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A Good Read – Simon Cowell, the Autobiography

I Don’t Mean to be Rude, But…

The perfect title, for the biography of Simon Cowell.. I don’t know if it was the title, or the fact that I knew of Simon Cowell from TV, but didn’t know who he really was that got me to pick up a copy of the book at my local library, but whatever it was, all I can say is that I’m glad I did :)

It had been a long time since I’d read something that wasn’t directly related to me trying to be more successful, or some Personal Development Book, or Self-Improvement Book.  I’d worn myself down, with reading so much material designed to help me, or inspire me, and hadn’t just picked up a book and read it, to just enjoy the story, to read for pleasure.

In fact, after reading so much that just seemed to fill my intellect, I was getting fatigued by it all, and had forgotten how fun it can be to read something that engages you, and draws you in..

So let me pause for a moment, before I start commenting too much on this book, and give you some background to how I had come to my knowledge of Simon Cowell in the first place. (Given that I’m fairly ignorant on most things musical, or of mainstream pop culture).

So, let me take you back to November of 2007.  I was in Johannesburg, in South Africa, and a friend shared with me a video of Paul Potts, singing his winning performance on YouTube, which was apparently being viewed by people all over the world.  Watching that video gave me goosebumps. It was inspiring to watch him perform :)

Listening to Paul Potts sing, and seeing him win Britains Got Talent, on YouTube was the first I’d ever heard of Britains Got Talent.  I’d been out of the country at the time of the finals in 2007, and whilst I’d seen Pop Idol, and X Factor, advertised, in the UK, all the time, I had kinda just ignored it for the longest time ever.  It just wasn’t my thing, and I really wasn’t all that interested in wannabe pop stars.

Then, in 2008, when Britain’s Got Talent started up again, I keenly started following it, and started to quite enjoy it.  Admittedly, I didn’t know who Amanda Holden, Piers Morgan, or Simon Cowell were, but figured that they must be some big names in the music business.

After watching Britains Got Talent, for the whole series, I got a real insight into the “character” of Simon Cowell, or at least I thought so.. He seemed to be supportive, and generally a quite nice person, though at times he was quite harsh, or direct, and I thought he could be a touch more tactful, or diplomatic.  I’m sure I must have seen him on some other program, perhaps on X Factor, though having not watched the finals of any other series, I’m guessing it was Britains Got Talent.

So now I knew of Simon Cowell (I mean one season of Britains Got Talent, is really enough to get a feel for his character, I reckon!), I didn’t think too much of him.. Figured he must have made his money, somehow, somewhere, but didn’t really know what he did, or where he did it, or with who.

So I happen to be poking around my local library, curious to see if there might be some vaguely useful or interesting books to peruse…

As it turns out, this book caught my eye, and once I started reading it, I didn’t want to put it down.

It was interesting to read about how, at a very young age, Simon had an ear for good music, and didn’t have any qualms over condemning bad music, even when he was a youngster.  As you read the book, you really start to appreciate how Simon has always gone with his instincts.  That he didn’t survive in the armed forces, and deliberately sabotaged interviews arranged by his successful father, because it wasn’t what he wanted to do.  It’s not that he was lazy, or arrogant, he just knew very clearly what he wanted, and also what he didn’t want.  A trait that appears to have served him well later in life.

In stark contrast to having interviews for well paid jobs handed to him on a platter, and rejecting it, Simon Cowell was happy doing the most menial job, of working as a mail boy, in a Music Company, simply because it brought him a little closer to his goal.

Repeatedly, throughout the book, you get to experience, and see first hand how committed, and motivated Cowell was with regards to his career.  But only when it was aligned with his real and true interests.  It’s almost like he couldn’t help himself.  I know that feeling well.. It’s been described quite vividly, and in full detail, at a few events I attended a few weeks ago.  Both Chain Reaction 08, Day 1, and The Fresh Business Thinking’s Entrepreneurs in Business event re-iterated over and over, this hunger.  As an entrepreneur, you need to have that fire, that passion.. You need to have that hunger for what you want, and be willing to do whatever it takes to get there.

I recognise that willingness of Cowells to be happy being just a mailboy in a record company, because he knew that in time, he would be able to move up the ranks, within the company.. I guess back when I was younger and wanted to be successful, I had that same mindset.  Having read enough books that expounded the virtues of being great at what you do, whether you be a cleaner, or an executive, I used to have romantic notions of starting at the bottom of some firm, and slowly working my way upto the top.. I guess where I failed in that, like Cowell, when I stopped seeing any progress possible, I tried to pro-actively change things, and got into trouble because of it.

