By Trent Rentsch
There is a meme floating around Facebook, featuring a quote from Steve Martin, “Be so good they can’t ignore you.” Inspiring words for any Creative, to be sure. But with all due respect to Mr. Martin (who has been that good for quite some time), it’s also simplistic. I’m not suggesting that he is wrong; of course it should be the goal of everyone to learn and grow and be the best they can possibly be at their craft. However, it’s been many years since Steve Martin was a starving wanna-be, pitching trick card decks at the magic shop in Disneyland... it’s possible he’s forgotten that there’s little more to it than “being good.”
Exhibit #1, Bill. I worked with Bill in the early ’80s. I was a baby DJ at the time, everyone was better than I was, but Bill’s talent put him head and shoulders above, not just everyone at our station, but everyone at every station in the area. Great voice, and he understood how to use it. Quick, biting wit, and serious skills in the Production Room. He was even our on-site Engineer, and he made us sound bigger and better than we were. Bill had a big following with listeners and fellow radio types. The steps from small town South Dakota for people like Bill would be Minneapolis, Denver, or Chicago, and for a time we actually had a pool as to where in the big leagues he would land next. Then suddenly one day, he was gone. Not to a larger market, not even to another radio station. It turned out that Bill had shown up at a remote drunk. It wasn’t the first time, but it was the first time the owner of the station had seen him that way, and it wasn’t pretty. After that, Bill tried to move on to other stations, but his reputation and personal demon followed him, and he eventually was forced to give up broadcasting altogether. The last I heard he had a job in a manufacturing plant, and still has an alcohol problem.
Exhibit #2, Shelia. A friend from college who majored in music and had a voice that could make angels weep. She starred in many musicals in college, composed and performed her own music, and had us all convinced that she would be the next Stevie Nicks. When her Senior year rolled around, Berkley was already calling, offering her a scholarship to pursue her Masters, and there was a rumor that one of her songs had gotten to a major player in Nashville. Her future seemed certain, to everyone but her boyfriend. He wasn’t a nice guy, jealous and petty. Somehow, he convinced her that a life married to him was more important than following her dream. For the next 5 years she worked 2 jobs to keep them going, while he spent his days in a bar, drinking away what money they had. Sadly, it took more than one black eye and cracked rib to convince her that she had made a mistake, and while she eventually escaped the jerk, her spirit was broken, and she’s lived a quiet life, alone, music forgotten.
Exhibit #3, Russ. By far my favorite boss, Russ was a Program Director who “got it.” An unbending advocate of the station and its listeners, an encouraging, motivating mentor to the air staff, and a level-headed Executive staff member, who was always the voice of reason when any silly, unreasonable battle happened between departments. Under his leadership, the station posted numbers it had never seen before, and the station reaped the rewards of those ratings. Everyone was happy, all was good. But then, all good things come to an end. Our General Manager moved to another division in the company and they brought in a GM from “the big city,” who was convinced that his way was the best way... even if it meant dumping everything that had made the station a success. That included Russ. Considering his track record, there’s little doubt he could have moved on and up, but the experience jaded and sickened him, and he went into insurance, never to set foot in a radio station again. By the way, the next book, the ratings tumbled.
The reality is, being “so good” isn’t always enough. It takes focus and discipline and passion... and then, you can still end up working for a person who dislikes you or doesn’t appreciate you or is jealous of your talents.
If you really want to get to the point where they can’t ignore you, ignore the distractions and the distractors. Work hard, get better, learn more, and keep moving forward toward your goals... and recognize when you’re in a toxic position and it’s time to cut bait and get away from those who would marginalize you. Be so good at BELIEVING IN YOURSELF that they can’t ignore you.
Trent Creates words, voices, audio and music. His professional home is Krash Creative. Share a dream with him at: