On April 11th, 1983, Dave’s band went to record their debut album In New York. Dave, a highly gifted guitarist, singer, and songwriter had been with the band for two years as their lead guitarist. But Dave’s aggressive behaviour and alcohol problems had taken a toll, and the other band members had had enough. They packed up Dave’s gear and drove him to the Port Authority Bus Terminal, putting him on a Greyhound bus bound for Los Angeles. He was expelled from the band.
Devastated and fuming with anger, Dave was falling further and further away from his dream. It was during these dark hours that he swore revenge. He would put together a band which would become better and bigger than his previous band. His new band would organise more successful tours in sold out venues and sell more records than his previous band mates ever dreamed of.
He used his anger and frustration to clean up his act and point himself in a positive direction. After returning to California, Dave had to live with his mother and landed what he calls his first real job, working as a telemarketer. After earning enough money to move to an apartment in Hollywood, he quit his job, recruited musicians, and set up his own band. The rest is history.
Dave’s family name is Mustaine and the band he founded was Megadeath. The band he was expelled from was Metallica.
In line with his commitment during that long and difficult bus journey back to Los Angeles in 1983, Megadeath went on to become highly successful, selling more than 50 million records, playing in front of record crowds like Rock in Rio 1991 with 145,000 people attending. The success made Dave a millionaire, highly recognized for his tremendous guitar playing. A popular vote on the internet forum of Ultimate Guitar, ranked him third among the top Rock & Metal guitarists of all time.
WOW, mission accomplished one would say, as Dave’s story reads like a classic turnaround, transforming failure into a massive success. But, as is so often the case, there is another angle to the tale. In a 2003 interview, Dave was asked how he has dealt with being expelled from Metallica, who, after his departure, went on to become the world’s most successful heavy metal band. Close to tears, he admitted during the interview that he felt like a failure.
For every record Megadeath sold, Metallica would sell several more. For every song Megadeath brought to the charts, Metallica would bring several. Dave Mustaine had never reached the success Metallica went on to achieve. He felt rejected. He felt cheated. He felt like a failure. All of this despite making history by selling millions of albums with Megadeath and becoming a highly respected guitarist.
What does this story tell us?
From my point of view, it provides a fascinating example of something critical to our wellbeing. The way we define success for ourselves is very important, and we have to be really careful how we do that. The way Mustaine defined success for himself early in his career was helpful. “Those guys kicked me out of their band. Now, I am going to show them what I can do by building a bigger, better, and more successful band.” This mindset clearly helped him get going.
But jumping ahead 20 years later, that definition of success seems to have become a prison for him, preventing him from appreciating the great things he and his band have accomplished. Deep down, it seems it did not mean anything to Dave. Why? Because he was trapped, comparing himself to what he could have been had he stayed on with Metallica vs. his actual achievement … something imagined vs. something real.
My challenge to you today is simple. Stop comparing yourself. Let me repeat it. Stop comparing yourself. Instead, accept who and where you are, celebrating with gratitude the positive steps you are taking.
In our overhyped digital world, there is a high likelihood that someone is achieving more than you. Look at them and learn what you can do better but stop comparing yourself. When you appreciate “what is” vs crying about what “should have been,” you find clarity, calmness, and enjoyment. And that makes you better in the areas you are trying to improve. In the end, any envy you feel toward the success of others will just frustrate you and takes away your power.
Life should be about how much you were able to enjoy your own journey. And if you are looking for a little more help around how to do that, have a look at the fantastic book pictured below, which was published at the end of 2023 :-).
Happy & Healthy 2024!