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gratefuldead logoIt’s no secret that I’ve been to way too many Grateful Dead concerts.  I started going to shows when I was 18 years old and continue doing so to this day.  I might be too old to continue doing this but old habits die hard.

There have been a bunch of books written about The Dead and the influence they’ve had on all sorts of lives.  There are even at least two books on the business practices of the band.  I thought I would add to that some of the lessons I learned from them over the last 42 years.

Don’t go to general admission shows.

I hate to start out with a negative, but I must.  General admission shows are evil.  If you happen to be in the front of the line, there is a good chance of being crushed.  This happened to me.  Luckily the venue only held about 4,000 people so it was a minor crush, not a major one like The Who had in Cincinnati.

If you must go to a general admission show, be prepared to sit in the back.  I found that it’s just not that important to have people step on me while trying to be in the front.   It’s not who is in front, it’s who is having the best time.

Value your customers and help make them a tribe.

The Dead always valued their customers.  If you were a fan and signed up to be on their mailing list you would get first crack at tickets.  Eventually the fans of the Dead became known as Dead Heads.  There was now a name for people who liked and followed the band.

Along the way Dead Heads became a tribe.  There was an affinity with the band and an affinity with other people who went to see shows.  If you went to enough shows you would start to see a community forming around those who went to many, many shows.  There was a virtuous circle of the band supporting their fans and their fans supporting the band.

Forget conventional wisdom, do what you think is right.

The Dead almost never did what conventional wisdom dictated.  They allowed taping at their shows.   Record executives would tell you that hurt record sales.  The Dead didn’t care.  They figured out that their real revenue came from concerts.  Record sales were just a bonus.

The Dead may not have encouraged sharing tapes from their concerts, but they did nothing to stop it.  This allowed a community to be around that shared their music.  I don’t know about you, but when I’m excited about something I want to share it with my friends.  The Dead learned about creating buzz before anyone knew what creating buzz was.

If you provide great stuff people will come.

The Dead always promoted excellence.  Their music wasn’t always excellent, but the experience was.  Then there were those nights where magic happened.  If you’ve been at one of those shows with any band you know what I’m talking about.

When you have a great product and you treat people with respect they will repay the favor.  There always is a small percentage that will take advantage.  The Dead learned to ignore the small percentage and instead concentrate on the vast majority.  What about you, are you able to ignore the small group of annoying people in your life?

Hang out only with people you like.

The Dead created a tribe and community.  Most people liked others in that community.  I learned at an early age that when I get to hang out with people I like my life is better.

Life is too short to want to try to become friends with people who I don’t like.  If you’re part of my community there is a good chance we’ll have similar sensibilities.  If we have similar sensibilities than there’s a good chance we’ll end up liking each other and might even become friends.

Building rapport and trust is easier with those who are like you.

When a community is built with people who have like interests it’s easy for trust to appear.  A goal for me when I work with people is to build trust and rapport.  It just makes life much easier when I’m not always trying to be on my best behavior.

Too often we make life hard by trying to fit in when it’s difficult to do so.  We want to be part of the crowd, but how often is the crowd the wrong one for us.  Understanding how easy it is to get along with people you’ve built rapport and trust with is a good lesson for us all.

What about you, have you learned lessons from entertainers or athletes that have made a difference in your life?  I would love to hear your stories.

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