Creative Comebacks

Welcome back to the Creative Life Adventure.

I recently came across a compact disc recording of Elvis Presley‘s comeback special (officially titled “Singer Presents…Elvis!”) that aired on NBC in December, 1968. Presley hadn’t performed before a live audience in years. It was a dramatic example of a career comeback that, for a few years at least, rejuvenated Presley’s passion as a musical performer. It got me thinking about other famous career comebacks and the relevance of a “comeback” to creatives.

Elvis Presley compact disc recording "Memories: The 68 Comeback Special"It’s not hard to find examples of big-name comebacks. Frank Sinatra‘s fading singing and acting careers were both rejuvenated after his supporting role in From Here to Eternity. Martha Stewart‘s professional future seemed questionable after an insider trading conviction, but she returned to being a household name as a result of her creative achievements. Vanessa Williams‘ reputation seemed permanently tarnished in 1984 but she went on to become a successful recording artist and actor. Andre Agassi was the highest rated tennis player in the world in 1995, nearly lost his career to drug addiction, then made a remarkable comeback to #1 ranking again by 1999.

Even animals can make comebacks. The racing horse Seabiscuit, and his long-time jockey Red Pollard, both recovered from career-debilitating injuries to ride to victory together in 1940.

If you ever face a creative downturn, a number of options are open to you, and giving up should not be one of them:

Returning to Andre Agassi, in an interview after his retirement from professional tennis, he reminded us of the potential hidden in setbacks when he said, “Sometimes, when you’ve been broken into pieces, you come back and give much more to people.” And maybe that is the point. To never lose sight of the creative potential in each of us, potential that remains even after a misfortune.

Winston Churchill, a fellow who knew a thing or two about comebacks, expressed this in his commencement address to Harrow School in 1941:

“Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never–in nothing, great or small, large or petty–never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

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