When I got wind of the fact that a buddy of mine had landed the gig of heading up the Olympic Consortium for the Vancouver Olympics in 2010, my antennae went up immediately. Don’t be mistaken, just because he was a pal, I knew that in no way did his being in charge guarantee me being a large musical part of those Olympic Games, far from it. He had a job to do – a very big job – and my knowing him had zero to do with the task he had ahead of him.
Knowing him, however, did bring one thing to my side of the table. It gave me the opportunity to pitch him an idea. That was it, nothing more. An idea that shot into my head instantaneously the very second I learned of his new position in life: the idea of me writing a theme song in the Olympics. Simple enough, right? So I made that notion a little mantra in my head immediately.
This is how receptivity should work: an immediate reaction to a stimulus that says, “This is the right fit for me. This is great. What an opportunity for me to step up and shine!” Boom! Idea, right fit, then let’s go for it. Conversely, however, you should also be able to just as easily and just as quickly know when something is not the right fit for you. Your head and your heart have no confusion, they truly know when you should pass and move on. How many times have you looked back and thought that you knew in your gut that you shouldn’t have touched a particular idea or project but you went against your better judgment and did it anyway, costing you time, energy, and perhaps even money or reputation?
So the key elements here for me were that I knew, no matter what, that I could reach him. I knew he would take a call from me. I also knew for sure that he would at least listen to what I had to say and in the world of the entrepreneur that fact alone is a huge advantage when dealing with high-end executives who count their time and days and perhaps even their money by the second. Those of you out there on YouInc who have had to deal with this kind of person know full well, as do I, that if there is even a sliver of a chance to pitch an idea to them, no matter how wacky or impossible it may seem at the time, you must take that chance for it is a tremendous opportunity and it can be enough to move mountains, build empires, and indeed, change the world, all it takes is a shot.
Musicians, more than most, practice this skill of jumping at any chance they have to get out there and play. They get a guitar, they learn three chords, and of course the beginning riff from “Stairway to Heaven” (mandatory in any rock god’s handbook), then some guys come along and say, “Hey, you play guitar right?” to which the reply is always a resounding “YES.” Then comes the inevitable, “Ya wanna join a band?” and the rest is history. They get up on that stage and figure out their instrument as they go, no matter how crappy it sounds at the beginning. But guess what? They’re in the band! They took their shot. They jumped at an opportunity. They were receptive to an idea no matter how challenging and difficult it seemed at the time.
“Give me a chance, that’s all I ask. Please give me a chance to prove to you that I can deliver an Olympic anthem like no other,” I asked, with as much passion, truth and integrity that I could muster. Those of you who have read my previous blog will recall it dealing with how I feel about the power of asking for what it is we want, and how as we grow older we tend to lose that skill. Well not here and not now and not me. I was asking and asking hard. Nothing to lose, right?
I needed him to know that not only did this anthem need to be of the highest standard but that it could be delivered to his front door right here in Toronto. I needed him to know that he did not have to outsource it to writers in Los Angeles. This anthem could be homegrown.
“Ok pal,” he said. “That much I can do. I can give you a shot to show me what you are capable of. You have a month. That cool?”
That was indeed very cool.
I had asked, he had listened; I had made a believer out of him thus far. I was delighted as I put the phone down only to have that delight descend into a feeling of utter fear and sheer horror. But why? Why after pitching him and getting what I wanted? Why was I suddenly left shell-shocked?
Well let’s see. Not only can I not read music, but I also cannot play piano and for the life of me, I cannot orchestrate or score the type of music that would be required for something as epic and majestic as the Olympic Games! But hey, I can play three chords on the guitar and he had just given me a chance to join the band and I was taking it, damn it!
“I love the pressure of having to be your best at the biggest moments” – Jennifer Jones, Canadian Olympic Gold Medalist
Most of you reading this blog know the ending of the story and just like Jennifer Jones, I too, love the pressure of having to be at my very best at the biggest moments. I went on to co-write an anthem and Olympic theme called “I Believe” that made its way into the very fabric of the games themselves. The title of the song is oh so very apropos for more reasons than just the fact that the Olympic slogan was “Believe” and one day I will share with you the journey of actually completing it and having it used in the Olympics, for that ladies and gents is another tale entirely. A tale of fear, loathing, pain, and anguish. A tale of rejection, and more rejection, and of feeling the fear but doing it anyway. For it is also a tale of great triumph and satisfaction.
What I am emphasizing for you here today though, are two key components on the road to any success:
A skilled entrepreneur must have the ability to identify an opportunity quickly, almost instantaneously, no matter how seemingly small and insignificant, or conversely, huge and insurmountable. Identify it, process it quickly and decide if it is the right fit for you. If it is, pounce on it. Remember, you are not the only one out there doing that; there is any number of equally skilled people processing the info and also getting ready to pounce with their idea. You don’t need to know everything that goes on under the hood to be able to get in the car and drive, right? You know three chords? Good. Now join the band!
Having the skill to properly identify the target is vital to pitching your idea. So many people confuse the desired destination (or outcome) with what they feel is the target.
For example if you ask 100% of Sunday morning golfers what their target is upon having landed their ball on the putting surface, almost all of them will identify the cup or the “little hole-thingy” as my wife calls it, as their target. Seems logical, right?
But of course if you ask any of the guys on the PGA tour or ask any serious Sunday morning golfer what the target is, they will tell you that it is everything between the clubface of the putter to cup. The cup is merely the desired outcome. The target is everything that the golfer must negotiate from the moment he or she pulls the clubhead back to strike that little white monster: the speed of the green, the declining and inclining areas of the green. The bumps. The clumps. So many elements to negotiate in order for the ball to follow the precise, and necessary pathway to the desired outcome, that “hole-thingy.”
Who can forget the momentous shot Tiger Woods made on the 16th green of the 2009 Masters Tournament when he literally had to send his ball in the opposite direction from the cup simply because of the nature of the sloping green. It was like sending someone north but telling them to go south!
Such is the nature of negotiating the horrendously difficult greens in PGA golf. Such is the nature of negotiating a pitch for your idea or product. Getting my song into the Olympic broadcast was not my target. Having it become the most downloaded Canadian song in the history of downloads at that time was not my target. Having the song generate major royalties in both sales and broadcasting revenues was not my target. These were desired outcomes.
My target was of course the man in charge of the broadcast. He was my target. My target was proving to him that I was the right man for the job, by writing lyrics of power and sacrifice, and solitude befitting of our athletes and their life-long journeys to fulfilling an Olympic dream. It was proving to both him and myself that I could find the right musical partner, one who possessed all of the orchestrating skills that I do not have. So in essence just like the PGA golfer, my target was everything that sat between the original phone call telling me my pal was in charge to the moment the Nikki Yanofsky video was launched on Superbowl Sunday 2010 sending the song and Nikki to the top of the charts. Take care of the performance and the applause will take care of itself.
So there you have it: Be aware, be receptive, decide quickly if it is the right fit for you, identify the difference between target and desired outcome, and then pounce.