Lessons from Michael Jackson

The King of Pop. Pedophile. Talented. Wacko Jacko. Everyone has an opinion of Michael Jackson – some loved him, some hated him. Although I wasn’t a fan of his music and found some of the things he did a bit odd and creepy, I certainly can appreciate his talent as a performer and admire the way he touched his fans. I remember when he went to court in 1993, people who he had never personally met waited outside willing to stick by him regardless of the outcome. Whether you love him or hate him, you have to admit that it’s pretty impressive how his fans truly loved him.

My first memories of Michael Jackson were back in 1984 when Thriller was at its peak. Kids in my class (girls and boys) had the red jackets and the gloves and my fourth grade teacher gave us a lesson on fads. Again, I wasn’t a fan of his music but loved the guitar solo in “Beat it” – and that was even before I knew that Eddie Van Halen performed it. Jackson later performed in one of my all time favorites “We are the World” and experimented with lot of different styles – one of my favorites being “Dirty Diana” (can you tell I love guitar?).

Even more impressive is the fact that Michael Jackson’s popularity helped launched the career of a talented unknown kid who’d call into the Doctor Demento show with song parodies. “Eat it” (a parody of “Beat it”) launched the long and successful career of Weird Al Yankovic (one of my favorites). I could go on and on about Michael’s accomplishments as a performer, but most of that is common knowledge or easily found on Wikipedia.

What I found most impressive is how dozens of companies used Michael’s music to promote their products. Again, he has a real talent when it comes to connecting with his fans – when they hear his music, they feel good. So naturally, companies paid millions of dollars to use his music to get his fans to associate that good feeling to their products. Wouldn’t it be nice if we all could perform in a manner that makes people feel good? If you speak to groups, this is your ultimate goal.

All speakers want to connect with their audiences but many fail to do so. Just like dozens fail each year on national TV in shows like American Idol (and countless others fail getting to that point), so do many presenters. Michael Jackson was successful because he was talented, worked hard and tried new things. He had his share of flops, but he always managed to bounce back. He had planned yet another farewell performance that was to begin the day after he passed away. If he were to live another 20 or 30 years, I’m sure he’d be making the news with both stumbles and successes throughout that period.

As a tribute to Michael Jackson, I’d like to share two videos that I recently came across on Youtube. One of my favorite places to vacation is Walt Disney World in Florida and a few years back, Michael Jackson was featured in one of their attractions – a 3-D film called Captain EO. Here is the film in it’s entirety (minus the 3-D):

Part 1:

Part 2:

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