Me: Elton John Official Autobiography

Me by Elton John

Key Insights

Many people dream of one day becoming famous. Elton John was certainly one of them until he hit it big with his first single, “Your Song”, and his dreams became a reality. With fame came a lot of surreal experiences: like taking over the runway at Iggy’s fashion show dressed like a giant ape (for starters). But, fame isn’t all fun, and John learned no matter how many records he sold he couldn’t shake feeling shy and uncomfortable after growing up in an abusive household. He eventually turned to alcohol, drugs, and food to cope. Read on to learn about John’s early childhood, why he finally got clean, and which two celebrities fought over princess Diana at one of his dinner parties.

Elton John was born in 1947. He had a complicated relationship with his parents. His father, Stanley, was a strict disciplinarian, and John spent most of his childhood trying to avoid spankings. He got in trouble for a variety of seemingly menial things: from how he took off his school uniform blazer to how he ate celery. He was afraid of his mother. She beat him with a wire brush until he bled in order to help potty train him when he was only 2 years old. Though John felt they should have divorced much earlier, his parents stayed together until he was 11 years old. After his parents divorced, John’s father met someone else and started a new family who he was warm and affectionate towards, while his attitude towards John didn’t change. He refused to see him play live in concert, and never acknowledged being proud of John for his successes. His dad died in 1991, and John did not attend his funeral. At that point, they hadn’t spoken in years. His mom’s attitude towards John also remained consistent: she remained cruel and critical of John throughout his life. When he married long-time boyfriend David Furnish, she made many homophobic comments to the other guests. John speculates that she wasn’t necessarily against gay marriage, but she didn’t want anyone having any influence over his life besides her.

Though his family situation, while he was growing up, was difficult, there was one thing which brought him joy: music. He could pick up the melody of a song and play it on the piano accurately at the age of three. He was deeply obsessed with pop music. John recalls the first time he saw a photo of Elvis Presley: he thought Elvis looked like an alien. When he heard Elvis’ record, “Heartbreak Hotel,” he thought Elvis sounded like an alien… and he loved it. He fell in love with rock and roll. John’s father wasn’t supportive of his love of rock and roll and worried the music would make him into a criminal because it highlighted content at the time that was considered explicit or sinful. The only “negative” impact of the music was that it made John less interested in playing classical songs on the piano. He had lessons every Saturday. He was educated at the royal academy of music, a prestigious school he had to pass a test to get into. On occasion, he would ditch class and ride on the subway, dreaming of playing rock and roll music like his heroes instead of classical songs on the piano.

When John was 15 years old, he scored his first paying gig playing music. He would play songs on the piano at a pub, with a jar on his piano for tips. The bar was so rowdy that the customers would get into fights. In order to avoid being caught in the crossfire, John found a nearby window to climb out of. At 17, he left school and joined his first band. They were called Bluesology. Though they played a few shows, they didn’t have much success with their two songs (written by John) entitled “Come Back Baby” and “Mr. Frantic”. Low on funds, John started working as a session musician. He did covers of popular pop songs, impersonated voices of other celebrities, and even recorded a song entitled “Young, Gifted and Black”, which was quite wrong while being sung by a small white boy.

John has his first solo audition with a music label in 1967 and he failed miserably. However, a chance encounter after the audition changed his life. Bernie Taupin was a songwriter who had been sending his lyrics to the label for a while. When John left his audition, the executive producer gave him an envelope off of his desk. The envelope contained lyrics written by Bernie Taupin. There were tons of envelopes on his desk, he just happened to give John the one that would change his life. John read the lyrics and he was impressed: they were haunting and complex. They met in person and John was even more impressed. Taupin was good looking, handsome, and surprisingly: worked at a chicken farm. In 1968 the two moved in together. Bernie wrote lyrics, and John would add music. After trying and failing repeatedly to write successful songs, the two of them moved in with John’s mother: sleeping in John’s bunk beds. One morning, Taupin came up with the lyrics to “Your Song” at breakfast. John set them to music. After writing the song, they met with a record label who offered them 6,000 pounds to make an album. They had created their first album, which would go to be nominated for a Grammy Award in 1970.

