by Deborah Johnson
Wayland Pickard, a music colleague of mine, was famed pianist Roger William’s neighbor. William’s biggest hit was the song “Autumn Leaves,” the only piano instrumental to reach #1 on Billboard’s popular music chart. It sold over two million copies. At Roger’s front door was a large carved wooden Indian. The Indian’s right hand was at his forehead, shading his eyes from the sun, squinting to see some far-off object. When Williams asked what he thought the Indian was looking for, Wayland was at a loss. Roger said, “Where’s the melody?”
Even though that incident happened some years ago and Williams died in 2011, that phrase has stayed with me. “Where’s the melody?” applies not only to music, but to speaking, to writing, to leadership and to content in general. With the number of blogs, tweets, pings, videos and training programs, it is a question most leaders, speakers and writers should constantly ask themselves.
It becomes easy, especially after some years, to regurgitate the same material over and over again rather than work and craft a melody or message that is fresh, memorable and sticky. I was told by a client that a pianist played Elton John’s “Your Song” over and over again in the background for one of his events, thinking it didn’t matter much as no one was listening. Apparently it did matter, as that pianist wasn’t hired again.
I hear comics inserting every expletive imaginable and expounding on personal body parts to get quick laughs. Those comics using those shortcuts, sacrificing wit and craft, are by example, training a new generation to do the same. Where is the true humor? The story line? The content? As some speakers and authors take shortcuts, I have taken on the personal challenge to not take shortcuts where it really matters in my work. My goal is to help others get unstuck, giving them tools to move forward with realistic goals in life and business. If I have regurgitated content played over and over again, like a song stagnant and lost in background noise, my message will be watered down and weak.
How do you unearth significant content or create a memorable melody? There is no sure-fire way or formula. The main foundational ingredient is always hard work and discipline, enhanced with creativity and excellence.
Today, to find your niche or focus area, there are more coaches than clients touting their methods. A good coach is extremely valuable, and I encourage that assistance. However, there are basic initial commitments every leader, artist, author, comic or entertainer should make.
Commitment To Quality Melody, Message or Material
One of the most difficult challenges is to cut down content to be pithy and memorable. I have written full stage musicals where I have had to cut pages, songs and full sections to make the story move along quicker on a stage. It’s very difficult and I speak from experience that it takes many midnight hours of crafting. That same principle applies to speeches and books. What’s the heart of the message? Is it memorable? Is it applicable? Commit to quality content.
Commitment To Effective Communication
Communicating effectively takes creativity and work. Find ways to communicate that will inspire and keep your audience interested. Some are gifted with the ability to captivate an audience with only their personality, voice tone, style and presence. However, most would do well to use the visual and media tools available to communicate to an audience with ever diminishing attention spans. Commit to excellent communication.
Commitment To Doing What It Takes
“It’s good enough,” is no longer good enough. There is too much competition! What will make you stand out to where you won’t be ignored any longer? Being great doesn’t just depend on great content, but going to the edge of your abilities and developing something that is unique; something that is yours alone. You may get away with being a copy-cat for awhile, but it doesn’t last. Commit to doing what it takes to be great.
If you commit to quality content, communication and doing what it takes to be great, you will have an answer for William’s question, “Where’s the melody?” Your content, your communication and your greatness will be your unique melody. The song is now within you, ready to be shared with the world!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Deborah Johnson helps others get unstuck, ridding bad mental code to reach realistic goals. Deborah is an award-winning entertainer with deft piano and vocal skills and uses those skills, when appropriate, in her speaking presentations. She has performed on many stages around the world as well as served as a first-call pianist for Disney for over twenty years. With a Masters Degree, she has taught every level through graduate school, receiving many awards for her innovative methods and abilities. Up for multiple Grammy Awards, Deborah is a prolific writer of musicals, songs and books. She is able to successfully help others reach their goals with proven principles gleaned from her expansive training and research.