When someone famous we like dies, my husband Lou and I will do something to honor that person’s memory.
So when news broke that Glenn Frey, co-founder of our favorite band, The Eagles, had died suddenly we watched The History of The Eagles on Netflix®.
That movie was one of those rare films that stayed with me long after it was over.
Not only was it fun to see the band in footage from the ‘70’s, but it was fascinating to see inside the minds of its founders, Glenn Frey and Don Henley.
I walked away with a deeper appreciation of the band and its individual members as well as for Frey and Henley as leaders of the organization and business.
These are the 10 lessons about business and brand building that I had reinforced by watching the movie.
1. Have courage. It took real guts to go to California, try to become a successful singer-songwriter, and have your own band when you’ve never written a song and have limited experience playing in a band. But that’s just what Frey and Henley did.
Glenn Frey, cofounder of the group with Don Henley, told Bob Seger that he (Frey) wanted to write songs but he was afraid he would suck. Seger’s reply was direct and realistic: “Of course you’re going to suck. But you’ve got to keep writing and you’ll improve.”
In the movie, The History of the Eagles, interview footage from the 70’s shows the members all had doubts about the band’s ability to maintain its success and some of them admitted to having had doubts about their individual talents. But Frey and Henley didn’t let anxiety stop The Eagles as a band. They achieved amazing things, including creating the top selling album of the entire 20th century. Imagine what staying focused and being brave can help you achieve.
Lesson for all of us: Leverage your self -doubt and let it drive you to excellence, but don’t let it go to perfection. You can do that by setting the intention to be excellent and to remain humble and self-aware while managing your ego and working to not hurt others in your crusade to grow your strengths.
Action Step: Reflect on your fears and take action to address them. Taking massive action is a great way to leap over or blast through your fears.
2. Find your sound. This may be the hardest thing any of us does: To get clarity on the message we’re meant to share, then amplify it, and be true to it. Glenn Frey and Don Henley knew the sound they were going for, the music that was in them, and they stayed focused on how to amplify it by working with the best partners they could find who fit perfectly with that sound. They eventually broke up with early members of the band over creative differences and split with their first producer Glyn Johns because he didn’t believe the band could become what they dreamed of – a unique blend of rock, country, and other influences. He wanted to use tactics that Frey and Henley felt were wrong for them. Since their first greatest hits album is the top selling album for the entire 20th century, I’d say they were right.
Lessons for all of us: The hardest thing to do is to be your authentic self. That means embracing your brand essence and giving it voice – your beliefs, your values, your philosophy, and your approach.
Action Step: Ask yourself what you’re resisting and why. Ask yourself if you’re trying to appeal to everyone or at least to too many people. You have an audience you’re meant to serve and who wants to hear from you. Sing to them only. If others listen and are inspired to action that’s great.
3. Treat your business like a business. Creative professionals – especially musicians it seems – are notorious for focusing all their energy on what they’re creating. Glenn Frey and Don Henley were very smart businessmen and while some disagree with the way they ran / run the band, they recognized that they had a clear vision and goals and did what was necessary to achieve it. Early members of the band enjoyed the success but wanted more of a say in the business, more writing credits, and more singing time. I’m not saying Frey and Henley were or are perfect but in the moment, we all do the best we can. And as the leaders of our businesses we have to make very difficult decisions.
Lesson for all of us: Businesses track expenses, forecast revenue, create products, have contracts, follow budgets, and have other key indicators of success and failure. Leaders talk to underperformers or those who aren’t committed to the direction of the organization and, as tough as it sounds, they stop working with those people.
Action Step: Examine your business model and the culture of the organization you’re building. Recognize that it takes working with others to have the impact you truly want and to maximize your profitability.
4. Be a leader – to your audience, to your team and partners, to your industry. Not many businesses can survive by following a consensus-focused leadership style. Even in a democracy someone has to be in charge and someone has to make the decisions. And the founder or founders have to combine visionary thinking with a commitment and drive to set and stay the course. Being an entrepreneur can be a lonely existence and calls for hard decisions sometimes.
Lessons for all of us: You’ll be criticized, second-guessed, and questioned. You’ve got to stay the course and be true to your beliefs, vision, and values. That’s never easy. Especially when you’re going in a direction that’s different from what the so-called experts are telling you to do.
Action Step: Ask yourself if you’re truly a leader or if you’re just following right now. Is your messaging too generic? Following best practices is always a good idea but your message shouldn’t sound or look like everyone else’s.
5. Overcome your fears. Part of Randy Meisner’s refusal to sing Take It to the Limit during an encore was his fear of not being able to hit the high notes live in front of thousands of screaming fans. Of course by the time he hit the highest notes the fans would probably be yelling so loud they wouldn’t hear his voice crack if it did.
