David Bowie existed before Ziggy Stardust, but it was Ziggy Stardust that put him on the map. The striking, glam costume; the red hair; the over-the-top Spiders from Mars tour-all these elements, plus, of course, the music, shot David Bowie into stardom. But the glam rock era eventually faded. And if David Bowie had stayed there, he would have been solely of that time, and faded along with it.
Instead, as we’re mourning the death of David Bowie, we’re also celebrating him as one of the giants of rock music. He is not “of a time.” He is timeless. Why is that?
It’s because David Bowie never stopped innovating.
See, Ziggy Stardust was a brilliant innovation. But it was just one of many. The Thin White Duke. The Berlin era. New wave and electronica. (If these mean nothing to you, take a quick visit to Wikipedia to see just how much this man did. Oh, and listen to his music.)
If Bowie had stopped with Ziggy Stardust, his obituary would have been “page 6” news. Instead, it was on the front pages of newspapers (and websites) around the world.
If the Beatles had stopped after making the Hard Day’s Night album and movie, they would have still been an important, 60s rock and roll band. They would have been “of that time.” But they went on to make Sgt. Pepper, The White Album, and Abbey Road-and in doing so, became timeless.
If Apple had done nothing but bring out the Mac computer in 1984, their place in the history of computing would have been assured. But they went on to create the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad. Today they are the most valuable company in the world.
Many leaders seem to think that one innovation is all it takes. That one great idea, the one that propels you into the lead. And one innovation is great! Most people never even make it that far. But here’s the thing:
One innovation puts you on the map; continuous innovation lets you re-draw the map.
In a 2003 interview, David Bowie said that he considered himself to be primarily a writer. Not a performer-a writer. And when you think about it, what is the job of a writer?
What can you learn from David Bowie, and the Beatles, and Apple?
Keep creating. Don’t stop. Keep innovating. Don’t stop.
That’s how you become timeless.