I just returned from a Bobby McFerrin concert, and now I know how to run my new business.
No, this post isn’t about “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” Bobby McFerrin is much more than that.
You see, I’m a little nervous. For 23 years, I’ve made my income the same way — in a service business, as a graphic designer. Clients come to me for design work. I create something for them, and bill for my time. Rinse, repeat, rinse, repeat for 23 years, and you have a career as a successful designer.
But that’s all about to change.
I’m venturing into new territory. I’ve started a blog. I’m putting together a course. I’m interacting with my readers. I’m supposed to let them guide me, respond to their needs, offer what they’re looking for, and everything is going to work out fine.
Except, I’m just a little terrified. How exactly is content marketing supposed to work? Who are these people I am serving, and how do I know it’s all going to come together?
And that’s where Bobby comes in
The first thing you notice when you file into the theater at a Bobby McFerrin concert is that the stage is almost bare. It’s dark, and a spotlight shines on a single chair in the middle of the stage with a microphone sitting on it. A water bottle is on the floor beside the chair.
You wonder if he’s going to sing by himself, or if he’ll have backup singers. You wonder if he’ll play an instrument. The answer is yes — he does all of these things, but not in the traditional way at all.
He steps into the spotlight
Bobby comes out, sits down, takes a sip of water, and brings the microphone to his mouth. He starts to sing, softly at first, then louder. He begins to hit his chest with his right hand, creating a percussive effect that beats in time to the music. He’s a full-bodied instrument, who makes music with his mouth, hands, and feet. He has a four-octave range and incredible vocal mastery. He’s an American treasure.
Then he turns that spotlight around
The first inkling that this isn’t your everyday concert comes when he asks the audience to participate in a call and response song. He assigns half the room a few notes, and the other half different notes. He does this mid-song, without stopping. We all willingly sing along.
Then he asks if we know “Ave Maria.” We all laugh, and I think this request is going to fall flat. He says, “If you know it, sing it out. The people who know it can be the section leaders.”
He begins to sing an accompanying melody, and guess what? The hall fills with the sound of the audience singing “Ave Maria.” It’s beautiful. How did he do that?
The audience volunteers
Bobby pulls his chair over to the edge of the spotlight. He says, “The last time I was in your city was 22 years ago. I want to ask if there are any dancers in the audience. If you’d like to come up and share the stage with me, we’ll improvise together. It might be another 22 years before you get this chance again, so come on up.”
Four people make their way to the stage. Each one takes a turn dancing in the middle of the spotlight, while Bobby, off to one side, improvises music that they respond to with their bodies. It is amazing to watch: each dancer responds in a unique way, but they are all good.
Then he asks if anyone wants to sing with him. No hesitation this time: people are up out of their seats, hustling to the stage. Every singer asks to sing a different song. Bobby’s accompaniment honors their song selection and makes it a work of art. You watch as each singer experiences a moment they’ll always remember.
Give, honor, create together
Tonight was like no other concert I’ve attended. It wasn’t really a concert: it was an experience.
McFerrin wasn’t up on stage to receive our accolades. He was up there to entertain us, but he wanted our voices, our bodies and our talents to shine, too. He wanted us to feel like we had created tonight’s concert together.
That’s when I knew that I needed to follow the Bobby McFerrin business model.
His concerts are all improvisation. He doesn’t plan his songs, or even his key changes. He just lets them come to him, based on the audience, his voice, and our response.
What he does plan, I believe, is interaction
He wants to create something with us, not just for us. He listens, responds, adjusts, and creates.
That’s what I want to do. It’s my ticket to stop worrying, and my technique for being happy on the vague, uncertain road ahead. Give to my audience, honor their contributions, and create something much greater than the sum of the parts.
Editor’s note: This article was Pamela Wilson’s first guest post on Copyblogger, published on March 25, 2010 — well before she joined our team as EVP of Educational Content. Pamela had just completed Copyblogger’s flagship course, Teaching Sells, and was ready to expand her successful offline design business into new online territory.