Though John had humble beginnings, his life after becoming famous was anything but humble, or normal. John recounts once being on so much cocaine he didn’t realize that Bob Dylan was at his house party: in fact, he mistook him for a gardener and demanded that he leave. In the 90s, John threw a party so he could introduce his mom to his new boyfriend, David Furnish. He invited a guest who happened to be a psychiatrist, who then (after obtaining approval) brought one of his patients. It turned out to be Michael Jackson, who insisted they sit inside, and spent the entirety of the party sitting in silence. He disappeared towards the end and was found playing with the housekeeper's son. Another bizarre encounter occurred when Elton decided to dress up as a gorilla and get on stage during one of Iggy’s shows. Iggy was so high on drugs he thought John actually was a gorilla. Iggy’s security guard, uncertain of what to do, handled the situation by throwing John off of the stage. John was surprised, after stomping around on the stage, to find himself midair! On another occasion, John decided to throw a dinner party, where he invited Richard Gere, Princess Diana, and Sylvester Stallone amongst his other guests. When they sat down to eat, John noticed three of his guests were missing. He went outside to discover Richard Gere and Sylvester in a fight trying to get princess Diana’s attention: and she was clearly more fond of Richard Gere! Stalone ended up leaving the party in a huff. John had another surreal experience when he was invited to Prince Andrew’s 21st Birthday Party at Windsor Castle. The DJ played the music incredibly low, as he didn’t want to offend the queen, who John found himself dancing with after she approached him on the dancefloor. He tried to avoid stepping on a floorboard, so as to not drown out the extremely quiet music coming from the DJ. As he was dancing, he thought about how strange it was that he, a working-class kid, was dancing with royalty.

John struggled with addiction. John talks about his addiction to food, alcohol, and drugs. Though on the outside he was known for being a talented song-writer and celebrity, on the inside, he could never escape feeling like that scared little boy with parents who grew up with abusive parents. He felt like he had finally found the solution when he tried cocaine for the first time. He felt like he could do anything: and his shyness was gone. He loved cocaine and alcohol, but they made him destructive. One morning, after a night of partying, he noticed his assistant’s room hotel room had been destroyed. He asked what happened, and his assistant responded: “You happened!”. John woke up after another drug binge to the phone ringing: apparently he had ordered a tram carriage. It took two helicopters to unload it into his garden. Along with drugs, John also struggled with food addiction: he would eat significant portions and then force himself to throw up because he was afraid of gaining weight. Elton hit bottom after locking himself away for two weeks with whiskey, cocaine, and porn. He was doing lines every five minutes. He decided after that he wanted to go to rehab and checked in to a clinic in Chicago. After attending for 6 days, he left again. They expected him to wash his clothes and make his bed, and he had no idea how to do that. His assistants always did stuff like that for him. He was too embarrassed to tell anyone he didn’t know-how. As he was leaving, after he got back to the car park, he realized he didn’t want to go back to the drugs and porn. He checked himself back in, finding he actually enjoyed some aspects of getting sober. One of his favorite parts of rehab was that he got to experience being treated like everyone else. While he was there, he was just another addict. He is still sober to this day and got to play a meaningful role in helping others like Rufus Wainwright to get sober too.

In October of 1976, John experienced the peak of his career. He played to an audience of 55,000 fans at the Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. The weather was perfect. Two days earlier, he had unveiled his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. That week had been declared by the LA Time as “Elton John Week”. He knew that this was the moment of the most success he would ever experience, and he was ok with it. He always understood how fame and success work: primarily, that they don’t last forever. Instead of trying to recapture moments like those, he has branched out instead: doing things like writing music for the 1990s Disney classic, Lion King. He even took home the academy award for “Can You Feel the Love Tonight”. His most meaningful project was adapting a version of “Candle in the Wind” for Princess Diana’s funeral. He was close to Diana, and the family asked him to. He was absolutely terrified to perform it, worried that he might slip up when he sang the lyrics. Luckily, he successfully performed it in front of the guests at the funeral and the billions of people who tuned in to watch the televised event. For many years afterward, John refused to play that song or the adaptation at his concerts or events.

It has been a wild ride for John: full of crazy parties and surreal experiences. He has also experienced incredible challenges like addiction and family struggles. John has finally reached a point of security and contentment. Currently, he is happily married to a man he loves, two sons who bring him joy.

