Last month we lost an American icon. Jimmy Buffett, the leader of the Parrotheads and the mayor of the mythical paradise of Margaritaville. Jimmy passed away at the age of 76.

The Back Story
While everybody knows at least one of his songs and can visualize Jimmy Buffett sitting on a beach with a margarita in his hand, not everybody knows his back story.

Jimmy Buffett was born in 1946 in Mississippi and was raised in Alabama. He began his career in an acid rock band but evolved over time towards country music.  In the early 70s he moved to Nashville but unfortunately his style of singing didn’t fit any of the pre-established genres. He paid his bills by waiting tables and working as a music critic.

After failing in Nashville and going through a divorce, he moved to Key West. He spent his days working on fishing boats and his evenings singing in the local bars.  He began to truly study the Key West bar clientele.  Over time, his singing and song writing began to reflect both his life and the escapism that the clientele wanted. His breakout hit was Margaritaville in 1977.  It was 37 years until his next big hit.

During those 37 years, touring small venues across the country, Jimmy Buffett catered to what his followers wanted.  Jimmy was protective of his brand and diligent in watching the bottom line.  He was careful to curate, but not over, expose his brand.

Overnight Success
In the 2003 hit, It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere, Alan Jackson laments about his job and asks ‘What would Jimmy Buffett do?’  Jimmy Buffett suggested Alan pour a hurricane and spend some time in Margaritaville.  That was Jimmy Buffett’s break out moment.  Eight weeks at #1 on the Billboard chart and the Country Music Award for Vocal Event of the Year.  This was the very first award that Jimmy Buffett had ever received for any song.

From that point forward Jimmy Buffett we know today was born. Selling out stadiums and becoming a folk icon.  Restaurants, movies, books, retail stores and websites evolved and grew.   However, what’s important to remember is the 37 years that he spent earning the opportunity to become a folk icon.

The Secret to Success
When interviewing Jimmy Buffett, 60 Minutes asked him what his secret to success was.  Jimmy Buffett began by saying that his is mostly a businessman. Creating the mythical paradise of Margaritaville took decades. He also admitted that he is not a great musician. He dreams of playing the guitar like Eric Clapton and he still takes singing lessons.  According to Jimmy Buffett, the secret to success in life comes down to three simple things.

  1. You must have a little bit of talent. You don’t have to be the most talented, you just need to figure out what talent you do have and leverage that talent.
  2. You must have a little bit of luck.  And when luck knocks on your door you need to be able to recognize it and take advantage of it.  As Senica said – ‘Luck is where preparation meets opportunity’.
  3. Most important, you must have an ample serving of work ethic.  Get up early in the morning, work hard each day, and always keep your eye on the ball.

Discussing his raving fans, the Parrotheads, Jimmy said something very interesting.  ‘(paraphrased) At my concerts I see the craziest things and sometimes I wonder who are these people? They’re having a great time at the concert, but my guess is that every one of them shows up for work on Monday morning.  They love the escapism of Margaritaville, but they also understand what it means to get up and work hard each day.  In many ways they’re just like me’

Take a moment this weekend to drink a margarita and listen to a Jimmy Buffet song.  And, when you are done, get back to work because … that is what Jimmy Buffet would do.

First, an most importantly, Happy 4th of July!.  I hope you have time set aside with family and friends. Enjoy and stay safe.

At it’s core, the 4th of July is about freedom and self-determination.  It is about the willingness to bet on ourselves.  Over a decade ago I published a blog summarizing a talk by Tom Shay.  Today, his message is even more relevant so I am republishing this poignant essay.
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Last week I had the distinct honor to hear Tom Shay, CEO of Right Management, Florida/Caribbean speak on the topic of job transition and career management.  What an interesting discussion.  Mr. Shay has held this position for 31 years and during his tenure Mr. Shay has seen exceptional change in the employer/employee relationship.

Mr. Shay began by sharing a very simple statistic. During his father’s generation (presumably 40 years ago), the average tenure for a manager or higher, was 27 years.  Losing a job was considered taboo.  As a matter of fact, it was hard to lose a job.  You really had to do something wrong.  Today the average tenure for that same employee is 3.7 years (update – 3.1 years in 2022).  Doing a good job does not mean you will keep your job.  Job transition is commonplace and expected.  Does that surprise you?  From 27 years to an average of 3.7 (3.1)years. Wow.

Mr Shay went on to state that what used to be ‘one job for life’ has disappeared.  Today it is one boss for life – yourself.  You need to look at yourself as a company and intelligently apply your personal brand to the marketplace.   Mr. Shay’s point is that we are all ‘free agents’ or ‘businesses’.  Companies may contract with you if they think you can solve their problem.  Once the problem is fixed, you will need to find another application for your skills.

