chuck Berry, Carl Perkins, and Fats Domino, but took them as inspiration – Lennon was never going to be in covers band.  It’s important to be true to who you are, not who you’d rather be – customers can sense whether or not you’re authentic.

Lennon’s risk-taking and creativity are clearly evident, but there was always a balance between experimentation and implementation. He didn’t just throw caution to the wind. Lennon prototyped and tested many versions of his songs, he re-recorded constantly, always looking for some new and unique angle. For each familiar hit, there were about twenty alternate takes in different styles and genres.

He practiced each version over and over until something clicked. If after a while, he couldn’t come up with something that met his standards, he dumped it.

Lennon’s legacy and impact is eternal. Great ones like him never really die.  So much of them lasts forever.

When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment. I told them they didn’t understand life.

John Lennon (9 October 1940 to 8 December 1980)

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