Ya can't please everyone ..

Updated: Jul 29, 2018

Moving into a new job or developing your career in a business can be pretty stressful! As if learning the job, remembering everyone’s name, learning the social rhythm of the business, or simply finding where you can buy a decent coffee wasn’t enough, there’s also working out how to “fit in”.

“Fit in?” I hear you ask. Yep, fit in. Being a manager, and business coach, I have learnt that one thing that is a significant form of stress for many people, is the worry of “fitting” the culture and style of the business. Whether it's being respected, liked, included, trusted, comfortable or just a feeling of belonging.

People want to be individuals, but no-one wants to be the odd one out.


It always saddens me to hear from amazingly talented people that they have created a façade or persona that they apply, like putting on a suit, to ensure they fit in at their work. Quelling their natural style, personality and intelligence, thinking they may be ostracised if they don’t conform to the crowd.

No matter how hard you may try, it's almost impossible to be someone who is going to please everybody all the time. And trying to can be seriously stressful.

Sometimes, "fitting in" becomes a chore and often at the sacrifice of being able to be relaxed and comfortable with who you are and behaving in a way that is natural. Having worked in big corporates that were dominated by internal politics and less about company goals, I know how easy it is to get lost inside the business.

I remember sitting in a conference listening to a gaggle of ageing executives bitching about their colleagues, staff and colluding to sideline certain people who they felt didn't fit in. All this energy being channelled to such activities that had nothing to do with the business was frightening.

The rest of the conversation was spent talking about their share portfolio, investments and criticising the quality of the wine (and the person that selected it) at the conferences. I realised how superficial and self absorbed these "leaders" were. It was depressing for an ambitious executive like me that truly believed we could make a difference.

At the end of that conference I made a promise to myself that I would never be like them. I'd respect people for who they were and no matter what, I wouldn't compromise my values. While it may have cost me a promotion or two along the way, I was far more comfortable with the guy I saw in the mirror everyday.

So, come closer grasshopper, and listen to a tale that will make you rethink what is important and question the value of wearing a “cloak of conformity” when being yourself could pay much bigger dividends.

In the 50s and early 60s there was a hugely popular singer called Ricky Nelson that produced a raft of pop songs that dominated the charts. Not all songs were written by Nelson, but he was undoubtedly a star!


As a child, Nelson starred with his parents on The Adventures Of Ozzie And Harriet and became a teen idol as a singer in the '50s. He had a string of hits, but by the mid '60s he was no longer in demand as The Beatles dominated the American and global music scene.

On October 15, 1971, he played in a "Rock & Roll Spectacular" show with fellow '50s stars Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry and Bobby Rydell at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

The plan was that he was expected to play his hits, and at first, he obliged, opening with "Be-Bop Baby" - not one of his best songs but a regular crowd-pleaser. After delivering a few more hits and getting rousing ovations, he started playing newer material, including his country-rock cover of The Rolling Stones "Honky Tonk Women" from a soon to be released album.


When he finished the song and walked back to his guitar, he heard an unusual sound: booing. It appeared that people only wanted to hear what Nelson used to be, and not who he was now.

Nelson had been playing his newer songs at college shows, and they were generally well received. To hear booing from his supposed “fans” was a shock.

This audience was different to the college crowds, comprised of some oldies purists who thought the experience was about past hits and they weren’t interested in what Nelson wanted to play – only what they wanted – and that was him to conform and perform his past hits.

The booing unnerved Nelson, who only played one more song before cutting his set short and calling it a night.

Nelson’s experience prompted the former teen idol to write "Garden Party”, a country style song which ended up becoming his first US Top 10 hit since 1963!

This was one of the few songs Nelson wrote himself, and it was very important to him.

Nelson's son Gunnar wrote in a Chicken Soup for the Soul article: "After a lifetime of pretending to be a character he wasn't - wearing the sweater on Monday on the set of Ozzie and Harriet after being a real rock star on the weekends - he was writing and performing for his own pleasure and satisfaction. The song was based on his experience at Madison Square Garden.

He turned what could have remained the darkest day of his life into his brightest shining moment. Just when the music industry considered him a relic, filing him away as yesterday's news, he had the biggest hit of his career and it was totally autobiographical.

As I was becoming musical as a kid, he told me that he would have given away all of his #1 records for success like this because it was a piece of his life, of his heart. The victory belonged to him alone. He told me then that the best thing in the world to be as an artist is a songwriter first and foremost."

On reflection, it appears that Nelson did not get into the spirit of the event, as instead of giving the crowd his old hits they had come to enjoy, he showed up with long hair, a sequinned outfit, and new songs. But he was being true to himself. Ironically, Nelson is probably better known for “Garden Party” – a tune about not having his music appreciated.

