Professional Development Watercooler

Lady Gaga Can Teach You How to Never Give Up

Written by Peter Jones

Everybody fails. Even the fanciest and most successful of celebrities, historical figures, and our most idolized idols. Even Lady Gaga.

She’s won 5 Grammy awards. She’s been Billboard’s Artist of the Year as well as one of Forbes’ 100 most powerful women, and one of TIME’s most influential people. She’s broken records for record sales and made absurd amounts of money on global tours. Plus, she’s universally accepted as analogous for cool.

But before she was Lady Gaga, she was Stefani Germanotta, a little girl who lived in Manhattan and played the piano by the age of four. She went to NYU’s conservatory to study music at the age of 17, but dropped out two years later to try and make it as a musician. The Stefani Germanotta band played a few local gigs, and netted her a manager, but was disbanded within a year.

That manager, Rob Fusari, took her on, but had a very difficult time convincing the major labels to do the same. She was told she didn’t have the right look, the right sound, and that her songs just weren’t hits. She even left one meeting at Sony in a rage of tears.

Then, an accident of autocorrect occurred. Fusari typed her name and his phone corrected it to “Lady Gaga.” A star was born? Not so fast. The newly named Lady Gaga then got a great deal with Island Def Jam records and began work on an album, only to be dropped without explanation after three months. She hit a low point, turning to drinking and drugs for solace, trying not to give up on her dreams despite being told she wasn’t pretty enough to be a singer songwriter and simply play and sing at a piano. The only work she could get was writing songs for other artists, which did nothing to satisfy her desire to perform herself.

For the next couple of years, she took to the NYC underground scene, experimenting, working with performance art, dressing like a goth stripper, drawing attention, making waves. She died her hair platinum blond after being confused with Amy Winehouse. And then, finally, another artist took notice and forced the Interscope label head to listen to one of her songs. That song was “Just Dance.” A star was born? Yep. You know the rest.

At any point, Gaga could have given up. But she didn’t. She tried and tried and failed, and she changed her tactic, changed her brand. When she hit on the right one, she was ready for the results.

So remember: don’t be afraid of failure. Use it to push yourself in a better, new direction. One that just might put you in the groove and get you where you need to go.

About the author

Peter Jones