This series of articles highlights the defining failures in my life to this point, as well as the invaluable lessons they taught me. I hope they inspire you - not to strive for failure, but to understand that striving for Significance means learning from failures, rather than avoiding them.
Full disclosure: this one is not my failure. It's Mike's.
It's just that, when I watch him play music, I feel as though we are the same person - just in different bodies, with different skills.
This story begins when Mike was 16 and near the end of his abbreviated high school career in England. You see, Mike Rosenberg LOVED music - he loved writing it, playing it and talking about it.
He loved it so much that, at the age of 17, he finally decided to leave school to pursue it.
15 years later, one of his music videos has been viewed 1.6 billion times on YouTube.
Let's be clear on one thing from the start, however: he wasn't your average overnight YouTube sensation.
We're getting ahead of ourselves, though. Let's go back 15 years or so.
That's about the time that Mike left school to pursue his passion with absolutely no clear indication that he would ever be able to “monetize” it, as they say in business.
He didn't care.
The way he describes it, he realizes that technically it was a choice, but realistically, he was taking orders from his soul - his personal legend, as Paulo Coehlo would say.
Mike spent the next number of years living in hostels, scraping by, playing shows in half-empty pubs and in the streets to anyone who would lend an ear. He formed a band, but eventually left it.
He toured the world for half a decade, playing his music on the streets in Europe and Australia. He persisted - year after year after year, playing to handfuls of people and sleeping in dorm-style hostels with strangers.
Sounds glamorous, huh?
As Mike says himself, every year he went back to the same city, and as he played the same street corner to the same group of people, he questioned his decisions and his ability to reach audiences.
But he never wavered in his passion, or his incredible dedication and tenacity in living according to his authentic values.
It doesn't take long to identify Mike's values. He wears his heart on his sleeve. In fact, he wears it all over his body - even on his too-tight trousers.
You might not realize it until he speaks or sings, but once he does, it's as if the word FREEDOM is painted all over him. He cherishes the creative freedom to do what feels right to him, and he prioritizes this value over everything else.
Mike chose to honour his deep belief in creative freedom over earning money. He produces his music independently, and has embraced the near impossible mission of distributing his music without the help of a major record label.
He writes songs that are meaningful to him, and he sincerely hopes that they help other people. He also recognizes that they aren’t meant for everyone.
Indeed, you get the sense that he relishes that fact. 1.6 billion only represents about 20% of the world’s population, after all.
So, what's the point? Sure, it’s cool - 1.6 billion views.
Who really cares?
This YouTube achievement is the shiny diamond hidden amidst many other lessons that are worth much more than money.
The reason I am writing about Mike today is because he was - without a doubt - the greatest performer I have ever seen in concert.
By my count, I have seen 74 concerts to date. I have seen legendary performers like Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Céline Dion, P!nk and Mumford and Sons.
Of course, they were all incredible in their own right, but none of them came close to Mike’s ability to connect with me during the show.
When Mike sang a lyric, you really felt it.
At an outdoor summer concert, by himself - just a guitar and an electronic bass drum in his shoe - he held 20,000 people in the palm of his hand.
If he said clap, 20,000 people clapped. If he said stomp, they shook the ground. If he said to take their phones out, every single person whipped it out. If he said put it away, the crowd went dark instantly.
I stood there watching in a trance when he went on to tell the crowd that he had, after breaking up his band, gone busking around the world for five years. As he told us the trials and tribulations of a life of international busking, it dawned on me.
Every single day, Mike had to figure out how to connect with people he had never met.
Every. Single. Day.
That was the only way he would be able to share his love with the world.
That tireless pursuit was the process he needed to build the skills he now demonstrated on stage.
He thought endlessly about how he could use his music to help other people. He listened to sad stories from audience members after shows, and used them to write deeply meaningful songs.
He was propelled by his purpose - the only thing that can offer us true inspiration when all signs on a bumpy road point to the closest exit.
He would rather, it seems, die than produce music that isn’t authentic.
That, my friends, is purpose.
Not everyone who lives with purpose will garner 1.6B views on YouTube. This number, however, acts as a symbol of the benefits of passion and perseverance.
Let Her Go was just another song Mike wrote backstage after a half-filled concert, while he persevered through the relentless and necessary process of creating Significance.
You may not know Mike’s name, but you have likely heard of Passenger – the stage name he kept when his band broke up way back at the start of his journey to Significance.
That was just one of many seemingly innocuous decisions that ultimately acted as one piece of a 1,000 piece puzzle, that, when arranged in the right order, created a meaningful life for Mike.
Live free or die? How about Strive for Significance or die?
Doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as nicely, but I think Mike would agree.
He may be known as Passenger, but he is a wonderful example of someone driving himself down a purposeful road on a journey to Significance – taking the speed bumps in stride.