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“Getting fired from Apple was one of the best things that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of success was replaced with the lightness of being a beginner again. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.” – Steve Jobs

When you set out to create something that matters, there’s a good chance you’ll experience setbacks. They can be temporary, or paralyzing to the point of failure. The choice is yours.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame singer-guitarist Joan Jett had her first solo album rejected by 23 different record companies. 23! Most musicians would have quit searching after the 20th slammed the door in their face.

How did Jett respond to those setbacks?! She didn’t bother approaching another company. She formed her own with her producer, Kenny Laguna. It was 1980, and her Blackheart Records made Jett the first female artist to own and have direct control over an independent record company. But that only solved the problem of not having a label behind her. She was still without a recording studio. 

Rock Super Group The Who were friends with Laguna and volunteered their studio. Jett later told Rolling Stone magazine. “We wouldn’t have been able to make the record if they hadn’t helped us. They basically said, “Pay us when you can.”

Jett didn’t cave to her setbacks. She stayed committed to her vision, formed a mastermind group with her producer and her band, and created a new lane for herself. She didn’t complain about how unfair the record business was. She took rejection in stride and moved on to create what she cared about. Notice a patter here? Today, Jett and her band are opening for The Who and still cutting albums.

Having an appreciation for setbacks is not popular in today’s society, where the focus is on getting things right the first time and looking good doing them. That’s nonsense. If you’re trying something new, there’s a good chance you’re going to look a little silly as you learn. Have you ever seen a novice golfer? Newborn foals are more graceful. Years ago I made a decision to try new things, and it opened new doors of discovery, learning and humility. 

I enjoy reading about the lives of people who’ve made a difference in the world. One thing each has in common is the diversity they’ve faced. Henry Ford. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Thomas Edison all experienced defeat and disappointment. Edison famously said, “I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Setbacks forced Edison to repeatedly innovate. 

On your creative journey, you’ll have setbacks, too. It’s how you perceive those setbacks that will lead to success or failure. Setbacks give you a chance to learn.

If a client isn’t pleased with performance of one of our Galaxy Party Management bands, I root out the perceived shortcomings. Was the song list not as effective as it could have been? Was there a problem with the sound or the lighting? Was the band easy to work with? Only when I know what the issues are can I learn and move forward. 

Setbacks aren’t the enemy. They’re teachable moments. Ask yourself what your setback is trying to teach you. When you have a solution, harness it and move forward. 

Excerpts from Dennis’ book Rock ‘n’ Roll, Martial Arts & God: Tips on Success from the Maters, which is available on Amazon.

Message From Dennis Smith