Thunder Only Happens When It’s Raining: And Other Things We Can Learn From Fleetwood Mac
Have you ever had a challenging relationship with a co-worker or client? Have you burnt a bridge or had the gasoline and match ready? Stevie Nicks had a challenging relationship with a co-worker.
The woman with the goose-bumpy, gravelly voice in Fleetwood Mac that defined a generation had to sing songs about her ex while her ex sang harmony right next to her. Awkward.
So why do it? Why walk through that pain?
When the five-members of Fleetwood Mac hit the studios in Sausalito, California, in 1976 to record Rumours, four of the five were going through ugly break ups – with other members of the band.
Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham had ended their relationship that started in college and John and Christine McVie had just divorced. Now they had to spend 10-14 hours a day singing their hearts out as they share a mic with the one who broke it.
The result of their agonizing determination?
31 weeks at #1
40 million copies sold
The 8th-best-selling album of all time
Their tenacity, creativity, and dedication to their craft fascinate and inspire me. What can a freelance or small business learn from this mystic band and their messy journey?
1. Keep moving forward.
Did you realize the band Fleetwood Mac released ten albums and made multiple line-up changes before Rumours won the Grammy for Best Album in 1977?
Ten albums! That is a lot of, largely unrecognized, work.
Keep moving your freelance business, small business, family, and life forward bit by bit even though the future is unclear and the accolades aren’t pouring in.
2. Do your best with the team assembled at the time.
Ever worked with an odd, annoying, or controlling client? Did you wish you could shuffle the deck and choose someone else? It appears Fleetwood Mac did that often, and yet they never quit.
Fleetwood Mac was formed in England in 1967 as a blues group with five guys, two of which, namesakes – Mick Fleetwood and John McVie - hung in through it all. And boy was there a lot to hang through – label changes, legal battles, personality conflicts, their label putting a completely fake Fleetwood Mac on tour in 1974, alcohol, drugs, misunderstandings, and egos.
But they kept at it and churned out album after album with whoever showed up on stage and in the studio.
3. There is no magic formula.
Overnight successes are rarely overnight.
Fleetwood Mac’s monstrously successful album, Rumours, with hits like “Go Your Own Way” and “Don’t Stop,” came 11 years after the band’s founding. If there was a magic formula they hadn’t found it.
Are you (am I) willing to keep producing, keep dreaming for eleven years … or more?
Don’t. Stop. Thinking. About. Tomorrow.
4. If you make magic, don’t try to make Magic Part II.
If you are lucky enough to land the big account, build a skyscraper, win the election, or make a chart-topping album, don’t try to recreate a version of the exact same thing the next chance you get.
Create. Build. Innovate. Write anew.
Lindsey Buckingham who wrote a lot of Fleetwood Mac’s hits says he would have loved to been a fly on the wall when Warner Bros. listened to the Rumours follow-up album, Tusk. It was a total departure for the band, experimenting with new wave and punk rock. It was not Rumours Part II. Warner Bros. was not thrilled, but how much could they complain when the album spent five months in the top 40 and was certified double platinum?
Drummer, Mick Fleetwood claims in the almost forty years of Fleetwood Mac, Tusk is his favorite album. It gave them two top-ten hits and one I’m especially partial to, “Sara.”
Enjoy your artistry. Grow beyond your last “big hit” and explore new frontiers.
5. Press on through the pain.
Life is difficult. New challenges come your way, often on the heels of the challenge you just put to rest. Don’t wait for the perfect conditions to move forward. Press on.
Lindsey Buckingham tells Dan Rather in The Big Interview, “The subject matter [of Fleetwood Mac songs] was what we were living.” He wrote “Go Your Own Way” to Stevie Nicks tell her, “I’m resigned to whatever happens [but]… It’s not what I want.”
Buckingham reflects now, “I think there was an investment in not just the music, but in the people who made the music because of [the pain]” that they rode out and wrote about.
Buckingham told Dan Rather, “We did accomplish what we accomplished under pretty adverse circumstances, and just for myself it was about choices. It was about saying, ‘I’m hurting from Stevie. Here she is. She needs me to do this. I guess I could do a crappy job or I could do the job I know I can do.' What’s the choice? You try to make right choices that accumulates or adds up to something.”
Press on through the mess.
6. Take a break, but don’t break off.
We all need to catch our breath. Sometimes a break from doggedly plowing ahead can be beneficial, but when you take your break, don’t break ties with your team.
Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie, both significant songwriters for the band, took breaks from Fleetwood Mac. Lindsey talks about needing time off after Tango in The Night. He knew a national tour with the current volatile environment was not a healthy choice for him.
He took a break, but he didn’t burn the bridge. And now the whole band tours together almost forty years later.
7. Share your gifts with the world.
Do you ever wonder why you are like you are? Because, you’re one-of-a-kind.
You were crafted uniquely to do what you do, think what you think. Only you can do and think exactly like you do.
Don’t let adverse or painful conditions, naysayers, or fear stop you from sharing your gifts with the world.
Fleetwood Mac battled for months to make Rumours because they felt they needed to “somehow fulfill the destiny that had been laid out for us.”
Thunder only happens when it’s raining. When conditions aren’t perfect. When a storm is raging.
It may not sound like perfect harmony now, but you could have the magic that the world needs.
Go. Your. Own. Way.
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