The answer: Golden Earring is the longest-running rock band

13 Jun
Golden Earring in 1974, the longest-running rock band

Golden Earring in 1974

Surprised? Don’t remember them?

Golden Earring is most famous for their two biggest hits, “Radar Love” (1973) and “Twilight Zone” (1982), although they have had numerous songs on the charts in the U.S. and internationally. They formed in 1961 and haven’t stopped since, with two founding members still in the band. Although they haven’t toured outside of Europe (their home country is The Netherlands), they still play over 200 shows per year and just released a studio album in May 2012.

When we posted the original question on Google+, one person emphatically answered with The Rolling Stones, and when presented with Golden Earring as “our” answer, replied that they are irrelevant. A friendly debate ensued, and here was the logic in our choice:

Our original criteria never included “still relevant”; it was only (1) continuously running without an “official retirement” and (2) at least one founding member throughout the band’s history. So, with “still relevant” as a criterion, there’s no argument that the Stones would win hands down. They started in 1962, only several months after Golden Earring—and of course, their magnitude is incomparable.

However, a counter-argument can be made that the Stones can’t hold a candle to Golden Earring in a couple respects—Earring is still playing regularly (again, over 200 shows per year) and just put out an album. The Stones haven’t toured in five years and have only recorded one studio album in the past 15 years (A Bigger Bang in 2005). In that same time, Golden Earring has released three studio albums. So, it’s true The Rolling Stones haven’t officially retired, but they’re hardly busting their asses performing and creating new music. (Not that we blame them, since they don’t have to.) And who knows, the guys in Golden Earring may need to, depending on their financial situation.

So, we’ll leave you to your choice—it’s either Golden Earring (based on our original “rules”) or The Rolling Stones (if you want to grade on a curve, accounting for current “relevance”).

What do you think the answer should be and why?

Can you name the longest-running rock band?

18 May

rock star on stage with question mark over faceOkay, without cheating by looking up on Google, can you name the longest-running rock band? By this, we mean the same band going continuously without an official “retirement” and with at least one continuous founding member.

We’ll announce the answer soon, along with the top runners up.

“No Brown M&M’s!” Hits Kindle Best-Seller List

25 Apr

Thank you to everyone who has helped our book to move up the charts! The screenshot below shows our progress—the ebook has hit the Kindle best-seller lists for the New Business and Home-Based Business categories. It’s not THE best-seller list, but hey, it’s a start. As soon as we hit the Top 20, we’ll do something special as a giveaway. Free bags of M&M’s with no brown ones, maybe?

(By the way, it may not show this right now if you go to the Amazon listing, because they update their best-seller lists every hour. Alas, fame is fleeting….)

Screen-shot of "No Brown M&Ms" as Kindle best-seller

David Lee Roth Tells the Story Behind the Title of Our Book

25 Apr

Kurt Cobain a perfectionist?

5 Apr
Kurt Cobain of Nirvana on stage

The Chief Executive Officer of Nirvana surveying his effects pedals

It was 18 years ago today that Kurt Cobain took his own life. Some of you may not even remember that day; those of you who do probably remember exactly where you were when you heard the news.

One surprising thing that came out of the research for No Brown M&M’s! was the discovery that Cobain was something of a perfectionist. Imagine that. Despite the slacker image and the “oh well, whatever, never mind” attitude he made famous, he was very much on top of his role as the CEO of Nirvana. He had a very clear vision for the band, its music, and its direction. He knew exactly what he wanted and he got it.

There are many roles entrepreneurs have to play, especially in the start-up phase of a venture. But in the long run, none is more important than being the visionary. If I ever run a company large enough, I think I’ll call myself the Chief Visionary Officer. Most every other aspect of running a company can be delegated to someone, but the leader’s role in establishing a clear vision for the business and inspiring others to join and follow can’t be delegated—at least not easily. More important, it shouldn’t be.

And such was the case with Nirvana.

Give the Occasional Unexpected Extra

3 Apr

I was exiting a parking garage I frequent not long ago, on the first day of Spring, and was surprised to see the attendant out at the exit gate. (The garage uses a ticket system, so typically the attendant is in the booth awaiting the occasional confused patron or gate malfunction.)

