A True Story: Working With Elvis

As a New Yorker I spend a lot of time on subways–a minimum of an hour and a half a day. That means a lot of time on my iPod, and since my musical acumen is rather limited, I tend to spend it listening to podcasts. There are a number of podcasts that I subscribe to on iTunes, but the two big ones are Slate magazine’s political gabfest (which is always amazing) and a ton of NPR podcasts. Both tend to serve as great filters for the rest of the media world–they discuss the big stories that are out there and, through their discussions, I find myself hooked by books and articles I probably never would have heard about otherwise.

Well yesterday, I listened to NPR’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me podcast featuring Jerry Weintraub. Music or film enthusiasts may know who he is–I didn’t. (For those of you who are like me, he managed people like The Carpenters and Frank Sinatra, and is a well-known film producer). During the NPR interview what caught my attention was Jerry’s tale of how he ended up working with Elvis.

Jerry didn’t know Elvis. He didn’t even know anyone who knew Elvis. But he decided he wanted to take Elvis on tour. And guess what? A year after announcing his intentions he had raised 1 million dollars and convinced the King to give him a shot.

After listening to the interview I’ve bought a copy of his biography, When I Stop Talking You’ll Know I’m Dead, as an audio book (I have an Audible.com monthly membership) and I can’t wait to hear what other crazy accomplishments Weintraub pulled off, despite my complete lack of interest in all things pop culture.

But there are two lessons I think we should all take from this.

1. Don’t be afraid to set big goals–even huge, completely ridiculous goals–and work your ass off to achieve them. Anything is possible given enough time and work.

2. Know one interesting thing about yourself or your company and use it to make sure people remember you. I would never have known who Jerry was if not for his NPR appearance and I would never have remembered him beyond the podcast if not for that one tale that completely stood out.

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