A Lesson In Perception

Something happened a few years ago that taught me a little lesson about perception.  I was at a music convention in Los Angeles.  It’s one I’d been to many times before and I knew most of the artists there well.

Next door to our convention was some other meeting thing that looked way less interesting.  It was accountants getting training or something.

During a break I had been talking with some of the artists in the hallway and then headed to the restroom.  On my way a lady from the other event stopped me and asked, “Are you guys from the music convention?”  I said, “Yes, how did you know?”  She replied, “You all look so cool!”

I was floored.  It was a nice compliment and all, but I had just never thought of myself that way.  Here’s a dirty secret from the art world… Nobody’s cool.  Musicians, comedians, and other performers weren’t the popular kids in school.  We were the misfits, the back of the roomers, the ones who made fun of the cool kids.

In fact, I’ve often found that a personal sense of coolness is inversely proportional to the level of talent the performer has.

So after hearing this from this nice lady, I went back to my music friends and told them what she said.  The universal response was “Us?  Cool?”

Now that’s interesting because of what we gave each other.  That lady admired what we do and in some small part of her brain wanted to be a part of our world for just a little bit.  And she got a piece of that when she came to see us all perform later that evening and hung out with us.

Her gift was that little compliment to us.  It made each of us look outside our own heads a little bit to see that someone was “getting it” even in a small way.  And in an industry that beats you down on a daily basis, that little compliment was enough to keep a group of artists going for another few days.  Finally, we were cool.

Phil Johnson

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