Here’s How to Create and Sell Digital Information the Smarter Way:
If you’re interested in taking the next step with selling online courses, ebooks, and other digital products and services, you should check out Digital Commerce Institute.
You can get started instantly with training that shows you how to enter the $15 billion a year (and growing) online education space, plus thousands of dollars in other resources for building a digital business. Check it out here and get started building your dream business today.
Photo used with permission. ©Stewart Cohen
Reader Comments (102)
This article was disappointing. By the time I was finished, I realized I was still sitting in front of my computer screen. What happened to the music? Wasn’t I just at a concert a few seconds ago? Good stuff Pamela.
Just yesterday I was reading from an “expert” that said, “turn off comments. follow what your mind says. don’t be swayed by others. be true to that voice in your head.” and I was thinking to myself, “I suppose I could do that, but that doesn’t feel right. I like people. I want to hear them. I want to speak to them and have them speak to me.” What you wrote here feels right. And I love Bobby McFerrin, too.
Dan Cosgrove says
And that’s why I’ll always love live music to CD’s.
Interaction with your audience, and other people in general, is the key to enjoying anything: business, relationships, life.
I definitely want to have more improv, Bobby-esque moments.
Thanks for the eye-opener.
Brian Clark says
Derek, I felt the same way when I read this — transported into the concert hall. That’s good writing.
Sherice Jacob says
That must have been a truly remarkable experience! Everyone came away with something different – but it was all memorable — A great strategy that we can apply to our content and businesses as a whole. Make every experience meaningful – and don’t be afraid to improvise 🙂
Wow, I was really caught up in this article. Good writing.
I’m thinking real hard here but as usual, I am perplexed at how to integrate this into my online gift shop. I have several ways I interact with my visitors, they are not exactly interested. Time is on my side.
Thanks for the great post, look forward to more from you.
I loved this feel-good post. Maybe we could get McFerrin to perform in congress. Maybe, he could get them to sing, dance, and work together for a change.
People working together in a business, a town, or any other organizational grouping is a great goal. I think reaching out to who we serve is a beginning. From those first steps we can refine and improve the connection.
Terrific post. Thanks for sharing an extraordinary experience, and kudos for turning it into an epiphany!
Ken Siew says
Wow, Bobby is awesome!
I like this: “He wants to create something with us, not just for us. He listens, responds, adjusts and creates.”
I’d been thinking along the same line these days, like how I can help my audience have a better life. I thought about all these things that I can do ‘for’ them, but I knew I was missing something important.
And I’ve found it, I need to do it ‘with’ them. It’s not a one-way street, they need to step up and do it together. So often people just sell their stuffs and make money, without caring if the customers will actually use them.
Now I know, I don’t wanna be that guy. Thanks for the wonderful inspiration Pamela!
Suzanne Arthur says
Pamela! You caught it beautifully, perfectly. I went to see Bobby McFerrin in Denver about 12 years ago. What you described here brought back the magic he created that evening for us. Thank you so much for reminding me. I agree, he IS an American treasure. But I also appreciate your analogy for doing business his way, remembering that our readers are a central part of our own scene, and to really listen to what they have to say. And, to invite them to be incredible.
Dan (Leadership Freak) says
Love your writing and the message of your post.
Bobby McFerrin demonstrates the idea that to create connections you focus on them. Powerful!
Marlene Hielema says
Great story Pamela! Thank you for sharing the lesson with us.
Pamela Wilson says
Thanks everyone. It was very cool to be in the audience at this event.
You know how at certain moments life presents you with a lesson that goes way beyond the moment at hand? That’s what it felt like. By the time I left I knew I wanted to share it here, so thanks to the Copyblogger folks for allowing me to recount it.
I hate posting comments that simply say “Wow. Great article,” but seriously: Wow. Great article.
Beautifully written and compellingly inspirational.
“He wants to create something with us, not just for us.” That is a wonderful mantra for a business to adopt.
Ahhhh, great business model to follow. A business model like that will naturally build community around a brand naturally. Well written post.
