Tommy McWilliams

Rock Star Weekly

BUZZER SKILLS – MISSED GRAMMY OPPORTUNITIES

J-Lo-Versace-Grammy-jungle-dress

Things have changed.

What things you ask? Well, just about everything. We have talked about this before. So, I won’t bore you with any long-winded philosophy. Instead I will regale you with a story that relates to a fabulous concept I heard on The Moment with Brian Koppleman podcast. Brian was interviewing one of my favorite authors and all-around future thinking badass – Seth Godin.   The story Seth told Brian revolved around Seth starting a quiz team in high school. Seth sucked at the tryouts so he ended up being the coach.

The problem for Seth was not that he didn’t know the answers; it was he waited until he remembered the answer to buzz in. You know what the ‘Buzzer” is right? It’s the button in front of each contestant that they have to press to be recognized by the host to give the correct answer. Even if you have the correct answer, if you don’t “buzz in” first you do not get to answer. It took Seth thirty years to figure out the secret of getting in ahead of the others who also knew the answer; you need to press the buzzer before you know the answer.

In Seth’s own words – “As soon as you realize that you probably will be able to identify the answer by the time you’re asked, buzz. Between the time you buzz and the time you’re supposed to speak, the answer will come to you. And if it doesn’t, the penalty for being wrong is small compared to the opportunity to get it right.

This feels wrong in so many ways. It feels reckless, careless and selfish. Of course we’re supposed to wait until we’re sure before we buzz. But the waiting leads to a pattern of not buzzing.” And you LOSE!

This fantastic concept reminded me of something that happened to me. Ironically enough [no Alannis, that’s not irony that’s just a series of bummers] the story involves Charles Koppleman. Brian, the guy who was hosting the podcast I got all this from, is Charles Koppleman’s son. That’s what prompted me to remember this incident when my “Buzzer Management Skills” cost me an opportunity.

I was at The Staples Center for the 42nd Annual Grammy Awards Ceremony in 2000. It was the first time the event was held at the newly erected Staples Center in downtown LA. It was also the one were J-Lo wore that fab green Versace dress.

The fun part of actually going to the Grammys is all the stuff that happens in the commercial breaks. Most of the essential schmoozing – which is the main reason to be there – takes place at the bar. When the host, in this case Rosie O’Donnell, announces a commercial break in the telecast, almost everybody shoots out of their seats and beelines for the stairs. That’s where the bars are. In the previous years the event took place at the much smaller Shrine Auditorium. This time there was a lot more stairs and a lot more bars.

The basic idea is to make it to the bar, get your drink and then see who else is hanging out that you can interact with. Or at least be seen with. Those with an advanced understanding of social dynamics have a distinct advantage.

You then have that commercial break, the whole next segment of the telecast to schmooze and then return to your seat during the next commercial break. Some people never make it back to their seats, very strategic.

Half way through the show – which seems to last a lot longer when you are there live – I headed to the bar. While waiting in line I casually case the joint to see who else is there. Preferably, someone further up the food chain than myself. I was there with Charles Dye and Terry Lippman at the time. Terry was right behind me in line and taps me on the shoulder and says, “Hey, Tommy, there’s Charles Koppleman.” Wait, I know Charles Koppleman, he was head of EMI Records in America and the head of SBK records when Jon Secada was signed to that label.

At that time I knew Charles was the head of the fashion forward footwear company owned by Steve Madden. As all this is going through my head I hear Terry then say, “Tommy, you know him, say hi.” “Well I don’t know if he remembers me”, I think to myself. “I don’t want to be a pain in the ass”, I rationalize. No buzzing in yet.

As soon as I decide to say something, up comes one of the former EMI sales guys, “Hey Charles…slumming at the bar I see”.

Damn, beaten to the punch and by a sales guy to boot. To make matters worse, as he turns to leave with the sales guy he points to me, waves and mouths the words “ I know you.” And off they go up the stairs.

I missed a potential re-connection with someone that I not only had a ton of respect for but also could have presented mutually beneficial opportunities, all because of my poor Buzzer Skills. I did not hit the buzzer in time and I missed the opportunity. In Social Dynamics this is also called the 3-Second Rule. Meaning that Your Dinosaur Brain comes up with all types of excuses to not approach. “What if they are too busy to talk, what am I going to say”, all of this is an example of negative self-talk. By using The 3 Second Rule you override your initial resistance and reduce the limiting self-talk. Same as hitting the buzzer before you really know the answer.

No one knows if your song is a hit. As a parent you never quite know if you are making the correct decision in every circumstance but what makes this approach different from just careless abandon is the knowledge that buzzing in makes you work a little harder, take an important chance that you might not have taken or overcome the resistance you feel when you are about to do something hard. Buzz in if you think you have a chance. Buzz in even if you don’t know the answer yet. The more you Buzz In  the more you develop the habit of thinking on your feet and the more chances you have to be right.

By pressing the buzzer before you know the answer, you exponentially increase the chances of something great happening.

Take the chance and try “Buzzing In” before you figure out the answer. You don’t have to wait to be sure that you know the answer…it’s the “Buzzing In” that counts.

Your Thoughts?