I Me Mine

This blog, by guest blogger, Greg Bustin, business advisor, author, and fellow Vistage chair, tells the poignant story of the Beatles breakup. 

This story is a wonderful reminder of the importance of aligning our values and goals with our purpose, and most importantly our relationships.  And, it also reminds us that while values seldom change, goals and purpose evolve and therefore so must our relationships.

Elisa K Spain

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As 1968 became 1969, George Harrison felt as if the Beatles “were reaching the end of the line.”

While it may have been twenty years ago that Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play, in the 16 months since that landmark album’s release, the Beatles had morphed from collaborative colleagues into bickering bandmates barely able to stomach studio sessions together.

“Sgt. Pepper was our grandest endeavor,” Ringo remembered. “It gave everybody—including me—a lot of leeway to come up with ideas and to try different material.…The great thing about the band was that whoever had the best idea—it didn’t matter who—that was the one we’d use.…Anything could happen.”

And anything did.

While recording their ninth studio album—The Beatles (known also as the White Album)—the creative forces that propelled Sgt. Pepper to the top of UK and U.S. album charts for 27 weeks and earned the group four Grammy awards boiled over into acrimony.

 Songs written collaboratively earlier that year were recorded without all four of the Beatles present. The presence of John’s new partner Yoko Ono created a divisive distraction that violated previous agreements among the Beatles that wives and girlfriends would not attend recording sessions.

 As the tension mounted, producer George Martin took a sudden leave of absence and engineer Geoff Emerick quit abruptly. Ringo left the band briefly around this time, and three of the album’s songs were recorded without him.

 The finished album reflects this developing discord, and some tracks are little more than fillers between higher quality songs. And yet The Beatles reached number one in the UK and US and contains some of the group’s best material.

How can we rise above pettiness, selfishness and genuine differences of opinion to come together to produce a worthwhile or significant result?

Of the album’s 30 tracks, only 16 include all four of the Beatles performing together.

 On three tracks, Paul played bass, drums, piano, and guitar, overdubbing tracks to create the final song. John worked alone on one song. As did Ringo. Of the 14 songs on which only some of the Beatles played, nearly half were performed by only two of the four group members.

The Beatles were a group in name only. And a bad sign of things to come.

High-performing teams share five characteristics, and the Beatles were challenged by all five

  1. Clear common goals
  2. Clear roles
  3. Clear deadlines
  4. Trust + Respect
  5. Fun or Fulfillment in accomplishing something significant together

Which of these five critical success factors must we enhance in our organization?

The group gathered in January 1969 to make another album.

Paul hoped playing together live in the studio might lead to resuming touring. George hated the idea—he was worn out from that experience.  

It didn’t take long for old tensions to surface. George and Ringo resented Paul’s constant critiquing of their playing. John had disengaged from the group, having grown weary of battling Paul and fed up with over-engineered and over-produced recordings.

On January 6, George walked out of the studio, went to his home in Surrey and wrote “Wah-Wah,” reflecting his frustration with the group.

George was coaxed back the next week but the damage was done—and caught on film. The group’s dysfunction is plainly visible in the film Let It Be. Rather than documenting the making of an album, the film became famous for showcasing “the break-up of a band.”

 George’s “I Me Mine” became the final song recorded by the band before its split.

 In his autobiography, George recalled his own self-centered focus, seeing everything “relative to my ego, like ‘that’s my piece of paper’ and ‘that’s my flannel’ or ‘give it to me’ or ‘I am.’ It drove me crackers, I hated everything about my ego. It was a flash of everything false and impermanent, which I disliked. But later, I learned from it, to realize that there is somebody else in here apart from old blabbermouth. Who am ‘I’ became the order of the day. Anyway, that’s what came out of it, ‘I Me Mine.’”

 Perhaps subconsciously, the song also reflects the clash of egos in the studio as the Beatles moved toward their split.

“‘I Me Mine’ is the ego problem,” George explained. “There are two ‘I’s: the little ‘i’ when people say ‘I am this’, and the big ‘I’ – is duality and ego. There is nothing that isn’t part of the complete whole. When the little ‘i’ merges into the big ‘I’ then you are really smiling!”

George’s epiphany offers insight for us as a New Year dawns.