Richard Scott | Jewelry Secrets says
This really is a great message for us all. Get involved. Pull people in. Make something together. I love it. You did a great job putting us in those seats and hearing the music. I appreciate that. Now I want to go see Bobby McFerrin myself, just to capture that feeling.
Way to go there Pamela,
Like many of the others I was transported to the concert.
And I can relate. This month I attended the North Texas Irish Festival as I do every year. I was especially excited in that many of the featured acts were from Eastern Canada-Nova Scotia, Newfoundland etc. Here the French and Celtic influences have combined to make great music.
I especially wanted to see Great Big Sea. I knew this would be probably my only chance to see them.
Before GBS was a group called Gran Derangement-a referral to when the French were kicked out of sections of Canada (Longfellow’s Evangeline). They were great! they were there to entertain us and they did it in spades. To that point it was the highlight of the day.
Then it was time for GBS. All the groupies swarmed the stage ,the place was packed. They came out amid thunderous applause. And proceeded to bask in the adulation of their adoring fans-for the entire show. Well actually I don’t know about the entire show because we left halfway into it. I found their live performance repetitive and all about them.
Great post Pamela-As I get closer to taking my site live this has helped focus on what is important
Joshua Black -Underdog Millionaire says
Good luck on your new venture into the world of blogging and passive money-making. Your Bobby example is a great way to show the importance of feeding a starving crowd, the easiest way to sell A LOT of stuff to your customer base.
@Jesse- I’ve heard the same advice about turning off comments from other gurus and just going with your gut. Isn’t that what it’s all about, keeping the conversation going? Those guys don’t know what they’re missing. Besides, what if your gut is totally wrong?
The Underdog Millionaire
Michael Smith says
Loved the story and the analogy…but I was left wondering about the people that participated in the concert. “Dancers” danced. People who knew “Ave Marie” sang. What would the effect have been if non-dancers had insisted on dancing? What if the some of the singers had been singing “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” when everyone else was singing “Ave Maria”?
You can probably see where I’m going with this. I LOVE the idea of engaging others. How do you handle the participation of people who may not be qualified to design or write?
Shane Arthur says
Here is a little blog post I wrote
I want your input note for note
Don’t worry blog happy
In every post we have some trouble
When you solo you make it double
Don’t worry, blog happy……
Ain’t got no idea within your head
Isolation came and shot it dead
Don’t worry, blog happy
Writer’s block say your post is late
He wants you to procrastinate
Don’t worry, blog happy
Comment at me I am happy
Don’t worry, blog happy
Here I give you my twitter handle
When you worry tweet me
I make you happy
Don’t worry, blog happy
Ain’t got no sales, for quite a while
Ain’t got nobody to make you smile
But don’t worry blog happy
Cause when you go it alone
Your face will frown
And that will bring everybody down
So don’t worry, blog happy (now)…..
There is this little blog I wrote
I hope you tweet it note for note
Like loyal happy fans
Don’t worry, blog happy
Listen to what I say
In your blogging expect some trouble
But when you do it alone
You make it double
Don’t worry, blog happy……
Don’t worry don’t do it, blog happy
Put a smile on your face
Invite everybody into your space
Don’t worry, it will spread fast
Whatever your niche
Don’t worry, blog happy
Nicholas Groen says
Loved your post, because it taps into what a society is able to with socially engaging technology. I write stories quite often, and I wanted to share a piece I wrote, and hope you can enhance it as Bobby did.
A Story of (u) and (i)
This is a story about (u) and (i). (i) remembered the first time meeting (u). (u) looked sad, and (i) asked why. (u) said it was because the world had so many problems, and it seemed like it was not getting any better. (i) asked how (u) would fix it? (u) didn’t know. (i) stepped outside, followed swiftly by (u). (i) needed to find out how to make (u) smile again. eventually (we) bumped into (u) and (i). (i) asked if there was anything (we) could do to make the world a better place. (we) smiled, and spoke with a unified voice. (we) explained that if (u) and (i) worked together, our combined strengths would accomplish more than (we) could imagine; an interesting concept. so together (u) and (i) decided to work side-by-side, and in the end, (we) discovered a powerful ally…
Moving forward is up to (us). (u), (i), (we) are all responsible for making this world a better place to be. Because what will they write about (us) in the future; that (u) and (i) worked together in a time of social connection and were able to accomplish nothing? Or that (we) got together, used our collective powers to make (us) better?
