What the Boss taught me about purpose, passion, and positive strengths

Bruce Springsteen Live

Bruce Springsteen in ConcertOK I’m old, and confess I’ve been a Bruce Springsteen fan for over 30 years. I’ve loved his music and lyrics, and his ability to stay at the top of a very volatile business prone to fads (as Gangnam style chalks up 1.3 billion YouTube views!!).  Despite this, until this Monday I had never seen him perform live.

Thanks to a kind friend who provided tickets, Karen and I witnessed something that changed everything for me (see me live at the concert J ). Sure the music and songs were fantastic, but what stood out for me was the 110% he gave, when he has nothing left to prove. For 2 hours and 40 minutes, 63 year old Springsteen put more energy and passion into his performance than 90% of 30 year olds would be capable of.

See Graeme live at the concert

I’ve always believed that people that understand and live their purpose, passions, and positive strengths will have an extraordinarily fulfilling career, and I’d like to discuss those 3 elements as it relates to the Boss. On Monday night however, he also taught me about a 4th element, the importance of engaging your tribe.


For a long time Springsteen has been a prominent poet and conscience of America. He has sung about pride, joy, shame, disappointment, decline, and tragedy. Not many rock stars have been courted by both a Republican (Ronald Reagan) and a Democrat (Barack Obama) President, because they have seen his support as important to their re-election.  A number of his songs reflect on the poor treatment of Vietnam veterans, a war he almost went to, and the emotional toll of a working class life. I believe he is driven by taking a stand, and this commitment accounts for his longevity and passionate fan base.

Springsteen turned down several million dollars offered by the Chrysler Corporation to use the song “Born in the USA” in a car commercial. He shuns publicity and rarely gives interviews. He appears to lead an authentic life.


Springsteen obviously loves what he does and regularly performs for 3 hours plus. He was inspired to take up music at the age of 7 when he first saw Elvis Presley on the Ed Sullivan Show, and his mother bought him his first guitar. In 1974 music critic Jon Landau wrote “I saw rock and roll’s future, and its name is Bruce Springsteen. And on a night when I needed to feel young, he made me feel like I was hearing music for the very first time.” Springsteen, who has the same waist size as when he was 15, maintains his age-defying physique by running on the treadmill and lifting weights with a trainer–a workout routine he has followed since his thirties. Steve Van Zandt from the E Street Band says that Springsteen is “the only guy I know—I think the only guy I know at all—who never did drugs.” He is his own Chief Energy Officer.

Positive strengths

Springsteen’s gifts as a songwriter, guitarist, and enthusiastic singer are widely acknowledged. Even though he was the centre of attention at Monday night’s show, what impressed me was how willingly he showcased the amazing talents of the musicians of the E-Street Band.  He is secure in his own abilities and collaborates well with others with complementary gifts. It is no surprise that many of these artists have been with him for decades. It was a poignant moment when Springsteen paused Monday’s show, to play footage of his long time saxophonist, Clarence Clements, who passed away after complications from a stroke in 2011, after playing with him for almost 30 years. He is a generous Boss.

Capacity to engage his tribe

As highlighted already, Springsteen has been at the top since his breakthrough album “Born to Run” was released in 1975, and has enormous loyalty from his musicians and fans. At the concert I was blown away with how he engaged with a stadium of 20,000 fans, some of who were seated behind his stage. He ran through the crowd touching hands with thousands, invited people to play his guitar with him, encouraged the audience to sing, pulled a ten year old girl from below the stage to dance with him, and spent 10% of his time walking to the back of the stage so that he could sing directly to those behind him. A hilarious moment came when “Dancing in the Dark” began and at least 20 women were begging to join Bruce on stage. Behind the mayhem, a teenage girl held up a large sign saying “Bruce please dance with my Dad”. That’s a committed tribe.  It lead me to an epiphany for me.

To have a fulfilling career, we also need our own tribe we are prepared to  give to, when we have nothing to prove. Some would call this Servant Leadership.

Discovering our own purpose, passions, and positive strengths
For us mere mortals, we all have an extraordinary role to play if we understand and live our whYcode™ – our purpose, passions, and positive strengths. Through my coaching work of over 15 years, I am convinced that discovering our own unique will and skills, is essential for leading a more resilient and thriving life. I have developed a free workbook to help people on this journey which can be downloaded from my website.

Who blows you away with their purpose, passion, and positive strengths?
I would love to hear who impresses you. Please comment below.

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