Summary:

Many people dream of one day becoming famous. Elton John was certainly one of them until he hit it big with his first single, “Your Song”, and his dreams became a reality. With fame came a lot of surreal experiences: like taking over the runway at Iggy’s fashion show dressed like a giant ape (for starters). But, fame isn’t all fun, and John learned no matter how many records he sold he couldn’t shake feeling shy and uncomfortable after growing up in an abusive household. He eventually turned to alcohol, drugs, and food to cope. Read on to learn about John’s early childhood, where he struggled with abusive parents, and dad who eventually walked away. Discover how a chance encounter at a failed attempt to sign with a record company ended up changing John’s life. Learn about the depths John’s addiction took him to, and what event finally led him to seek treatment for his addiction to cocaine. And finally, find out which two celebrities fought over Princess Diana at one of his dinner parties, leading to one of them leaving in a huff!

How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big

How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life by Scott Adams

Failure is a scary concept, and many people will do just about anything to avoid it. This is a bummer because many people don’t realize is that failure is an important part of success. Failing can teach us where we need to focus our efforts, what doesn’t work, and can show us where we need to change. If you’ve failed big, you’re in good company. Many, many people have also failed on their path to become insanely successful. In fact, the writer of How to Fail at Almost Anything and Still Win Big failed in multiple ways: he started a business that went under, got fired from a job, and failed to create a patent. Though he failed repeatedly, he refused to give up, and eventually experienced incredible success with his creation of the comic Dilbert. You can also move past failures and find meaningful success. Read on to learn how to avoid the pitfalls of failure, why humans are really just “soft robots”, and how to decide on a career path that really suits you.

Don’t set goals

Often when we want to achieve something, or the first step is to set a goal. What if you approached achievement differently? On a flight, the author began talking to a man he was seated next to. The man told him he had created a system where he just kept moving up in jobs: getting whatever new job became available and forgetting the old one. He didn’t have a goal. He had a system. And pretty soon, he was a CEO.

Setting goals is simple enough. The process of achieving them can be dismal. Especially if you don’t reach your goal. Let's say you want to run a mile in 6 minutes by the end of January, you go for a run at the end of January and you get just a little past 6 minutes. You’ll feel like a failure, and (worst of all) you won’t get to celebrate all of your hard work. Instead, you can create a system where you run every day. The reward will be constant, and there’s no goal to make you feel as though you failed. The best part? Your system can lead to the same results, with none of the bad feelings.

Goals can also be problematic because you don’t get to hit your target immediately, which means that there will be a lot of days of work with no results - making motivation difficult to maintain. Having a system means you’ll get to reap the reward every day that you do the behavior that’s required. The system will also create a habit: and once a habit is formed, it can be hard to break. Good habits can lead to great changes. Setting your sights on only one particular goal can also be limiting. If the author had only had one goal, he would have felt like such a failure if his goal had been to get a patent or keep a job. Feeling like a failure can prevent someone from continuing to try. The author easily could have quit if he viewed his setbacks as failures, then it's possible he would never meet his potential due to fear or dejection from failing. Scary, huh?

Have a variety of skills - not just one

Having a single, well-developed skill can be an asset in certain fields. However, if that skill or asset is no longer useful, or you have to adapt to company changes, you could be in trouble. That’s why having a variety of skills can be important for success. If you can perform slightly above average at a variety of things, you’ll stand out from the competition and have more of a chance of adapting to a changing workplace. As far as which skills are handy, consider the area where you are living. Speaking French would probably be more helpful in Canada than in California, for instance. It's also good to be aware of the general skill set that makes someone successful: talking to people, grammar, or technological skills are pretty important.

Oh, and while you’re developing your skillset you will likely experience some failure - which is great! Failure means that you have new chances to learn and to analyze what you did wrong to avoid making the same mistakes again. For instance, if you send in a patent and it gets rejected, you have an opportunity to rework your design and a better comprehension of what doesn’t work. When the author failed at developing computer games, got fired from Pacific Bell Company, and developed a burrito chain that also tanked, he used his failures to learn, and eventually, to shape his comic.

Figure out (on your own) what you should do

Many people have pressure put on them to find a certain job or to explore a specific type of career. Having that pressure can be hard! Deciding what you want to do is a process that ultimately needs to center around you. How do you do this? Think about your skill sets, and what work would put them to their best possible use.

