5 Business Lessons Learnt From Neil Sedaka.

I would like to take a short moment to write about the business inspiration that is Neil Sedaka.

Some of us  have heard of him but anyone who has owned a radio and listened to music over the past 50 years (maybe even 60 years) has heard his contribution to popular music.

However my personal affection and affinity for Mr Sedaka is as profound as my respect for the Lovemans, Wynns and Drukers of this world, and this is why.


Lesson 1: Start Early, Don’t Wait.

We are all now familiar with Gladwell’s 10,000 hours theory, but in addition to his dedication to the piano, there is no doubt that Neil Sedaka was born with a God given talent to write music. It was not unique to be a teen idol at that time, but a teen idol who wrote his own tunes, sang his own songs and penned hits for others was.

In the early 1960s Neil was top of his game, Do-Wop Classics (and it is difficult to use the phrase without thinking of Sedaka) Breaking Up is Hard To Do, Calendar Girl, Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen were ubiquitous on the airwaves and dance halls of the time, but moreover, were the soundtrack of my grandparents’ house, a genre that two generations could listen to together and parents and kids, would listen to the long play records on 33.

Neil didn’t wait for his ‘turn’- he went for it, with great early success.

Lesson 2: Beware Of Disruptive Innovation

The typewriter, the walkman, polaroid cameras and Neil Sedaka all have being the victim of disruptive innovation; forces that beyond our control attack an industry and render it obsolete. With the British invasion, Rock and Roll and the advent of the counter-culture there was no place for Neil Sedaka, too young to be in the Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra mold of cabaret swingers, too old to dig it in the age of guitar based rock.

Lesson 3: Perseverance

To be Neil Sedaka in 1967 would have been pretty lonely. Coming up for 30, career seemingly over, no place, no role, no future. But Neil kept writing, kept chipping away. Playing where he could and writing material that wasn’t just going through the motions (which much of the material was from other artists of this vintage) and by the early 1970’s  produced songs of real stature, including Solitaire, Laughter in the Rain, Standing on the Inside.

What the Neil Sedaka story tells us, is that if you believe you have real talent, irrespective what is going on around you, with dedication and perseverance you will succeed, and succeed again, and again.

Lesson 4: Unity Trumps Division

I have seen Neil Sedaka live several times. His was my first concert with my mum and grandma back in the mid-1980s.  I have since been with my parents, other family and friends.

The themes throughout his work are inclusivity and unity when faced with division. Titles such as “Love Will Keep Us Together”, “The Immigrant” and even “Standing On The Inside” illustrate this point- and the lyrics are especially powerful.

It is always more productive to be inclusive than exclusive, and there are very few living musicians that every generation from my children to their great grandparents appreciate in equal measure.

The lesson is that by being inclusive and open, you increase your potential audience.

Lesson 5: The Footprint

Whatever we do, we leave a footprint behind us. Words we say, papers we write (that we think nobody reads) and people we love.

As the Sedaka renaissance continued in the 1970’s my parents who were fans first time around, were in their 20’s as “Solitare” and “The Tra –la Days Are Over” hit the shelves.

After a couple of years together, my parents broke up in 1973.

Thankfully, Neil Sedaka’s “Our Last Song Together” was released as they broke up and inspired by the wistful lyrics, within 3 weeks, this 3-minute wonder brought my parents back together. 18 months later they were married, 3 years later, I came along.

So in many ways, the fact that I exist at all is part of Neil Sedaka’s Footprint!

Sedaka’s Legacy

As well as the most fantastic songbook, Neil Sedaka’s legacy to all of us is fivefold, as true in business as it is in life.

  • Trust your talent
  • Have awareness of what is going on around you
  • If you believe in yourself, persevere and you will get success
  • Inclusiveness is better than division
  • What we create can have an impact much greater that what was intended

All that from 3 minute pop, with a doo-wop beat!


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