 “The truth within us has to be realized,” George said. “When you realize that, everything else that you see and do and touch and smell isn’t real, then you may know what reality is, and can answer the question ‘Who am I?’”

 What kind of person do you want to be?  What obstacles are in your way? 

Two of the hardest questions any of us must answer for ourselves are “Who am I?” and “What do I want?”  Here’s to your clarity. 

Why Do We Make Mistakes?

To close out 2018, I’ve asked Dr. Andrea Simon, Vistage Speaker and corporate anthropologist, to write the following guest blog, “Why Do We Make Mistakes?”

This blog seemed a fitting conclusion to my recent series on habits.

We’ve all been told since childhood to learn from our mistakes. In this blog, Dr. Simon offers us her perspective on the science of making mistakes. We learn why making mistakes makes us smarter and our brains bigger. And why, despite our efforts to learn from them, we continue to make them throughout our lives.

See you in the new year.

Elisa K Spain

You can read more of my blogs and leadership quotes here.


Mistakes are a natural part of life – there is no way around that. There is no person, alive or dead, who hasn’t made any mistakes throughout their life. The most significant difference, however, is between those who can learn from their mistakes and those who can’t. We may try to even go as far as saying that the secret to success is knowing how to handle errors and failure by treating them as the foundation for future achievements. And the sooner people learn to do that, the better.

But before we can go into more detail about that, let’s take a look at why we make mistakes, in the first place. One of the primary reasons is that life is unpredictable, thus the phrase trial and error. None of us were handed a life guidebook on how to run our lives, and we need to make our way as we go along.

Hopefully, after a series of several mistakes, we begin to learn to stop repeating them. But by this logic, however, we should stop making more errors by the time we reach adulthood – which is not the case. The reason – life is unpredictable and filled with unknown variables. It is even more uncertain in the 21st century. Today’s world is nothing if not fast-paced and the many technological advancements made over the past two decades have seen to that.

It is for this reason why traditional business models are not as viable as they once were. Ironically enough, it would be more of a mistake in the conventional sense of the word, to keep doing things the same instead of employing a bit of trial and error as a means of finding better ways of doing things.

What Can Mistakes Teach Us?

At their core, mistakes teach us things. It is why mistakes are sometimes called life’s lessons. In other words, mistakes teach us how not to do things, and it is up to each of us to realize that. If we look at scientific research, the failure to prove something through an experiment is still regarded as a success since it shows how two things are not connected.

When scientific research can prove a connection, it provides us with some genuinely fascinating insight. Based on a study conducted by, Dr. Michael Kilgard and his team from the University of Texas at Dallas, it was revealed that our brain goes through some significant changes every time we err.

During the learning process, the brain starts compiling the information, and it becomes enlarged. Over time, it begins returning to its original size but keeps the new neural pathways that the mistake generated. In other words, making mistakes makes us smarter by creating more efficient synapses and fundamentally altered neurons.

Encouraging the Right Mistakes in the Workplace

Though it may seem counterintuitive at first, a business will only stand to gain if it encourages mistakes in the workplace. Do please keep in mind that we are not talking about errors that are a result of inattention to detail or sloppiness. We are, of course, talking about the kind of mistakes that are a result of calculated risks.

By embracing these mistakes, employees will gain the necessary confidence to try out new things and not feel bad when they don’t work out as planned. It’s important to remember that many marketers today are employing this strategy. They are continually trying out new ideas (trial and error), figuring out what works and what doesn’t, as a means of driving innovation and remain competitive in the market.

For better or worse, today’s technological revolution demands more mistakes to occur, otherwise risk becoming obsolete. Employ the same mentality on a business management level, not only marketing. Innovation has a sizable chance of happening, and employees are also happier as a consequence.

Nevertheless, making the transition from a company culture where mistakes were traditionally penalized to one that encourages them, does not happen overnight. So, what can be done to facilitate this change?

Leading by Example

In most cases, it’s not enough to send a company-wide memo telling employees that it’s okay to take more risks and that failure is accepted. Old habits die hard, after all, and your staff will be skeptical at first. To counteract this phenomenon, it’s advised that you lead by example.

It’s a generally accepted fact that employees will take most of their cues from their leaders, meaning that management needs to showcase the importance of trying out new solutions. This top-down shift in mentality will not only act as an example, but it will also show that it’s okay for others to do the same.

