The Ring, a Valkyrie and An Amazing Artistic Feat

If you are open to the many possibilities this world has to offer, then you’ve probably had an experience like this before. If not, you should try it – you might be surprised by the types of things that will inspire new ideas in you.

The other day, I had to make a long drive down to Southern Utah (about 7 hours of driving). I didn’t mind the time away from the office. It gave me a chance to think about a few things and get away from some of the hustle and bustle. I also used some of the time to catch up on a few podcasts of my current favorite radio program – WNYC’s Radio Lab.

Radio Lab is a show that delves into science and the mysteries of the human mind. However, on occasion, the hosts of the show pick a topic that is far outside most of our experiences. So I fired up my iPod, selected an old podcast that I had not listened to before and lost myself – the topic was Wagner’s Ring Cycle.

I’ve never seen seen an opera. Nor have I ever wanted to. As much as I enjoy music, it has been one genre that never appealed to me. But after learning more about the the Ring Cycle, I am hooked. What we’re talking about here is an opera that took Wagner about 25+ years to write; it is 15+ hours long (music only); and it has had a major influence on almost all Western art forms since its creation.

Think about watching all of the extended versions of the “Lord of the Rings” movies. You’d be into it about 10 hours. The Ring Cycle is an epic story. Broke into four separate operas, the entire performance is around 20 hours long (with intermissions, set changes, etc.).  The Ring Cycle is an experience like none other and it is one I hope to take part in some day.

As I listened to the RadioLab broadcast, a few ideas came to mind that related back to life, business and the wonderful world of marketing:

Lesson 1: Live your passion

Wagner believed with every bit of his soul that he was creating something incredible, something that would revolutionize theater forever. We need to have this same type of passion to win. No matter if we are artists, marketers, entrepreneurs, athletes, etc., our passion is what will drive us to be great.

If you are living your passion and your passion is what you do for a profession, something special happens. Work will no longer be work. It will be a part of your being and in might actually become fun. Yes, you profession can be fun!

Lesson 2: Go big, or go home

Wagner spent 25+ years creating the Ring Cycle. It takes around 20 hours to watch the whole thing. Think about your job or business. How are you being “bigger,” “more remarkable,” “more spectacular” than others around you? How are you differentiating from your competition? If you are differentiating, are you doing it in a spectacular way that resonates with others? Are others talking about you or your business?

Lesson 3: Marketing is as much theater as it is business

It’s one thing to create a “Lord of the Rings”-like movie. I can’t even image the amount of planning and preparation that went into the pre-production for the film, let alone everything that came up as they filmed it. But imaging staging a four-part opera that 15+ hours in length in front of a live audience.

Marketing is very much like a great play or opera. We have to figure out ways to become relevant with consumers and then keep their attention over time. It is an art form, not a science. Sure, we can measure our successes and failures. But the vast majority of what we do is all about developing a masterful story and choosing the right theater (tactics and platforms) to carry it in. Our challenge is that most people aren’t lining up at our doors to see our advertising. We have to find way to engage with consumers and even have them help us with some of the creation process.

Lesson 4: Provide purpose

Wagner lived with purpose. He cared about his operas and nothing else. In some ways, it seemed that he may have been oblivious to the world around him. Though you might want to maintain a broader view of the world, having purpose and sharing that purpose with your teams and customers is critical. Many people lack purpose and by providing something for people to latch onto, you are giving your audience something to hold on to and believe in. The best brands, writers, directors, CEOs, entrepreneurs, storytellers, musicians all do this.

Lesson 5: The is no feat more rewarding than the act of creation

For those of us that are blessed to work in the creative fields, we have an opportunity to make a difference everyday for ourselves and those around us. We have the opportunity to expand the minds of those who we work with, share our art with, and can talk to. We have an opportunity to build organizations that promote creative and innovative thought. We can literally change the world. This is a great responsibility and gift.

For those who might have more routine jobs, you can still create and you should make every attempt possible to do so. Take up painting, create a blog, learn how to program a computer, invent something, start your own business, learn to play and write your own music – the possibilities are endless.


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