If You Had Time to Sing One Song, What Would You Sing?

Posted on by in Branding/Differentiation, Business, Leadership, Planning, Remarkability

Have you watched "Walk the Line" yet?  If you haven’t, it’s well worth the time.  And if you’re unfamiliar with the movie, it’s a biopic about the start of Johnny Cash’s career and the origin of his relationship with June Carter (who eventually became June Carter-Cash, after several divorces).  However, since I don’t want to ruin it for you, I won’t tell you much about the movie, except for my favorite scene in the movie (which unlocks some of the keys toward remarkability).

After Johnny receives an eviction notice, he heads over to a recording studio and negotiates an audition for himself and his little band—who at that point were only one song deep! But, desperation causes us to do unusual things.  So, the movie picks up the audition as Johnny and his two friends are playing a gospel tune rather poorly.  The owner of the studio, Sam Phillips, cuts them off and asks if they have anything else.  They don’t.  Sam and Johnny get into a somewhat heated argument until Johnny says, "Well, you never let us bring it home." At which point, Sam responds with the following speech (which, in my book, is one of the best moments in the whole movie).

"Bring it home.  Alright. let’s bring it home.  If you was hit by a truck and you were lying out in a gutter and you had time to sing one song—one song that people would remember before you’re dirt, one song that would let God know what you felt about your time here on earth, one song that would sum you up—are you telling me that’s the one song you’d sing?  That same Jimmy Davis tune that we hear on the radio all day about your peace within and how it’s all real and how you’re gonna shout it. 

Or would you sing something different, something real, something you felt?  ‘Cause I’m telling you right now, that’s the kind of song people want to hear.  That’s the kind of song that truly saves people.  It ain’t got nothing to do with believing in God, Mr. Cash, it has everything to do with believing in yourself!"

Now, while I disagree with Sam’s theology, I don’t with his main point.  Johnny was singing an ordinary song in an ordinary way, just like everyone else.  There was nothing real or passionate in his music.  There was no song in his song. He was a man in pain, singing a song about anything but pain.  He was singing because he wanted money.  He wasn’t singing from within—which is why Sam said to Johnny at the beginning of their conversation, "I don’t believe you."

However, something happened after Sam’s speech.  Johnny got real.  He put away all of his props and laid it on the line.  He went deep within and shared a song he had written years earlier while in the army—a song about pain.  A song that connected deeply with others.  A song that became Folsom Prison Blues.  A song that made him unique and different.  A song that made him famous and wealthy. But a song that never would have seen the light of day if a recording studio owner hadn’t pushed Johnny Cash to stop being ordinary.

So, I’d like to encourage you to go back and read Sam’s speech again.  But this time, imagine he’s saying those words to you.  Transfer them to whatever it is that you do (sing, write, lead, parent, write computer code, start companies, manage, cook, teach, manage money, etc.).  What is it deep within you that makes you unique?  What makes you different?  What is your cause?  What gets your blood boiling?  What keeps you up late at night?  What do you have to do before you die?  What do you want to be remembered for?

Refuse to be just like everyone else. There is a "song" within you.  So, what is your song?  Find your passion and then run with it.  And using Sam Phillips grid, make sure it’s different, it’s real and it’s something you feel.  Because if all three of those are true, you’ll probably create something truly remarkable—and maybe, just maybe, you might experience the same kind of success that an unknown eviction-served young man named Johnny Cash did.

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