Global Crisis/Innovation Blog 

Don’t Give Up! Black Sabbath & Silver Computers

By Shlomo Maital



 Tommy Iommi’s fingertips

It may be that creativity is over-rated, as a key tool for innovators.  Dogged stubborn persistence, “don’t give up”, is under-rated.  Here are two stories to illustrate why.

  *  Steve Jobs’ biological sister Mona Simpson, with whom he was very close, wrote a moving eulogy for her brother, given in a California church.  She recounts that her brother’s over-riding value was not novelty, or innovation, but beauty.  He understood that “what is ugly now may or will be beautiful in the future”.  He sought beauty later.

   Mona recounts that her brother never ever gave up.  Once, afte he had been fired from Apple, some 500 Silicon Valley business leaders were invited to a dinner with the President of the United States.  Jobs, pioneer founder of Apple, was not invited. It was a deep humiliation.  He was badly hurt.  But the next day, he went to work anyway, at Next.  He worked hard, every day, all day,  all the time.  And he never gave up.  Perhaps his working class background helped give him the resilience to do so.

  *  Tommy Iommi is the lead guitarist for the heavy metal rock group Black Sabbath.  According to Allmusic, “Iommi is one of only two guitarists (the other being Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page) that can take full credit for pioneering the mammoth riffs of heavy metal”.   Iommi grew up in a poor neighborhood in Birmingham.  He wanted to become a rock guitarist, but like many young people took a job in a Birmingham steel mill (Britain still had them in those days).  One day a friend didn’t come to work, so Iommi replaced him, working an unfamiliar press.  He chopped off the tips of his middle and index fingers, on his right hand.  Most people would have given up a musical career after that – how can you play guitar without finger tips so vital for pressing the frets and making the notes?  Iommi made ‘thimbles’ for his missing fingertips, and smoothed them down with sandpaper.  He then loosened his guitar strings, to make it easier to hold down the frets.   It turns out that the thimbles, and the loose strings, contributed to creating a unique deep funky sound that characterizes heavy metal and made Black Sabbath one of the first hysterically-popular heavy metal rock bands.   

    Yes, creativity is great.  Vital. Crucial.  But implementing creative ideas is really tough, and only if you have the dogged determination and resilience to do so, can you break through and succeed.  Steve Jobs and Tommy Iommi prove that.  Creative people find new ways to do things.  Resilient stubborn people find ways to make them happen, against all odds, despite setbacks and obstacles.  So let’s cultivate our creativity, exercise our creativity muscles, and exercise our ‘stubborn’ muscles, and hone our dogged determination.  Creativity and stubbornness are a winning pair.