Give honor create together, this is a sentence that contains many messages. Give the best for the audience is a major thing.
@Shane – Nice!
@Pam – Bobby is incredibly talented. The DWBH song was a great branding item, but just scratched the surface of his depth and ability. Your description of his concert(s) also underscores the fact that less is more in many avenues of life.
The Communication Cycle says
For me the two keys to Bobby’s success were that it was fun and he INVITED the audience to participate. The spotlight made the event INTIMATE so each person there felt they were talking directly with him.
Thanks for sharing this with us Pamela.
Pamela Wilson says
Shane, that was awesome! I think we should make it the official bloggers’ anthem.
Nicholas, your story is a great reflection of what this post is about.
Leslie Miller says
I love the way your awareness of the experience turned into deep insights that translated from a concert to your business… If you approach your business with that level of insight and consciousness, it will be a sure thing… Look forward to hearing how it goes.
@ Shane, very nice!
@Michael, Sometimes tone deaf people join in and that’s ok. We can gently, kindly direct them to the things they ARE good at. Bobby didn’t say “Only professionally trained dancers/singers can get up.” He wanted to open the experience to anyone. I think that is what makes a powerful leader and a person others want to work with.
@Pamela, I really loved this post because it speaks so eloquently about the human side of our businesses. If we can’t be useful or helpful to real people’s needs then we risk being irrelevant and out of business very quickly.
Dan Williams says
When the student is ready the teacher appears- Voila!
I have been struggling to create a blog post on my experience with my swing dance instructors and their business model.
This stuff of biz gets confused often as not relevant – but when compared to a BIZ like your concert experience you brilliantly described or a dance instruction model – there is really no difference – it’s all the same (or should be if done right).
Thank you for allowing me to follow your approach in my next blog post as I describe my experience of; GottaSwing (the biz).
With writing, as in dance – ” Sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow.”
Mary A. Redmond says
Thank you for the touching story Pamela. Improv performance can my be a new way to live—if—we touch hearts like Bobby McFerrin did.
My opening night at a tiny local Improv theatre is tomorrow night. Friends and family will be there to hopefully laugh and have fun. To support me.
What leads up to opening night? Faith in a Higher Power, weeks of class preparation, teamwork, trust in the other improv players and our director. Focus. Listening skills must be sharp. Life is funny and so are others. If we let it be.
I must dump the doubt! BE-in the moment. Forget work problems. Can we pay our bills tomorrow? Do I look fat in these jeans? What if no one laughs? Am I good enough? Can I face people tomorrow if I flop tonight?
We are all improv players. We create our performance each day. Live in the moment. Have fun. Live life to the fullest. This is the real deal. Trust your gut. You know inside what you must do. Follow your passion: to sing, dance, write, blog.
As Bobby McFerrin says, “Don’t worry, Be Happy.” Do It!
Adriel Brunson says
Pamela – thank you for the inspiring article.
“How do you involve your audience in your business?”
My first response is to change your label from “audience” and think of them as partners mutually creating success. What kind of partners are you looking for? What do you expect from them? What are you willing to give to them? What outcomes do you expect from the relationship?
You also asked…
“Any advice for people who are making the transition from a different business model?”
Deliberately act with a beginner mind. We learn more by doing so start doing. We also learn by making mistakes and beginners make lots of mistakes. Step to the side of the identity that has years of experience in one field and enjoy the exploration of a new area of expertise.
Thanks, again, for an inspiring article.
Carol Hess says
I just had a Bobby McFerrin concert moment at a teleclass I recently gave. With much trepidation and not at all wanting to give up control(!), I managed to step aside and allow the participants to run with it. Result? A richer and more useful experience for all concerned, and I could keep the focus on my prospects instead of myself and learn what they really want and need from me. Plus I suspect I may actually end up with a client or two from that class. The Bobby McFerrin method works!