Perhaps I identify a little too closely with Cowell’s supposedly arrogant know-it-all type attitude at times.. but I guess everyone has their strengths, and when you’re not able to properly apply the skills you have, sometimes, the undiplomatic manner of others can draw out a harsh response, or a sharp comment.

One of the things that really changed for me, in reading Cowell’s book, was this perception of Entrepreneurs, and Pop Stars.  In the past, I imagined that they were very different in so many ways, but in truth, the same basic truths apply to successful entrepreneurs as they do to Artists that succeed.

For one, as a pop star, you have to know that everyone is going to tell you you’re not going to succeed.  It’s inevitable.  Of course you’ll have your fans, and supporters, but in general, it’s actually just that inner desire, that inner knowing inside, that won’t let you rest until you make it, that will drive you to do everything it takes to become a success.. By the same token, for an entrepreneur to succeed you have to have the inner drive and determination to succeed.. You have to keep on going, knowing internally that you have what it takes, and even if you have to declare bankruptcy along the way, sometimes even more than once, you know that sooner or later you will get there, and you will reach that goal..

Equally, as a Pop Star, or celebrity, you have to be constantly learning, training, practicing, doing what you do, in order get really good at it.  You have to practice singing, dancing, and performing all the time, and it can be argued that the ones that practice the most, and rehearse the most eventually become the best..

Likewise in business, and professional careers even, when you’re convinced you’re going to succeed, and you keep on trying, over and over again, as long as you’re learning from your mistakes, and have some guidance and support, you’ll end up succeeding.  Some people will eventually “plateau”, in their professional careers, as entrepreneurs, or as pop stars.  That plateau is usually more to do with their fire having been put out, of their appetite, and hunger being satiated.  It’s inevitable, that eventually people’s priorities will change, or they’ll accomplish so much in terms of physical and material success, that they get everything they could have ever wished for.. Some people just “burn out”.  Usually, that means either they didn’t want it badly enough, or that they were not following their true passion, or their true desires.

In every way, the entrepreneur, and pop star, are so alike, and have so much in common, one with the other.  It’s almost uncanny how hard work, an internally burning intuition and a gut instinct of what will or won’t work are all collectively key to succeeding in both endeavours.  To succeed in either, you have to sell your work, or skills to many others, and success in providing value to others, leads to monetary value back to you.

As well as others being able to appreciate the value you’ve created, you also have to have the steely determination to keep on going, the mental endurance to keep trying, the physical support to make sure you don’t end up out of house and home, and the inner knowing and conviction that you’re going to succeed.  Even with all of these things, you still won’t get anywhere until you can start to fan the flames of desire within, that is the all important, burning wanting desire, and longing, without which, you just won’t be compelled to take the kind of action that will lead you to succeed.

At least that’s how far I’ve understood the process to work.  As for me.. where am I on this journey?? Well, as an entrepreneur, I know I’m going to succeed.. It’s inevitable, and I know one day I will get there.. Partly because what I envisage is something that is too complicated for most people to understand the intricacies of.  Hopefully, it’ll be simple enough to use, just complicated on the back end, to make it all work properly, and create tons of value.  However, when it comes to the burning fire, the desire, the passion.. That’s where I lack a great deal of the “drive” to succeed.  Ironically it comes to life as soon as I share my work with others, as soon as I start talking about it, as soon as I start writing about it even.. (am noticing myself starting to get more excited and enthusiastic about my project the more I mention it:).  But how to sustain that, without any external stimulus??

Is it even possible? I don’t know, is the real answer.. Perhaps, it’s not? Perhaps true success is actually a measure of how well you can work with others, to turn your dreams into reality? I’ll let you know once I come out the other side of the tunnel.  For now, I’m full steam ahead, and fortuantely, have found a few great people to help me stay enthused, engaged, and excited with what I’m doing.. Now, I just need to execute in the way I work best.. and find people to do those things that I’m not so good at.

After all success is truly defined not by what you accomplish, but by making sure that the right people are around you, so that your shortcomings never hold you back..  On that note, I just want to say a huge thank you to Simon Cowell for sharing so intimately his life’s story, and I look forward to meeting him one of these days, once I too become a success in my calling as an Entrepreneur.

If you want to learn just what it takes to succeed, be it as an entrepreneur, as a professional, or even as a celebrity, I cannot recommend reading Simon Cowell’s biography enough.  It’s a great reminder, of how difficult times are usually a part of success, and I think its really well written, and easy to read.  I suggest you pick up a copy, or at the very least add it to your reading list today.

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