Career Development: Beatles or Stones?

Dan LearToday we are honored to welcome Dan Lear. He is a lawyer, blogger, and Director of Industry Relations for Avvo. Today he has brought an interesting perspective to career development. 

I’ve always found the question “Beatles or Stones?” rather asinine. The answer is, of course, Beatles. Period.

The Beatles were the perfect rock group. The Stones are not perfect but they’re probably the world’s most successful or enduring rock band.

Musically and artistically, there’s no question who is the superior band: The Fab Four.

However, when it comes to career development I’m “Stones.” Stones all the way.

But let’s back up and talk about why the Beatles are so much better than the Stones before explaining how this all relates to career development.

Albums

Each Beatles album – but particularly those from from Revolver to Let It Be – are so cohesive they feel almost curated. There are very few weak songs and each album functions as a “whole.” Depending upon who you talk to or the rock critic theory to which you ascribe, either Sargent Pepper or the White Album is the best rock album. Ever. Contrast that with the Stones who certainly have some timeless incredible albums but with twenty-four albums and a fifty-year career under their belt, the gems seem more like statistical accidents than intentional artistic masterpieces.

Members

The Beatles have four members: Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr.  Two guitars, bass and drums. Solid. Complete. No gimmicks. Lennon and McCartney are probably two of the greatest songwriters of the 20th Century and Harrison’s songwriting easily could have carried a lesser band on its own. The Beatles were also amazing live performers and wizards in the studio. Three of the four went on to have legitimate if not successful musical careers after the Beatles, though, admittedly, never achieving the level of success that they did as a quartet.

While the Stones haven’t had a “rotating cast” of members in the same way other rock bands have but they always seem more of a motley crew (pun 100% intended) of random people than a tight group of musicians. Sure the Stones lay claim to “Jagger and Richards” but do those names – or, honestly, Wyman, Watts, Jones or whomever else was or is in the Stones – roll off of the tongue, inspire the same awe as the collective genius “John, Paul, George, and Ringo?” No.

Artistic Growth and Relevance

The Beatles’ artistic progression blazed the path for what a true rock group was, is, and should aspire to be: raw and accessible at first evolving to a more mature groundbreaking sound. Their difficult artistic transitions practically begged fans to abandon them but, instead, with each successive and wildly successful release only more deeply endeared fans.

While the Stones can suggest that their sound has developed some over their 40-year career, it’s hard to argue that the path of their journey stems from anything but adapting to changing listener tastes: they had a psychedelic phasein the 60s with Between the Buttons, a roots phase in the early 70s with Exile on Main St., a disco phase with Some Girls, an 80s phase with Undercover finally circling back to become the world’s greatest, most successful, nostalgia act. Not having put out any substantively quality music in the last thirty years, they tour the world raking in hundreds of millions of dollars, playing their forty-year-old “hits.”

So, then, why “the Stones” for Career Development?

It’s clear I much prefer the Beatles to the Stones musically but when it comes to a model for career development I go with the Stones because of their perseverance,

Perseverance

 The Beatles are, indeed, the perfect group. But aspiration to perfection or attempts to manufacture it are more likely to lead to frustration or inaction than they are to actually produce perfection or greatness. The Stones represent a different kind of success – one made not of perfect song after perfect song or amazing album after amazing album but of continually grinding out music year after year and decade after decade. Regardless of the obstacles they faced or the critical response to their music or even people like me who think, musically, they should have stopped playing thirty years ago, the Stones have kept on making music, kept on touring, and kept on rocking.

Teamwork and collaboration

While I knocked the less structured membership of the Stones, their teamwork and collaboration efforts are remarkable. Who else can say that they’ve worked with the same small group – or even somewhat larger group – on roughly the same project for fifty years and built what the Stones have built or accomplished what the Stones have accomplished? Further, their rather “motley” approach is demonstrative of how effectively the group has managed to retain their soul and culture while absorbing and losing members. Truly an amazing feat when considered from an organizational development point of view. In contrast, John’s relationship with his second wife Yoko Ono is frequently blamed as one of the reasons of the Beatles demise as a band. One single relationship ended the greatest band ever! The total number of wives and long-term partners that the various members of the Stones have had is greater than the Beatles had members, including George Martin (the so-called fifth Beatle due to his studio work) and Pete Best (the Beatles first drummer before Ringo), and still the Stones continue to rock.

Sheer inertia

The inertia of what the Stones have created is impressive. Sure, not every album is a masterpiece – some are downright sub-par – but all that perseverance, all that grinding out music has created twenty-four albums, by 2007 four of the top five highest-grossing concert tours of all time, and a string of eight number one albums through most of the seventies. While I’m sure that Mick and Keith look back at what they’ve built and see missed opportunities, misfires, and just plain misses, they must be proud of the sheer volume of what they’ve created. While what the Beatles created is amazing it doesn’t come close to comparing in volume to what the Stones have built in terms of sheer volume. Further, the Beatles might question whether what they created was a just a fluke or “luck” because they don’t have the perspective of three or four decades of work after their break-up with which to put that relatively amazing period of productivity into perspective. Not true of the Stones. While they may be prouder of some work than they are of other work, they have no doubt about where their work came from or whether they were just “lucky.” They weren’t.

Attainability

Finally, the Stones embody a more realistic model of success than do the Beatles. In our careers most of us won’t achieve immediate and perfect success right away like the Beatles did, as witnessed by Beatlemania. Further, as we move forward in our careers we won’t succeed with every type of change or avenue that we pursue, as the Beatles did with each innovative album. We may not have the opportunity to do something groundbreaking, or if we do, we might break ground that no one cares has been broken or break ground too early, long before others realize the importance of what we’re doing. Instead, most of us are like the Stones. We keep doing what we’re doing trying to adapt to the constantly changing professional landscape and produce work that responds to what we see, what we hear, and what we think employers or clients want.

When I think about what I want to see from my career I’d love to be the Beatles looking back on a finite number of events, projects, or accomplishments sure that I created something provocative, unique and memorable. However, a much more realistic scenario is looking back like the Stones, realizing that some of what I did was good, knowing that some wasn’t, but proud of the effort I put in to keep pounding out the work and, at the very least, proud of the volume – the massive body of work –  I created.

I will likely never create what I view to be a Sargent Pepper (let alone what critics might say meets that standard). I’ll probably never even create an Exile on Main Street. But I can take the examples of these two wildly successful groups as aspirational models for my career. And in that case I’m all “Stones.”

About Dan:

Dan Lear, is the Director of Industry Relations for Avvo. He is a lawyer, blogger and legal industry gadfly. As a technology-focused business lawyer he advised companies from startups to the Fortune 100 and helped develop agreements and terms for early cloud services offerings – well before the notion of “the cloud” had entered the common cultural consciousness. Since his transition from tech lawyer to legal technologist Dan’s been mentioned, featured, and/or published in The ABA Journal, Law Practice Today, Law Technology News, NWLawyer, Above the Law and other legal industry press. In 2015 he was named to the FastCase 50 – a group of entrepreneurs, innovators, and trailblazers in the legal profession – and in 2014 Dan was honored with the Washington State Bar Association President’s Award for his participation in and and advocacy of legal technology projects locally and nationally. More information on his published writing and upcoming events can be found by visiting http://rightbrainlaw.co/.

Read On:

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Comments

  1. Michael M. says:

    Hold on there a second. First, had the Beatles continued on as a group, you’d be saying the same thing about them: they haven’t produced a great album in 40 years. While I agree that the Beatles were more consistent and overall “better” songwriters, in my book the best of the Stones is better than the best of the Beatles. Live performers? The Beatles quit doing live performances in 1966 (except for Let it Be). Check out the Stones at the TAMI show in Santa Monica. The Beatles didn’t top that. If only the Stones had hung it up after Some Girls.

    As an attorney, Beatles is very defense counsel-like. Got their shit together; organized; put on a good case. The Stones are plaintiff’s attorneys–are they gonna pull it off? Is the case plausible? sounds like at any point the thing could come off the rails and fall apart. But hits you in a visceral way.

    Anyway, interesting article.

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