@Pamela — Thanks for bringing this to our attention. If this post is any indication, you are going to be a great success. Good for you for making the leap. Not easy, but I bet you will be glad you did it. Write on!
Mary Russell says
This is one of the best blogs I’ve read in Copyblogger, partly because is applies to every aspect of life. It’s all about relationships–all kinds of relationships–and how much better they work when we truly use our talents to create how the relationship will emerge and flourish. I loved reading the comments; they are all wonderful. What a concept! Can you imagine our political system working this way? Well, now I’m going too far! But, seriously, folks, this is good stuff! Unfortunately I go to few concerts these days, but I remember one a gazillion years ago in Buffalo, NY, when Peter, Paul, and Mary sang “Day is Done”, and they involved the audience. We must have sung that song for half an hour in different combinations, and we were all one. How much more effective we can be when we truly collaborate, when there’s no “one-up, one-down” dynamic going on. Great blog, Pamela, and best of luck to you.
Clark Hitchcock says
Every day my in box has a blog from copy blogger some days I read them all some days i do not. This one drew me in and I was transformed into the events and not only that this is the very first time I have commented on any of these blogs I receive.
Stacey Cornelius says
I leave my desk for a few hours and shazam! Look at you go.
Transitions are heady stuff. Moving from one medium to another, or one way of doing business into something new, can be disorienting, but exciting, too.
My advice for someone making a transition – don’t fret about getting everything right the first time, and don’t try to make it happen all at once. Like the audience at Bobby McFerrin’s concert, start small and build on your results. Big happily follows along behind it.
Nicely done, Pamela. You offer something very valuable to your audience, and I know your new venture will be a success.
Brandon Yanofsky says
Very few big businesses follow these simple points in this article: the point of a business is to serve a customer need. And for the Milton Friedman enthusiasts, serving customer needs will maximize shareholder wealth.
I’ve dealt with large companies who have no interaction with their customers.
That’s why the Internet and blogs are a miracule to business owners. Customers become a part of the business. You interact with them and they help guide your decisions.
You hit the nail on the head with this article. Following your tips, any business will succeed.
I was there. No, wait a minute, you brought me there. That was better than good.
BrianJ | Online Business Blogger says
Pamela… Best of luck with your new blog. I like your writing style. If I ever have a chance to see Bobby McFerrin in concert I will make sure I do it… Thanks to you.
Bobbi Linkemer says
Great post. We are all inundated with blog posts, sound bytes, and information. I’d love to read it all but would never work if I did. I read yours. You writing is engagaing and clear; you message was wonderful. Good luck with your blog. I wish I were getting the response you are. Perhaps the secret is being a guest on Copyblogger.
Michael Goldfarb says
I echo everyone’s sentiment – this is a very good article.
The way McFerrin conducts his concerts gives him some variety. So he’s not going into every show singing the same songs in the same order. It keeps him inspired and motivated to make his audience happy.
I think that’s why some in the service business enjoy working with different clients. It keeps them motivated by offering some variety. That may be something to consider when changing your business model.
I enjoyed this post too. I like your concept of rethinking how you do business. In the fast changing world of the Web and social media, all businesses seem to be rethinking how they interact with their customers.
It’s more about conversations, which is what you’ve got going on here!
I love your writing, both here and at your blog (and I really love the two blog designs you’ve done for me, soon to be three). You are definitely a gifted designer, but also a gifted writer. You have a way of drawing me in, and you’re certainly following your own advice of inviting your audience to participate with you. Can’t wait to see the release of your new project at Big Brand System!
Kathleen McDade says
Jane #7 — I love the idea of sending McFerrin to Congress!
Pamela — I, too, have to say that this was excellent writing, in which I was transported into the concert hall.
