John Lennon’s agile & disruptive thinking for startups

I studied The Beatles as part of my A-level music curriculum at school. I remember hearing the lyrics to Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds and thinking wow! and Mr Baker eulogising about John Lennon, and from that day, Lennon was one someone I followed.

I was never into The Beatles music apart from those songs written and sung by Lennon. He was dynamic, controversial, radical, and confrontational plus a whole lot more. There is so much more that he shared with the world apart from his music. Therein lies a depth of his wisdom

John would have been 75 years old this coming Friday, 9 October. For me, he was the most iconic Beatle. His social conscience, attitude and acerbic, verbal wit in his lyrics, and cutting, humane and distinct voice made him one of the most talented musicians we’ve ever seen. He epitomises disruptive creativity.

Lennon’s brutally confessional solo work and his political activism were a huge influence on subsequent generations of singers, songwriters and social reformers. He made people think, he made me think. In the years since his murder on December 8, 1980, his image has become a staple of T-shirts and posters, used as a symbol of individuality. He had interesting things to say, and was more interested in pushing boundaries than just making music.

I don’t think John would have been content playing his guitar at weddings and parties in Liverpool. With The Beatles, he branched out to London and Hamburg, then worldwide while still in his early 20s. Later he travelled to India and integrated the country’s musical influences into many songs. He was amongst the earliest adopters of a global perspective, embracing new ideas and culture.

Lennon’s risk-taking and creativity are clearly evident, but there was always a balance between experimentation and implementation. He didn’t just throw caution to the wind. Lennon prototyped and tested many versions of his songs, he re-recorded constantly, always looking for some new and unique angle. For each familiar hit, there were about twenty alternate takes in different styles and genres. He practiced each version over and over until something clicked. If after a while, he couldn’t come up with something that met his standards, he dumped it.

Approaching his birthday, I thought that I would share how John Lennon’s words and attitude have inspired me, the man that encouraged us all to ‘Imagine’, and how his words and thinking are relevant for startup entrepreneurs.

Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans it is said that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Blink and a year will pass you by. Startup life is never a direct route. It weaves. It twists. It turns. But if you have a goal, a dream or a plan in place, it acts as a compass that keeps you on track, no matter what detours need to be taken along the way.

Time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted Lennon was a thinker, he had a thirst for knowledge, hungry for new experiences to stimulate his creativity. Socialising you own startup idea with other entrepreneurs will help shape, inform and improve your thinking, never miss the opportunity for gaining and sharing insight

It doesn’t matter how long my hair is or what colour my skin is or whether I’m a woman or a man Startup success is not restricted to culture, gender or heritage. Successful entrepreneurs rise up from every conceivable starting point, so we never use your own state of being as an excuse for never achieving great things. One person with a dream, and a willingness to do whatever it takes can make it happen.

A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality Dreams are no fun if you keep them to yourself, dreams are meant to be shared. Startups with co-founders, with like-minded entrepreneurs collaborating, have proven to be a better basis for launching successful businesses, rather than a solo founder venturing alone, so share your dream.

Reality leaves a lot to the imagination Reality, plus a sprinkle of imagination, turns that which seems impossible into something that is possible. If you can imagine it, and you can believe it, you can achieve it and imagine by asking yourself the question, ‘What if?’ Then go do.

I get by with a little help from my friends Not one of us can do it alone. Without the support of a team, a startup founder won’t get off the ground. A vibrant, relentless and talented team is vital in a startup, it lift us up when we are down, believes in each other when no one else does. The best startup teams are there in fair weather, and there when storms rage. Startup team members know when to speak and when to keep silent.

You don’t need anybody to tell you who you are or what you are. You are what you are! Stop listening to what others say you are. You are what you are. Ignore the naysayers, your startup is your road of self-discovery. Listen to your inner voice and stand up tall knowing who you are. I just believe in me Lennon once said, and he meant it. Have ambition that reaches way beyond your current horizon.

There’s nothing you can know that isn’t known; nothing you can see that isn’t shown; nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to beNothing happens by accident, and what appears to be the greatest mistake will in retrospect be the pivot to your startup. Find something you love and do it better than anyone else. Lennon was inspired by Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry. He took the music from these pioneers and put his own touch and Liverpudlian spin on it. The outcome? It was an entirely new take on a genre, which no one was expecting.

There’s nothing that you can do that can’t be done Keep working, it makes you happy. Whether you’re a musician or a software developer or own a local bakery or retail store, you have to keep working no matter what.

If there’s such a thing as genius — I am one Create the unexpected. I always enjoy The Beatles White Album. The diversity in this album is incredible. From the beautiful melodies of Julia and Blackbird to the pounding beats of Helter Skelter and Revolution, it is truly unexpected. The Beatles were the first artists to record in stereo. They were the first band to experiment in the studio. They were the first band to list lyrics on their album.

Your audience or customers are craving the unexpected – give it to them. They want to be wowed. Why not come up with some novel, out of the box ideas like Lennon did, and give them a little clue about the depth of your uniqueness.

What we’ve got to do is keep hope alive, because without it we’ll sink. I don’t believe in yesterday, by the way Risk magnificent failures by aiming for the sky. Lennon fits this description well, he didn’t conform to standard education, which greatly contributed to his unorthodox style. In fact, like many great musicians, he held his instrument the wrong way. He experimented with made-up chords, new concepts – and had some celebrated failures in the process.

Lennon thought big. Even in the early days when starting out he used to say To the toppermost of the poppermost! and he believed it. Lennon aimed high and got there, in no small part because he believed he would get there. He stated in an interview that they treated each deliverable (i.e. song) as the hit, which is why their B-sides are better songs than most people’s A-sides.

In today’s startup environment, we have to be different to be seen. Lennon was a restless, curious individual, never satisfied with the status quo. He continuously sought self-growth, learning new philosophies and anything else he could do to break new ground. This helped him grow as an artist and human being, and further distanced himself from others as being unique. Do the same for you, and your startup business.

John Lennon’s legacy and impact is eternal. Great ones like John Lennon never really die. So much of them lasts forever.

When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment. I told them they didn’t understand life.

John Lennon (9 October 1940 to 8 December 1980)