When I was about seventeen, some friends and I went to a big arena concert of the band Whitesnake. Due to a lack of finances and a lack of planning, our seats were literally the very last row of the very top of the farthest section possible away from the stage. But, hey, it was the 80s, and Whitesnake was KING, and we just wanted to be there for it.
And then this happened:
A local radio station had been promoting that they would be giving away all sorts of freebies, including presumably very good seats, on the night of the concert. As we walked into the arena I casually grabbed two bumper stickers from the station’s advertisement table, not quite sure what I would do with them or how on earth we would be noticed in our next-zip-code-over-seats.
The radio station had staff members walking around inside holding the power of God to simply point at the random people they felt had earned a prize or an upgrade. Winding our way through the hoards of people, we marveled at the lengths some people had gone to in order to get those upgrades… Full radio station paraphernalia from head to toe, outlandish costumes, signs, expansive… necklines… You name it. When I spotted one of the radio station staffers heading toward our section, I just went for it: I quickly slapped the two bumper stickers on the back pockets of my jeans, turned around, gave a quick wiggle, and turned back around to discover him pointing at me and gesturing for me to come down with a friend. Stunned, I grabbed one of my equally stunned buddies, and we ran toward this Glorious Giver of Good Things. He led us to our new seats: Front row. Center stage. It was unbelievable. We were immersed in the smoldering stares of David Coverdale, the screaming fans, the sweat, the electric guitars pulsating through the crowd. Steve Vai, a legendary guitarist, was touring with them at the time, and I even caught a guitar pic that he tossed into the crowd. This kind of thing does not happen when you are in Row ZZZZZ in Section 5,457.
I couldn’t get over it… so many people had spent hours concocting ways to get the attention of the radio station, and my two last minute bumper stickers and a quick shake of my tush transformed my entire experience of that concert.
I understand now that two very important realizations came out of that moment for me; first, an understanding that sometimes, things are really much simpler than we imagine them to be. And second, it is always a good idea to just go for it, even if you feel like you don’t possibly have a chance. (As Marilyn Monroe is said to have declared: “Ever notice that ‘What the hell’ is usually the right decision?”) Who knew Whitesnake had so much to teach me, beyond the power of a good hair gel and a pair of leather pants?
The first realization is especially on my mind now as we approach the holiday season—it’s so easy to get caught up in the thoughts of what I must do to create a spectacular and transformative house, meal, decoration, present, experience. It’s tempting to believe that more equals better. But sometimes more just equals more.
Of course this plays out in many ways, not just at teenage rock concerts and holiday seasons. How often do we craft a lengthy explanation when really, a simple “I’m sorry; here’s how I’m going to fix it” is better? How often do we fret about the state of our house when really, the unexpected visitor only cares about a cup of coffee and a listening ear? How often do we create elaborate systems and structures at work when really, just talking is better? Sometimes, it really is that simple.
So don’t wait for “Is This Love” blaring out from your local radio station’s “All 80s Weekend” to remind you of this very important fact I learned all those years ago:
Are you making something more complicated than it needs to be? How can you simplify?
(and also, if you show up to the party with a store-bought candy assortment only to discover that your neighbor made a homemade three-tiered soufflé that lights up and plays music, filled with a rare berry grown from a tree in her very own backyard, don’t back toward the door desperate to make your escape… instead, proudly hand that candy forward—it just might be the very thing your host was looking for)
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