Lorraine Arams says
What a great blog! What a great analogy! Wish I could figure out how to involve people in my blog – certainly, though, it will be at the forefront of my mind now with this amazing story – these artists are rare and wonderful – there’s a spirit to their performances which is inspiring and intimate – thank you for writing it – it’s easier to create with a “feeling” than a thought –
I read very few blogs and have never felt any desire to comment on a post. In the short time that I’ve been following yours, it’s consistently be a useful and insightful read.
This one could have been written FOR me. I’ve been doing the writing thing for a bit longer than you, but am also at the point where I’m focusing more on training, speaking and other offshoots. It’s a stressful and uncertain time, but your post helped me on the path to less worry and more happy.
Dave Jackson says
Wow! That’s the first time in a long time I didn’t just race through the words. This resonates with all of us. And we have all the tools to make it happen. Kudos to you, Pamela, for taking the time to write this post. You’ve touched many and got us wanting to be better.
Holly Rose says
A beautiful metaphor for what Social Media should be… a collaborative effort in building relationships!
Steve C. says
Hey if you ever decide to switch career fields you would make an excellent writer! Just recently the local web design company I work for got into the whole social networking scene. I have to admit, at first i was a little hesitant about the idea of expanding to social networking applications such as Facebook fanpages, etc. but i learned it’s a fun way to get your customers/potential clients involved. However, getting your audience involved could have a real negative impact if you don’t moderate them. But all in all, I completely agree with this article, “He wants to create something with us, not just for us. He listens, responds, adjusts and creates.”
Lisa Wood says
Beautiful post, Pamela. Thank you for sharing that so eloquently. I really felt like I was there.
And Shane, I love your interpretation of “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”. That’s my new blogging theme song. 🙂
Christina Rodriguez says
Really, really, really, really (you get it) good post! I fell the same way about my new business. I am just having trouble getting responses.
Catherine Caine says
Fan-tastic article, Pamela! Wow. Like others, I was totally transported into that place, and like everyone I’m already brainstorming ideas on how I can use that in my website.
Thanks very much. Best article I’ve read all week.
Goddess in Apt 10b says
Bravo! So so very wonderful!! Thank you!! Awesome! Awesome!! Absolutely awesome! – YOUR article and the free concert!
Dave Doolin says
I’m doing this.
It’s exhausting. But exhilarating.
Rolling commenter responses back into articles and carrying the thread of discussion forward as passion moves people. Letting readers participate in how the discussion evolves. Encouraging them.
Last week, I had 3 people step up to carry the torch, all a result of discussion erupting from a guest post. It was incredibly inspiring.
Excellent writing, excellent experience. What a model to strive for. Thanks for the article!
Steve Benedict says
Very refreshing. In a “What’s in it for me” world, the message of Give, Honor and Create Together really resonates with me.
Thanks also to CopyBlogger. I’m almost never disappointed in a post as they covers such a wide range of subjects…but always seems to come back to the theme of “Taking care of your customers needs, and your needs will follow.”
Stephanie Wheeler says
I think you’re on the right track. As long as you have a passion and an interactive audience, I believe anything can happen. Just like Bobby and his music, you and your knowledge in design will inspire and create interaction with others. You’re on the right track.
I actually would love to start a blog myself. But haven’t a clue as to what I would write about. I have so many scattered interests, I just don’t think I could pinpoint one thing.
Thanks for sharing! Just relax and go with the flow. I don’t doubt for a second that you won’t succeed.
Pamela Wilson says
Thanks, everyone, for your encouraging comments. I haven’t stopped smiling all day!
Alison Kerr says
I’m off to read Bobby McFerrin’s schedule. I love what he does, I just didn’t know what his concerts were like. Hope he’s coming to KC sometime.
Thanks for your connection and insight Pamela. I know where you are coming from! Improvisation and having genuine connections with clients is powerful stuff. Great and inspiring writing!
Great article. But I don’t seem to have Bobby Mcferrin’s magic touch for getting my readers involved.
bill browning says
This article nails the concept of collaboration as the new business relationship as opposed to the provider/client model. Well done!
I aspire to write like you did here.
