A Critical Success Lesson… From Elvis Presley

First, let’s acknowledge that Elvis Presley had plenty of weaknesses and failures… just like you and me.  Throughout his entire personal and professional life, Elvis struggled with many issues and temptations… just like you and me.  Elvis was far from perfect… just like you and me.

So why have over one billion Elvis Presley records been sold?  Why is Elvis the best-selling solo artist in the history of popular music?  Why do hundreds of millions of people continue to enjoy his music… over thirty years after his death?  Why do millions of people, from all over the world, continue to flock to Graceland (Elvis’ home in Memphis, Tennessee) to tour the mansion and take in the exhibits that portray the life, music and world-wide impact of Elvis Presley?  Why is Elvis still the undisputed “King of Rock and Roll?”

Bottom line… why was Elvis so successful in his chosen field of singing, entertainment and music?  And, why was Elvis so successful from a financial perspective… that would be selling records, movies, concerts and all the related aspects of “Taking Care of Business?”

I recently invested significant time in Memphis, carefully and thoughtfully touring Graceland and the official Elvis Presley exhibits.  I took over one thousand pictures and read seemingly a million plaques and descriptions portraying the amazing life, music and world-wide impact of the man they call “The King.”

Obviously, there are many reasons for Elvis’s unbelievable success.  However, after considerable research, I believe one of the most critical, if not the most critical Elvis Presley success factor is that he was willing to be different… to be himself.  When Elvis walked into that little hole-in-the-wall Sun Studio in Memphis and said he wanted to record a song, he was asked, “who do you sound like?”  Elvis replied, “I don’t sound like nobody else.”  Elvis was willing to be himself, to be different and to endure the very harsh criticism from millions who at first thought he was outrageous, ridiculous, even sacrilegious… and a “one song wonder.”

Most people do not know that unlike most singers, Elvis produced his own songs.  Elvis would not allow anyone to tell him how to sing a song.  He relied on his own instincts and he imagined what fans would most enjoy (what a novel concept… what does the customer want?).

If you study the personal and professional life of Elvis, at least one thing becomes increasingly crystal clear.  Elvis was different… the way he sang… the way he performed… the way he lived his life.  He was even different in the unbelievable kindness and compassion he showed to total strangers.

Elvis was a very complex person… as we all are.  Elvis was different… as we all are.  Unlike most of us, Elvis refused to be anything other than who and what he really was.  Refusing to sell out and conform to who and what he was not, Elvis leveraged his uniqueness to become one of the most successful entertainers in the history of the world.

Every day of the rest of your life, there will be plenty of people ready, willing and eager to suggest and even pressure you to conform to what they want, to who and what they think you should be.  Obviously, we all need to conform to basic norms and laws of the world and within our society and communities.

None of Elvis’ success would have happened had he sold out and succumbed to the extremely strong pressure and temptation to conform and be like everyone else.  In the future, when people inappropriately pressure you to conform to what they want for you, remember Elvis… “I don’t sound like nobody else!”

Leverage your strengths and your uniqueness.  Your strengths and your uniquenesses are priceless… absolutely priceless!  Don’t sell out!  If necessary, get out… but don’t sell out.

You don’t sound like nobody else!  That is a good thing!  Maximize your uniqueness!  

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I am a leader, speaker, and author who is passionate about Leadership Excellence and Achieiving Greater Success. I am the author of the books Be An Inspirational Leader(2016) and Presidential Leadership (2013), and deliver keynote presentations on those topics and several others.

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