There is some fascinating trivia in the lyrics which for the music geek (like me) add an extra dimension to Nelson’s hit song (more at the end of the post for you geeks!). But the chorus to “Garden Party” provides the key message from Nelson, not only being catchy, but a personal statement.

“But it's all right now I learned my lesson well You see, ya can't please everyone So ya got to please yourself”

Other lyrics worth calling out in the spirit of this post is one about Elvis Presley, one of the most iconic soloists and regularly referred to as the King of Rock and Roll.


“If you gotta play at garden parties I wish you a lotta luck But if memories were all I sang I rather drive a truck”

In this passage Nelson refers to the fact that if performing old songs is all that’s on offer, he’d rather drive a truck. This is a direct reference to Presley, who was a truck driver and was famously told after several failed auditions to "stick to truck driving because you're never going to make it as a singer". Ha!

So next time you are thinking about whether you should shroud yourself in a cloak of conformity to “fit in” think of Ricky Nelson (and Elvis Presley for that matter).

Life is short. Way too short to waste it doing something that you don’t enjoy and is allowing you to be true to who you are, and your values.

Sometimes you need to back yourself, follow your instincts and chase your goals. Not everyone will agree with you. And plenty of naysayers will tell you that you should just suck it up and follow the crowd – but if that’s not what you want, and it’s not who you want to be, why?

Find those people in your network that believe in you and will offer encouragement, they're the ones who most likely see you for who you are and believe in your potential.

Sure, sometimes you will fail, but take it from me – regret hurts much more than failure.

Every failure is an opportunity to learn and grow. It will prepare you for much bigger things and provide you valuable and amazing experiences. And failing doing something you love is better than winning at something you don’t love.

Now for my fellow music geeks, here are the lyrics to “Garden Party” and some of those interesting facts I mentioned earlier.



"Garden Party", by Ricky Nelson

I went to a garden party To reminisce with my old friends A chance to share old memories And play our songs again When I got to the garden party They all knew my name No one recognized me I didn't look the same

But it's all right now I learned my lesson well You see, ya can't please everyone So ya got to please yourself

People came from miles around Everyone was there Yoko brought her walrus There was magic in the air 'N' over in the corner Much to my surprise Mr Hughes hid in Dylan's shoes Wearing his disguise

But it's all right now I learned my lesson well You see, ya can't please everyone So ya got to please yourself

Lott-in-dah-dah lot-in-dah-dah-dah

Played them all the old songs Thought that's why they came No one heard the music We didn't look the same I said hello to "Mary Lou" She belongs to me When I sang a song about a honky-tonk It was time to leave

But it's all right now I learned my lesson well You see, ya can't please everyone So ya got to please yourself

Lot-dah-dah (lot-dah-dah-dah) Lot-in-dah-dah-dah

Someone opened up a closet door And out stepped Johnny B Goode Playing guitar Like a-ringin' a bell And lookin' like he should If you gotta play at garden parties I wish you a lotta luck But if memories were all I sang I rather drive a truck

But it's all right now I learned my lesson well You see, ya can't please everyone So ya got to please yourself

Lot-dah-dah (lot-dah-dah-dah) Lot-in-dah-dah-dah

'N' it's all right now Learned my lesson well You see, ya can't please everyone So you got to please yourself

Source: Song Facts, http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=2907

Lyric references of interest

  • A garden party - October 15, 1971's Rock 'n Roll Revival concert at Madison Square Garden, New York City.

  • My old friends - fellow performers at the concert Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Bobby Rydell

  • Yoko - Yoko Ono

  • Yoko's walrus - John Lennon from the famous song “I am the Walrus” (goo goo g'joob)

  • Mr. Hughes – Refers to George Harrison who used the alias of Mr. Hughes when travelling incognito.

  • (Mr. Hughes) hid in Dylan's shoes - Harrison's planned (but later abandoned) an album of Bob Dylan covers.

  • I said hello to Mary Lou, she belongs to me - Nelson's song "Hello Mary Lou", which he played at the concert; also a reference to "She Belongs to Me", a Bob Dylan song covered by Nelson

  • I sang a song about a Honky-Tonk - The Rolling Stones song "Country Honk", the song that allegedly caused the booing.

  • And it was time to leave - Nelson's subsequent departure

  • Out stepped Johnny B. Goode - Chuck Berry's song "Johnny B. Goode"

  • Playing guitar like a-ringing a bell - the line in "Johnny B. Goode", "he could play guitar just like a-ringing a bell"

  • I'd rather drive a truck - Elvis Presley worked for a time as a truck driver, having famously been told after several failed auditions to "stick to truck driving because you're never going to make it as a singer"

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garden_Party_(Rick_Nelson_song)