5 Career Lessons from the Beatles

Feb 11, 2014
5 Min Read

It was 50 years ago this month that the Beatles hit the American music scene. You may have watched CBS ' salute to the Beatles Friday night, “The Night That Changed America: A Grammy Salute to the Beatles,” on the 50th anniversary of the band's debut appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show."

While there are numerous documentaries and celebrations of this legendary rock group and their impact on music, it is also worth noting the career savviness of these young men.

The actions they took five decades ago are worth heeding for those also seeking a long and successful career.

Among the Fab Four’s smart moves:

  1. They understood their market. In an interview in February 1964, Paul McCartney was asked how long he thought the Beatles would be around. “As long as you keep coming,” McCartney responded. What McCartney and the other band members revealed was that they understood they had to continue to be relevant to customers and deliver results if they wanted to thrive in their music careers. If not, they understood they could be quickly replaced or forgotten.
  2. They evolved. While the Beatles sent thousands of teenagers into screaming fits while performing, they didn’t stick with the same formula for their music as time went on. They watched other artists such as Bob Dylan, and realized their music needed to evolve. They didn’t spurn the competition, but instead raised their own performance to meet or surpass it. If you rely only on past glories as a way to maintain your status in the workplace, you will soon seem outdated.
  3. They had a signature style. The hair. The clothes. Whatever the Beatles wore defined them. They found a style that helped make them memorable. While you may not be able to do anything too outlandish in your workplace, branding experts recommend adopting a signature piece of jewelry, hairstyle or piece of clothing that can help you stand out and be more memorable.
  4. They evoked emotion. The earsplitting screams when they appeared on the Ed Sullivan show were only the beginning. The Beatles always managed to make their music personal, and that is one reason why every 13-year-old girl thought she would become a girlfriend of one of the Beatles, and eventually marry him. When you communicate with others, do you make them feel special? Do you bore others with your statistics and buzzwords? Or do you tell a story they can identify with and increase their desire to get to know you and help you?
  5. They wooed their critics. When the American press first met the Beatles, they fired off as many criticisms as they did questions. For example, one reporter asked the group about their hair, which was considered extremely long in those days. “I just got a haircut yesterday,” George Harrison quipped. Instead of becoming angry with the press, they used humor and upbeat answers to charm them and eventually began receiving better press. David Crosby, who in the 1960’s was with The Byrds, said he used to sneak into press conferences with the Beatles just to learn how they mastered hostile or unfriendly questions or comments. No matter how hard you work, you won’t get ahead if you’re not capable of overcoming objections or obstacles so that others can focus on your talent and skills. 

What other lessons do you feel the Beatles have to offer?

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