I began playing guitar and writing songs when I was 14. The first time I performed one was at my church. See I had been asked to perform some special music and I didn't know what song I should play. So I prayed about it and suddenly I was inspired to write a song called "Help Me to Ask for Help". That one performance launched my music career. I always had a good response at church for every song I wrote. I didn't get paid to write these songs. In fact, I'm certain the congregation would have been happy with "Amazing Grace" or "How Great Thou Art" or any other song. I wrote just for the fun of it. Just because I wanted to.
From that very supportive beginning, I began to look for other opportunities to play. I jumped into the coffee shop scene. Surprisingly, the audiences were very small. Actually, at the coffee shops, it was usually just the barista. : ( But on special nights, I had the expanded audience of my parents. And sometimes even my wife and her best friend. They were my dedicated fan base.
I was shocked.
I really thought my talent would pull people in. I was certain that the 3 or so people who stopped in to get coffee of a Friday night and heard a song while they were standing in line would tell their friends and soon I'd have a massive following. But most people barely turned their heads. What was the deal? Didn't they hear the amazing music? Why didn't my lyrics inspire them to sit, listen, absorb, and change the entire direction of their lives?
Regardless, I tried the same tactic--playing consistently. Promoting more and more. More posters. Magnets, Stickers, Pens, CDs with my web address. Complimentary mints with smiley faces set out at the tables where I played. I played amazing shows.
And I even made around $500 from Tips and CD sales
...over a 10 year period...
In addition to my shows, I explored countless open mics. There I found a small dedicated audience that showed up every month to play their songs. I always got good feedback. I even got my picture in local papers. I was announced as "one of the rising stars", "incredible new talent", "Inspiring", "thought provoking", "A very specially talented young man".
If you can't tell from the above descriptions, these regular audiences were an older crowd. But they always showed up and they were very appreciative and I even earned opportunities to play full-length concerts in place of the regular open mic.
Tons of Experience and Success!
One CD sold. No Tips.
I can't tell you how many times I played something like Sample Night Live as a featured performer and had people come up with my next event written in ink on their arm. Wide-eyed and excited to come see a full show. Their eyes glistened with excitement upon meeting me. They were touched by the music. They felt alive!
But I never saw them again.
I'm sure they weren't lying. They really believed that they couldn't wait to see me again, but after the heat of the moment passed, it just became less important.
I've written over 600 songs.
I've played hundreds of concerts.
I've Recorded 3 CDs.
In 2015, I even produced an all-day concert event in St. Paul, Minnesota with 8 acts!
But if I said I was playing a show 2 weeks from today, I would be hard pressed to get 20 people to attend. I probably wouldn't even get 10.
Wait, wait, wait!
How did I become a celebrity
if I couldn't get people to come see me?
Well, think about yourself. How many times have you gotten a Facebook event invitation that you didn't attend? Every day, perhaps? How many times have you seen an opportunity to go to a show--a movie, a theatrical production, a sporting event, a concert, or even a party--that you want to attend, but you already have a conflict? A family event trumps the night out. The kids have practice or a recital or a game of their own. Or you committed to volunteer at your church a month ago.
Do you see how busy you are? You've already got a lot of momentum in your life. Your schedule doesn't always allow you to do everything you want. So how is a singer/songwriter like me going to grab your attention and put you in a different direction?
Honestly, there is a very small chance of me ever getting people to come to see me. So instead,
I had to go to them.
I had to get united behind their causes.
I helped people raise nearly $50,000 for benefit type events--whether raising money for mission trips or to purchase a helper dog for a girl with Autism.
I played for Birthday Parties and Weddings and the Concerns of Police Survivors' Blue Light Memorial Service.
So now I'm famous, right?
However, even though I spent 10 years on my music career, I'm still not terribly famous for my musical talents... but bear with me a moment longer.
Think about all of the goals you have for your life. Is it a long list? How many do you accomplish on a regular basis? Now how about your friends? You know how you enjoy "liking" Facebook posts? You celebrate with those who celebrate and mourn with those who mourn. It makes you feel good. Briefly. Well, in 2009, My wife and I stepped out in faith and moved to a more urban area. There have been at least 5 shootings within a block of my house. It's not a "safe" neighborhood. However, many of the people who live there are wonderful. In fact, since we've moved in and gotten to know the neighbors, we have changed the neighborhood. Our presence has even influenced the new people who have moved into the neighborhood. It's completely different now because we have been there 8 years. Long before I started a Blog, I was working on making my neighborhood a wonderful place to live. I started doing good things in the real world. I walked around greeting people. Then I stepped in to help kids settle disputes. I was there at a birthday party when a kid hurt himself during a game and took my shirt off to wrap it around his head wound. I made sacrifices for the people. And guess what?
The kids noticed first. "Hey, this guy makes me tell my mom when I've been mean to someone else." I'm sure you know, but kids resent you when you get them in trouble.
At least, at first.
But you might be surprised to know that by providing accountability, I have actually earned the respect of the children. And that respect from the kids has led to the respect from the parents.
Noticing other people and working to make them feel good about themselves is one of the most wonderful ways you can live your life. Because you know what? It makes you feel wonderful. It builds relationships in your neighborhood. It is actually the way to create what we call "community". In my neighborhood, I get sideswiped with hugs. People call out to me waving as they walk or drive by. Kids run down the street to meet me. I've earned respect from people who see me consistently pick up trash or moderating conflicts.
But gaining their respect doesn't stop with an accolade for me. It's a just a step for that person to open up and share something personal about themselves. Then suddenly I've found my way into new friendship. So now I've built a stronghold. I created a reputation in my neighborhood, at my workplace, and even on my commute on multiple bus routes. Because I've created such strong connections, everywhere I go I tend to get inspired and lifted up by nearly everyone around me. When I get up in the morning I see friendly faces. Because they aren't just strangers; I know their hopes and dreams. They share their journey with me and I get to be part of their story as well.
I'm a celebrity in my own life.
People know me. They know what I stand for. They know I have integrity. They know that I care. And that makes people want to connect with me more and more.
And that makes me feel life the richest man in the world.