Rock’s Ultimate Story of Triumph Over Adversity

Dedicated to my nephew, Thomas.

On New Year’s Eve in 1984, a young man named Rick was driving to a party with his girlfriend.

Rick was a drummer, and his band had just released their third album, which was growing in popularity in the United Kingdom and United States.

Naturally, he was looking forward to celebrating his big year, as well as looking forward to a bright future.

However, minutes before he arrived at the party, he lost control of his black Corvette Stingray and hit a brick wall.

He awoke from the accident, with paramedics looking over him.

Dazed and confused, he cocked his head to his left and devastation set in.

His left arm had been torn off in the accident.

Doctors informed him that it could not be reattached, and that he would never play the drums again.

Initially, Rick struggled with his new reality — he had lost his love, his joy and his income. He embarked upon a lengthy recovery program — one that not only helped him heal emotionally and physically.

He spent six months in the hospital, and also had to learn how to deal with the day to day realities of life with just one arm.

He was down and out, and suffered bouts of depression in response to the cruel hand he had been dealt.

But his friends — and more importantly, his bandmates — stood by him, and encouraged him to do the unthinkable.

The idea of playing the drums with one arm was seeded in his mind.

To do that, he needed to design a custom drum-kit, one that allowed him to play the snare drum with his foot.

He would also need to re-learn how to play the drums entirely.

Despite his initial challenges, poor performances in band rehearsals, and doubts as to his ability to get good enough to play for a popular rock band, Rick gradually got better and better.

He was frustrated by the fact that he wasn’t as good as he used to be, but one day he realised that while he might not ever be as good as he used to be, playing the drums with one arm is unique.

He decided to focus on the uniqueness of his playing instead of comparing himself to his past self.

Twenty months after the accident, in August of 1986, Rick was ready for his big test.

His band had been invited to play one of the biggest rock festivals in the world — the Monsters of Rock festival at Castle Donington in England.

Over 100,000 people were expected to attend.

Other bands set to play included Ozzy Osbourne, The Scorpions and Motorhead.

The odds were stacked against him.

Could he do it?

The audience didn’t know what to expect, but anticipation grew as the band was minutes from taking the stage.

The band’s singer, Joe, came on stage and energetically sang the words of their first song, “I said welcome to my show!”, and the band kicked off their set.

The band played ten songs.

As for Rick?

He nailed it — and he has been the band’s drummer ever since.

Rick, behind his drum-kit at Monsters of Rock 1986

25 years later, Rick’s band has sold over 100 million albums!

The band? Def Leppard.

The drummer? Rick Allen.

Rick is a living embodiment of the maxim that “life isn’t what happens to you, it’s how you respond”.

Life doesn’t always go how you plan it to. It often throws curve balls at you, and oftentimes you strike out. But it’s about lining up to bat, again and again and again, until you hit a home run, or more modestly, make it to first base.

Former US President, Calvin Coolidge, once said the following:

Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts.

Whenever life throws you curveballs, just remember that it is not talent, genius or education that differentiates success from failure, but persistence.

Persistence is everything.

Rick Allen drum solo in 2013

Steve Glaveski is the co-founder of Collective Campus, author of Employee to Entrepreneur and host of the Future Squared podcast. He’s a chronic autodidact, and he’s into everything from 80s metal and high-intensity workouts to attempting to surf and do standup comedy.

Founder: Collective Campus, Host: Future Squared, Author: Time Rich & Employee to Entrepreneur. Clubhouse: @steveglaveski Visit: #MELB

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store