Johnny Cash and Generous Living

Sharing Your Platform

20 or so minutes after closing time, when the patrons of the bar were having the most fun, and the bartenders looked genuinely pissed off, a young man slid up to the empty stage and started singing the old Johnny Cash anthem, Folsom Prison. He started off slow and soft into the microphone. After a moment of thought, the piano player I was chatting with walked over to the keys. He began playing a bit back up music for this fellow’s impromptu performance.


Emboldened by this act of approval and support, the singer came into the second verse with all the strength and vibrato of the late Cash himself. The piano player followed suite flooding the bar with music. The milling patrons swung their heads around and hollered a collective cheer that the party was not yet over.  The crowd sang along with the familiar song. The bartender even seemed a bit amused by the young man’s courage. That amusement only lasted a few minutes of course. The tired and cranky bouncer cut the sound then fruitlessly tried to herd the patrons out the door.

I had just witnessed a very impressive act of generosity. It has stuck with me. Here are a few of the lessons I gleaned from that night.

  1. Generosity isn’t just about money.  Generous living also encompasses the use of skills, time, kind words we speak, but there is another piece. When we use the platform we have built to shine some light on another person, we are being generous. It costs you nothing in terms of money or time.  But it’s tremendously powerful to other peoples success.  This is a kind of generosity that the recipient can’t earn, even if they tried. They can’t budget for it, work for it or buy it. It only comes through the generosity of others who are farther along in their journey.
  2. You can create the rising tide that lifts all boats. When you share your influence- your platform- it creates that rising tide. Naturally, it lifts those you share your spotlight with, but it lifts you as well. This unplanned performance didn’t steal any light from the band that night. It made them shine brighter. The band seemed even more generous, fun, and confidant. If, out of insecurity, they quickly turned off the mic, it would have diminished their great performance. But in cheering on this young fellow, the band was raised up in our eyes. A true rockstar can cheer for the underdog.
  3. It’s fun to help others win. Watching someone’s unexpected victory with the gifts they possess is great. I think it drives part of the love we had with shows like American Idol. But to be a part of that win? That kicks ass. As you cheer on their victory, knowing the small role you played, a deep sense of satisfaction remains.

I love this quote from Ella Fitzgerald.

“I owe Marilyn Monroe a real debt … she personally called the owner of the Mocambo, and told him she wanted me booked immediately, and if he would do it, she would take a front table every night. She told him—and it was true, due to Marilyn’s superstar status—that the press would go wild. The owner said yes, and Marilyn was there, front table, every night. The press went overboard. After that, I never had to play a small jazz club again.” 

That night reminded me why I always love seeing this band in action.

Check them out for yourself. Cody Beebe & The Crooks

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