What ought to have been a huge success for U2 turned out to be critically panned – and if you’re having a “Rattle & Hum” year, here’s how to turn it into your “Achtung Baby” era.
I bought my Dad Rattle & Hum as a present in 1990. I was only 14 and didn’t really know much about music, but he had played Dire Straits Brothers in Arms for years at me and U2 looked similar but cooler (to me). The LP was a giant doubler and it was all black and shiny. I loved it.
Still Haven’t found. Angel of Harlem. All I want is You. That song captured the essence of my unrequited love for Carol in 4th year. I didn’t even realise Helter Skelter and Along the Watchtower were covers!
I had the documentary on VHS and when Bono chimed up with ‘this is not a rebel song’ to the opening drums of Sunday Bloody Sunday, it made my hairs raise on my arms every time.
It led me on a U2 odyssey, through Unforgettable, War and October, Under a Blood Red Sky. I joined their Propaganda fan club and queued for 24 hours for tickets to see their Zoo TV tour in a big shed in Glasgow.
It was only much later that I realised that Rattle & Hum was considered a critical and commercial dud, their zenith being the Joshua Tree of course and my dear Rattle & Hum being self indulgent, cultural appropriating over-blown nonsense.
I played Rattle & Hum today. Still loved it and it inspired this post.
I look back at my “career” and had a good upwards trajectory. I smashed my 20s, 6 promotions, lots of talk about my ‘high potential’ and was going places. I excelled as an individual contributor. October. War.
My 30’s, I was on a roll. Managing multiple teams, functional directorship level (Unforgettable Fire), knocking on the door of general management.
I was at my peak at 40, having led a team that sold a $200m deal – my own Joshua Tree, (although that value gets larger in every retelling as the years go by and my memory fades).
….but then the wheels slowly fell off.
Don’t get me wrong, 20 years of moderate success gives a cushion not afforded to many. But through a combination of false starts and bad choices (mainly mine!) I will end 2020 having earned less than I’ve earned in any year since I turned 30.
I got to the Joshua Tree late. It’s really rather good isn’t it? If you’re reading this I suspect you like U2 too.
Since January this year, I’ve been looking for work … a.k.a “developing my business” for the self employed. I spent 7 months of 2020 wondering if I’ll ever get the chance to create another Joshua Tree.
Will I ever work at a senior level again?
I was seeking to build my own skills development business and struggling to convert good interest into sales. There were also precious few permanent jobs on offer. I was applying for roles that I wouldn’t have considered ten years ago simply out of the desire to work and stay relevant, but getting nowhere. (This is not a great job search strategy, for reference).
It makes you self-reflect, all the spare time. Makes you highly self-critical and in my worst moments even jealous of others successes. Why isn’t that me? Once upon a time, we were the same (or at least in the same room!).
My list of limitations others may spot although it naturally took me longer to. I am self deprecating, which I think make me friendly and likable but appears to others as low confidence. I want to be liked more than I want to be respected. I still get tongue tied with authority at times. I can be indecisive. I want to please and have sometimes sought to please my boss over my team. I’ve kept quiet when I should have spoken out. I can ramble when clarity of message is important. And on. And on.
If you peruse my linkedin profile for the last years I’ve still had some great roles. I’ve had roles at a couple of big retailers and learned loads. And sometimes the above limitations bit me despite delivering the metrics. I’ve had other consultant and interim roles too where my strengths came to the fore ahead of my weaknesses.
But in all cases, my sense of forward momentum was disappearing: it was like my star potential was falling, my impact diminishing.
Was this it? I guess that’s how Bono and the boys must have felt after Rattle & Hum’s reception.
Rebuilding one’s Mojo, 2020.
Some of 2020 was a struggle: applying for full time jobs and hearing nothing back almost ever; the call from a recruitment agency; the false hope as they ask for your CV; the disappointment when you get nothing back; the days tailoring CVs and cover letters to get a rejection a few weeks later.
Some of 2020, however was hugely rewarding. Of course lockdown. But it was wonderful (for me): Sunny with family at home. Getting fit with my daily exercise … Heaven.
But also, thanks to Linkedin I “met” 4 or 5 random connections who had similar interests and were in similar positions. Over zoom it was weird but some genuine, now firm friendships formed. We created business ventures, simply through graft and enthusiasm, and supported each other in the search for clients and jobs, through the lows (not many highs!). None of us had to play the ‘corporate’ persona, it was liberating and most of all fun. Simply being able to be have a giggle whilst building to a purpose made me want to get up each day.
No money was coming in but I was enthused and energised. I had rediscovered purpose.
They reminded me what my strengths were: corporate life too often focuses on your weaknesses and the weaknesses of your teams. We found areas of common interest and simply started sharing views, research and ideas: each of us seeking to make sure that in our interest topic we were jointly the most informed, and had THE WORLD’S BEST body of knowledge on that topic. And created from there.
In the last month, I had the opportunity to return to consulting with a big-4 player. It’s early days but so far its been really exciting, if startlingly hard work. I feel that I’ve got somewhat lucky given the current environment to get a role at all, and am determinedly bottling up the mojo my new (and some old) friends gave me.
When things are low, particularly when you’re out of work, find a community and get busy. Doesn’t matter what initially, just have some professional fun. That’s essentially my tip from this post. Get busy and you’ll find your mojo again.
I loved Rattle & Hum. And I loved my Rattle & Hum year of 2020.
But watch out: I’m hoping my Achtung Baby (of course U2’s best album) is just around the corner. And yours too.
This article was originally published here – it has been reproduced with kind permission.