Encouraging Feedback and Transparency

Feedback and transparency will also play a crucial role in this transition. Your employees should feel comfortable to present their ideas and should not be ashamed of the mistakes that they may encounter along the way. You will quickly come to realize that when everyone feels comfortable to share their ideas and failures, efficiency also increases.

When people are not constrained by fear of shame, they will be more open with each other, which, in turn, leads to closer relationships and better overall communication. Likewise, the free exchange of ideas and mishaps also increases the chance of innovation.

Fast Failure

The concept of fast failure isn’t something new, but it is a product of the 21st century. The idea, in and of itself, is more of a state of mind than anything else. It is based on the idea that mistakes are natural and accepted. So, when they do happen, mistakes shouldn’t be taken to heart. When something doesn’t work as expected, you quickly learn from them and move on to the next idea.

The more efficient use of fast failure is by applying it on a micro level. So, instead of trying an entirely new idea, it’s better to break it up into smaller parts and brainstorm at every stage of the process. It increases the likelihood of success of the original idea while still making mistakes along the way.


The point is that mistakes have a lot to teach us as long as we are willing. The biggest hurdle, however, is to change the heavily entrenched idea that errors are a terrible thing and people should be reprimanded for them.


Planting The Seed

Today’s post is offered by guest blogger and fellow Vistage Chair, Steve Larrick. 

As leaders, we develop our own styles, and ways of getting things done over our careers. What works against us at times is that early success in leading others and in getting things done convinces us that our ways and methods are the one best way. Quoting Bill Gates, “Success is a lousy teacher. It convinces smart people that they can’t make mistakes.” I have observed over time many leaders who pronounce or dictate a course of action with the result that his or her subjects follow that course. Their own experience is that the smart leader has always been right. They bury their own reservations.

The Socratic method of using questions is one way to change the pattern of leadership communication. However, if overused, that method can become annoying to the listener. Another way to approach this is what I call planting the seed. Suggesting in conversation that the leader has a thought about a course of action but not pressing for agreement or compliance. Then the leader lets the seed idea “germinate” until a decision must be made. An astute follower will consider the “planted” seed in a subsequent conversation and either agree to it or have a well-built case for taking another course. It causes the follower to think without being “Socratesed”.

Author’s note: “I have also found planting the seed works with spouses and teenagers. I only discovered this after many painful lessons!”

Why Vistage Works

Elisa K. Spain

What Does All This Mean, What Will We Do, And How Will We Go About Doing It?


I’ve decided to end the year with a guest blog from my friend and fellow Vistage Chair, Larry Cassidy. We’ve been having a discussion amongst us Vistage Chairs about the recent tragedies, hate crimes and terrorism and the related impact some members have begun to see in their companies. For me, Larry’s commentary expressed the challenge we face as a nation and caused me to pause. With that in mind, I am making it visible here, offering you some food for thought as you begin the holiday season.

First, a couple of stories and then Larry’s post.

One Chair began this conversation by sharing these stories

One member reported an angry customer screaming in the lobby of her financial services company that the customer service rep he dealt with (second generation Pakistani American) should go back to her home country.

Another member reported, after I asked if he had seen any evidence of workplace intolerance, that he had four Muslim employees in his IT department and he overheard one of the non-IT employees refer to them as the ‘sleeper cell’. He didn’t know what to say or do. But now that I asked the question, he realizes he needs to discuss with his HR director how to find ways to insure there is not a hostile workplace environment.

Larry’s Post

My first newsletter was sent on June 27, 2011, some 230 newsletters ago. And for those 4½ years I have stepped carefully around politics. Today I will take edge up to that tricky topic, not so much traditional politics, but rather on who we are, and what price we 322-million folks are willing to pay to be that.

We have undergone many serious gut-shots in the past several years, Paris and San Bernardino being the latest. As I ponder these tragedies, and before releasing this newsletter into the wild, my thoughts go to three big ideas:

  • becoming the best version of ourselves,
  • the hard price we are (or are not) willing to pay to get and stay there,
  • our leadership as a part of all that.

There are many pieces to that, and we each have our own ideas. I will share mine below. You may disagree. But I do so because it is a conversation we cannot avoid, and all voices are required.


“Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

The Statue of Liberty, dedicated 10/28/1886

Terrorism is a stark and frightening example of what others can do to us. Paris. San Bernardino. Too much, too often. And leadership is what we choose to do about it, and how we go about doing it.

Once again, we confront events with which we have not contended (remember: Pearl Harbor, the Cuban Missile Crisis, 9/11), and while such moments spawn anger and paranoia, they also summon our better angels. Which is one more good reason we would rather live here than anywhere else in the world, our flaws notwithstanding.

As I now savor almost-eight decades, I wonder if our fears might extinguish the Statue of Liberty’s torch, our shining beacon of freedom. And I question whether my opportunity to be born here, to live here, and to experience this thing called America, could have happened had such fear and paranoia won the early days of our history.

A bit dramatic? Go back a century-or-more, and we Irish were potato-heads, lazy scum. Italians were looked on as not much better. Jews? Forget it. African Americans, which was hardly what they were called? Slaves at best. Nor does that count Japanese-Americans or German-Americans in WWII. Pretty lucky for we shoddy Irish (and me) that we got past much of that.

Yes, we each have a right to feel, to fear, to embrace and to be safe. But before we pounce, look around. Soak it in. The ethnic, religious and nationalistic mess we behold is what has combined to make us great. It is our grand experiment, a palate on which each color and belief and ancestry is a part. It is us. So, what will it be ten, or fifty, or a hundred years from now?

Once again, we are in the process of deciding. In every business, classroom, sanctuary, gathering and discussion. And we are the leaders: the parents, coaches, elders, teachers, business executives. Make no mistake, we are deciding, we are leading and we are teaching.

  • So what will we do, and how will we go about doing it?
  • Which parts of what made this country great will we keep, and which will we discard?
  • Will we mirror or will we reject what those who threaten us espouse?
  • And once we decide, once we move on, will we have found our way to safety while continuing to lift our lamp beside the golden door?

This is a big deal.  And we are all right in the middle of it.

 Larry Cassidy


P.S. This is the last post this year, see you back here in January.

Why Vistage Works

Elisa K. Spain

Leadership Quote: Knowing Our Impact On Others


This month’s leadership quote:

“Of the many, many things about which we are unclear, or of which we are unaware,

our impact upon others is at or near the top.”

-Larry Cassidy, Vistage Master Chair

Today’s blogpost is offered by guest blogger Larry Cassidy, fellow Vistage Master Chair and author of this month’s quote. Larry has been a Vistage chair in California for 27 years and his words of wisdom inspire all of us.

Are you aware of your impact upon others, for better or for worse? We all too often live in our own personal bubble, unaware of how what we say and what we do land upon others. So come with me on a short walk, to the wood fence behind our house…..

If each time we did something thoughtless or rude or unkind, we had to pound a nail into our fence post, over time the post would resemble a metal porcupine. And if we could pull a nail out of the fence post each time we did something thoughtful, kind or caring, our battered fence post might someday be devoid of nails.

That last nail pulled should be cause for celebration; however, before we hoot n’ holler, let’s first take a hard look at our fence post. After all the pounding and pulling, what is left? Nail holes! We have slowly exchanged our hard words and abuse for decency and respect, but the wounds from our nails linger on. The holes remain. The fence post never forgets. Nor do the people in whom we have punched holes.

Sorry, but there is no escape. This is our responsibility. We are leaders, and someone is always watching. And as leaders, our job is to grasp our impact upon others, to better shape what we say and what we do, and to ensure those in our lives are better for being in our lives. If we are not willing to “do the work,” our offerings too often kidnap self-esteem, and can even become abuse.

My suggestion: don’t think about this. Rather, feel those who have changed your life. Who are they? How did they make you better? Why do you remember them so many years later? I am clear about those who have their fingerprints on who I am today, and I am deeply indebted to each. I also have another list, those who took advantage, who were unkind, who toyed with key values, and they are no longer part of my life.

You know which is which. You can feel the difference. And so can the people in your life. Your children, the team you coach, your employees, everyone. They can feel you. Yours is the opportunity to show them a better way to be. To be the one they remember for supporting their work to be the best they can be. So remember: they are watching, always watching, and every exchange is one more precious opportunity to not drive a nail, to not leave yet another nail hole. Each is a teaching moment. Seize it.


Elisa K. Spain