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A Personal Lesson in the Power of a Firm Deadline

Tom Sullivan

July 12, 2016
Tom Sullivan

Five Tips for Business and Life

I recently learned the power of a firm deadline in bringing people with complementary skills together to accomplish a goal. My son Chris booked a date to bring friends and family together to play in a band at John & Peters in New Hope, PA.  He asked me to play keyboards.  He booked the date and it was published on the venue’s website.

I had three obstacles to overcome.  The first was psychological: I had never played in a rock band. (An appearance in one song in a talent show when I was 15 doesn’t really count.) The second was physical: I didn’t own an electric keyboard.  The third obstacle was lack of time to learn the songs on top of a busy work schedule. I had to figure that out. Fortunately, the other band members were friends of Chris, one was a friend of mine, and they have all played in bands and knew most of the songs. I didn’t have to worry about them or work around their schedules except during the last week before the gig.  I just needed to show up and keep up with them.

I had a six-week heads-up for this gig.  I got over the psychological barrier by saying “yes” right away. I overcame the second obstacle two weeks later when I bought a keyboard.  The third obstacle was all about time management over the remaining four weeks so that I could learn the tunes.   I used my daily commute to listen to the songs and piano licks and squeezed in practice at night. The week or so before the gig, we had three practices but never with the same guys in the same room.  I learned something in those practices: they were great but I wasn’t ready.  The last three days before the gig were very busy at work so I burned the midnight oil practicing – with headphones on of course. By the day of the gig – it all came together and we had a blast.  The crowd was pleased, too.

Here are my takeaway tips from this experience:

  1. Be careful about your commitments – Decide if you can really accomplish the goals you set out on top of other commitments. If you’re like me, you will tend to overcommit and stretch yourself thin.
  2. Identify your obstacles – It is helpful to write them out and address how you will overcome them. Creating a plan and schedule of dependencies is very helpful.
  3. If you’re part of a team, meet with them as early in the process as possible – This is one thing I didn’t do and would have changed to better gauge the amount of practice time I would need.
  4. If you’re in the lead, delegate and provide resources and coaching to the team members. Find out what they need first and make sure they have what they need from you to do their part.
  5. Enjoy the journey and the results – This was a great experience for me. I had fun learning along the way and lots of fun during the performance. After the gig, we had fun celebrating the debut of the Sullivan Family & Friends Band over burgers and beer.

Visit our Facebook page for video from the performance!