This is actually about entrepreneurship, I promise.
Here's a picture of Henry looking less angry and more business-like to set the tone.
Henry Has done a lot
I've been a fan of Henry Rollins since high school and keep coming back to his work for different reasons. He does a lot of things that appeal to me.
My first encounter with him was through music. He was the frontman of the legendary punk band Black Flag and later on his own group, The Rollins Band.
Later on, I noticed his face popping up all over the place in the media. He has done some major acting work and appeared in many, many movies and TV shows in smaller roles. I have no interest in acting, but I couldn't help notice that he was in lots of great cinema.
Somewhere in college, I got hip to his spoken word stuff. Not quite comedy, not quite poetry, it's just him talking about his life. It works because he has led a more interesting life than most and has a real gift for helping people relate to it.
Here's an interview of Henry by Pharrell. He gets into the origins of the spoken word about halfway in.
Your Business and your creativity need each other
Finally, as an entrepreneur, I revisit Henry again. As I make my way in the music business I regularly devour business books and podcasts. I'm trying to learn as much as I can because I have a good thing going and I don't ever want it to stop.
I was very pleasantly surprised to see one of my favorites, UNEMPLOYABLE with Brian Clark, featuring an hour long interview with Henry where he talks about his entrepreneurship from his Black Flag days all the way to the present.
Here are my notes from Henry's interview. Usually I keep these to myself, but I want to see what happens when I spread the love. A link to the full podcast is at the end.
Checking out more of his work is highly recommended. It comes from a very sincere place and Henry makes a great case for entrepreneurship being a pathway to developing your own creativity. I love this kind of thinking and talk about it constantly in Make It, so this is right in my wheelhouse.
But, that's me. What do you think? Is Henry a punk rock DIY guy or an entrepreneur? What's the difference? Check out the podcast, my notes, and choose for yourself.
Henry Rollins Notes:
- Henry Rollins identifies as an entrepreneur for artistic reasons. It keeps the art more sincere.
- Artists are just going to make stuff, so it makes sense to control as much of the process as possible. It keeps the work closer to your personal vision and therefore more sincere.
- "If you don't understand the nuts and bolts of what you're trying to do, you're leaving yourself open to the whims and wills and ways of other people."
- Henry is a hands on guy, which he learned from being in Black Flag. He did his own promotion, cut his own deals, and even lugged his own PA to the gigs.
- By being hands on with his businesses and being in touch with his staff, he keeps control of his art, and therefore his integrity and vision.
- You have to be an artist-warrior and an artist-engineer. Henry believes very much in understanding all the moving parts of the the artistic process—from making the art all the way to the consumer getting it in the mail.
- "You're getting Telsa, but you have to lay some Edison on them." If you can't be artistic AND sell what you make, you have a problem. Neither the economy or the artistic vision can run the whole show—you need to consult both.
- You have to do what you have to do right now so you can make the next thing. Make and move on. Henry is only interested in building stuff so he can build more.
- Being creative is a long-game. You have to always be thinking about the next thing to sustain your art.
- Artistic freedom is worth taking half the paycheck. Most people don't actually want money, they want freedom to do things their way.
- Entrepreneurship used to be not cool. Now, it is trendy and many mediocre, materialistic people have gotten sucked in.
- If you're in an entrepreneurial venture for superficial reasons, you're likely to burn out fast. Get into it for the sake of doing the work, not for the financial incentive at the end of the tunnel.
- Why do the most successful musicians and tech people still work? They've made more than enough money than they would ever need. They don't need to work, but they do because it is what they want to be making. Henry is no different. He is committed to the vision.
- "The internet is your friend." Henry started a book company in the early 1980's when he had to deal with the hassle of doing physical, bulk mailing. They were cumbersome, expensive, and often got sent back. The internet changed the game for Henry. "Take advantage of the technology—you can find and audience."
- "Risk is a bitch."
- Avoid jobs that you hate because it is physically and psychologically unhealthy—life is too short for that.
- Henry doesn't consider himself to be a particularly talented person in a lot of ways, but he does have the vigor and energy to sell enough of his products to stay afloat financially and keep making what he wants to make. He values independence over wealth.
- For Henry, working at a day job he hates is, "Saving up for a vacation to go somewhere and watch HBO in a different room."
- To be an independent entrepreneur, you need to be exceptional in some way. You can't be average or mediocre.
- Integrity keeps coming up over and over. Henry walked away from some deals because he, "didn't like how the money smelled.
- "Your integrity is where you say no."
- "I don't have stockholders, I have fans. When I go on tour, I'm running for re-election for the next tour."
- Entrepreneurship is hard for anyone, but if you come at it with the intent to do good and deliver value to the world, you're at an advantage.
- Entrepreneurship culture focuses on the end result, the outcome, the big event and often neglects the process. The process is what needs to be taught more.
Hear the original podcast in full: UNEMPLOYABLE PODCAST
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