Ken Siew says
Very great discussion here! Just signed up for your Design 101 e-course Pamela! Good stuffs =)
Pamela Wilson says
For anyone who wants a taste of the concert, Pam Slim found a video on YouTube of him singing Ave Maria with an audience. Just search “Bobby McFerrin Ave Maria” and it’s the first result (he’s wearing a red shirt).
Listen to how the crowd laughs when he suggests they participate … and then listen to how they sound!
Joey Guerra says
I liked this article too, but not because I thought it was well written, but because of your question at the end, how do I involve my audience in my business. That made me think, which I presume is one of your goals when you right. Nice job in doing that by the way.
I’m a web developer by trade. I have no avenue to involve my audience in my business. I have a blog but have no vision for it so the content is across the board. I’m working on an app to allow decentralized social networking (get6d.com) but I haven’t gotten any feedback on it. So it seems I can’t answer the question since I don’t have an audience. Hmm, I need an audience first before I can involve them.
On the other hand, I have a blog! And a website to market my project (get6d.com). I suppose the missing piece is a conduit for my (any) audience to voice their opinions.
My answer is I involve my audience by first giving them a way to be involved. Of course, I have to actually listen to them after that’s in place;)
Sonia Simone says
@Pamela, can’t add much to what others have said, but thanks for sharing this one with us. 🙂
Cara Lumen says
What a lovely story and beautiful insights. Thank you. I read it with a smile and an open heart.
This has just given me all kinds of ideas for a new arm of consulting. Can’t we just hire Bobby to hang out with us, bring him to meet-ups, to networking events, to your house?
Kathleen K. O'Connor says
Really cool article, Pamela. I love this story. You’ve described your concert experience so articulately and have reminded us of an important lesson. I will definitely check Bobby McFerrin out live when I get the chance. I actually haven’t heard his other music besides that really popular song you mentioned. What you describe sounds a lot like traditional West African musical performances I’ve seen, during which the drummers interact with the dancers. Great stuff. Thank you for sharing.
Alyson B. Stanfield says
Pamela, this is a super post! You have inspired me not only to seek out a Bobby McFerrin concert, but to become better at shining the spotlight on my readers and clients. Thank you for the boost. Now, I have to go learn the words to Ave Maria.
Thank you for sharing that so eloquently
Love this post, Pamela! I came in here today wondering how to build more of a comments section on my own blog… surely there is something I can do? But came away transfixed by the idea of being a leader of people who already know what they want. I don’t know exactly how one would put that idea into action, but it’s an inspiration for a good morning of writing, nonetheless.
Marcia Yudkin says
Another person who “performs” this way – actually, “teaches” is more like it – is Byron Katie. I attended a weekend workshop with her last fall. She had no agenda for the workshop, no plan. She came out, smiled, blew kisses to the audience and kept doing that until someone had a question for her. Her teaching was 100% keyed to what particular people in the audience needed at that very moment. It was beyond fantastic. I plan to go back to her workshop every time she comes to my neck of the woods because I know it will be different every single time, and totally alive.
Shane Arthur says
Sounds like someone should invite Bobby McFerrin to the next SXSW!
Clesha Staten says
Great article Pamela! I’m on that same scary road of switching business focus and this approach makes a lot of sense. Thanks for sharing the insight & experience.
William Croft says
Every one of us at this time has a piece of the puzzle that is unfolding. When we synergize and catalyze with others, we call forth those latent talents that are crucial for our personal and planetary evolution.
For those interested in sound and music improvisation, there is an entire non-profit organization devoted to teaching people just how to do this. And this IS a skill that everyone can learn.
For a summary of the techniques and concepts used, visit this page: http://www.lightfield.com/iii.htm “Improvisation: Ideas and Inventions”.
Age 23 years, really. with everything you have achieved, to me it is a great fortune. we have the same age, but my luck so different, I live in a small town, do not go to college. so, if you look down, you will not feel nervous, you will feel always confident.
ps: emember you must always be confident.
Sonia Simone says
@Marcia, hey, nice to see you here! Cool to know about Byron Katie.
@Shane, I might even be tempted (maybe) to get a pass for that.
