Appreciating Growth - A Lesson From "The Boss"


Like tons of people, I recently read and enjoyed the Bruce Springsteen autobiography, Born to Run. Having grown up in the 1970’s and 1980’s, I can acknowledge that exposure to this guy’s music was unavoidable.

His poetic lyrics, Jersey Shore roots, distinctive voice, lengthy/energetic stage performances, and massive commercial success, led to him being referred to as “the Boss”.

My reading of the book made clear that in addition to all of this, Mr. Springsteen is indeed a great boss, literally. He possesses the qualities often attributed to the greatest leaders. Many business writers have acknowledged as much in the wake of the success of “Born to Run”. In case you are interested, here’s a link to a concise article from Karl Stark, of the Philadelphia Inquirer, that describes several of these qualities.

One not so obvious leadership story, described in this engaging autobiography, has to do with acknowledging success, recognizing accomplishments, being completely present with the many emotions that accompany such realization, and finally, experiencing gratitude. In one passage, Mr. Springsteen describes his trips back to his old neighborhood of Freehold, NJ. He’d drive around, visiting all the old haunts, revelling in the awareness of just how far beyond this place, his path had taken him. Prior to this, he had been so consumed by the work - and The Boss is known for his incredible work ethic - that in some ways, his progress had gone unnoticed.

We all get caught up in our goals. It’s safe to say that every human does. Maybe we want to be the CEO. Maybe we want to find the perfect partner or place for ourselves. Maybe we just want to find a good sandwich. Fact is, we are almost continually absorbed with the future. Unless, of course, we’re replaying some scenario from the past, but that’s a conversation unto itself. Today, I’m thinking about goals, dreams, desires, strategies, etc. I’m noticing how myself, and everyone I know, are moving ourselves toward something. We’re positioning ourselves to have something, to get something that is missing from our lives now.

We forget how much we can benefit by taking a moment to really reflect on what we already have. Deep in the process of goal setting, and working hard to reach those goals, we can easily fail to recognize the value of what we have already accomplished. Inspired by the autobiography, I wrote a story about this, from my own life. It goes like this:

Once upon a time, I put it all on the line
Packed a few things and left the rest behind
I wandered far from home, chasing a star
A woman, my best friend, at my side in the car

In many ways, the risk was worthwhile
A life focused on music and artistic style
Rapid growth from a couple, to a family of four
And richness of experience like never before

But in other ways, the risk was impossible to cover
Like too much bread, with way too little butter
So, it was back to our roots for this family organization
To old friends, familiar places, and loving family, through relocation

Our humble return In our rusted out car
Went unheralded in the social pages
Back at square one, never reaching that star
Catching up would certainly take ages

Well, we dug in our heels, setting goals, chasing things
We toiled. We sweat. Fighting the fights that life often brings
Inch by inch, building structure and form
An enterprise emerged that has weathered every storm

And now, looking back, at how time has flown
So deep in the striving, how could I possibly have known
Just how much was changing, as our goals were slowly being met
Always living the words “we’re not there yet”

So today as I glanced at an old photograph
From the days when we stood at the start of the path
I was filled with awareness of what we are now
We’ve become what we wanted, somehow

Goals are good, and necessary for people in business or careers or families. There’s no doubting the value of setting and meeting goals as a way of assuring future success. But just like The Boss, sometimes we need to take that late night drive (figuratively) through our old neighborhood, and recognize how far we’ve come.

Here’s a quote that I love, from Daily Zen “What you have is what you once wanted, Be grateful”