It’s certainly no secret that I perform for a living. Sometimes I perform keynotes, and sometimes longer seminars and workshops. Sometimes I perform as a coach, and sometimes as a consultant. Sometimes I even perform just talking on the phone. By the way, so do you. That’s why this small lounge performer made such a big impression on me. It wasn’t his voice, or his guitar, or his banter; it was his guts.
Imagine that you are performing in Key West, Florida, at a bar on Duval Street. If you haven’t been to Key West, then you probably don’t know that Duval street is the main street in that town. It is a very intense party street, lined with bars and live musicians. One musican scheduled to play on this particular Friday, on the 4:00 pm to 5:30 pm shift, was our man, Captain Josh. He had his stage at the edge of the bar, almost on the sidewalk. This was usually a great spot to be playing on a Friday afternoon Happy Hour, but little did he know he’d have a little competition this time.
The rumors started on Friday morning, and the Parrot Heads were buzzing. (A Parrot Head is the name for a loyal fan of Jimmy Buffett.) They were in town for their 20th annual convention, and word was Jimmy Buffett might make a surprise appearance. The trucks started appearing around noon, and by 3:00 pm, major parts of Duval Street were closed off. Jimmy Buffett was going to be performing a free, outdoor concert right there on Duval Street and he was preparing to take the stage at 4:00 pm. The town was buzzing, the Parrot Heads were chirping, and a few blocks away, in direct view of the stage, Captain Josh was given his orders: “You are to play.”
3:45 pm – Sirens are blasting as Jimmy Buffett, was escorted through town in a black limo with motorcycles flanking every corner working his way through the thousands of fans and to the stage. Captain Josh was working his way to his stage as well, alone, and with little to no fanfare.
4:00 pm – Both performers take to the stage. Buffett steps out to a crowd of thousands which includes many people hanging out of windows, and off street light poles. Captain Josh steps out to face his audience of exactly one.
For the next 90 minutes, the two men perform. Jimmy Buffett does not disappoint, and he brings it home with a stirring rendition of, “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere.” Captain Josh does the best he can, with a stirring rendition of one obscure song after the other.
Enough. You get the point. Even I can’t draw any more relevant parallels between the two performers. As a mater of fact, I’m willing to bet you that 99.9% of those in attendance, including Captain Josh’s lone fan, who, in fairness, really just used his stool to turn and listen to Buffett, viewed this as not only a mismatch of epic porportions, but an embarrassment. Everyone except me.
Don’t get me wrong; I loved the Buffet performance… but I was inspired by the Captain Josh performance. Maybe that’s because, perhaps not quite at this level, I’ve taken the stage facing some pretty overwhelming odds. Did I ever tell you the time a speaker’s bureau subbed me in for a speaker who had to cancel at the last moment in Los Angeles without telling the audience? Did I tell you the speaker the audience was expecting was Bill Clinton? I’ve been there.
I’m not alone, because you’ve been there too. Oh, it might not have been a gig 50 yards from a Buffett gig, but you have faced impossible odds and were given no choice. I spoke to a few performers at the Captain Josh gig, and I learned he was given no choice. He was told to perform, and he did, and he did the best he could. He didn’t quit, and he didn’t make any excuses. He just did the best he could.
Think back to the last time you faced impossible odds. Maybe it was to land a big account, accomplish a nearly impossible job, or to serve on an impossible committee. Yes, there is an early step that usually provides an opportunity to run away, but we can’t all run away. Sometimes we have to stay, and fight. Sometimes we have to face overwhelming odds, and like Captain Josh, we have to keep going. In the end, we do the best we can.
I considered myself extremely lucky to be walking around Key West and walking right into an impromtu Jimmy Buffett concert. But I consider myself even more fortunate to have found myself face-to-face with the real story, and a powerful reminder. At the end of the day, there are some things we can not control. Yet, we can always make the decision to persevere, and to do the very best we can, no matter what the circumstances. We can decide not to quit. Effort and attitude are always under our control. Thanks, Captain Josh… and Mr. Buffett.