I work at a jazz club. I love it. I do it part-time to make a little extra bread, plus it keeps things interesting.
I’ve worked there off and on for the better part of twenty years, when I haven’t been living in Puerto Rico (but that’s another story).
I really appreciate live music and the arts. And like everyone else, I’m a critic.
I suppose I’ve grown comfortable voicing my critiques of acts, and a musician friend of mine called me on it.
“Why don’t you call a tune, man?” he challenged. (That’s hip jazz-talk for “suggest the next tune and step up to the microphone”.)
The moment he challenged me, my nerves set in. Adrenaline flowed, my pupils dilated and panic set in.
I felt pure terror at the thought of standing up there, mic in hand, with 150 eyes and ears judging me, just as I’ve judged others in that spot for literally thousands of performances.
I cowered, declining his request. He persisted, asking what jazz standards I liked.
I took the bait. “‘Everything Happens To Me’ is a great song,” I replied. “I love that song!” he said. “Next Tuesday, you’ll get up and sing it with us.”
He left me no option. I had to say yes or never voice a critique again.
I sang the song and man, I was killing. Every note came off like melted butter and I even took a few risks that really worked out well.
That, of course, was when I was alone in the shower. Tuesday — and the real thing — were fast approaching.
This was something totally foreign to me.
Despite being able to sing marginally well (around a campfire), I’d never tried to display my so-called talent with other musicians on a stage.
Tuesday arrived, my friend asked if I was ready and I let him know that I was not.
He asked me if I was nervous, I answered in the affirmative. “Perfect,” he said.
I was introduced, got up on stage, and looked out over the crowd who were all probably wondering who would be making their drinks while I was up there (since I’m also the bartender).
The band started up. It was happening, ready or not.
I did my best to channel my shower performances, but nerves took over and I played it straight ahead. I left nothing to chance.
“If you’re not nervous, then you’re not paying attention.” – Miles Davis
The crowd loved it. The band loved it. I loved it. We all had a great time with it, not because I was great (I wasn’t), but because of the simple fact that I did it.
I got up there and I told a story to the best of my ability. I enunciated the words and GOT THE MESSAGE ACROSS.
“I make a date for golf, and you can bet your life it rains. I try to give a party, and the guy upstairs complains. I guess I’ll go through life just catching colds and missing trains. Everything happens to me.” – Lyrics by Tom Adair, fave recording is by Chet Baker
At this point you might be wondering what this has to do with direct mail.
Here’s my take on it: just as I wanted to tell the crowd a sad story about a guy who just seems to get the short end of the stick, your business has a message that it wants to convey.
Singing a song is easy. We all do it every day in our cars, our kitchens, and in the shower as we lather up. Add a hundred people or so into the mix and it seems more complicated. But it isn’t.
Get the message out there and your job is done. Tell the story — perform!
You may not always hit the note, but the simple act of telling the story is going to resonate with your audience. Inaction is the biggest failing.
I’ve been asked to get up a few more times since that first song, and I can tell you that the nerves have been a factor every time.
I’ve bombed. I’ve had some moments that sounded really good. Every time, though, I’ve stayed true to my one goal: tell the story. People will always appreciate that.
“If you’re not making a mistake, it’s a mistake.” – Miles Davis
Try new things, test your messaging and strategy. Take some risks. You have a message that you want your customers to hear. The mailbox is a stage, and you have a captive audience.
“Bebop was about change, about evolution. It wasn’t about standing still and becoming safe. If anybody wants to keep creating they have to be about change.” – Miles Davis
Today’s marketing communication landscape is changing at a rate like never before.
Adapt and grow with it, and you’ll see that taking a risk and trying something different will not only resonate with your audience — it will help your business grow by expanding the horizons of your communication with your customers.