When I got to the gate, the attendant said, “Happy Spring!” and handed me a small pack of Skittles candies. The package had a sticker on it that read:

Penn Parking Welcomes Spring! Thank you for your support!

As corny as it sounds, that made my day. And it wasn’t even a bad day before that.

But it’s that little unexpected extra. It makes a difference in spirit, but costs little. In this case, each packet of Skittles cost maybe a dime. The cost of the stickers was probably less than a penny each. There was a little time in making them and sticking them on. But that’s it. My guess is, most of the parking patrons that day were as happily surprised as I was. Something like this, as minimal as it is, can be the difference in a customer coming back again and again.

KISS Love Gun toy

One of KISS's many surprises in their 1970s albums: the cardboard pop-gun included in their "Love Gun" album.

It reminds me of when I was a kid in the ’70s and eagerly awaited each new KISS album. One reason was that they were masters of what I’m talking about. Each album had something special in it—stickers, a poster, a surprise of some sort. While many bands do something of the kind now, KISS was nearly alone in this at the time (and largely mocked for their commercialism).

So, what can your business offer on occasion, your own little unexpected extra that customers and clients would remember and tell others about?

Can good come from Rush Limbaugh’s words?

8 Mar

In honor of International Women’s Day, I’m going off the topic of entrepreneurship and rock music for this post. Funny thing is, it was only after I wrote this that I discovered today’s significance. There are no coincidences.

As someone who makes my living from writing, designing, teaching, and art, I have strong feelings about free speech. On one hand, I see it as a right that should be “infringed” upon under extremely limited circumstances; on the other hand, part of functioning in a civilized society is that we can’t say anything we want—at least not without consequence. I’ve never believed this more than I have in the past few years as our society has become more uncivilized in the way we treat each other.

And so there should be a consequence to what Rush Limbaugh said on his show last week. I encourage you to read this (and think about this issue) without a political viewpoint. This is not about political philosophy; this is not about Limbaugh’s conservatism. He himself took it out of that realm. Unfortunately, however, many people—conservative and liberal and in between—will make this a political issue. But it isn’t. It is about the treatment of women in our society, an issue that affects everyone because we all have important, meaningful, loved, and loving women in our lives—co-workers, colleagues, friends, sisters, daughters, mothers, grandmothers, girlfriends, and wives.

Limbaugh may think he just didn’t speak his viewpoint well; he may indeed believe that. But I don’t believe him. You don’t carry on a three-day diatribe on a national radio show and simply “misspeak.” He is either lying or deluding himself, just as many politicians have come to do when they outright lie and then, once caught, claim they misspoke. Limbaugh didn’t misspeak—he expressed himself very clearly and unequivocally. He only “misspoke” once his advertisers pulled their dollars from his program.

There is also a tendency, especially among Limbaugh’s millions of fans, to excuse his words as “entertainment.” A good conservative friend of mine brushed aside the brouhaha with a “what do you expect?” shrug, since Limbaugh’s job is to entertain and perhaps inflame. It’s certainly not a first from him. But again, this misses the point. There are a thousand ways he can do his job without tearing women down in the process.

But am I being too dramatic when I say “tearing women down”? No. Because his statements were largely incorrect factually, I argue he was actually expressing an attitude toward women in general, not a viewpoint on the topic. Big difference. After all, the issue—female contraceptives being covered by health insurance—is hardly limited to the women he was railing against. (Sandra Fluke was primarily speaking of contraceptives for medical reasons, not sex, which is not an issue men face. And it’s not a coincidence that health insurance sometimes covers Viagra and no one complains about that.)

A lot has been made of Limbaugh’s use of the word “slut” and “prostitute,” but this is actually not the most disturbing aspect of his rants. The worst part was his call for Ms. Fluke to make videos of herself having sex and share them with the rest of us because “we’re paying for it.” This is so far afield from any claim to be commenting on the issue that it’s not even debatable among reasonable-minded people. In reality, it was a keen insight into the mind of this man; you just don’t make such a statement unless you’re extremely misogynistic and sexist. As the old saying goes, “Be careful what you think because thoughts can become words.”

