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What ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic Can Teach Us About Success

What ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic Can Teach Us About Success

Everyone knows Weird Al Yankovic. I mean, who could possibly forget “Amish Paradise”?

But recently, Weird Al enjoyed a massive success that surpassed any of his past albums. His latest album, “Mandatory Fun,” entered the charts at No. 1 — the first time ever for him. (Watch him get the happy news here!)

And for good reason. His album is full of clever gems, like “Foil” (a parody of “Royals” by Lorde), “Tacky” (“Happy” by Pharrell Williams), and — my personal favorite — “Word Crimes” (“Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke).

In fact, this weird dude can teach us quite a bit about success, starting with these 10 things:

1. Success doesn’t always happen right away

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    Weird Al was totally blown away by the success of this latest album. After all, he had been doing this for years, and he hadn’t received nearly this much attention before.

    It just goes to show that sometimes, success doesn’t come right away. You have to work at it long and hard to get where you want to be. But it will totally pay off.

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    2. Be bold

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      If there’s one thing Weird Al certainly is, it’s bold. I mean, look at that costume.

      But he’s bold in more ways than one. To get Iggy Azalea’s permission to do a parody of “Fancy,” he attended one of her concerts and waited backstage.

      According to Billboard, Weird Al explained, “I talked to her as she was literally walking offstage. I introduced myself, ‘Hi, I’m Weird Al Yankovic, and I would love to do a parody of “Fancy.”‘ The next morning, I was in the studio recording.”

      Sometimes, you just have to put yourself out there. You just might get exactly what you were hoping for.

      3. Be persistent

      weird al 3

        Weird Al was set on doing a parody of Pharrell’s “Happy” — but he couldn’t get a hold of his contacts. But he didn’t stop there. He actually found Pharrell’s personal e-mail (in a way that he didn’t want to divulge, apparently), and he asked him himself. Pharrell “couldn’t have been nicer about it” and was happy to give him permission.

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        If Plan A doesn’t work, try Plan B through Z. You can do anything you set your mind to.

        4. Always be the good guy

        Speaking of permission … did you know Weird Al doesn’t even need the permission of artists? He could technically just do parodies of them without even contacting them. But he still asks permission. And as a result, many of the artists not only give him permission, but express how happy they are that he’s covering their stuff.

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          Respect other people, and they will be willing to help you out.

          5. Let the haters hate

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            When asked about bad feedback and negative responses, Weird Al explained that he was sometimes a little hurt by it, but he knew that it’s inevitable. “I’ve got so many other people on Twitter that are extremely positive, so it more than balances it out,” he said.

            The more successful you are, the more criticism you’ll get. If it’s constructive, use it. If it’s not, well, screw it.

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            6. Be flexible

            After all this success, Weird Al probably won’t come out with another album.

            weird al 6

              I know, right? But the reason isn’t because he’s quitting. It’s because he’s decided that the album form doesn’t lend itself well to his parodies, so he’s going to start utilizing YouTube.

              Don’t just stick to what you’ve always done. Even after you’ve had success, you need to constantly think about how you can do better next time. Be flexible with the times!

              7. Love what you do

              Weird Al loves being weird. He’s actually making a living off being weird, because hey — he’s good at it.

              Love what you do, and you’ll make it unique and all your own. You won’t be truly successful if you aren’t happy doing what you’re doing.

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                8. Be yourself

                If there’s one thing Weird Al can teach us, it’s to be yourself.

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                  I mean, it pretty much goes without saying.

                  9. Don’t trample others on your way

                  Weird Al’s parodies are never cruel or derogatory. That’s because he doesn’t believe in making fun of others. “I’m a fan, like everybody else,” he explained. “When I do these parodies, it’s not meant to mock people … It’s an homage. … I don’t think you need to be hurtful to be funny.”

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                    You can gain success without damaging others (even Stephenie Meyer). Don’t become so obsessed with getting to the top that you forget this crucial fact.

                    10. Vulgar doesn’t always win

                    You don’t need to be crude to be a star. Weird Al never swears. In fact, he does awesome things instead, like this:

                    weird al 10

                      … and that’s why we love him.

                      Featured photo credit: Mary Rehak via flickr.com

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                      Last Updated on July 17, 2019

                      The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

                      The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

                      What happens in our heads when we set goals?

                      Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

                      Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

                      According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

                      Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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                      Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

                      Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

                      The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

                      Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

                      So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

                      Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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                      One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

                      Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

                      Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

                      The Neurology of Ownership

                      Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

                      In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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                      But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

                      This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

                      Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

                      The Upshot for Goal-Setters

                      So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

                      On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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                      It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

                      On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

                      But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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                      Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

                      Reference

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