Lesson for all of us: Randy Meisner never gave a bad live performance of Take It to the Limit. Yet his fears ultimately are what led to his dismissal from the band. Fear will take hold of us and create a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Action Step: When you find yourself resisting something, saying no to something, ask yourself what you’re afraid of. Confront that fear by planning, controlling what you can, and giving it everything you’ve got. Remember – you’re striving for excellence, not perfection.
6. Take advice from gurus with a grain of salt. I think most of us look for some sort of direction when we go out on our own. We’re looking for validation that our ideas are good and will be profitable, and we’re looking for anything that will speed up the trip from struggle to profitability. Frey and Henley recognized they’d never go farther if they kept working with producer Glyn Johns. What guts it must have took to let go of a producer who had worked with bands who were legends already.
Lesson for all of us: We have to work to find experts and partners who believe in our vision as much as we do and who will work with us to make it happen.
Action Step: Consider if you’re following one or more gurus a little blindly. Find the balance of listening to a blend of your heart, head, and gut. And if anyone tells you something is simple run away from them.
7. Maintain passion for your message. If you’ve ever found yourself getting sick of saying the same thing over and over again you know what I mean here. Imagine what it must be like to sing the same songs in the same way over and over and over.
When Glenn Frey argued with Randy Meisner over Meisner’s refusal to perform their classic hit Take It to the Limit during an encore, Frey stressed that the fans – who had waited hours to hear that song — deserved to hear it. Frey went on to admit that he didn’t really want to sing Take It Easy ever again either, but he did it because the fans loved the song and deserved to hear it live.
Those fights contributed to Meisner being kicked out of the band.
Lesson for all of us: Of course you’re going to grow and your message is going to evolve. We’ve got to find a way to keep repeating our message without losing the joy for it and not sounding tired or frustrated.
Action Step: Record yourself delivering your next presentation or having a conversation about your message. If you hear something you don’t like in your tone of voice or phrasing you can bet others are hearing it too.
8. Find inspiration everywhere. Frey said the inspiration for Lyin’ Eyes came from the women they saw in a bar he and Henley frequented. Life in The Fast Lane’s title is something a drug dealer said to Frey and the immortal guitar lick in that song was something Joe Walsh made up to help him get limber before a show. Imagine how different The Eagles’ catalog would be without those two numbers.
Frey and Henley found inspiration everywhere. Then they took action.
Lesson for all of us: We’re all creative in some way and inspiration can be found all around us. But inspiration without action is just a dream.
Action Step: Open yourself up to the inspiration all around you; then keep what’s true to your message and vision and consistent with your beliefs and values.
9. Hard Work + Persistence + Timing = Success. The message I got from watching The History of The Eagles was how much hard work went into becoming one of the best in the business. Sacrifices have to be made. I think you can have it all; just not at the same time or all the time.
Work is more joyful and feels more profitable when you leverage your greatest gifts, construct a clear and powerful message, and remain focused on serving others; but it’s still hard work.
Lesson for All of Us: The prolific author, Stephen King, was right when he said, you have “to tell the muse when to show up for work.” We have to create success habits and control our entrepreneurial impulse to get distracted or to look for a shortcut along the journey.
Action Step: Look at your calendar and challenge yourself to see if you’re truly working on important things that will help you achieve your goals quicker or are you allowing yourself to get distracted? Or worse…could self-sabotage be playing a role in what’s going on?
10. Take a vacation. Frey admitted the band worked hard and lived hard. This probably contributed to the arguments, the breakup, and the 14 years they spent apart.
Lesson for Us All: As hard as it can be to schedule time away and as much as we feel we can’t afford to do it, the truth is self-care is critical for entrepreneurs, especially in those critical growth periods.
Action Step: Look critically at your calendar and make sure you’re not over-scheduling yourself. Get help if you need it, and be sure to take time to recharge your batteries.
There’s a quote attributed to many different people: “Being self-employed is the most intense and expensive personal development program you can take.” Business building is hard work no matter how talented or focused you are. Be sure you schedule time for reflection and consider refocusing your efforts to make sure you’re moving towards your goals. And surround yourself with great people who are healthy emotionally and mentally.
According to Don Henley, the big dream he and Glenn Frey shared was hearing their songs on the radio. That dream, combined with Frey’s dedication to become a really good songwriter and his leadership helped them become one of the greatest bands of all time.
Practicing these 10 strategies could help you create a brand as iconic and beloved with your fans as The Eagles have become for theirs.