Finally, Mr. Shay spoke about the important of investing in yourself.  Going to conferences, staying current and learning new things is what allows us to remain relevant.  Don’t expect someone else to pay for you to improve yourself.  We are all ‘free agents’ or ‘businesses’ and as such, we need to focus on doing those things that allow us to best achieve our personal goals

As you know, I spend most of my time discussing business ownership, but Mr. Shay’s points are well stated.  The world is a different place.  Business ownership may or may not be the right path for you but regardless, you need to think of yourself as a business.
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This message from Tom Shay goes to the heart of what freedom and self-determination is all about.  A great message for each and everyone one of us on this 4th of July holiday.

12 Lessons From The End Of The Road

There comes a point in life where there is no tomorrow, only yesterdays.  A time where we remember the past knowing there is no future.  Sadly, that is where we are with my friend, Bill.

I met Bill Shearon around 15 years ago during my work with the City of Bradenton Beach.  I was the Chair of Planning and Zoning and Bill was to become the Mayor.  I knew Bill was different from the beginning.  Not only was Bill obviously not a politician, he was also blind.  

Bill was born in a Chicago suburb 73 years ago.  The son of a strong father, Bill learned the value of hard work early in life.  Pocket money was never given, it was earned.  His father believed strongly in the importance of getting an education.  Unfortunately, Bill did not like school and was not a good student.  It took Bill one year at the University of Tampa to flunk out.

Moving back to Illinois, Bill began to work on the family farm and at the grain elevator in which his father was a part owner.  He worked hard shoveling corn and moving grain.  Eventually, Bill realized that he really liked the grain business. He began to study accounting in the evening.  He learned about the commodity exchange and began to actively trade commodities, both for the elevator and speculatively.  After buying his father out, he grew the grain business eventually selling at a profit. 

Next Bill got into the oil business.  He began as a ‘jobber’ driving trucks and delivering oil.  Over time he grew to become the 8th largest distributor for lubricants in the USA.  His company had over 150 employees and controlled a significant portion of the lubricant distribution business in the Midwest.

Nearing his 50th birthday and in the process of losing his sight, Bill sold his business and ‘retired’.  After living on his yacht for 6 years, Bill and his life partner, Tjet, settled in Bradenton Beach where we met and eventually became friends.

Why to I tell you all this?  Because, we can all learn from those who have walked before us.  During my visit with Bill I asked him what he has learned.  What type of advice would he wish to pass forward to those who hope to build a successful life?  What would he do the same or differently?

  1. Get an Education.  Few things are more important than education.  Go to school, learn, be a sponge.  Also learn from those around you.  Ask questions and learn from other’s mistakes.  Decision making is improved when you are knowledgeable and informed.
  2. Keep Your Mouth Shut.  In today’s world everyone wants to tell what they know, share their opinion, be the center of attention.  You don’t learn anything by talking.  You learn by listening.  One important key to success is to listen more than you talk.
  3. Network – What you know is important, but equally important is who you know.  Learn how to network and proactively build relationships.  Access to the right people makes life so much simpler and will benefit you, your business and your family.
  4. Risk and Failure.  Take risks and never be afraid to fail!  This is critically important.  Failure is going to happen.  It is part of the journey.  You MUST fail in order to succeed.  When an opportunity presents itself, grab it.  Run with it and make the best of it.  Some opportunities will play out better than others, don’t worry about it, just keep going.
  5. Work Hard. You must have a strong work ethic.  If you are the kind of person who wants to sit on the sofa and have things handed to them, you will never achieve anything in life.  You must work harder than the other person.  Success is granted to those who earn it.
  6. Family.  Working hard is important but try to maintain some level of balance.  Take time with your family.  Work can be overwhelming sometimes.  Don’t work so hard that you lose a marriage like I did. 
  7. Parents.  Listen to your parents.  They are not as dumb as you think.  You would be amazed how smart my father became between my 18th and 25th birthday.  He went from being barely tolerable to the source of all knowledge.  I probably should have listened to him earlier.
  8. Be the best.   It does not matter what you do in life, be the best at it.  If you dig ditches, be the best ditch digger.  Be the best and opportunities will come your way.  Never be content with being average.
  9. Smart People.  Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you.  Hire people who know more than you and let them shine.  Smart people will make you better.  This is the only way to grow both personally and professionally.
  10. Luck.   Luck is what you make of it.  If it were easy, everyone would do it.  Luck is where opportunity meets preparation.  When opportunity knocks you need to be ready to make the most of it.
  11. Control.   You cannot control everything.  You can only control your actions.  Understand that we live in a chaotic world and random things will happen.  Do the best with the cards that you are dealt and don’t worry too much about everything else.
  12. Say ‘Thank You’.  Gratitude is not something that I was good at early on.  It is a something I learned later in life.  Saying ‘Thank You’ is so important.  It not only makes the other person smile; it can make you smile.

At the end of the interview I asked Bill one last question – ‘Regrets.  What are your regrets?’  Bill thought for a while and said, “Well, I always wanted to own a helicopter, but I never did.  Other than that, my bucket list is complete, and I am ready for what is next.”  How wonderful!  Isn’t that what we all want to be able to say at the end of the road?

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