OK, it’s guilty pleasure confession time: I love watching singing-competition videos on YouTube. I mean I can rewatch some so often that the YouTube algorithm suggests addiction videos.
I don’t sit through whole seasons of reality TV shows such as The Voice or America’s Got Talent. Just particular moments in the qualifying round. It’s when the judges seem skeptical about the contestant. Perhaps it’s the meek teenager or the overconfident guy who might seem to have little to crow about.
Then the contestant casts a spell. From the moment the person starts singing, the judges’ eyes widen, jaws drop and we all think the same thing — this one is different.
Josh Daniel was an example of one of those performers when he appeared on the UK edition of The X Factor in 2015. He was a 21-year-old mechanic, with his mother, or “mum,” watching in the wings. Daniel admitted to the significance of his spot on the audition roster — last, which usually goes really well or classically bad. And the notoriously cranky Simon Cowell did not appear to be expecting greatness.
The song was Jealous by Labrinth, which Daniel sang in memory of a childhood friend who had died. As soon as Daniel started singing, it was clear he was not disgracing his friend’s memory.
Not only were the judges transfixed, but Cowell was obviously struggling not to weep. When Daniel let those last, tender notes float away, Cowell could not even speak. Another judge had to take over.
Those moments when someone transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary are not just riveting entertainment but also lessons on how to stand out. Don’t we all want to do that?
And who stands out more than Lady Gaga? She is the subject of Publisher Paul Feldman’s interview this month with Jackie Huba, an author who tells us how Lady Gaga can help advisors improve their practice.
That discussion focused on how Lady Gaga cultivates and maintains a core of raving fans that she calls Little Monsters — a name they bear proudly. That was the subject of Huba’s book Monster Loyalty. But Huba took the Lady Gaga model a step further in her next book, Fiercely You: Be Fabulous and Confident by Thinking Like a Drag Queen.
OK, I sense your eyes might be rolling or widening at that title. But the central message is about adopting a persona.
Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta was a New York City kid who loved playing the piano. Her talent was undeniable, but it was not enough. Stefani Germanotta didn’t feel like a glam pop star, but Lady Gaga did.
So, what does all this mean to us in our lives as mere mortals? Well, we all perform. We do it to make a sale, to woo our spouse, to cheer up a sad child.
The best performers leave an indelible memory. I will always remember my Uncle Louie for the dumb jokes he would tell, but not because of the jokes. It was the way he would embody the characters and add a dash of nuance that transformed the joke into a performance. By the way, his skill as a charmer allowed the rest of us to overlook some not-so-fun qualities.
Perhaps when an advisor faces a speech in the community, a seminar or even a one-on-one with a significant prospect, it doesn’t have to be Joe or Jane Agent who shows up but instead a star does.
But how does somebody manage a conversion like that? The transformation has two elements.
Lady Gaga didn’t create something out of nothing. She was a classically trained musician who honed her skill. Just watch a YouTube video of her performing acoustically and that is apparent.
Whenever we enjoy a fine musician, actor or speaker, we are listening to the result of many hours of practice. In a sense, we are rewarding that hard work with our rapt attention (and sometimes with buckets of money). That expertise has to come first.
In the case of an advisor, it is vital to know the business, the best practices and the products. Think of dealing with salespeople who clearly do not understand their product or service. Not only is the faith in the salesperson broken, but obviously the whole conversation also is a non-starter.
Even talented people are likely to crumble in a performance if they haven’t practiced.
Knowing the material leads to confidence. But even with the skills mastered, people might not be confident enough to open the door or walk onto the stage. Those people probably know someone else who can.
For example, Tommy Lee Jones helped me out once. My wife had “volunteered” a fellow reporter and me to appear in a community play for charity. Think of Hee Haw, but just not so great with the heeing and hawing.
We were doing a sketch called Skunk Hollow, with the first line, “Things are shure pickin’ up in Skunk Holler!” No way was I going out there and doing that, but Lonesome Dove had recently come out, and I liked Jones’ character Woodrow F. Call for this role.
I paced my house reciting the short sketch over and over until it came out naturally. So, I didn’t go out on stage — Tommy Lee Jones did. It worked out so well that during rehearsal the director said she could believe my accent but not so much my colleague’s, leading him to exclaim, “But I’m from Alabama!”
We all put on a costume in the morning and play our roles. Why not become a star and make a difference along the way?