“Hello, darkness, my old friend/I’ve come to talk with you again.” — Simon and Garfunkel
That tune from the 1960s is ringing in my head as the silence penetrates the darkness. The air feels soft to me; the normal sound of leaves playfully waltzing with their partners is muted, as if under a soft, thick blanket.
Goosebumps appear on my skin as I wring my hands for warmth and await the sun, which is to be an hour late this morning, as if it slept in, cozy and comfy under the covers. She peeks through the distant branches as a muted pink, barely touching the edges of the twisted branches visible from my back porch. Her appearance has awakened a tweeting symphony as the fog lifts from my sleepy brain.
I wipe my crusty eyes as my warm coffee plays its role in bringing me peacefully into yet the gift of another day, for which I’m grateful.
Each day is a gift, each hour to be met with enthusiasm and never wasted, as one will someday be our last.
Simon and Who?
When Paul Simon wrote that that song, “The Sound of Silence,” in 1963 and 1964, it opened the door to a studio audition at Columbia Records, then to Simon and Garfunkel’s debut album in October 1964 — which was a bomb. Discouraged, Art Garfunkel went back to study at Columbia University and Paul returned to England. They had been playing together as Tom and Jerry since the late 1950s, and this blown opportunity was the end of their path.
Yet miraculously, almost a year later, the song started to get airplay from a Boston radio station and some stations in Florida. Noticing the airplay, Columbia remixed the song by adding in electric instruments and some drums and re-released it. Simon and Garfunkel were not even aware of the re-release in September of 1965. By January 1966, the song hit number one in Billboard, and the duo were quickly brought back together to record an album to capitalize on the song’s popularity. This resulted in fame and success — the two became household names overnight and have remained so throughout their lives.
A Moment to Remember
I still can remember the exact moment I heard the song, and the impact it had on me. I wandered into friend Bob Mausbaum’s house, where the 45 was playing on his record player. Their music drew this teen in, and the lyrics spoke feelings I could not express myself. Many years later, in my radio career, I was able to meet Paul Simon at a private concert held for a small group of radio executives. It was a big day for me.
A few things come out of this story that are worth considering:
1. Timing is everything. Everything has its right time, and sometimes no matter how good we are, how hard we try, we just have to believe that our time will come, no matter how discouraged we are and how much we’re ready to give up.
2. Sometimes you need a catalyst. In Simon and Garfunkel’s case it was some radio DJ in Boston who put the song on the air, which got the attention of the listeners, who let the station know they wanted to hear it more. That resulted in other stations getting calls, and then one DJ speaking about this hot song to a friend in Florida, who put it on the air. (Though I was not a DJ until 1968, I “broke” songs that became national hits, including “Copacabana” and many others. I worked for a station that broke “Weekend in New England,” and Barry Manilow told me a few years ago that he was on vacation in Florida and that was the first time he heard his song on the radio anywhere. He said it was the most exciting day of his life.)
3. Never, ever give up. Simon and Garfunkel had given up, or so the story goes, but my guess is they never stopped believing and telling others about their song. One little seed they planted may have resulted in the airplay that changed their lives.
I’m not a big fan of the concept touted in the movie Field of Dreams … “If you build it, they will come.” In fact, that’s rarely true. But I do believe strongly that sometimes there is perfect timing and that if you plant seeds, water them, and never give up, they will grow into giant oaks.
Manifesting a Dream
A couple of years ago I was looking for a way to accomplish my goal of “teach a million people to paint.” My friend and mentor who wrote the foreword to my marketing book, Jay Abraham, said, “If you want to reach that many people, you need to get on TV.” I was not sure I believed it, but I started dreaming about it in specifics. Within a couple of days I knew exactly what the show would be like, where it would be filmed, and how it would work. Of course, I had no idea how to get a TV show, but I believed I could do it. Then two weeks later I was at a cocktail party I hosted at the Harvard Club in New York when I met a TV executive. I asked him how I could get the show produced, he asked about the idea (which I now knew in detail), and he made the introductions to the right people on his team. That has resulted in a deal for me to get the show on a major network.
The discouraging thing about the show is that I had to raise close to a million dollars to see this dream realized, and it’s a lot of money. I tried and tried for over a year and planted a lot of seeds with potential donors and sponsors, yet it just was not happening. I was about ready to give up. But then just last week I mentioned it to someone who then offered to put in a significant chunk of money. Then the same week, I heard from one of the sponsors I’d spoken to who told me they wanted to be in — I had assumed they were not interested. Though I’ve not raised all the money yet, I’m starting to gain momentum, and I have no doubt it will come because it’s tied to an important purpose that needs to happen. This reinforces the need for manifesting success, never giving up, and knowing that there is a perfect timing.
One Who Can Make Things Happen
The idea of a catalyst is also important. In fact, it’s a major marketing principle that I often teach in my marketing sessions, and it’s the exact reason my friend Jay said I needed to get on national TV. I could try and try, doing lots of small things, and though they would help, they would not add up to reaching millions. Yet getting the show on a major TV network will reach over 22 million people per episode (there are 13 episodes) and allow me to expose plein air painting to a giant audience, which not only will help more people change their hearts by learning to paint outside, it will draw more people to shows, draw more people to galleries, and help everyone sell more art. It will put the words plein air on the lips of America. All of this can be accomplished by one right move … being on national TV.
