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David Bowie died last sunday. He was 69. He had just released what is now his musical testament “Black Star”. A wave of emotion went through the world. Bowie seemed to have had only admirers.

Blackstar_album_cover Bowie

Blackstar Cover

We can all learn from him. There aren’t many artists who changed so often and who were looking for new things, constantly. Most people invent themselves only once. He did it many times.
What do I mean? Do people invent themselves? Yes they do. We all build our own narrative. We create stories based on our experiences. But most of us write only one book. Bowie wrote a postmodern masterpiece that consists out of different books, each with a different style.
Just like Picasso, Bowie had various phases or periods. It’s like he closed a chapter just to open another one. For that you need energy, courage.

So what can we learn from David Bowie?

  • By closing a period you are free to do something completely different.
  • Creativity only occurs when you have to courage to change. You might be tempted to do what has been successful. But you must realise that chances are that you will lose altitude when you repeat yourself.
  • You can evolve better if you don’t care about what others might think of you. Leading a life based on the expectations might not be fulfilling.
  • You can be authentic whilst experimenting.
  • Experimentation leads to innovation.
  • Staying humble reinforces authority. Bowie was not a spoiled star. He was humble, accessible, interested.
  • Being interesting is less sustainable than being interested. Bowie was a voracious reader, open to a lot of influences. Being interested makes you learn, see things differently.
  • Doubting yourself is a good thing. It’s the engine behind progress and learning.
  • Some people might have been startled by his appearances during some of his chapter. Don’t. Look through it and listen to the message and the meaning. If you want to be standard, you will produce standard.
  • Dignity has a value. The way he could release a good album only days before his death deserves respect. The word dignity comes to mind.

The least what we can say is that he was a role model to many musicians and people. We can all learn a lot from someone like him.
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David Ducheyne is the founder of Otolith. As a former HR and business leader he focuses now on humanising strategy execution.

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