In 1983, a struggling rock band signed a record deal with a major label. This was an opportunity of a lifetime and every member worked hard to get to this point. A few days before they started to record their first album, the band members bought a one-way bus ticket and handed it to their guitarist. He was blindsided. The entire bus ride from New York to Los Angeles, he questioned what happened. This questioning soon transitioned to frustration. The frustration shifted to anger. The anger, eventually, fueling his determination. Sitting on the bus, just a few miles from his destination, the young guitarist vowed to start his own band. His goal was to be so famous that his old bandmates would be jealous every time they saw his face on television or read his name in magazines.
The guitarist spent every waking hour searching for the best musicians. He wrote songs at a feverish pace. He practiced all day and night. He used his anger to propel him forward in his pursuits. He was consumed with becoming the best for the sole purpose of revenge. He wanted his new band to be so successful that his old bandmates would regret kicking him out. In a few years, the guitarist along with the band he founded, signed a record deal with a major label. A year after releasing their first album, it went gold. The young guitarist was Dave Mustaine. His band, Megadeth, who would go on to sell more than 25 million albums and tour the world many times over. Dave Mustaine achieved something that many talented musicians spend years chasing, a record deal and international fame. Mustaine is considered one of the most influential musicians in the history of heavy metal music.
However, Dave Mustaine did not achieve his ultimate revenge goal. The band he was kicked out of was Metallica. A band that has sold over 180 million albums worldwide and is considered to be one of the greatest rock bands of all time. Despite all of Dave Mustaine’s success, in his own eyes, he always thought of himself as the guy who was kicked out of Metallica. In a rare interview in 2003, Mustaine tearfully admitted that he still could not help but think of himself as a failure. Mustaine had a life that most people can only dream of, but instead of focusing on all he had achieved, he focused on what he had lost. He allowed his loss to overshadow his success. He chose to measure his life and accomplishments against Metallica’s success. This obsessive measure continued to dominate Mustaine’s life and ultimately, would affect his own achievements. Despite the money and accolades, nothing could alter how he chose to evaluate his own success.
Regardless of whether you listen to heavy metal music or agree with who is the most influential musician or greatest band, Mustaine’s story resonates with us all. We read articles and blog posts about the importance of failure, but fail to understand that it is not just failure alone that contributes to success. While failure allows us to learn from our mistakes and become more resilient, if we choose the wrong metric to measure our success against, we can never hope to accomplish our dream. Sometimes we are our own biggest enemy and barrier to achieving our goals. We hold on to our past shortcomings and allow them to define our future. We let our failures cloud the triumph of our later successes. We focus on the achievement of others instead of acknowledging our own progress. We measure our success by what we cannot control instead of focusing on what we achieved as a result of what is in our control.
While Dave Mustaine was a talented musician in his own right, the metric he used to measure his success never allowed him to be happy and content with all he accomplished. Sure, he learned from his failures, but the success he desired always alluded him. Sometimes we need to step back and re-evaluate the metrics we use to measure our goals. We were never meant to walk a path intended for others. We are meant to blaze our own trail. A trail reflective of our failures, but more importantly, focused on our achievements.
How do you define success?