Maintain Career Control
September 20, 2011
My favorite line of all time was taught to me back when I was a part-time DJ for a Mobile Music service. The company was called "Sonny's Mobile Music" (not sure if that was his real name, but he was a good guy and excellent entrepreneur). Sonny was a great teacher and overall ran the operation with an iron fist, sending out systems and jocks all over the market every week, locking up weddings, school dances and more.
He had grown from jocking small venues by himself, and by the time I joined as just another DJ, he had multiple systems out every weekend.
ULTIMATE LESSON LEARNED
Sonny had already thought ahead about everything that could and would go wrong at any event you were jocking. I realized this years later after I had done many DJ events myself, having just about "seen it all" from fights breaking out at weddings, to being put behind chicken wire so as not to be hit by flying beer bottles when I played the wrong song. Yes, that last one is true.
Sonny produced a manual of what to expect, and how to handle any eventuality were it to occur. Although his program and regimented playlists, etc. seemed overly restrictive to me when I joined, I appreciated the tight format anyway and signed on as a part-time DJ for him to pick up some extra bucks as a young DJ myself.
By the time I joined Sonny, I was already working multiple part-time radio gigs (nothing was open full-time at the station, and after all I had to pay my dues). Sonny's set-up was great for me until I could scrape together enough cash to afford to buy my own mobile DJ equipment and strike out on my own (which I did later).
Sonny had a saying that has stuck with me for over 30 years. "Control the situation before the situation controls you." Profound! What he was saying was, if no one was dancing, bail out of whatever stiff you happened to be playing and get people on the dance floor, or immediately shift to a contest to shake up the room and "reboot" the crowd. The crowd is there to be entertained. Know your place, know what you are supposed to be doing ... and execute.
It made a lot of sense, and helped me to learn the skill of "Reading the Room." Nothing is worse than a DJ playing his or her own favorites back to back to back while the crowd sits on their hands looking at the DJ, with the dance floor empty. Sonny knew that once you get into that situation, it's a short hop to the crowd then beginning a mutiny and calling for the DJ's head.
One other thing Sonny taught me. Everything requires a proper OPENING. During a wedding, while people are generally sitting and chatting, or during dinner, there is an accepted music style. Then, once dinner is complete, you must command the room to get on with the next phase of the party. In other words, you have to get on mic, be assertive, and tell everyone the dance floor has just opened. Take control of the event and FORMALLY open the dance floor.
Many DJs I had seen at the time did not do this, or did not do it very well. It was more of a clumsy stumbling around for a power song and a "let's party!" or worse, just rolling into the song itself. Sonny's program ELIMINATED the clumsiness, the awkwardness and the doubt. You "opened" the dance floor once the dinner music ended.
This is in stark contrast to simply starting to play more "upbeat" music and hope someone walks up to the dance floor. This sounds so basic and obvious, but you would not believe how many D's would miss this simple thing. People in a social setting enjoyed the structure of leadership. Sonny had already figured all this out, and drilled us newbie DJs with the control elements of his program.
SONNY'S CAREER CONTROL
Let's examine careers for a moment. By applying Sonny's rules, it also works to advance your career. Control your career before it controls you. Are you in control with where you are, what you are doing, and where you want to go in your career? Have you already launched your "OPENER," meaning have you told everyone WHAT it is you are doing and led them to your plan for the future?
Sonny's Mobile Music might as well have been called "Sonny's Life Coaching" for me. It was disguised as a Mobile DJ business, but it taught some simple lessons that remain valuable to me all these years later. I saw ... and got the lessons. Then I applied them not only to the DJ'ing, but to everything in life.
Things will happen in your career that you cannot control. Things change. But, like Sonny, have you developed your playbook in the event that massive change is thrust upon you? Are you ready to seize control of the situation before it controls you? Sonny anticipated whatever the crowd might throw at him. Are you anticipating what the career Gods may throw at you tomorrow?
For life lessons well learned, I say, "Thank you to Sonny!"