Stewart Copeland, The Police, and Antifragile Beginnings



“We were a punk group and we wanted to ruffle feathers.”   This was the mindset of Stewart Copeland, drummer for The Police, in the late 1970’s and it may have created fame and fortune for the group.
I came across  this quote while watching this great interview of Copeland from the Later with Bob Costas show.  Great because I am a fan of the Police and there aren’t many interviews of Copeland that I could find online.  And secondly, because he talks about two antifragile concepts in just the first couple minutes!
Early on in The Police’s career, they released a single called Can’t Stand Losing You.  The BBC wouldn’t play it because the subject of the song was suicide.  Costas asks, “Did you raise a voice in protest and say ‘Wait a minute!  This is not an advocacy of suicide…'”?  I was expecting Copeland to explain how they tried, but the BBC was just too big, etc., but instead he gave a wry smile and said, “No, the more we irritated the BBC, the better we felt about things”.
Of course their career went straight up from there and they eventually sold millions of records (even if they did lose the “punk” label).  Did they consciously know the notoriety would help them?  Probably not — and of course it didn’t hurt that they wrote great songs — but this is exactly what Nassim Taleb talks about in his book Antifragile.  Sometimes, paradoxically,  the more bad press you get, the more popular you get.  Especially if you’re pissing off the right kind of people.  Think, Elvis, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, even Donald Trump.
So, The Police had great songs and the right attitude to go with it. They were poor, hungry, and had nothing to lose.  Very antifragile!  All upside.
Then they became a sensation and they all got rich.  Now what?  Did their motivations change?  Fortunately, Costas asked this exact question as a follow up.  Stewart answers this way:
 “It’s amazing how you start out as a firebrand, but then you start getting rewarded for you revolutionary fervor.  And you become a lot less revolutionary.  In fact, you become part of the status quo.  You think, ‘If they knock the world over, what’s going to happen to my bank accounts?’  It’s terrible.”

The more you start to worry about losing you possessions, your relationships, the more fragile you become.  The more fragile you become, the more likely it is that you will lose these things!

Best to develop an attitude free of attachments and try to maintain your zest for life no mater what.

In 1924, Thomas Edison’s laboratories burned to the ground.  Ten buildings in all.  Years of work, all of it gone.   “It’s all right.”, he told his son. “We’ve just got rid of a lot of rubbish.  Go get your mother and all her friends. They’ll never see a fire like this again.