retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

Every now and again my travels bring me across the kind of stories that I doubt I’ll ever forget. And I’m thinking John Ondrasik is going to stay on that list.

Odds are you have no idea who John Ondrasik is at first, but I’m betting you’ll discover that in fact you do know him. It’s just that you know him by another name. Take a second (use another browser window please) and play a song from Five for Fighting.

You might play “Superman (It’s not easy),” “100 years,” or “Chances,” and you likely will know the song. What you don’t know is that Five for Fighting is John Ondrasik and that his story has meaning to you and your business.

I had the opportunity to meet Ondrasik in February while moderating the annual IGA Global Rally. That gave me a front-row seat to the kind of presentation I only wish I had the talent to deliver. With the 500 people in the audience I watched Ondrasik stroll to the piano on stage, play a handful of his songs and explain them in a whole new context.

Ondrasik’s story is that good. It’s the story of a musician who freely admits that his career took forever to get started. He jokes about being called an overnight success but that it took him 20 years and close to 45,000 hours of practice to get to that overnight.

He talked about the wonder of his breakthrough hit, “Superman,” and the even harder challenge of writing a follow up hit to ensure he would never be tagged as a one-hit wonder. And he managed to connect it to the audience and the challenges they face.

Think about it: we all want to be stars in whatever we do. Like Ondrasik, we know it starts with hard work. Most singer/songwriters never get to be even one-hit wonders. Most businesses never achieve star status either.

But like Ondrasik we work the process every day. In his case, the story of him rising early morning after morning and serenading a neighbor with songs until he finally wrote “100 years” is funny and pointed. Without hard work, we can’t achieve anything once, no less twice.

He also talked about the process of inspiration, about how he’s learned to listen to the world around him. Song ideas come to him from family (mainly his children), but always from making certain he’s listening and open.

Again, even for non-song writers, that’s a path to follow. Especially in our ever-changing world, listening matters more than we can imagine.

Sometimes those lessons can even come to us in song. To paraphrase “Superman,” it’s never easy to be anything great.

But as we’re constantly reminded from the movie A League of Their Own, it’s the hard tasks that make life, business and success great.


Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at msansolo@morningnewsbeat.com . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available by clicking here .
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