The first thing to consider is your interests. What are you interested in? What do you read about, love learning about, and spend effort engaging with? Consider what you were interested in as a child: if you had a specific interest or hobby. If neither of these questions provides any clarity, think about the arena where you’ve been most comfortable taking risks. For instance, the author was always passionate about drawing comics, even though drawing comics had the potential to get him in trouble with his teachers.

Often, even if our interest or hobby is clear, it is important to realize that it still might take a while to find a job which fits our passion…. Or you might find that it's time to create a job that fits your passion. While deciding what to develop (whether it's your career or a product) focus on the “x-factor”, something that generates consumer buzz or excitement. Think of the first iPhone and how it generated a lot of buzzes. You’ll want to do the same.

Think of yourself as a soft robot

The author likes to think of himself as a “soft robot”, meaning that his inner workings aren’t a mystery, and he is inherently programmed to be a certain way. His strength is in working with this programming, instead of against it. This means he knows his natural rhythms and goes with them. If you’ve tried to eat when you’re full or tried to force yourself to concentrate when you’re exhausted, you understand how hard it can be to go against your natural rhythms. Figure out what your rhythms are: when are you most productive? When are you most creative? And use this awareness to generate a schedule that fits YOU. Think about location and energy. Where gives you energy? What activities give you energy? Once you have this figured out, adapt your schedule to fit your “soft programming”, so you can maximize your energy and accomplish more.

Don’t forget to maintain your health

Though it seems like success tends to come from the mind, there is a mind-body connection that should not be ignored. The author talks about his food-is-mood, meaning that the food you eat contributes significantly to the mood you are in. Think about how you feel after eating processed carbs: many people report eating them causes tiredness. However, getting rid of processed foods can be a huge bummer, which is why the author has a few suggestions for making it tolerable. One suggestion is additions! When cooking otherwise bland vegetables, you can add honey, lemon, dressings, soy sauce, cheese, and salt to improve the flavor.

Exercising can also be a drag, especially when it comes to scheduling time to work out. The author suggests joining an exercise group that meets weekly. If it happens every week, it will become a habit you’ll be less likely to give up. The author works out at 12:40 on Tuesdays, and keeps it was a consistent weekly habit. His wife joined a tennis team that meets weekly. You can do it too! Oh, and the author is all about rewarding yourself for achievements. So if you make that weekly workout, reward yourself a little.

Delusions aren’t such a bad thing

Before the author created Dilbert, he did a daily affirmation where he said to himself, “I, Scott Adams, will be a famous cartoonist”. Seems sort of delusional, right? The author knows there isn’t any scientific evidence to support that it works, but he does it anyway. Practices like this are ok to indulge in, as long as they aren’t doing any harm. Many performers keep “lucky” tokens or have certain lucky numbers. This delusional behavior can be useful, and if it's not hurting anyone, why not?

Another behavior that isn’t heavily rooted in science (but can be useful) is choosing who your friends are based on where you want to be. The author had a friend who wanted to be affluent, so his natural first step was moving to a neighborhood where people were affluent. Research has shown that people with overweight friends are more likely to gain weight, so why wouldn’t that be true about other qualities? The author talks about when he associated with a friend group who were all writers, and highlights the possibility that they influenced him into becoming a comic maker. This energy you get from others is called “associate energy”, and can be lethal or useful, depending on who you spend your time with.

If you view the world in terms of success and failure, you’re going to have a rough time. Failing isn’t an end-all, it's an opportunity for growth. Part of discovering where you want to be is failing and trying things out. Do not let fear of failure rob you from having these experiences, and have patience while you discover who you want to be. After all, it took the author 39 years to have the life experiences that allowed him to create Dilbert. The same can happen for you, if you work with systems instead of goals, surround yourself with people who have what you want, and follow the other suggestions from this book.

Summary

Failure is an important part of success. Failing can teach us where we need to focus our efforts, what doesn’t work, and can show us where we need to change. In fact, the writer of How to Fail at Almost Anything and Still Win Big failed in multiple ways, until he made it big with his comic, Dilbert. Tired of failing to meet your own goals? Read on to learn why setting goals is actually a waste of time, and how you can better get the results you want. Learn why it's important to make your career about you, and not about meeting other people’s expectations. Are delusions so bad? Read on to learn why the author doesn’t think so, and about how they can be an element of success.