What Being A Foo Fighters Fan Can Teach You About How To Leave A Legacy

“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there. 

It doesn’t matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.” 

― Ray BradburyFahrenheit 451

Often we hear about people wanting to “leave their legacy” – this is especially explored in when we engage in leadership or personal development.  But recently I have been watching a real life example of leaving a legacy.  Actually, it’s even better than that – because it’s about leveraging other’s legacies and using them as inspiration for finding and leaving a new legacy behind.

Premiering on the eve of Foo Fighters’ 20th anniversary, Foo Fighters Sonic Highways aims to “give back” to the next generation of young musicians. 

Foo Fighters (one of my favorite bands ever), founder Dave Grohl is directing a series on HBO – Sonic Highways.  It’s an 8 week reality/documentary that showcases the band writing their latest album – but they do it in such a unique way.  The beauty of their approach is that they have found a way to get you to fall in love with “the baby” (the song) before you’ve ever even heard it.  How do they do it?  They invite you to the “conception” and the “delivery room”.  TMI?  Not at all!!  The “conception” insight comes from exploring the cultural influences that shaped the musical heritage and how it personally inspired a few legendary musical artists of 8 major cities.  The “delivery room” experience comes from the band recording the song in a legendary space/recording studio integral to the unique history and character of each city.

The Foo Fighters do something we can all be inspired to apply to our own jobs – to embrace the artist – the creator (the “rock star”) – within each of us and live to share that creator sense with those we serve – because in doing that, the industry/job/company environment that inspires and shapes us, in return becomes impacted and shaped by our contributions.  When we see those contributions impacting others in a positive, inspiring way we experience fulfillment.  Sustained fulfillment comes from the act of being inspired, creating and giving – not from materials markers that represent appreciation for our contributions – sure, those are nice to have too – but they, in and of themselves (did I say that right?), is not where legacy building experiences come from.

The opening quote I chose for this blog reflects what Dave Grohl and the Foo’s demonstrate to epically in this show – It doesn’t matter what you do… so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away.”  

We cannot leave a legacy or find fulfillment if we go through our days and about our work trying to sound like someone else or trying to please others or fighting the conditions around us.  We also cannot leave a legacy if we only give of ourselves when it is easy to do so.  We must not give into the thought “f*** it – there are just too many obstacles/restrictions”.  Imagine what we would have missed out on in this planet if Dave Grohl went through his career trying to be like any other legend before him?  Like other rock legends, no one can do them (not even Dave Grohl) – only they can do themselves AND so it is with you too (or should I write “U2” – haha), no one can do you – only you can do YOU. Or imagine if he gave up after Nirvana and said “ it’s too hard to start again now that Kurt is gone”.

In every episode Dave Grohl and the Foo’s show up to a city without a preconceived riff, without lyrics, without any ideas about what their song for that city will be.  What they know is what they decided – to make a CD that reflects their love for some of the cities that have been so influential and good to them through the journey of their career.  They don’t have any preconceived ideas about HOW that will happen – they only hold onto WHAT they know they will accomplish.  So they just show up – with the tools (equipment) they have – and explore/experience/relive the energy of each city and learn from those who have come before them and have also been highly influenced by the cultural and history of those cities.  Then the band reflects back what they have learned filtered through their values, talents, interests, and skills.

So often the personal and cultural influences that inspired the musical legacies of each performer and city featured in Dave Grohl’s series were born of restrictive circumstances or from traumatic events – yet these legends discovered their musical talent and made music despite the restrictive tools/circumstances they had.  One of the legendary performers Dave Grohl was inspired by talked about how he found his musical voice by playing strings with buttons on them because his family was too poor to afford toys or instruments.  Yet, how often do we let the less than stellar cultural or people nuances within the companies we work for be an excuse to hold back our talents and efforts?

Our jobs are a 40 hour a week opportunity to leave our mark in our unique way in less than stellar circumstances (among your gossipy work environment, your unhappy customers, your less than inspiring boss, your bully regional manager, etc.).  The Foo Fighters are no exception – they too deliver in outdated, non air-conditioned, cramped recording studios (at least I think some of the rooms they cut tracks in are actual studios – my point is most of them are not cushy or easy to work in either).

Our greatest opportunity for fulfillment and for leaving our legacy behind is to understand what is so from those who have been before us, find inspiration within that (notice what impresses upon you or captivates your interest most), and contribute back something that has your touch on it – not the touch you think another wants you to put on it – not your touch when you have 20 years experience and tons of industry awards that “affirm” greatness – but with the touch you have to offer right now – with however many years of experience you have – with the string(s) you have to play on.  That is how you get music out of a spreadsheet, out of a process, out of a meeting agenda, etc.

I know, some bosses will say “What the h*** is this?  Just do what I told you to do!”  But we need those kinda bosses – so don’t hate them – why do we need them?  The “do as a I say bosses” are here for those who are not yet ready to discover and live from their values, talents, interests, and skills.  But, if you’re ready to create and to contribute fully from your values, talents, interests, and skills – then bosses like that will either come to appreciate you on a whole new level OR they will organically fall out of your life and you will gravitate naturally towards those who value what you can and are willing to bring to the jam session within the companies you work for.

So what do you know about the history of your industry, your occupation, your company, the product you support/sell?

What do you notice most when you…

  • learn about the history of your profession
  • learn about the laws and policies that shaped and now govern your work
  • research historical company facts and timelines
  • read annual reports and old memos
  • read vision and mission statements
  • talk with stakeholders/peers to understand why and how they did what they did or believe what they believe
  • review past accomplishments
  • understand current business goals

You can easily do so many of these things on-line – we are so lucky that it’s easy to get at this information! What does any of that information inspire within you?  What will you set free that is already within you in tribute to what has come before you and in return, leave your legacy?

“But in the end we all come from what’s come before”  – lyrics from Something from Nothingwritten by Dave Grohl – inspired by guitarist and singer Buddy Guy, an interviewee from the Chicago blues scene, who said, “Everything comes from what’s come before.”

About Gina Calvano

Gina Calvano is a certified coach and Senior Professional in Human Resources, with over 20 years of experience as a talent management professional in both the private and non-profit sectors. With a unique approach, she combines her strategic corporate expertise and accreditations with metaphysics and transformational thinking which has resulted in people all over the world feeling good about themselves and connected to a sense of purpose.

She created the Success Readiness Bootcamp™, a step by step process that enables people to easily discover their unique talents and abilities and match them to majors, jobs, industries and leisure pursuits. Gina is also the co-author of Breakthrough! Inspirational Strategies for an Audaciously Authentic Life with NY Times Best Selling Authors Marci Shimoff, Janet Bray Attwood and Chris Attwood and Powerful Connections Made Easy™ with Aprille Trupiano, and is currently working on her next book — Caged in My Cube: The Turnaround Guide For Loving The Job You Hate.

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