Rocker Tom Petty suddenly and sadly passed away last week. But he has left us with an incredible legacy of music and memories that span a generation. While his hits are too numerous to mention, perhaps his most impactful song is the haunting tribute to resilience in “I Won’t Back Down”.
The tune has an unmistakable defiance befitting the legend of Tom Petty. With iconic lines such as “I’ll stand my ground/And I won’t back down“, it has been adopted as an inspirational mantra for anyone who has taken a stand and stared down adversity.
The song was inspired by a tragedy in Petty’s own life. In 1987, two years before the song’s release, an arsonist set fire to Petty’s house outside of Los Angeles. Petty rushed his wife and 5-year old daughter to safety and tried in vain to battle the rapidly spreading fire.
The blaze burned Petty’s estate to the ground and he lost all of his personal possessions. But worse, he now had to deal with the unnerving reality that someone wanted to destroy his family. “I Won’t Back Down” was a personal message to his attacker that he would not be intimidated or pushed around by this act of cowardice. Tom Petty would be resilient to the end.
And we could all benefit by standing up in our own lives.
We Have to Stay Active in our Work Lives
In our work lives, it is easy to get intimidated and bullied. More established colleagues may try to steal our clients. Competitors may spread fear, uncertainty and doubt about our services. Potential customers may employ brutal negotiation tactics against us. Management may try to limit our responsibilities. We all feel the squeeze at some point in our careers.
So what are we going to do about it?
Complaining is not going to help our situation. Feeling sorry for ourselves only exacerbates our weak position. We cannot rely on someone else to rescue us. Sitting back like a tackling dummy does not move our lives forward. We must stand up for ourselves!
We must fight to keep our clients and advocate for their concerns. We must actively take on our competitors and prove our worth with bold actions. We must negotiate fairly but fiercely in the face of intimidation. We must shake off our disappointment and prove to management that we deserve more opportunities.
Nobody is going to hand it to us. We have to go out and take it. We have to stand our ground! We can’t back down!
Taking a Stand in Our Personal Lives
In our personal lives, we all face unfamiliar situations. We move into a new neighborhood. We start at a new school. We try out for a different team. We start a new relationship. We have to navigate through unchartered territory.
In these scenarios, we have to fight even harder to stand up for ourselves. People may try to take advantage of our naiveté. We have to trust our gut instincts. We know more than we think!
It is more important to do the right thing than to fit in. It is more important to stand up for our beliefs than to try and impress new friends. It is sometimes better to be alone than to stay in a relationship that makes us feel alone.
We can’t let anyone else dictate our happiness. We can’t make decisions based on what other people think. If we are going to stay true to our beliefs, we can’t let anyone push us around!
Standing Up for Ourselves Only Strengthens Our Resolve
But just because we stand our ground, doesn’t mean we will always win. We can advocate for our clients and still lose to our competition. We can fiercely negotiate and still have to concede. We can work hard but still lose our stature at work. We can do the right thing but experience loneliness along the way.
Standing up doesn’t always deliver success and happiness. Others might push back even harder and try to crush us. But it toughens our resolve and strengthens our resilience. It gives us the fortitude to embrace the next challenge. Every time we stand up and push back, we make it easier to fight the next battle.
And if we stand up for ourselves and never compromise our morals, we’ll keep this world from dragging us down.
Never Back Down
We are naturally born to negotiate and fight for ourselves. But along the way, life experiences can beat that fight out of us.
We can’t let that happen!
We are all battling for something. The undersized athlete competing for playing time. The younger executive struggling for respect. The older employee clamoring to prove he can still contribute. Whatever it is, we have to stay confident in our ability. We can’t be intimidated. We have to go out and show the world that we won’t be pushed around.
You can stand us up at the gates of hell, but we WON’T BACK DOWN.
Thank you, Tom Petty.