Dead Set on Success Article by: Jim Rohrbach

Are you dead set on success? Okay — I hear you groaning: “Coach — the GRATEFUL DEAD? What the heck do THEY have to do with success?” As a veteran of over 50 concerts since I got “on the bus” in 1971, I’m a relatively lightweight “Dead Head,” yet I learned a lot by following them. To quote one of their song lyrics, “Once in a while you get shown the light in the strangest of places, if you look at it right.” So let me break it down for you.

We’ve all heard the saying “Do what you love and the money will follow.” The Grateful Dead were ALL about the love of sharing their music with a legion of rabid Dead Head fans. In their early years they couldn’t have cared less about money, going deep into debt as they toured incessantly. Formed in 1965, the band waited into the mid-1980s before it began to see its cash flow swell — are you willing to pursue your passion for 20 years without having much financial success to show for it?

The group played over 3,000 concerts in 30 years, most twice as long as the typical rock show. And no two of their performances were ever the same, as compared with your average touring band that plays the same set list every night. Yet, was this really “work,” or “play”? They were able to make a living playing at what they loved, bringing their fans back tour after tour to experience the “joy factor” in every concert — isn’t that a worthy ideal for all of us?

Even though their success might appear effortless today, all high achievers know the trials and tribulations they went through over the years to finally make it. The Grateful Dead had more than their fair share of adversity, from being continually harassed for their “scene” by the local gendarmes in every city they visited, to being panned by most rock critics as being a “psychedelic-relic greatesthits band,” to having their entire bankroll embezzled by their manager (incredibly, the father of their drummer!) in the early ’70s, to the death of not one, not two, but THREE keyboardists in 30 years. Yet they just kept on truckin’.

How often do you need to improvise solutions in your line of work? The granddaddy of all “jam bands,” the Grateful Dead were known for their unrehearsed sonic excursions. The quest for a unique concert experience kept us patient with their nightly extended jam experiments. These musical trips into the unknown sometimes fell short of the mark — but when it clicked, it was magic.

We’ve all got to keep pace with changing technology, and the Grateful Dead were often ahead of the curve. They spent huge wads of cash on equipment to get the best sound possible (including their infamous “wall of sound” — a gargantuan amplifier set up that literally dwarfed the band members), refined the art of the light show, and, most recently, pioneered direct-to-consumer digital audio recording sales of their live concerts (much to the dismay of music industry middlemen).

Quick — when you see a tie-dye t-shirt, who comes to mind? A full 40 years after the band’s inception, “Brand Dead” is still going strong — Grateful Dead Merchandising ( is hawking everything from vintage ’60s concert posters to “dancing bear” baby wear. They’ve got the kind of marketing staying power that rivals other rock ‘n roll icons like the Beatles and Elvis.

Nobody played more benefit concerts in their time than the Grateful Dead. The Rex Foundation, (, their philanthropic organization formed in 1984, has given millions of dollars over the years to support a number of worthy not-for-profit endeavors. They seemed to intuitively know that charity breeds prosperity.

Hard as it may be to believe, the Grateful Dead was the highest-grossing touring act in the entire entertainment business between the 10-year period of 1985–1995 — outdrawing (and outearning) the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, and Michael Jackson. (How have your last 10 years been?)

A full decade has passed since their legendary lead guitarist and founding member Jerry Garcia died, yet the remaining original band members still go on tour, both collectively as “The Dead” and with solo projects. It goes to show you, if you live your life following the high standards the Grateful Dead have embodied since the mid ’60s, you’ll have a “sunshine daydream” of a life!

Success Skills Coach Jim Rohrbach, “The Personal Fitness Trainer for Your Business,” coaches business owners, entrepreneurs and sales professionals on growing their clientele. He has helped hundreds of individuals to achieve their goals since he developed his first coaching program in 1982. To arrange a Free Consultation with Jim, go to