And this brings us back to the point. There is a pernicious and dark side to how women are seen, and thus treated, in this country—and Limbaugh just gave us a candid glimpse. Interestingly, despite the amount of racism that African-Americans still experience in this country, they have actually surpassed women in correcting their own portrayal in the media and society. While we see daily images of women subjecting themselves to sexist stereotypes in ads, television shows, movies, and other media, we don’t see black people shucking and jiving to sell cars. Can you even imagine that? Heck, if you’re young enough, you probably don’t even know what “shucking and jiving” means. How about the blatantly sexist “Go Daddy Girls” ad campaign that’s been going on for a decade, from the largest web hosting company in the world? How do you think it would fare if it featured the “Go Daddy Negroes” in a Super Bowl ad? And back to Limbaugh, do you think he’d still be on the air if he’d used the n-word instead of “slut”? Not even.

It was almost 30 years ago that legendary sportscaster Howard Cosell basically lost his job for saying during a live pro football telecast, “That little monkey gets loose, doesn’t he?” regarding a black player. And yet, in 2012, we still have women being victimized in the media, such as in slasher films and video games that role-play violent sex. African-Americans were freed from slavery 147 years ago—seven generations—and yet hundreds of thousands of girls and women are currently sex slaves in this country.

Why is it that our society, as a whole, accepts sexism at a level that would not be accepted for racism?

Something happened along the way in the women’s rights movement, and it’s resulted in an odd dichotomy. On one hand, women successfully fought for and won better working conditions and pay. They are better represented in public office and corporate management. They can manage their own finances. Sure, there’s more progress to be made, but it’s come a long way since the 1960s. On the other hand, though, it’s come a long way down. While the cartoon couple Wilma and Fred Flintstone couldn’t be shown in the same bed 50 years ago, women on TV now are thrown half naked into a hot tub to salaciously connive and compete for “The Bachelor.” Girls in 1962 worried about going to school without the latest saddle shoes; girls now are having cosmetic surgery as young as age 8 and taking anti-depressants in record numbers. The torch that was passed from generation to generation through the 20th century, from the women’s suffrage movement to the Equal Rights Amendment effort, somehow went dim in the 1990s. While most every girl and young woman in America can probably identify a photo of “Snooki,” very few could do the same with a photo of Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women.

Of course, it’s not as if the issues I’ve mentioned here are being fully ignored. There are many women tirelessly dedicating their time and energy to fight these causes. But their voices have been largely drowned out by a media machine that has a financial interest in tacitly approving sexist and misogynistic agendas; most of the culprits are major advertisers and industries that simply have no reason to change. Which is why it is up to women to chart a new tomorrow.

Think of it this way. Why would anyone in control of the status quo change the status quo? Why should Bob Parsons, founder and CEO of Go Daddy, stop his sexist ads? He has no reason; clearly he thinks they’re fine, and they aren’t hurting him in any way. But what if “Go Daddy Girls” Danica Patrick and Jillian Michaels, and all other women, simply refused to participate? What if girls stopped “going wild” for the cameras? What if women stopped buying Cosmopolitan and Vogue? What if women stopped watching the “Housewives” shows? What if women boycotted every advertiser in these media? Remember, women are the majority in this country. Don’t count on men to change any of this; we, as a group, have no reason to. We’re quite happy that women are no longer barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen, because now they’re naked and lascivious on our TVs, computer screens, and iPhones.

So, to women I say, carpe diem and capitalize on Rush Limbaugh’s brief lifting of the veil that obscures this issue. It’s not unlike the veil women have to wear in some countries that visibly signifies their subservient status in society, except that the one here is worse in some ways—because it’s largely invisible.

If you’re a woman over 60, remind younger women of what you fought for. You remember when you couldn’t get certain jobs, couldn’t hold a mortgage on your own, and couldn’t do anything about sexual harassment. Help younger women relight the torch you once carried.

If you’re a woman under 30, educate yourself on women’s issues of the past and present. Reach out to your older sisters, aunts, mothers, and grandmothers to learn of the efforts and accomplishments that preceded your lives. Relight the torch they carried. You are the future of women, and your daughters’ happiness and well-being depends on what you do with this issue now.

