Four Lessons We Can Learn From David Bowie's Life.

January 11, 2016 Paul Philp

Oh no, not me
I never lost control
You're face to face

With the man who sold the world.
David Bowie, The Man of Sold the World

David Bowie died. I had read the headline a few times before I understood. Was this some David Bowie stunt or art piece. Ziggy Stardust doesn’t die. Where’s my Five Years warning?

Bowie is the artist of my lifetime. There is music before Bowie, and then music after Bowie. He transformed the possibilities of music. Even if you don’t enjoy his music, his influence shapes the music you do enjoy.  

A list of my favorite Bowie songs is too long for this post, so I will mention just a few that come to mind here:

It’s hard to remember now, but Bowie was the rock star for nerds, geeks and misfits - the art club, camera club, chess club and drama club were the first fans. He was the first nerd to make it big. The rest of us were always secretly proud that ‘one of us’ found fame and fortune without conforming. Just as Bowie eventually defined cool and fashion, the nerds became leaders in business, and society. He was our pathfinder.

So, what can we learn from Bowie’s life and success?


  1. Be unique.

It took Bowie (aka, Davie Jones)  a long time time to find his voice and style.  Here is his first single, Liza Jane - as Davie Jones and the Killer Bees.  It’s a long way from Ziggy Stardust. He kept trying ideas - a lot of ideas - until something stood out from the crowd.

Ziggy, Aladdin Sane, The Thin White Duke were all unlike anything else. They weren’t simple tweaks on Led Zepplin or The Beatles.  They were uncomfortably different. They stood out. They drew praise, laughter, criticism and admiration.

Bowie didn’t market himself using the tactics of every other rock musician.  He found his own way, his own voice, and created his own place in the music world.

How can you make yourself stand out?


  1. Be yourself.

As shocking as was the Ziggy Stardust persona, the switch away from it was equally shocking. After Ziggy, Aladdin Sane and Diamond Dogs, Bowie dropped Glam Rock and tackled R&B and Disco, with the Young Americans album. How could Bowie leave behind such a successful image and sound?

David Bowie was about creativity. That’s who he was. He didn’t copy other people and he rarely repeated himself. He was alway being his own person - creative, authentic and experimental.

How can you be more fully yourself today? Where are you copying those that influence you?


  1. Be great.

Bowie was a great rock musician. A soaring, original songwriter of his time. However, it wasn’t always that way. A quick listen to Liza Lane above, shows how far he came. He worked at his craft.  He set high standards for his work. He was great at what he did, but it wasn’t an accident of birth. He kept working at it until it was right. He was proud of his craft.

What is your unique strength?  How can you refine it?


  1. Focus on your audience / customers.

Bowie released his final album, Blackstar, this past Friday. It was his parting gift to his audience. He was always wildly creative, but he was always focussed on delivering work that his audience would enjoy. Right up to the final few days of his life.  His fans were loyal to him because he was always generous to his fans. His work was for them, and he made a difference in their lives.

How can you make more of a difference for your customers?

There will be a sea of tributes in the coming days.  David Bowie was Elvis Presley, John Lennon, Frank Sinatra and Brian Wilson for the information age.  He influenced music, fashion, art, stage and, even, science fiction.  I will love and celebrate hearing all that great music again.

Bowie was 69 when he died.  It’s not the same tragedy as John Lennon’s death at 40.  It is a still a great loss.  Perhaps the question should not be ‘Where were you when you heard that David Bowie died?’  Instead, ‘Where were you when you heard ZIggy Stardust for the first time?’

I am deeply grateful for his life.  I will miss him.

Where are we now?
Where are we now?
The moment you know
You know, you know

As long as there's sun
As long as there's sun
As long as there's rain
As long as there's rain
As long as there's fire
As long as there's fire
As long as there's me
As long as there's you

David Bowie - Where Are We Now

About the Author

Paul Philp

Paul Philp is a leading innovator in SaaS and Customer Success. As Founder and CEO of <a href="">Amity</a>, Paul has spoken with Customer Success professionals from over 1,000 SaaS providers. Paul has a lifelong passion for helping business put customers first.

Follow on Twitter More Content by Paul Philp
Previous Article
What impact is your Customer Success team having?
What impact is your Customer Success team having?

Your customers are going through a journey with you. Your Customer Success team plays an important role in ...

Next Article
SaaS Tattler Issue 70
SaaS Tattler Issue 70

Ask yourself one question: Is my customer using my product? If you can’t answer that question then you’re m...


First Name
Notification Frequency
Boom! You're All Set
Error - something went wrong!