Leadership lessons from Everclear

preview-full-40fb6355d3ba808ec44d516b0f1d5c34OK, so maybe that’s not likely to be a best seller like a John Maxwell book on leadership, but I could not help but be impacted by the profound nature of what two very different leaders had to say.  One pleasant 115 degree Friday afternoon, I had the great fortune of basking in the air conditioning of Gateway Church with a small group of Christian CEOs and business owners listening intently to John Maxwell challenge and encourage us as to how we should lead our lives and the lives of others.  On the following very different rainy and 75 degree Friday evening, I found myself in yet another sprawling Texas monument, Billy Bobs.  I was there with a surprisingly similar small group of Christian business owners, but we were not expecting to receive any leadership lessons from Art Alexakis, the front man of the rock band, Everclear.


The whole time we were there at the Summerland concert, featuring 90s rock bands, Sponge, Lit, Everclear, and Sugar Ray, I could not help but view everyone through the lenses of the recent books I had been reading.  It was like I had been seeing the world in black and white and now everything was in brilliant Technicolor.  Some of my recent readings have included the works of Francis Schaeffer, Henri Nouwen, as well as Neil Howe and Bill Strauss.  Follow all of this with a lecture by John Maxwell and something is bound to penetrate this thick head of mine.
As I am looking around the room, I first realize how freaking old everyone else is.  I am very thankful that I am not that old yet.  I then notice the somewhat sad attempts to utilize ever thinning manes to hide forehead cul de sacs.  After overcoming some of my initial shock, I began to settle into some comfortable memories that really were not that long ago for me.  Many of the words, however, affected me differently than I remembered and I began to feel really sad for Art Alexakis, and I began to hear wisdom in his lyrics.  I began to think about some of the other lyrics he had written and how they seemed to reflect a different path than the one he had known.  When I heard these songs in the 90s, I was not a parent, so they did not impact me the same way.  I began to see Alexakis as a leader, not just of his band, but a spokesman for Generation X.  His songs seemed to sum up what Neil Howe and Bill Strauss had been writing about Generation X, and they were an outlet for this crowd of old scuffed up Xers who were finding peace with their familiar broken tribe of travelers.
I could not stop thinking about the fact that just one week prior I was furiously scooping up wisdom as it fell from the lips of John Maxwell.  Now I was rocking out to the occasional profanity falling from the lips of Art Alexakis.  I knew there was something to learn from both of these experiences and I told my compadres that I felt the need to share it.  There was a Maxwell statement that really resonated with me:  Everything worthwhile is uphill all the way.  We, however, often have uphill desires and downhill habits.  I could not shake that quote all week.
I was thinking mainly in terms of mountain biking.  I like to ride trails Texas style (at least that what I call my methods).  I have my wife drop me off at the trailhead so that I do not have to “waste” my time riding uphill on the road for hours before I even start the trail.  My Colorado friends haze me incessantly for this decision, and I usually scoff at them.  However, they better understand the value of the uphill climb.  My shortcut likely removes some of the joy I would feel otherwise upon the downhill stretch.  What is even more interesting is that many of my Colorado friends now actually enjoy the uphill sections.  These sections are the ones they talk about when discussing trails with each other.  It really makes sense.  Who wants to read a book about mountain climbers descending?

So how in the world did Maxwell’s insight overlay on top of Alexakis’ lyrics?  Well, there are several of his songs that seem to define a generation:

Wonderful and Father of Mine are two that come to mind.

I am a little partial to this line in Wonderful, but I encourage you to click above and watch the video and listen to the song again.  It is a great song:
I want the things that I had before
Like a Star Wars poster on my bedroom door
I wish I could count to ten
Make everything be wonderful again
Here are the full lyrics to Father of Mine as well as the link to the video.

Father of mine
Tell me where have you been
You know I just closed my eyes
My whole world disappeared

Father of mine
Take me back to the day
When I was still your golden boy
Back before you went away
I remember the blue skies
Walking the block
I loved it when you held me high
I loved to hear you talk
You would take me to the movie
You would take me to the beach
You would take me to a place inside
That is so hard to reach
Father of mine
Tell me where did you go
You had the world inside your hand
But you did not seem to know
Father of mine
Tell me what do you see
When you look back at your wasted life
And you don’t see me
I was ten years old
Doing all that I could
It wasn’t easy for me
To be a scared white boy
In a black neighborhood
Sometimes you would send me a birthday card
With a five dollar bill
I never understood you then
And I guess I never will
Daddy gave me a name
My dad he gave me a name
Then he walked away
Daddy gave me a name
Then he walked away
My dad gave me a name
Father of mine
Tell me where have you been
I just closed my eyes
And the world disappeared
Father of mine
Tell me how do you sleep
With the children you abandoned
And the wife I saw you beat
I will never be safe
I will never be sane
I will always be weird inside
I will always be lame
Now I’m a grown man
With a child of my own
And I swear I’ll never let her know
All the pain I have known
Daddy gave me a name
Then he walked away
My dad gave me a name
Then he walked away
My dad gave me a name
Then he walked away
As a leader, we have to think of others before ourselves, especially our children.  We hear the results of a father who had uphill desires (we all do at some point in our lives), but pursued downhill habits.  The line that hits me the most is
You had the world inside your hand
But you did not seem to know
Father of mine
Tell me what do you see
When you look back at your wasted life
And you don’t see me
There is so much hurt in this line for everyone involved.  The father, the leader, held the family and the family’s world in his hand and he destroyed not just his wasted life, but the lives of everyone in his family.  I see this as the cry of a generation of latch key kids whose parents chose downhill habits thinking they would somehow lead them to uphill dreams.  Clearly they did not, for the kids or the parents.
Then you see Art’s response to Father of Mine in his song for his daughter, Annabelle’s song.  It is a beautiful song, but you can sense his confusion over how to give his daughter everything she needs to feel all of the love he has for her.  He never had a role model to mirror this for him, so he does not know how to mirror it for his daughter.
You know I’m never home
I’m always miles and miles away
I feel I’m running out of time
Say the things I need to say
Call you on the telephone
You will not talk to me
Yeah you just don’t understand
You are my everything
I am often asked if I am a glutton for punishment.  Sometimes I wonder too.  But I am reminded by Maxwell that everything worthwhile is uphill all the way!  I might not be getting it right, and I am probably making things unnecessarily difficult at times.  But Alexakis’ words make me so want to err on the side of making things difficult for myself just to avoid my known tendency for downhill habits.
You are not alone on this climb.  I don’t care who you are, there are others watching who need you to keep climbing:  your kids, your family, your friends, your co-workers.  Everclear helped remind me that our downhill habits, though they might seem fun for us for a time, always lead to suffering for those around us.  If you are an Xer who cannot seem to shake your downhill habits, Everclear would also like to remind you that there might be a little time left to turn it around and become a Volvo Driving Soccer Mom.

2 Comment

  1. Brandon says:

    Thanks Troy for thinking beyond your immediate environment and helping the rest of us see the things you see and say so well! I was just there to hear some songs from one of my favorite rock groups, but you turned into a learning experience. I always knew God was speaking to me through music, but I never made the Everclear connection!

  2. says:

    Thanks for inviting me. I think I was supposed to be there.

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