And women between 30 and 60, help both groups. You live at the intersection of energy and experience. Your generation let the torch go dim. The accomplishments seemed like enough and the world got busier, I know—I’m of the same era. But you’re in the best position to bridge the gap between the women older than you and those younger. These are your mothers and your daughters. They deserve no less.

I know this is easier to suggest than do. I know that. Though I’m not a woman, most of the closest people in my life have been women. I know how hard it is to speak up—you’ll encounter reprisals from both men and other women (who fear speaking up themselves). You’ll be put down. You’ll be called “feminazis,” as Rush Limbaugh called the very women he was bullying. The best way to keep you from speaking up is to keep you down. And it’s a risk for me, too, although to a lesser extent. I’m publishing this essay on my blog; I’m not hiding behind a pen name. I’m posting it on Facebook and Google+ and anywhere else it can go. I may lose “friends” or clients, I may piss off certain people, and I don’t care. The truth is, no sane man would accept Limbaugh’s words if they were directed at a woman that man loves. So, I hope this will serve to show you are not alone—there are millions of women and men who feel as you do. We’ve all just chosen the safety of silence.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Unlike the people of Syria or Egypt or Libya or North Korea, we don’t face the death penalty for speaking out. We don’t have to huddle in our homes to avoid government sniper fire or air strikes. We won’t be imprisoned as political dissidents.

No, we don’t have to worry about those things because we have free speech. The very same right that allows Rush Limbaugh to speak his despicable words allows us the ability to transform them into a greater good. He has the airwaves, but we have the numbers. When I wrote of the consequences for his free speech, you probably thought I meant his job, but I actually didn’t. The consequences can be something greater, something that serves a much higher purpose—whatever evil that feeds his thinking, that multiplies in the darkness of apathy like roaches and mold, can be now exposed to the light and vanquished forever. But only if we seize the day.

—Andrew Chapman

Bon Jovi Celebrates 50th Birthday Today

2 Mar
Jon Bon Jovi in the 1980s and now

Jon Bon Jovi, then and now

A 50th birthday seems like a good time to reflect on your life so far, and Jon Bon Jovi certainly has nothing to regret in terms of accomplishments. He’s led one of the most successful rock bands for over 30 years, which has sold well over 100 million albums; he’s amassed a net worth of roughly $120 million; he’s received acclaim and awards for his solo albums; he’s enjoyed cross-over success on a number of songs; and he’s had a bit of fun dabbling in television and film acting.

And the fruits of his labor have extended to charitable ventures as well. He started the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation in 2006 in an effort to help America’s homeless, hungry, and poor. Then in late 2011, with his wife and personal chef, he opened Soul Kitchen, a “community restaurant” in New Jersey to offer those with little or no money the chance to enjoy better food through a “pay what you can” model. (The food is mainly donated by Whole Foods, with much of the vegetables grown on the property.) The concept allows people with low incomes to enjoy a restaurant meal that’s not fast food, while people with more means can pay a suggested price, or more, to help those who can’t. Incidentally, Panera Bread has been successfully operating several restaurants under the same model for a few years.

Bon Jovi exemplifies a number of key traits that mark every successful entrepreneur:

  • Hard work—He is a noted workaholic among his band and peers, diligently tending to his music business and other ventures.
  • Ethics—He doesn’t use his industrious nature as an excuse to run over people, treating those around him with due respect, especially his band mates who as a result have mostly been with him since the beginning.
  • Brand management—His flagship venture, his band, has been handled magnificently over the years, perhaps only matched (at that level) by U2, AC/DC, and Aerosmith. Though his and the band’s look and music has evolved over the years to keep up with the times, their core values have not. Bon Jovi’s middle-class, blue-collar, Jersey roots still run through all that he does both on stage and off stage; he never relocated to Los Angeles and adopted a Sunset Boulevard lifestyle.
  • Leadership—Aside from his solid ethical grounding, his band members attribute their loyalty to his leadership. He has a strong vision for Bon Jovi (the band) but has also allowed the others their creative room to breathe in side projects. He’s demanding, and yet doesn’t expect his band mates to share his workaholic nature.

