Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Life Lessons from Billy Joel & Michael Pollack

I'm a sucker for Billy Joel.

It might be all those mix tapes that my friend Bill made for me, way back in grade school. It might be the fact that Joel can deftly create a story, a mood and an atmosphere in a few words and phrases. And it might have something to do with the fact that I've always loved the piano.

But that's not why I want you --and your sons -- to watch this video. This video of Joel and Vanderbilt University student Michael Pollack caught my eye because of what it can teach you (and your boys) about success. 

Take a look. Then let's discuss. 

Pretty amazing, huh?

I think we can all agree that the opportunity to play for Mr. Billy Joel is a tremendous opportunity. But what struck me most about the video was the very active role Mr. Pollack played in his success.


1. He asked. Can you imagine raising your hand and asking Billy Joel if you could accompany him on the piano? I can't. I mean, Billy Joel is, like, a musical genius and a piano virtuoso. Who am I to ask? Besides, we're not supposed to ask those kinds of questions. Those, anyway, would be the thoughts going through my head.

But not this kid. He had enough self-confidence and guts -- and was willing to risk a NO -- for the chance to play with Billy Joel.

Life Lesson: If you don't ask, you might miss out on a lot of amazing opportunities. Ask for what you want. You just might get it.

2. He put himself in the company of a master. Clearly, this kid has some talent. (And, I'd guess, years of training.) But the best way to get better is to spend time with those who are even better than you. Watch them. Learn from them.

Michael Pollack knew this secret. And now, he's benefiting from the fact that a) his name is linked with Billy Joel's all over the Internet and b) Billy Joel himself gave him a shout-out and predicted that he'll be successful.

Life Lesson: Spend time with those who truly excel at whatever you're interested in. Seek out and find mentors for your sons too. If one of your boys is truly passionate about fishing, seek out other, more advanced fishermen, and see if they'd be willing to spend some time with your son.

3. Be willing to help others. Billy Joel did not have to say yes. He's already an international superstar, and I'm sure he'd long ago negotiated his speaking fee with the University. He could have kept the stage to himself and cashed his check and been none the worse for the wear.

But he didn't. He took a couple of minutes to share his experience and expertise with someone else.

Life Lesson: Very few of us succeed independently. We all rely on the help and support of others. So reach out a hand to help others reach their goals, every chance you get.


  1. Love it Jenny. Spot on. As much as I hate asking favors, etc, sometimes, I've long since learned, if you don't ask, you won't get.

    1. On thinking about it further, Marijke, I think sometimes we don't ask because we're afraid we WILL get. I mean, the courage to ask another thing. But then having the confidence to follow through, to actually play Billy Joel's song for Billy Joel? That's impressive.

      Life Lesson: Take it one step at a time. Just take the next step; don't stop yourself from stepping out for fear of what may come next.

  2. Great post. I got teary watching it thinking about my boys and hoping they would feel that confident in their talents.


  3. Jennifer: Thanks for this lovely post. You've saved me from having to write the one I was going to include in my regular Friday roundup of good reads for writers on the importance of sticking your neck out and going after things. I'll just link to this!


  4. I too love Billy Joel and watched this with my mouth agape, and gave an internal shout of joy for this young man when I heard the "okay." What an opportunity and what confidence he displayed! I can only hope my son finds his inner confidence so that he doesn't lose out on life's many opportunities.