Lay The World At Your Feet

Last night, bluegrass/folk legends Peter Rowan and Tony Rice were in town. Now, I am a slobbering fan of many musicians, but Tony’s picking and Peter’s voice ranks up there with the best I’ve ever heard.

When God puts together his all-time all-star choir, Peter will be in the front row (next to Gram Parsons, Aretha Franklin, Roy Orbison and James Brown). And Tony will be in the orchestral pit (next to Roy Buchanan, Jimi Hendrix, and Danny Gatton).

So this was a show I desperately wanted to see.

That’s the set-up.

Now, here’s the story: For reasons I cannot explain to myself, other things were more important over the last two weeks than securing tickets to the show.

When I finally called the joint holding the event, they informed me it was sold out. Oversold, in fact. The fire marshall was sniffing around.

This is a lesson I apparently have to relearn over and over again. I had a chance to see Jimi Hendrix when I was 19. I had gone to many concerts at the venue, had wheels, had friends to go with, had the money. But something was more important that night, and I missed the show. Jimi died soon after. I never did see him perform.

I don’t recall what was so damned important that I decided to skip that show. But I do remember missing the show.

The lesson is: When you have priorities in your life, you must do your due diligence to follow through on them. There will ALWAYS be a competing reason not to follow through. Our brains work that way — always looking for a reason to be lazy.

Always looking for a reason to bail.

I can tell you that whatever reason I had for not going to that show had absolutely no longterm impact on my life. I may have believed, at the time, that it was a reason that prevented me from seeing Jimi. But in reality, it was a lame excuse, whatever it was. Even if it was work-related, I could have rearranged things. The girlfriend would have understood. The family wouldn’t have missed me that much.

I could have made it up to anyone who felt the least bit slighted by my absence.

There was NOTHING as important to me, at 19, as seeing Jimi.

Your mind will derail you. You gotta stay on top of it. This is your job. No one else will do it for you.

In business, there will always be phone calls you really, really, really don’t wanna make… or projects you really, really, really don’t wanna start… or a whole pile of sundry details and major things that must be done that you would prefer not to do.

If a particular thing is routinely onerous to you, you should re-examine what you do for a living. Maybe you’re in the wrong gig.

But resistance happens even when you’re doing what you love. Every writer I know struggles to sit down and face the empty page. Much easier to go play Nintendo, or take a nap, or call a friend, or masturbate, or go eat something, or do ANYTHING else.

Discipline hurts, sometimes. Okay, it always hurts a little bit.

I love Tom Hanks’ line in “A League of Their Own”, when his star player says she’s quitting playing baseball because it just “got too hard”. He says: “It’s SUPPOSED to be hard. That’s what makes it so special. If it was easy, everybody would do it.”

Keep that in mind when you need to pat yourself on the back… or hunker down and get past your resistance on something.

Second part of the story: I drove by the Rowan/Rice concert anyway. Asked if there were any tickets. Looked for someone to bribe.

But it was a very small joint, and they were packed to the rafters. And there was a gaggle of people ahead of me asking the same lame questions about getting in.

Now, it happens that I recognized the guy producing the show. Moe has a small company here in town, and brings in quality acts for small venues. We’re very lucky to have him.

He doesn’t know me, but over the past years I have made a point of looking him in the eye whenever I’ve seen him and saying hello. Nothing more.

Just putting some coins in the bank, so to speak.

So, I’m working my way up the chain of command — from ticket taker (“No way, Jack”) to the bouncer (“Uh uh”) to the restaurant manager. And just as I’m about to offer paying ANY price, to stand anywhere in the room, Moe walks by. I pause and say “Hi, Moe”. And the manager does a double take.

Moe stops, and recognizes what’s going on. (He’s been in the game for a long time.) Puts a hand on my shoulder and tells the manager that he expects 20% of the room to leave at the break. So, if “guys like him” wanted to come back for the second set, I could probably get in.

Fine with me. I hung out, came back at 9:30, found Moe again, and he escorted me to the door guardian and said “Let this guy in.”

And they all refused to take any money.

Do you see what happened here? It’s the power of simple bonding. I wasn’t a pest, wasn’t asking for special treatment (much), and didn’t push for anything.

I knew that Moe wouldn’t recognize me as a personal friend, but because most people don’t know who he is at all, I identified myself as someone who was a regular at his shows. Worthy of at least a little extra effort.

