Gotta share my latest excellent adventure: street singing! I had done a little “busking” in London and Liverpool a dozen years ago—and in Los Angeles decades before that—and have been meaning to get back to it ever since. So for the last two weekends I’ve begun working the sidewalks of Back Bay, Boston.
It’s amazing how little the street scene has changed over the years: once again I was getting drowned out by Hare Krishnas, hectored by incoherent drunks, and shut down by cops. Yet it was still tremendous fun. And almost profitable. (Hell, what I earn in tips from playing music is only two decimal points different from what I earn from consulting to business.) And very instructive. It's a great way to practice “customer intimacy,” as mentioned in a previous post.
Speaking of which, I’ve written about my complaints with my bank before. But the frontline folks there are so polite and helpful I WANT to like the company—and I’ve refrained from publicly excoriating it. (I will say it’s one of only two US banks that recently flunked a “stress test” to determine which banks can withstand a financial crisis.) Clearly this institution has its operational problems—e.g., its MasterCard ATM cards didn’t work a few weeks ago and the bank neglected to notify its customers (oops), making it a tad inconvenient for us who couldn’t pay our restaurant bills, parking fees, or cab fares. (Am I being picky here?)
Of course I’m always happy to point out their flaws to them. (After using one of their ATM booths last year I told the branch manager that I’d seen cleaner bathrooms in punk rock clubs.) But their associates are unfailingly gracious so I continue to cut them some slack. (Even when they often give me inaccurate information, but it's senior management's responsibility to make sure the workforce is educated.) That personal, congenial touch does make a difference. I have felt the same way about many rock artists I’ve known. If they’re nice guys or gals I’ve wanted to like their music—and could usually find something to appreciate about it.
Another excellent adventure was attending my Boston College High School reunion three weeks ago, which rekindled a preoccupation of mine: noting the many choices we make early in life that seem inconsequential at the time but eventually change our entire career trajectory. (I’ve written about this before—here and here—when I’ve discussed “sensitive dependence on initial conditions” or “the butterfly effect,” whereby small differences in initial circumstances can generate dramatically different chains of events.) For instance, the C student with no career ambition in high school decides to pursue a business degree in college while he figures out what he wants to do with his life, but becomes a BFF with a well-connected frat bro who helps him get a plum job at a manufacturing company where he finally catches fire and rises to the top of the firm.
In my case, I decided to take an Ancient Greek class taught by an instructor with Robin-Williams-like intensity (Father John Howard S.J.) who got me to love Homeric Greek, which propelled me into a good college, where I later found myself in a precociously talented campus rock band, which launched me into the music business for the next dozen years, which gave me a unique perspective on business and art. The ideal background for a street singer.