Stairway

TunesDay, and we’ll use the occasion to talk about a song that makes every “Best Rock Songs Of All Time” list.  It is, as Robert Plant says in the performance below, a song of hope:

That was from a 1973 performance of Stairway To Heaven.  I used this song while teaching poetry to a high school English class (the class and I made a deal – they’d learn all the correct terms with which to analyze poetry and pass a test on them; I’d only use rock lyrics for poetry study).  It’s a really interesting piece in terms of how the meter changes from anapestic (dah dah DAH) to dactylic (DAH dah dah) to iambic (dah DAH) to match the increasing pace and intensity of the song.  The music isn’t too shabby either!

There been a lot of debate over the years what it’s about.  I’m not a believer in the whole myth about a Satanic ritual song if you listen backwards.  I do, however, know that the stairway image comes from the Bible (Jacob’s Ladder – another oft used image in music) and much of the rest is kind of English pseudo-medievalism.  I don’t really read into it a lot except for two points I think are useful as we think about business.

The first is in the first lyric:

There’s a lady who’s sure all that glitters is gold
And she’s buying a stairway to heaven.
When she gets there she knows, if the stores are all closed
With a word she can get what she came for.

You can’t buy a stairway to heaven – it’s something that’s earned.  Plant’s being snarky but he makes an excellent point.  We often don’t understand the value of some things or people because we’re looking at the next shiny object.  We also underestimate the work involved in achieving success.  It’s not something that one can queue up and buy – like the stairway, it’s earned.

The next is probably the more important lesson:

Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run
There’s still time to change the road you’re on.

In other words, there comes a time when every business – and every business person – might need to stop, reassess, and change direction.  Conditions change, priorities change, and the people who are successful learn to change with them, modifying business models and career paths along the way.  That’s why, in my opinion, it’s a song of hope.  More importantly, it reminds us that business (and life) is a journey, and maybe that journey is every bit as important as the goal, which is where that stairway leads.

What do you think?

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