Today I was sent a link to an article by Mark Memmot a reporter for NPR about a fan, named Michael Pollack, who asks to accompany Billy Joel while he is doing a show/lecture at Vanderbilt University. Many of you have probably seen it, if not you really should watch it:
I am a huge Billy Joel fan, and this video only serves to make me like him that much more. Ignoring my starry eyes for a moment, though, I think there are three important things to learn from this:
- Take more chances
- Be ready
- Give others a shot
Take More Chances
The first is quite simply to take more chances. About 4 years ago I was listening to Kevin Smith at the Orpheum theatre in Los Angeles doing one of his “An Evening With Kevin Smith” shows. I had gone to be entertained… and I definitely was… but I left motivated because toward the end of the show he had started talking about how watching a hockey documentary helped him past a hurdle in his career. As he was talking he referenced a quote from Wayne Gretzky:
“You Miss 100% of the Shots You Never Take.” – Wayne Gretzky
This is the guy that took out a bunch of credit cards and maxed them out to make the movie “Clerks”, so he knows a little something about taking a shot. He is quoting a guy who scored a helluva a lot of goals. What makes it all the more relevant is that I believe when Gretsky said this he was quoting his dad. Wayne Gretsky’s dad was not the greatest hockey player of all time, but he raised the boy who became the greatest hockey player. Wayne Gretsky had talent, but his dad helped guide him and taught him some of the principles that drove him to be the best.
Not taking a shot/chance is the same as missing a shot/chance. I needed to hear that then, I need to hear it now, and I am sure I’ll need to hear it again in the future. I am not the best chance or shot taker, I think I am getting better though, and I think it is important that I do so that my children see me take some chances. They need to see by my example how to take a chance, and how to respond when you fail and succeed. They need me on the sidelines coaching them along like Wayne Gretsky’s dad did him. I don’t want to miss my shot or miss my chance, and I absolutely don’t want them to miss their’s!
There is another important lesson in this story… Be Ready! Make sure that you are prepared, because you don’t always know when your chance/shot. In this case Michael Pollack has played the piano since he was 7 and he has been playing “New York State of Mind” (the song he played with Billy Joel) for 8 years. Even with all the history of piano playing that he had, when he decided to go to the show and see if he could play with Billy Joel he brushed up:
“I’ve been playing [the song] for at least eight years now … it’s one of my favorites by him. … I had to tune up a little and learn the bridge one more time before the show just in case he called on me.”
That’s big because if after he got this chance he had performed badly this story would have been very different. Teaching our children the importance of practice, development, and drive or keys to being successful. When we are telling our kids to practice whatever skill, sport, or art that they love and want to do we need to have stories like this available to remind them the value of being ready.
Give Someone a Shot
The last thing that I want to point out is we should watch for opportunities to give someone a chance when they are brave enough to attempt it. For Billy Joel there was very little risk in giving this a fan a shot. Honestly in this case it seems as though there has been a very big upside to it. It will send a very mixed message if on one hand we are telling our kids to take a chance then on the other hand not allow someone a chance. I know my kids would call me out for it. Honestly, I’m glad they would. This is not likely a situation that many of us will find ourselves in, but if/when it happens wouldn’t you like to think that you are the kind of person that would give someone their shot? This is really an appeal from the side of me that believes good karma is something we need to cultivate, and really what does it hurt to reward someone when we can for taking a chance at their big shot.