Dr. Ray Welling is the principal of Welling Digital, a strategic content consultancy. He also manages a small digital content agency and is an adjunct lecturer in marketing at Macquarie University.
I managed to cross off an item on my bucket list over the Easter weekend by attending Bluesfest in Byron Bay. Great music, interesting crowds, and plenty of hemp shirts for sale.
One of the highlights was hearing John Fogerty performing Creedence Clearwater Revival classics in a tightly-packed two-hour set. It was like being transported back to Woodstock, or a Vietnam War protest rally.
You’d think that, playing songs that he first performed more than 40 years ago, Fogerty would be a bit jaded. But he looked incredibly fresh and vibrant as he hopped around the stage playing the riffs and belting out 'Proud Mary,' 'Bad Moon Rising' and scores of other classics. That fresh look was no doubt helped by the fact that at age 67, he still has a full head of hair (damn him!)
The main reason for that appearance is because, as he pointed out during his performance, he’s only recently begun playing those old songs again. Due to a combination of overexposure and anger over contracts and credits (Fogerty wrote nearly every hit CCR recorded and sang and played lead guitar as well) he refused to play old CCR songs in concert for more than 25 years, as he tried to make a career as a solo artist.
It was his wife who convinced him to pick up the old CCR tunes again a couple of years ago, and, as he told the Bluesfest crowd, he is now having the time of his life, re-embracing the songs he wrote and sang in his youth, and entertaining audiences who were too young to see him perform them when they were new.
There’s a lesson here that can be applied to nearly any business. Even if you’re truly passionate about something, it may be a good idea to lay it aside before it becomes a rut, and try something different for a while. You can then return to that earlier passion with fresh eyes and insights gained from years of experience.
Did you ever get fed up with a youthful pursuit you thought you really loved, or moved on because you thought it was time to grow out of it? I know plenty of people who started out as journalists, and after a few years moved into management because it was the sensible thing to =do. Many of them returned to writing 20 or 30 years later, bringing a varied life experience to the role and displaying a rich storytelling technique that they couldn’t have achieved 20 years earlier.
John Fogerty isn’t the only notable example of someone who had an extended sabbatical from initial success and came back in triumph. Steve Jobs was ousted from the company he founded and spent several years in the wilderness. During that time he struck off in a different direction, buying the Pixar animation studio and building it into a successful film powerhouse. He then returned to Apple and applied what he had learned outside the company, turning it into the capital of cool it is today.
As both Jobs and Fogerty have showed, it can be a good career move to walk away from your youthful passions and come back to them as a seasoned professional. You can bring all the wisdom you gleaned back to your original task and have a richer, more rewarding experience – both in terms of enjoyment and profit.