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When an EP Takes Wing

© 2000, by Lisa M. Roberts

They say there's no business like show business. That may be true, but there's also no business like parenting, like being a solo entrepreneur, and certainly there's nothing like combining the two as an Entrepreneurial Parent. Last week I saw the similarities of all three -- show business, parenting and entrepreneurship -- crystalize. And what a moment it was.

It happened at our elementary school's annual Talent Show. My son Jimmy, 6 years old and going on 16, gave his debut performance, singing a solo of the song "I Believe I Can Fly." After weeks of preparation, he got up on the stage and indeed soared -- right into the hearts of many a parent who attended the show. A few days later one Mom stopped me in the school parking lot to tell me she and her friend starting crying in the middle of Jimmy's performance. She said the two whispered to each other, "His mom must be somewhere in the audience crying her heart out!"

I was not. I was standing on the sidelines screaming (in silence, of course), "Jimmy, come on -- smile! Have fun! Let it rip!" Night after night in the living room, my son would belt out the song and soar into motion with gusto and zest. He'd wear the song like a leather jacket -- cool and confident. That night on the stage, however, he sang softly and almost in slow motion. He wore the song like a pair of cozy pajamas. The charm was still there, but a vulnerability I hadn't expected was too. Another mom put it this way -- she told me she had wanted to go right up on the stage and squeeze him with a tight hug.

Where's the EP lesson in all this? In every business, there's a subtle, quiet transformation that takes place in between conception and execution. The ideas that come to us and the projects we fervently work on in the quiet corners of our living rooms, dining rooms and around the kitchen table look and feel and are one way. But when those ideas and projects are presented in the public arena -- delivered to our clients, customers, target market -- they often look and feel and *are* quite different. The service or product can still work splendidly, but it can also be unrecognizable from its early stages. The transformation is almost magical. And it's always exciting.

Jimmy's recast performance held other business lessons too. Here are a few you may relate to as you expand your current business or get your first one off the ground.

EP Lessons:

  • Pick a business, or add on a new product or service, that means something to you.
How often have you heard that you gotta feel good about what you're doing if you expect others to as well? With Jimmy, I suggested "I Believe I Can Fly" because about two years ago when the song was popular on the radio he was singing it constantly. This was also during the time when my father fell fatally ill, and I remember watching Jimmy (then four years old) at the playground, swinging high, and singing "I believe I can touch the sky!" and feeling the bittersweet awareness of letting one precious spirit go while watching another emerge. It must have meant something to him too because when I mentioned the song his face lit up. We bought the sheet music the next day.
  • Become proficient in the basic core of what you do first; worry about "image" and panache later!
As soon as we held all the words to the song in our hands, he learned every word by heart. Singing out of tune, not knowing what the song was all about, standing stiff as a board as he sang were all of no consequence. He needed to build his self-esteem through the act of competence first. Once that was down, the rest would follow.
  • Dress for success!
This much ballyhooed business and career technique comes naturally to Jimmy. I first noticed his innate awareness of the value of one's appearance this past New Year's Eve, when he woke from his early evening nap and came down the stairs to join "the party" wearing dress pants, a button-down shirt, tie and dress shoes (the rest of us were in jeans and khakis). Likewise, when he was getting ready for his first dress rehearsal for the talent show, he came down the stairs with a huge grin and a clip-on tie hanging from the turtleneck shirt he was wearing that day. I got the message. I smiled, changed him into a dress shirt, put the tie back on and off we went. The next day I let him choose a new dress shirt to wear for his final performance. He beamed.
  • Find a mentor.
After I taught Jimmy the words to the song, I stepped aside. My husband, who used to sing and perform southern rock music in a band and has a voice that can make rap music sound like a lullaby, stepped in. From my husband, Jimmy learned that every song is a story, and this particular story was about a man who believed he could achieve whatever he set his mind to. He also taught Jimmy that when he was up on the stage, he had total control of everything he did up there. He would have a captive audience and would be free to turn the song into anything he wanted it to be. Together, then, they added gestures and movements as he sang, experimenting this way and that until they came up with the following "act":
"I Believe I Can Fly"
(Words and Music by R. Kelly)
I used to think that I could not go on
that life was nothing but an awful song
but now I know the meaning of true love
I'm leaning on the everlasting arms. (Jimmy leans his body over)
If I can see it, then I can do it.
If I just believe it, there's nothing to it! (shoulders shrug)
I believe I can fly (arms stretched out as wings)
I believe I can touch the sky (arms over head, reaching up)
I think about it every night (thumbs down) and day (thumbs up)
Spread my wings and fly away (arms as wings again)
I believe I can soar (arms as wings in motion)
I see me running through that open door (Jimmy runs in place)
I believe I can fly (wings), I believe I can fly (wings), oh I believe I can flyyyy.... (wings)
You see I was on the verge of breaking down
Sometimes silence can seem so loud (hands over his ears)
There are miracles in life I must achieve (arm outstretched, with an enthusiastic thumbs up)
But first I know it starts inside of me (thumb pointing to his heart)
Repeat Verse
  • Do it.
All the preparation in the world will mean nothing if you don't have the courage to go out there and "just do it." Sure, Jimmy was reluctant to carry out his performance, especially as the date neared. But every time he'd feign cold feet he'd have a smile on his face. That night, as the curtain rose, he stood for a moment in silence, almost looking petrified. (Later I asked him how he felt. He said, "I was like, oh my gosh, I have to sing in front of ALL these people??") But then he did begin to sing, and when he leaned his body over at the right note of the song and the rest of the practiced motions kicked in, he was home free. In the end, he delivered.

Do YOU believe you can fly? Tell us how your wings felt the first time you put yourself and your business out there, and the lessons learned in the process. (Email us!) Also, if the mood strikes, consider teaching your children the words, the music and the message of this special song and then watch how they "wear" it. Chances are you will not only believe that they -- and you -- can indeed fly, you all will.

Lisa Roberts is the mother of four, owner of The Entrepreneurial Parent, LLC and the author of How to Raise A Family & A Career Under One Roof: A Parent's Guide to Home Business (Bookhaven Press, 1997). Copies of her book are available for purchase at EP and through Amazon.

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