You Can’t Always Get What You Want…

I’ve just finished reading a good book. It tells the tale of Mike’s life. Things get going in the 1950s when Mike is at secondary school in Dartford, near London.

Mike, like the rest of the country, could not help but notice the arrival of rock ‘n’ roll from America. Bill Haley was rocking around the clock. Elvis followed via the radio and the cinema screen, but strangely, never in person.

Mike was interested in understanding this music better and discovering its roots in black America’s blues and its electrified variant: rhythm and blues.

He was a bit obsessive.

He would send money by post to small, niche record labels in America and weeks later records would arrive from obscure black American singers and musicians.

Thus Mike’s interest and knowledge grew and grew.

Mike’s parents had given him a Spanish guitar and he set about learning how to play it.

Once while waiting for a train…

…at Dartford station with a bag of records under his arm, he bumped into a friends from primary school. The two boys had lost contact as they each went on to different secondary schools.

Turns out the friend was as obsessed with blues and R&B as Mike was.

They formed a small band, and they played cover versions of the songs they loved. They didn’t show much interest in playing in front of an audience, and they didn’t.   

Mike was now out of school…

…and studying at college. He and the band heard of a club that catered to their sort of music in Ealing, twenty miles away. So the band would head out there in a borrowed car, a significant endeavour in the late 50s/early 60s.

Mike started singing with the house band from time to time. The Ealing Club as it was known really took off.

Meanwhile Mike and the band started to play in front of real people and record their own cover versions of their American heroes’ work. The records started to sell. And sell well. They had hits.

They were not the only band copying their heroes’ work. And as all the bands had the same heroes the pool of songs to cover soon dried up.

Out of necessity…

…Mike and his re-discovered primary school friend and band mate had to come up with their own song. It wasn’t easy and it took a very long time.

Somewhere along the road Mike had changed his name to Mick and the school friend is, of course, Keith, and the song they managed to drag into existence was and is called (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.

The Rolling Stones had penned their first original work. The rest is, as they say, history.

The book is Mick Jagger by Philip Norman. It is very good despite needing a serious editing. 600 pages! Come on.

I am writing about this today…

…because I was struck by something whilst reading the book. There is a behaviour exhibited throughout the book by Jagger that I didn’t have when I was younger but now I do.

With one strange exception (the early band having no desire to play to a crowd), he took every opportunity that arose. Every single one.

It’s remarkable. There have been many, many missteps. Especially in the early days. Some duff albums. And don’t, don’t, don’t mention the movies (apart from Performance). But none of them were fatal (how could they be? – people still listen to Satisfaction, they don’t think less of it because of Mick’s difficult third solo album). No one cares about the dirt. They care about the gold.   

He took every opportunity that arose…

He sought out the music he loved even although that was difficult. He learned to play the guitar when it’s easier not to. He formed the band when it’s easier not to. He trawled across London to The Ealing Club when it’s easier not to. He got up and he sang when given the opportunity. They shoe-horned in another gig in Hyde Park on short notice immediately before flying to the States to start a tour. Etc etc.

Almost every action leads to another opportunity. Opportunity – action – opportunity – action etc etc. Some actions don’t lead anywhere. They are missteps. But no one cares about those.  

Now it helps if you love what you do. And it helps if you’re pushing against an open door (it was the 1960s and Britain was going to produce guitar music no matter what).

Jagger runs the Rolling Stones like a business. It shows. He has a default to action when most of us have a default to inaction.  

So why not have a default to action? More often than not your action will lead to another opportunity where you can take another action. Repeat to fade.


3 Responses to You Can’t Always Get What You Want…

  1. Paul Tanner (Empower Consultancy) April 9, 2013 at 6:44 pm #

    What a timely reminder Mark! Opportunity – Action – Opportunity – Action! Great piece Mark.

    I read Spencer Johnson’s, ‘Who moved my Cheese?’ only 10 years ago, yet until recently I’ve still ignored much of the advice.

    In a presently uncertain world, that is likely to remain so, I have finally decided to follow that mantra, of being prepared to change, and embracing all that the change brings. Everyone succumbs to change eventually. It just strikes me that now, more than ever, one needs to be ahead of the juggernaut of change’s bow wave and use its dispersing energy to propel you to greater success; rather than lie floundering and struggling in the turbulent wake it leaves.

    • Mark Nugent April 9, 2013 at 7:42 pm #

      Good to hear from you Paul. Love the idea of surfing the bow wave of change. Good luck. Default to action.

  2. Charles Bickersteth June 9, 2014 at 12:28 am #

    Thanks so much Mark, for reminding us that action is directly proportional to opportunity, and inaction is also directly proportional to miss opportunity.

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