Oh my gosh, that was the most uplifting article I have read in months! I felt as though I was there, really enjoying it, and now I’m sitting here alone again. I want to go back! Thanks so much for the virtual experience.
Mary Russell’s comment brought me back to college summers here at the Jersey Shore. Standing shoulder to shoulder we sang, danced and stomped to our favorite bar bands. Yes, the entire place sang along to “Sweet Caroline” and others and the floors vibrated with our excitement. That’s what it is all about. Not speaking/singing about what you know, but encouraging ideas, comments and involvement in the experience … of life!
Cheryl Henderson-Khalid says
Thanks for a wonderful article. It made me laugh and I agree with you. Life is an improvisation, so why not our businesses? Your article really helped me to appreciate the need for interaction as well as executing “the plan” for a successful business.
Fantastic post. I would like to add two small thoughts.
1. A few years back I was privileged to hear Arlo Guthrie in concert for the 3rd time in 30 years. . . Arlo said something very profound. He said, “For the first time in history, we live in a society that pays professionals to do our singing for us.” I would add, don’t let anyone else try to sing your song for you. They’ll screw it up.
2. Bobbie McFerrin is amazingly talented. He’s also an incredibly well trained, technically adept musician. The reason he can listen, respond, adjust and create is because his skills are top notch. With the same will and enthusiasm, I could not do what he does because I have not developed the skills that he has. We can listen, respond, adjust and create with our audiences better once we’ve mastered our crafts.
This is my first time commenting on a blog, but I had to. What wonderful article. I enjoyed reading it.
Now that I think about it even in my line of work, which is construction, we are always working withe the home owner to create something. They thank us, but it truly is a team effort.
Aloso, I have recently started a blog to post articles that I hope will help my anyone interested and promote my business. It is scary, but I love it.
Elizabeth Cottrell (RiverwoodWriter) says
Wow, Pam, what powerful imagery and story-telling skills you harnessed to convey principles that are important on so many levels and which, if embraced, will not only transform the experience our readers/customers have, but also releases us from the pressures we so often impose on ourselves.
I see your story as a great one to use in my nonprofit work, too. Regardless of the industry, when we enfold our constituents in a way that makes them feel empowered and appreciated, we have created magic.
Barbara Ph says
Thank you very much for the clear, straightforward and factual way in which you describe what Bobby McFerrin does. In your blog you’ve answered my question HOW to ask my audience to share their knowledge and expreciences and passions with me. It makes it easier for me to tune into their flow, aspirations & course of their businesses.
Really enjoyed reading this post. It’s so true that when someone does something they love it seems almost effortless, and a joy to be part of. The results of improv and creative collaboration just amaze me sometimes.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, keep up the great work,
Really great Pamela – can’t wait to read more. For me a first time I read something in a blog that took me away into the experience and left me with something that sticks…. the phrase give, honor, create together. You did that with your piece!
Pamela, great and true stuff: I attended his Boston concert a week ago and was blown away by everything you said. (Couldn’t tweet about it because the impact was bigger than 140 characters.) Calling all marketers: Rock on, with interaction and innovation and confidence.
Samantha Milner says
When I saw Bobby McFerrin name I immediately thought about “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” The advice that I have for people who are transitioning into a different business is to interact with your customers. It’s the best way all the time.
This is an excellent story. Something I will need to ponder and digest. Thank you so much for sharing this. Imagine being in the spotlight and not having to be in control! Allowing that creative flow. To trust the audience that much.
This was a great article Pamela! I find it amazing how experiences like this can have nothing to do with business, but can inspire remarkable outlooks and opportunities that can actually be applied to your business (or anything business related). And I absolutely love the way that you write I was captivated from start to finish.
Love this post! Keep coming back to read it and digest it a little more. A great message and wonderfully written. Genuinely very impressed!
Julie - Fine Tooth Comb says
Brilliant post! I recently saw a video of Mr. McFerrin interacting with his audience that your readers might enjoy:
Julie, Wonderful, feel good video! Thanks
saqib khan says
something really very imaginative and wonderful. thanks for the video.
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