The Beatles Theory of Creative Career Management

In this business, always be transforming

Do you want to know a secret?

Whenever I am stuck creatively, I ask myself a simple question: What would the Beatles do? 

You know the Beatles. The most successful and significant creative entity of the 20th century who still influences us today.

Speaking of today, I'd like to share a theory I've been espousing and living for the last decade or so.

I call it The Beatles Theory of Creative Career Management.

It's built to show you how you can manage your career as a creative person.

I hope you find it useful.

Level 1: John

You have a burning desire. A desire to be extraordinary in a world of ordinary. A desire to breakthrough and be famous. You have talent. You start to apply it. You start to create. And then, suddenly, after 10,000 hours, give or take a few thousand hours, you make a hit. And then another. And another. You become famous. But you're a rebel. And a rabble-rouser. You have power. And you begin to alienate some people. At a certain point you believe you're bigger than God. Welcome to Level 1 of your creative career: You are John.

Level 2: Paul

You still have a burning desire to be famous and admired. Your talent is obvious and unmatched. You are creating hit after hit. It's Level 1 John all over again, only at this stage, you want people to like you. You are equal parts hitmaker and charmer. Your work is loved and you are loved. All is good in the world. This is Level 2. This is Paul.

Level 3: George 

Well, all is quite groovy, but something is gnawing at you. You are restless. You have tasted success. You like that taste. But you know you can contribute more. You have ideas. Your own ideas. Your bandmates like your ideas, but don't always use them. You become fed up. You can do this on your own. You break away. You form your own thing. This is Level 3. Welcome to George. 

Level 4: Ringo

One day you will look around and you will not be the young kid in the room anymore. In fact, you will be the elder. You'll still have your talent. You'll have a legacy of being part of some great work. Heck, you might even still have your ambition. But circumstances have changed. There are new players. And you feel left out. At this point, your one desire is to hang on and play with the band. Keep the beat and add a drum fill here and there. This is Level 4. This is Ringo. 

It would be enough for anyone to make all four stages of the Beatles in their career. But if you're lucky. If you can somehow transform yourself, there is a fifth level. A fifth Beatle.

Level 5: Brian

Brian Epstein was the Beatles' manager. He saw talent in the lads. He had a vision for them. He saw success when there was only hunger. He inspired the them to play. He showed them how they could look. He pushed them to write songs. He marketed the hits. He booked the gigs. He took care of the money. He brought out the best in what was to become a generational music, art and cultural phenomenon. In short, he was the CEO of the Beatles. 

If you can transform yourself. If you can go from creator of an idea to creator of the enterprise. If you can concern yourself not simply with your career, but with making other people successful. If you can shepherd a band, rather then play in the band, you will find Level 5. You will be a Fifth Beatle. 

And in the end...

The secret to creative longevity is transformation. If the Beatles teach us anything, it's that. 

The rock 'n' roll Beatles of 1962 were different from the pop Beatles of 1963, who were different than the psychedelic Beatles of 1966, who transformed into the hippie Beatles of 1968. 

Find yourself now: Are you at John, Paul, George or Ringo? 

Wherever you are, be open to transforming yourself. It's the best way to keep yourself relevant. 

Profile picture for user Rob Schwartz
Rob Schwartz
Rob Schwartz is CEO of TBWA\Chiat\Day New York. He transitioned to the CEO role after a distinguished career on the creative side, including serving as chief creative officer of Chiat L.A.

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