What I Learned about Business from U2

How Business and Life Work in Mysterious Ways.

Lessons in business are everywhere.  This week, I found them on my iPod.  As I’ve shared before, I am a huge fan of U2.  I adore the band’s music, creativity and social activism.  I never realized that their songs are also lessons in business and life for that matter.

Trying to Throw Your Arms around the World

Last week, I was advising a CEO on a stalemate with his Board.  In our conversation, he laid out his strategy for the company.  It was innovative, creative and had a high probability of success. The plan spanned over three years and he estimated the company needed two quarters of investments where the company would report a loss to shareholders.  However, the long-term gains would far exceed the short-term losses.  The Board Members were largely risk averse and driven to see a profit every quarter.  The misalignment was clear.

“How far you gonna go / Before you lose your way back home”

Through our conversation, the CEO was able to see that he was showing a long-term vision to a nearsighted Board.  The more he pushed the strategy – the more he alienated the Board, was perceived as a risk and jeopardized his job.

The CEO decided to stop throwing his arms around the whole strategy, break it down into small manageable pieces and focus on the near term.  And, it worked.

Stuck in a Moment

Over the weekend, I caught up with a friend.  We’ve been friends for years – supporting each other through the ups and downs of dating, marriage, career changes, life changes and kids.  Earlier in the week, her company announced it was downsizing and she learned she was being laid off.  Much like me, she has a child in pre-school.  Her family depends on her income.

It came as a shock.  When someone loses a job, they lose more than just money.  They may experience loss around the everyday relationships with their co-workers, the ritual of their routines, part of their identity and even their means of contributing to their families.

My friend had spent the day applying for seasonal jobs at local retailers and brainstorming ways to cut expenses.  It was her strategy to bridge the gap until she could secure another full-time position.

And, it was incredibly difficult for her.  She said she felt like she failed and her career took 20 steps backwards.  She and I spent a long time talking about letting go – letting go of the anger, the frustration, the fear of the unknown and most of all the “should have been” assessments.

“It’s just a moment / This time will pass”

I asked her where she saw herself in a year.  She said she’d be back on track with her career.  So, she was just stuck in a moment – a single point in time that would pass.  I pointed out that someday her daughter will be proud of how her Mom picked herself up after a setback, did whatever it took to move forward and got on with it.  If that’s not a life lesson – I don’t know what is.


Life is always changing and unfolding.  It’s full of successes and failures.  What I’ve learned is that you can’t have one without the other.  So, my final thought today is from “Grace” – my personal U2 favorite:

“What once was hurt / What once was friction

What left a mark / No longer stings

Because Grace makes beauty

Out of ugly things”

 As a Leader, may you have the Grace to find the beauty and opportunity in everything.


 Where you find inspiration?

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