This is knocking, so the door gets opened. Asking, so you may recieve.

It’s all about understanding the powers and limitations of high-end salesmanship. Even low-level recognition carries enormous weight with people. In business, your customers have learned to be anonymous with almost every company they deal with. They expect not to be recognized.

Well, guess what? Reverse the above bonding process. And put some coins in the banks of every one of your customers… by recognizing them. The simplest way is to personalize your emails and letters.

But it doesn’t hurt to go even further. In a recent Rant, I talked about the amazing results you can get from a simple contact by phone with customers. It’s easy to break through the great sea of anonymity people slog through in their lives… and they apprecitate it.

If you’re in a niche, it’s even easier. Cuz you can talk about your shared passions in ways that “feel” personal, even when you’re addressing your entire base.

Bonding works. Amazingly well.

Gotta go.

John Carlton

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  • roger currier says:

    Great lesson. How was the show?

  • Tammy Lesueur says:

    Great lesson, put my salesman’s picture on everything we send out. Often people look at him, or even walk up to him, because they just know they’ve seen him somewhere. I know its got him past the front desk clerk more than once, a lot of front desk folks want to know if he’s the guy.

    Tammy Lesueur

  • I love the part about “reversing” the bonding process and recognizing your customers through personalization…

    The greatest marketing breakthrough I created was based on that exact concept. The first letter I wrote did so-so, it broke even and thanks to a high-margin back-end my client was able to make some money.

    I wasn’t satisfied so I re-wrote the letter AS IF I really WAS writing to just one person and that I really DID care about that person, was excited about what I was sharing and asking them to call…

    Carlton is right-on (as usual). Boy did those phones light up!

    — Jason Bedunah

  • Andy Havens says:

    Hi John,

    Your bonding observation is pure gold. I’m not sure if the prelude was an intentional message or not but I got something out of it worth pointing to.

    You said “Our brains work that way — always looking for a reason to be lazy.”

    It seems to work that way in direct response too. Something we always need to be aware of.

    Any elaboration on how to get around this tendency would be appreciated.


  • Wes Hopper says:

    Great insights, as always.

    It’s nice that you’re a fan of Peter Rowan and Tony Rice along with your arena rock bands. Tony’s guitar playing is awesome, especially with Grisman’s dawg jazz.

    I first heard Rowan on KFAT down in Gilroy – they had “Free Mexican Air Force” on heavy rotation. That’s still the best ode to smuggling I’ve ever heard. Course ya have to be an old fart like me to remember it.

  • Gee, there’s two big lessons in here: about priorities and about about bonding. And I’ve got to catch up on both of them fast.

    Let me give you a story about priorities. My girlfriend’s little nephew was always clap happy when we showed up and I turned into bit of a big brother / uncle to him.

    (In fact, he used to call her on the phone to check up on her whether she’d be hanging out with other guys, reminding her to be truthful to me!)

    I started to teach him English, just a little bit. When you’re positioned as the “big brother” it’s very easy to teach and have a good influence on a kid if you just take the time.

    Now, I not nearly as often spend time with him as he’d have liked it, cause I did not have enough time. I’d do that later, when my situation would be better (mainly work & money).

    You can probably already see where this is heading… in January he got a cold, at least that was what his parents thought. It didn’t get better and he swoll up, so they went to the doctor. The doctor quickly send him to hospital and they found that he had metastases all through his body, did all they could, but he got weaker and weaker and they hooked him up to the machinery, but finally turned off the switch and he died.

    Now, I often catch myself putting things off, not taking the time to meet a friend, have a conversation with someone… and I think of Dream (that was his name) and pick up the phone and call them up.

    So the little guy ended up teaching me.

    Thanks Dream.

  • mark says:

    Good lesson there lad. Reminds me of the club I go to here in Canada. I know the owner, and go out of my way to help local musicians. The owner, Pete that is,knows I help musicians with my free press kits for local blues players.

    Because of that he lets me get up on stage to say my little spiel to get some eyeballs on my writing biz.

    But you got to see some of your heroes on stage,John, and that means a lot. It may not be earth shatteringly important, but it’s vital to music lovers and players from a spiritual benefit to yourself and fans of real music.

    Thanks John


  • Jesus Miguel says:

    Loved the quote:

    “It’s SUPPOSED to be hard. That’s what makes it so special. If it was easy, everybody would do it.

    Thank you John.

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