Apr 3, 2012

7 Things that Made Eric Clapton a ’’Guitar Hero’’, and Help ANY Career

Anyone ever envied rock stars on their fame, lifestyle, or freedom? On being cool, able to say what they wanted when they wanted and the more inappropriate it was – the more publicity and fortune it got them?

Sometimes I imagined these artists as free spirits who made extraordinary careers and profits by doing what they loved, having fun all the time.

I know it is naive to think so, but that is the first image that comes to mind.

But wherever we turn it’s business. Even if called show business. Some may argue that is the toughest business of all.

How do you start, survive and make it in a business where you have too much competition, are surrounded by all sorts of (poisonous) substances that are a norm to take, endure months and years of traveling around the world and being away from home-family, if you have one?

Sometimes it seems easy for those artists. They get born with huge and obvious talent, show it to the right place/people, and rocket to fame and fortune.

Having to think just a minute longer you figure most were tortured souls, not to mention addiction problems that ruined or took away their lives.

Thousands young and talented people left this world without anyone (except perhaps their family) noticing, and literally few of them had a story to tell. The story I am curious to hear.

What do they have in common with us in other businesses, except that bands just like some of the biggest companies started at the same place - in the garage?

Now you may or may not like E. Clapton, or his music. Even so, I am sure you know who he is even if you don’t agree with graffiti that appeared decades ago in UK, ’’Clapton is God.’’

He might be a guitar hero, and you have never touched a guitar and never will, but here are few things I extracted from Clapton’s autobiography, that help any career / business:


People start a business/career/company out of love, interest and often – frustration.

Clapton says that music was a kind of a balm for him and he could soak it with his whole being.

’’I discovered it helped me remove fear and confusion I had towards my family.’’ ( his grandparents pretended to be his parents for years, to cover up his mum’s teenage pregnancy out of marriage, and he discovered it by chance. )

Frustration can help us move forward. Some days the work we love relieves it. Some days it tells us where we do not wan’t to spend our talent and energy (anymore.)


As there was no one to teach him how to play the guitar, he decided to learn on his own.

He would play it along with the record. He’d play a song over and over, recording his playing on tape recorder, then listened until he was satisfied with the result.

At one point of the book Clapton says, ’’By 16 years of age, I became a good guitarist, but I was constantly learning new things.’’

About the tour with ’’Cream’’ he said, ’’Wherever we went I was searching for soul mates, musicians, or people I could learn (something) from.’’

Constant learning and growing is something we can not imagine a healthy business without, or any career worth mentioning, can we?

Throughout the book Clapton highlights his ’’work ethics,’’ and makes me think twice about ’’carefree’’ life of a rock star. ’’We’d play 8 days a week if week had 8 days and had two gigs on Sundays.’’


About his early days, he wrote something along this line: ’’I knew I will never reach the standards of the old guitar masters, but I believed if I keep on working something must come up. I was in no hurry and I was convinced I will succeed in the end.’’ (turned out right.)

A good dose of self-belief did not harm anyone, until it became arrogance.


First time he was working as a musician, and getting paid, Clapton shared a room with Chris Drey.

He said he ’’trusted him, which was rare, as he (Chris) enjoyed the music, was not driven by ambition.

It is easier and more productive for me to work with people I share the values with. The word trust somehow sneaks in (again.) How important is it to you to work with those you like, trust and share similar values with?


Eric Clapton was already famous after playing in several bands (The Yardbirds, Bluesbreakers, Cream, Blind Faith ) before making his first solo album.

His faith, confidence and experience still needed a little ‘’push,’’ someone else having a ‘’faith in him.’’

He said it was Delaney (another musician from the band Delaney and Bonnie) as Delaney drew out of him something he did not knew he could do.

Not only he made him think about solo career, he pushed him to perfect his skills further, and really use his talent.

Delaney shocked Clapton stating he should start singing and leading his own band, as God gave him the talent and if he doesn't use it, it will be taken away.

Clapton says he could never thank Delaney enough for having faith in him. ‘’He saw something in me I stopped looking for!’’ Clapton wrote later.

And although he knew he could do it, he said he suppressed it so deep so that he stopped believing in himself.

Here is a quote everyone likes, "There isn't a person anywhere who isn't capable of doing more than he thinks he can." -- Henry Ford.

Although it sounds simple, it is not always easy to do what we think we can, let alone more.

Often, we need someone to see something in us, push us to go a step further. I believe it is a job of a great manager, mentor coach or a leader. Call it what you like. Even the best CEO’s need them.


After the new album (with his band Dereck and the Dominos) Clapton say he wasn’t ready to do interviews or help sales in any other way.

‘’I was still an idealist,’’ he said.

He was hoping that album will sell based on the quality/value (‘’only’’). It did not happen.

‘’Lack of promotion did not make people aware the album was on the market.’’he wrote.

Just like in any other business being great is not enough. Great marketing message that reaches your audience still makes a (big) difference.


During his time of heavy addiction Clapton spent long period of time closed in the house, away from the world. He was working, but here is what he said about it,

‘’All the time while I was closed in the house I listened to the music and played guitar, but for a person to really develop his skills he must work with others.’’

Throughout the book he looked for other brilliant musicians to work with, his idols, or new talent - getting inspiration, influence and feedback that helped his career and survival through long and heavy periods of addiction.

While there are days when it is a pleasure to be left alone and do our things, sooner or later we need others, to help us, challenge, inspire us and reward us with sense of belonging to community that moves toward a goal bigger than any brilliant individual can achieve.

These were just few details I underlined (from the book) for us to think about, or discuss. Did you find any of these things helped you, or someone else be/feel successful?

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