Though he’s now eligible for membership in AARP, it’s highly unlikely Bon Jovi will be retiring anytime soon. In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising if he has another 50 years of meaningful contribution to music, business, and society in him.

Overcoming Setbacks and Failure

14 Feb
Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters

Dave Grohl rose from the ashes of Nirvana, achieving his own success

If you’re like most people, setbacks and failure can rock your world and sometimes permanently. If you’re like most entrepreneurs, you are more resilient but still susceptible to quitting. But if you’re like successful entrepreneurs, you simply don’t give up. Notice I didn’t write “most” successful entrepreneurs—because successful ones are partially differentiated by the fact that they just don’t throw in the towel. Now, they may quit a project, quit developing a product or service, quit pursuing an idea, and quit many things, but they never give up their quest for entrepreneurial success in some way. In fact, as Seth Godin points out in The Dip, successful entrepreneurs (and successful people in general) quit often; the key, however, is they know when exactly to quit and shift their resources elsewhere. It’s a fine line, balancing dogged determination with flexibility.

Rock stars arguably encounter more severe setbacks than most entrepreneurs. I say this because they have, as an industry, a disproportionate number of unexpected deaths—the ultimate setback—to contend with. When was the last time you heard of an entrepreneur dying of an overdose, throwing the entire company into potential chaos? Even Steve Jobs’ death, as striking as it was, was somewhat anticipated, at least within his inner circle. And Jobs left Apple with a plan for continuity after his passing. I’m guessing Jim Morrison didn’t do that.

This all comes to my mind in the wake of Dave Grohl and Foo Fighters winning their Grammy this week. There are many debates about the Grammys—that they are highly political, that they aren’t a fair measure of artistry and significant contribution to music. But it still remains true that you don’t win a Grammy if you aren’t successful in some way. And so it is with Grohl and Foo.

It’s almost hard to remember that Foo Fighters rose from the ashes of Nirvana, and if you’re under 25 this isn’t even part of your memory. But imagine what it must’ve been like for Dave Grohl on that fateful day in April of 1994. Of course, the overwhelming tragedy was the loss of his bandmate and friend Kurt Cobain. But swirling in that personal loss was also the loss of Nirvana. Few bands have lost such a major member at the peak of the band’s stardom. And more important, it was truly impossible for Nirvana to carry on; there simply could be no Nirvana without Cobain.

Dave Grohl epitomizes the intrepid spirit of all successful entrepreneurs. He quit (Nirvana) but didn’t quit (his pursuit of greater success). Do you know when to quit but not quit?

Your business is your lifestyle

6 Feb
Gwen Stefani

Stefani rocks music and business

“The best thing about our success is that it afforded us our lifestyle. I never have to wear a suit. I never have to wear nylons. I can do my hair pink. I can do whatever I want to.” — Gwen Stefani, singer in No Doubt and founder of fashion line L.A.M.B., with an estimated net worth of $80 million

It’s easy to forget that when you’re starting a business you’re starting a lifestyle. Your business may be an extension of your lifestyle (e.g., you’re an avid skateboarder starting a line of skate gear), but if not, you’ll probably find that your venture and lifestyle will ultimately blend. This is why it’s so important to do something you love. Your business will pull you into circles of people, connections with organizations, a variety of environments, and (hopefully) a blessing of customers and fans. The sum of these will be a major component of how you experience your life.

Often, budding entrepreneurs and those considering a business venture forget (or don’t realize) this. The focus tends to fall more on making money, getting out of an existing job, or another motivation that has nothing to do with how you want to live your life. There are many, many benefits in being a successful entrepreneur. But none probably top the ability to create the lifestyle you want. And I don’t mean the trappings of nice homes, cool cars, fabulous fashion, vacations, or the typical “lifestyles of the rich and famous” visions. Yes, those things can be great, but it’s the “life space” in between where you truly live—where you are fulfilled, where you feel meaningful, where you deeply feel your purpose on earth.

When you build a business that creates the lifestyle you want, you create a circle. The business nourishes your lifestyle, your lifestyle nourishes your personal fulfillment, and your personal fulfillment nourishes your business.

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