By: Zack Pace, SVP, Benefits Consulting
After drafting the below narrative, I wondered how the heroine would feel about me sharing her story with you. So, I emailed her the draft and promised to scrap it if she didn’t like it. Much to my delight, she quickly wrote back, told me how much this story meant to her, and how my inspiration caused her to be further inspired. A few days later, LinkedIn Pulse featured her story on their Entertainment channel: New York City, Electric Guitars, & Professional Excellence. This story has continued to resonate with readers, so I’d like to share it with you, here:
Last weekend, my wife and I took a northbound train to New York City for a quick get-away. We saw four inspiring musical acts, ate at the restaurants of two of our favorite chefs, and enjoyed a morning jog in Central Park. The restaurants were packed, and three of the musical venues were standing room only.
As a business professional, aren’t you energized and motivated to provide your best work when you know your speech will be to a packed crowd or when a company’s Board of Trustees is eagerly awaiting your report? But, what about when you fly across the country to give a speech and no one shows? Or when you’re writing a report that only a few will ever read? Do you still give it all you’ve got?
On Friday night, I found new inspiration. The singer / songwriter was from one of our favorite bands – she had a solo gig at a concert hall at 11:30 PM. We arrived in town that evening, had dinner at Lisa Fain’s new place – El Original1 – and made our way over to the venue. We knew something seemed odd when the hostess asked for our ticket reservation by first name and quickly found it in the utter darkness. Have you ever noticed how dark everywhere is in New York City at night?
As the bar began to fill, suspense for the musician’s show built, and we eagerly waited for the concert hall’s gates to open. But, when we descended into the hall, the folks in the bar stayed. Once our eyes adjusted to the increasing darkness, we could count the number of folks that had bought a ticket on two hands. Half of those were members of her band.
As a business professional, has this situation ever happened to you? What did you do next? Go through the motions? Cut your speech short? It’s tempting, isn’t it?
When the musician realized the situation, the look of mild disappointment dashed across her eyes. But, it was gone quicker than the flash of a shooting star in the early autumn sky. With confidence and grace she smiled and announced, “Tonight is about quality, not quantity – thank you so much for coming to my show!”
She then turned on her amp and, as Paul Simon might describe, “blew that room away”2. I mean, she just slayed it. Just her, her electric guitar, and her songs. It was flat out inspiring. She gave us the same show that she would have given to a crowd of 500. It was professional excellence at a level I might never see again.
On the train ride home my wife asked me what my favorite memory was from our weekend. Despite catching an incredible show the next afternoon from my favorite band, enjoying the culinary delights of two of my favorite chefs, and sampling Central Park on an autumn day right out of a Sara Bareilles song, it was an easy choice.
What I saw that Friday night was true professional excellence and grace. And, the next time I find myself in the same situation, I’ll be inspired to go and do the same.
(By the way, if you like rock and roll music, you might want to check out Brandy Zdan)
- Coincidentally, a few days later, Lisa announced that she was ending her relationship with this restaurant, so our timing was excellent!
- Paul Simon, “Late in the Evening.” One-Trick Pony. (Warner Brothers, 1980).
- Photo Credit: Dave Hensley. (Flickr, February 2, 2013).
You can reach me on firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter. My collection of LinkedIn essays is located here. My Employee Benefit News articles are available here.