I was in Korea this week, and looked up Gangnam on the map (Gangnam is an upmarket district of Seoul). I also looked up Gangnam Style’s PSY. How many trips did it take to get to 1 billion views on Youtube? Wow. It took 6 eventful trips, and here they are –
TRIP 1 – Park Jae-sang was groomed to take over his father’s business, and sent to Boston to get his MBA in 1996. Instead, he blew all his tuition funds on musical instruments after being inspired by Queen’s performance of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody. He dropped out of university, renamed himself ‘PSY’ (after ‘Psycho’) and returned to South Korea as a singer, having failed to get a degree.
TRIP 2 – His first album in 2001, ‘PSY from the PSYcho World!’ led to him being fined by the government for ‘inappropriate content’. With his strange dance moves, he was now in the bad books of his dad, the government, and even the public, who named him ‘The Bizarre Singer.’
TRIP 3 – To make matters worse, he was arrested for possession of marijuana. While in jail, he missed his grandfather’s funeral, leading PSY to say ‘I was not there at the funeral. I will regret this for the rest of my life.’
TRIP 4 – His second album in 2002, ‘Sa 2’ earned him a country-wide ban to under 19s for additional inappropriateness. His saving grace was the football World Cup coming to Seoul, which made his ‘appropriate’ song ‘Champion’ his first hit.
TRIP 5 – Off the back of his first success, he was enlisted into the South Korea military (which has mandatory service) in 2003. He snuck out to hold concerts, leading to state prosecutors accusing him of neglecting his work. PSY sued the government but lost, and got re-drafted, having to stay in the army until 2009.
TRIP 6 – PSY entered 2010 broke, with no money to release new songs. With the help of a friend he launched a new single ‘Right Now’ which was promptly banned by the government from under-19s.
In fact, it was only in January 2012, at 35 years old, that PSY had his first foreign TV appearance. While on stage in Japan he put up a sign ‘”I’m a famous singer well-known for driving the audience wild in Korea, but here, today, I’m just a little chubby newcomer’. Fuji TV picked it up, and PSY realised his winning formula to go international would be in making fun of himself.
For a month he worked on the cheesiest dance moves he could come up with, rejecting panda and kangaroo moves for a horse trot. In July 2012 ‘Gangnam Style’ was released on Youtube, and rapidly grew to become the No.1 video in history on Youtube, breaking the 1 billion views mark on 21.12.12 (and now approaching 1.2b).
It took six big trips that led to PSY dancing to his success. Many others would have stopped at the first. How many would have persevered through all six to make it to their ‘overnight success’?
“When you trip in life, make it part of the dance”
How can you make your trips and stumbles in life a part of your dance? Make each of your trips a trip worth taking.
Postscript – What about PSY and his father? PSY, who was born in Gangnam district, went against his father’s wishes, embarrassed the family multiple times and ended up mocking his own family’s neighbourhood in ‘Gangnam Style’.
The story, however, has a happy ending. The family is now closer than ever, PSY and his wife have twin daughters, and his father’s company, DI Corporation, has seen its shares increase by 300% over the last year due to being in the spotlight of PSY’s success – and is now worth over US$130 million in value.)