He left for over a decade. Burnt out from the music industry, family tension, and an ill mother.
More significant than his departure, however, was his return. In Steve Perry’s case — the lead singer of Journey and recent inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — what appeared final, wasn’t. Still, for the man who adamantly sang “Don’t stop believin,’” that’s a long time to quit.
At times, we’re all tempted to give up. And some of us do. But losing faith can be the very thing that teaches us about the power of believing. In fact, Perry’s story contains four lessons on what it means to believe, even when you’ve already given up.
1. Be Flexible
Perry’s story was a mess of untimely deaths, debilitating burnout, and lost passion.
In 1977, he was set to become the singer for Alien Project, when a fatal car crash suddenly and permanently disbanded the group. Later that same year, Perry joined Journey and produced “Escape,” with hits like “Don’t Stop Believin’” and “Open Arms”, selling over 7 million copies.
In 1987, Perry’s mother fell ill and his love for singing diminished. Stubborn as ever, he rejoined Journey in 1996, but health problems soon plagued the singer and Journey continued on without him.
His 1994, Perry reemerged with “For the Love of Strange Medicine,” but never regained his past popularity. Until, just last month. Steve Perry reunited with journey to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
In all of it, Perry’s story illustrates an important lesson. Rather than try to predict and control his journey, Perry embraced life and all its detours, relentlessly pursuing his passion, regardless of the obstacles. As he put it:
“One must learn from history so as not to repeat it, but one must not waste one’s energy or time worrying about what might have been.”
Rather than control the unknown, plan for it. Set aside daily time — an hour or two — with nothing scheduled, allowing you to embrace unexpected daily tasks.
Plan, and you’ll be flexible to change. Control, and you’ll be lost to it.
2. Don’t try to be cool
As a performer and musician, Perry has always been more interested in living meaningfully than being liked. In 2013, Jessica Radloff, a Glamour reporter, started their interview gushing at the seams, “You are the one person I’ve always wanted to meet and interview.”
Confounded, Perry responded, “I find that fascinating! I don’t understand that!”
Reflecting that same ethos but from the opposite direction, in response to an interview with GQ accusing his band of not being cool, Perry said,
“That’s right. We did get a little bit trendy in spots, we all occasionally got a bit funny with our dressing, but we did not follow the New Wave thing, or the punk thing. We didn’t go nowhere near the disco thing.”
For a man who has every right to consider himself cool, he doesn’t.
In a world awash with social media and gurus, the temptation to “be cool” is constant. And yet, there’s no better way to ensure that you won’t be cool than trying. Instead of following the crowd — mimicking the latest successful trends — listen to your heart.
What is the reason you became an entrepreneur? Success is distracting, but remembering why you started in the first place — your first love — is the path to becoming cool, without ever trying.
3. Accept conflict
Many entrepreneurs allow conflict to get in the way of greatness, forgetting that anything great will only be met with excessive opposition. The greater the goal, the more vehemently people will fight.
This is true externally. But it’s also true internally. As Perry says when asked about conflicts within his band, “Disagreements are part of life! Anything worth anything goes down the path of discussion, disagreement and greatness.”
Conflict is a part of life, art, and business, especially when done with passion. Don’t be discouraged by disagreement. Take it as a sign that you’re on the right path — one not travelled lightly.
When conflict arises, recognize the potential for growth. Encourage appropriate disagreement, let it flourish, and argue progressively. The more you do, the more polished your product, operations, and vision for a better world becomes.
Conflict is the natural path from mediocrity to greatness. Embrace it.
4. Don’t miss out on life
Success consumes. As any project flourishes, it demands more and more. More time. More energy. More attention. Ironically, only later do you realize that you enjoyed none of it. Business is only a means to an end. An end that allows you space to live.
Commenting on why he took such a long break from music, Perry says,
“My mother had passed away the year before and family stuff was going on, and I just didn’t want to miss life. There’s a whole thing called life, and it’s not just about the entertainment industry. There’s more to life than singing and touring.”
Stopping completely could be the answer. But maybe not. Recognizing that life isn’t just keyboards and cubicles is a step in the right direction. Whatever you do, take little moments — daily, monthly, yearly — to step away, spark your passion, and return when the time is right.
Losing faith is inevitable.
The question isn’t whether you’ll quit, it’s if you’ll return afterward. To prepare for giving up and coming back, plan flexibly, give up on being cool, embrace conflict, and don’t miss out on life.
The “journey” is long. Pace yourself.