You Need a Catalyst
For Simon and Garfunkel, it was one DJ in Boston playing their song that launched their careers. Sometimes a major catalyst to launch a career is an artist getting a story in a magazine like PleinAir or Fine Art Connoisseur, or being invited to be on stage at a conference. Sometimes it’s just finding a way to afford ads in those publications. A catalyst is about helping you reach the right audience at the right time, or it could be the right donor stepping up at the right time or the right introduction at the right time
In life, business, hitting goals, art, or anything … you want to ask yourself what one thing, one person, can pull a lever and change everything.
My Career Catalysts
In my radio career, which began about this time of year in 1968, it was my meeting a local radio DJ by the name of Charlie Willer. We were both members of Sing Out Fort Wayne. I was 14, he was 16. (Sing Out Fort Wayne was a local branch of the Up with People franchise.) We were all on the St. Joe River in Fort Wayne on a community service project, breaking up the ice to prevent flooding. He looked at his watch and said, “I have to go to work.” I said, “You can’t go, we’re not done yet.” He then said words that changed my life forever … “I can’t be late. I have to be on the radio.” When I heard radio, I thought that it was cool and I’d like to learn more about it. So I said, “Can I come along? I’ve never been to a radio station.”
A Dream for a Lost Teen
I watch him do his show that day and instantly knew what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to be on the air. He taught me, I got on the air, and I launched a career in radio that has been going for 50 years — being on the radio, then becoming the guy who picks the music, then becoming the guy who hires the DJs and teaches them, then owning some radio stations, then creating some promotional products and starting a business, and then starting a radio trade magazine that is going to this day. In fact, next week I’m testifying to the commissioners at the FCC, who sought me out for my opinions on what to do next (I’m pretty honored and excited they asked).
All of that … a career launched because of a catalyst. In his case it was an accidental catalyst, yet had I not been curious and not asked to go, I’d probably have done something different with my life.
Being on the Lookout
You see, I believe that once you understand the idea of a catalyst, you need to be constantly scanning to find them. None of us can do everything on our own. Sometimes it really does boil down to who you know, but you have to have your eyes open for those opportunities and have the guts to ask. I missed lots of opportunities because I lacked the courage to ask.
Catalysts Everywhere I Look
As I look back on my life and my successes and failures, I realize how much importance finding the right catalyst has. In some cases I failed because I did not know to look for the one person who could make things happen the fastest. In other cases, I found them but I was not prepared or ready. In still other cases I was not learning what I needed to learn and blew opportunities because I didn’t know how to succeed and didn’t try to learn what I did not know.
Angels Giving You Wings
Catalysts come in so many forms. Sometimes I think they are angels placed at the right time to give us our wings. In high school Mrs. Parsons gave me so much of a hard time that I hated her, but I was determined to prove to her that I was not a deadbeat loser, and the result is that she pulled something out of me that I did not know was there. I dedicated part of my first book to her. Catalysts can be teachers, friends, family members, neighbors, co-workers, bosses, and even competitors or enemies (I don’t believe in enemies). They may play roles to stimulate thought, or open doors to make things happen.
That’s why it’s important to be curious, keep an open mind, never ever give up, and always be looking for people who can help. I’ve always said that if I share my goals with others, they will help me make them come true. Because I believed I had no painting talent and no ability, my wife’s belief in me changed everything. She bought me an art lesson because I doubted myself, yet she saw something in me that I did not see. She was a catalyst. And my mentor Jack Acetus Jackson convinced me I could do things I thought were impossible, showed me a way I could make paintings without drawing skill, and that changed my life. Both of those catalysts resulted in my career in art today, which includes magazines, conferences, videos, painting events, and, God willing, a TV show that will help me be the catalyst to convince others they too can learn to paint. It could change the world because people who paint are happy, fulfilled, and have purpose.
Always be on the lookout because if you’re breathing, you still have a purpose. Always be dreaming big.
Always be learning and growing.
Always be curious.
Always be on the lookout for a catalyst. (They are found when you least expect them.)
Always be manifesting your dreams (and be careful, because you can manifest bad things with the wrong thoughts).
Always continue believing in yourself even if others don’t. Never, ever give up. Never.
And always be convinced that there is special timing that will serve you. Believe that your time will come. Believe that you are a magnet for great things.
Not Woo Woo
If this all sounds all metaphysical or woo woo, I get it. I used to hear these things and wonder if the person saying them was sane. It’s easy to be critical. Yet pick one thing … focus on it, believe it, never give up or give in, believe in yourself, and believe it will happen. Dream it in exact detail and keep it in your mind constantly.
Being a Dreamer
My teachers used to accuse me of being a daydreamer. They thought it was a bad thing. I still think it’s a good idea. Yeah, we have to make a living and we have to take action toward our dreams, but with dreams + a plan + action + self-belief, you have a powerful combination.
- What have you dreamed of that you’ve given up on?
- What are you not believing will happen that needs to happen?
- What catalyst can make your dreams come true? Where and how do you find it? Take action.