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Steven Van Zandt Quotes

Steven Van Zandt

Steven Van Zandt quotes: Little Steven’s brutally-honest life lessons.

“Reach for greatness, nothing less. And make sure you have some fun along the way.”

“Life should never be boring.”

“The best part of success, real success, is getting a chance to work the way you want to work, do what you want to do.”

“You have to love what you’re doing in order to find the energy. You gotta love everything you do. You just gotta do it.”

“The old expression is ‘the harder you work, the luckier you’ll get,’ and I think there’s something there. In other words, when the opportunities present themselves, if you’re not ready, it’s irrelevant. It’s all luck. I mean, why are we who we are? Let’s get down to basics. The characteristics that make up who you are, you don’t have very much to do with that.”

“I came up with four elements of who we are. The first three are DNA, circumstance and environment. By that, I mean the circumstances of your life. You’re born in the middle of Africa or you’re born in New Jersey. Environment means your parents showed love for you or they didn’t. DNA is DNA, and that provides inclination or is at least a factor in terms of your inclination. Whether you realize that inclination is another story. But the fourth thing, and in some ways, it’s the smallest part of who you are and the most important, is willpower. And that plays a funny role. That, I think, determines a lot of where you end up, and you can call that ambition in some ways, but willpower is more than ambition. It’s a certain drive to realize one’s potential, to be somebody not necessarily famous, but to realize your potential. I don’t care if you’re a carpenter, you still want to build that perfect house.”

“I try to impress upon people to not take anything for granted.”

“Timing really is nearly everything. And what it isn’t, circumstance makes up for.”

“Every successful person needs to have at least one person in their life who’s not afraid of them.”

“You can’t manage yourself. You can’t be your own manager, no matter how much you understand the business. That’s because the one thing you can’t be is an advocate, and that’s the main job of a manager. Advocate. To be the person that sells you and encourages you, and is a fan of yours, and constantly pumps you up when you get depressed and all that stuff. All those clichés are all valuable and they’re all true. You need that. You need somebody out there selling your work, because content, as I learned the hard way, is only half the story. The other half is marketing.”

“I am interested in the interaction of a group of people who have a common goal, or a common obsession, each contributing something unique to make something greater than the sum of its parts. I don’t know why, but from day one, that has interested me.”

“Being a rock ‘n’ roll star ain’t a part-time gig.”

“I don’t wake up every day and just write to write. I only write with purpose.”

“Whatever I’m doing, I try and keep the quality very high.”

“Your celebrity capital rises and falls in any given year. And when you have some—temporarily, usually—you try to use it for some good.”

“From the age of 14, 13, I guess I wanted to be a rock ‘n’ roll star. And that was it. I wanted to make a living playing rock ‘n’ roll, and it was a ridiculously impossible dream at that time. But it was kind of all I ever wanted to do. I didn’t care about anything except rock and roll. So it’s nice that it turned out to be something that you find a way to make a living from.”

“Does ambition or talent matter more to success? Both. The old-school way of thinking would be more of the second than the first, but I don’t think that’s true in the modern world.”

“I tell everybody, if you’ve got a band that works, it’s a miracle. It’s never going to be perfect, but if it works on some level, hold on to it with both hands and don’t ever let it go.”

“I learned everything I know from leaving the E Street Band. And of course, one of the things I learned is, I never should have left.”

“You tell yourself, ‘Hey I walked out on probably 100 million dollars, but I saved a few lives maybe.’ So what the f*ck, it was worth it.”

“I grew up in a renaissance period, a very lucky time when the greatest music ever made was also the most commercial. We’ll never see that again, so for me, there’s only one criteria, which is greatness. That’s all I care about. Is what I’m doing reaching for greatness? Whether I achieve it or not, that is one 100% of my criteria.”

“I was very lucky with [playing a role in] The Sopranos.”

“I am having the experience two times in my life of doing something that makes New Jersey fashionable [referring to playing with Bruce and acting on The Sopranos]. What are the odds on that?”

“The performing part of what I do in general is fun and important in its own way, but what really gets me off and what I really dig is the creative stuff which is producing and writing. I’ve always had more of an interest in the behind-the-scenes sort of thing rather than being necessarily in the spotlight.”

“I was a terrible student. All I cared about was getting to band rehearsal. After high school I went on the road with a band, came back, and ran into my old friend Bruce Springsteen. There was a little local club called the Upstage Club where we jammed until five a.m. That was where we really started to develop our identity musically.”

“If I had to identify myself, it would be as a writer-producer. You’re contributing to something that is complex, and recognizing greatness is one of the things that I can do. As a troubleshooter, I make bad things good, good things great, and great things better. I know how to do that. But chasing greatness has really been what gets me off in life. I seek it out, I support it when I find it, I try and create it, or I contribute to it. You don’t run into greatness that often, but it’s important as a producer, if that’s one of your gifts, that gift is recognizing it when you see it. So I’m a good soldier and a good leader because I understand both sides of the story.”

“Music will forever be humanity’s most effective and consistent source of inspiration and motivation, and, we have learned, music turns out to be our most solid common ground for establishing communication between teachers and students, which is where education begins.”

“Art is an absolutely necessary part of the quality of life and it also helps kids learn. It gives them a comfortable place to learn from. I sincerely believe now it’s important to teach kids how to think instead of what to think. The arts is connecting the dots. It has to do with instinct and emotion and imagination, the things that every kid possesses. Statistics show that it helps them in science and math, by the way.”

“Compare yourself to the greatest ever in whatever field you’re in, that’s what counts. But nobody’s born great, it takes years of focus and development. That’s the problem these days: everybody is in such a hurry, so greatness will continue to elude future generations, until they can find a way to shut the phone off for a few hours. We gotta turn the computer off for a few hours a day—until we stop being distracted, we’re never gonna get there.”

“That theme of never giving up is in all of my stuff in some ways.”

“I’ve had offers through the years to write a book, but I don’t feel that I’ve quite done enough yet. I got some big ideas left.”

“Don’t worry. I retire when they pull my guitar from my cold, dead hands!”

“The music drives me. It lifts you up, no matter how you’re feeling.”

“I haven’t accomplished 95% of what’s in my head. I have tons of ambition. All I need is time.”

“I learned much too late the usefulness of money and fame and success. Instead of walking away from it, I should have held on to it and used it. But there’s nothing worse than a rock star complaining. I’ve been lucky.”

“What’s my biggest extravagance? I believe in quality of life. I don’t call that an extravagance.”

“I’m happy when I accomplish something. And when I’m home with my wife and dogs.”

“I believe in the right now.”

“My life is mostly about work. And honestly, I am usually very frustrated in my output. I’m constantly trying to catch up and have more output and work harder and get stuff done. So I’m obsessed with work most of the time. So when it comes to grief, I’ve decided, my mind has gone to a place where it’s a very useful defense mechanism called denial. We spend the first half of our lives fighting denial and confronting our fears and what is false and trying to get to the truth and understand ourselves and be as honest and open to the truth as we can be and live it. I try and avoid funerals if I can. I’d just rather be in denial about it, because it’s the only way to live with it, really, because they’re such big losses.”

“I mean, there’s so many [deaths]. Your mother, your father. And after a while, the older you get, it’s happening all around you all the time. What are you going to do? You can either spend your life in grief, or you just say, just be in denial about it. It’s like, ‘Alright, I’m just not seeing them at the moment. They’re busy. I’m busy, they’re busy.’ And that’s how I deal with it.”

“Touch the earth, speak of love, walk on common ground.”

“It ain’t passive. It ain’t TV. Go out there and rock ‘n’ roll and dance and have fun.”

Related: Tom Petty quotes.

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