The Red Keep

As you may know, if you've been listening, I'm in Nashville for a sales and marketing conference call. I know I just put some of you asleep, didn't I? Well, it's actually really exciting for me. I never thought I geek out about these things, but it is things that I am going to in my way. And in the Warrior Artist's way with the Warrior Artist's Alliance. I'm going to pass on to you. So, let me tell you a little story. I was on the way from the airport to my airbnb and I got the super diver and its this guy with a southern accent, African American male, probably in his late twenties, early thirties. And so we start talking, he tells me he's originally from Alabama and he came in Birmingham, Alabama and he came up here to Nashville, because somebody decided to Uber from Birmingham to Nashville. I don't know how far that is, but it just seems like really far to me.

And it was far enough for people to go the Uber. And when he got here to Nashville, he realized that there was so much money to be made in Nashville, so much more money to be made in Nashville than there was in Birmingham. And so he moved here and he's now an Uber driver in Birmingham. So we get to talking. I tell them that I'm at this conference about marketing and sales and all that and we start chatting and he tells me about this product that he's made that is a container that contains a wipe one wipe and the other end of it has contained a contains some cleaning solution or like some sort of a purelish type, you know, hand sanitizery type stuff. And so he's telling me about this and he's telling, I was like, yeah, I made these. And I'm like, oh, because I'm always interested in a good entrepreneur. And he's like, yeah, you know, I make a 300 and for about 10 bucks. I was like, oh, how much do you sell him for? He said, I sound for a dollar.

if you do the math on that, that's 30 cents a pretty sure I'm terrible at math, but let's just say it's 30 cents I think it is a 300 of them for $10 30 cents per thing and he sells them for a dollar. He makes 70 cents profit. So great. Awesome. I'm someone who is of mixed heritage. I have been blessed to have African American culture in my life as well as Italian American culture in my life. And something that I think all people of color, but especially African Americans, understand, is that it is so much more of a challenge for us to be entrepreneurs. That is so much more of a challenge for many, many African Americans, people in color in general in general, but switch happening American to advance because of there are so many things on, this is not a political podcast. This is not a, but you understand what I'm saying? Most likely, if you are a person of color, if you are not a person to color and you pay attention, you understand what it is that I'm saying. And so to see a young man, being entrepreneurial building, I'm not just saying, hey, you know, I'd like to, but creating a product and then selling it. He created a Facebook page and I think he'd sold 30 I think.

And so I was like, yeah. And so we started talking and I was just gave me, I was tell him all these websites that he could go to all this thing. And he was like, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. And it ended up that I wanted to go to the library because I had time before checking to my airbnb, but it didn't work out. So we ended up going to the opera mall, the Opry mall near the Grand Old Opry. And so, he and I ended up getting out of the Uber, walking into the mall together and walking to the food court together where we went our separate ways. But during that time we had this great conversation. I was telling him all these things that go to and check out because I saw in him a spark of entrepreneurial spirit and I believe things happen for a reason and I believe that I was there maybe in perhaps too fan that spark, throw some tinder on it, encouraged him to go find his own tinder so that he could create a flame so that hopefully eventually he could create a bonfire, that would light the way for other people. Know, what I mean by that is add value, give them something and in return he would make profit.

And so I was encouraging him to sell what it is that he was selling. And now stick with me here. I truly believe that we as performers are salesman. Now sales is kind of like one of those dirty five letter words. You know what I mean? Sales, I don't particularly love or I did not particularly love the idea of sales or selling someone. I think of the, the guy in the used car lot or like someone who's just trying to get ya. Oh come and get this installed. To say anything in order to get you to buy, to make you part with your money do take from you. But I listened to a talk the other day and in it, I heard this, the civil rights movement in America had a lot of leaders, but who was the best salesman of everyone who was involved in the civil rights movement? Martin Luther King, He didn't sell a product. He sold a vision, a vision that would add value. Another story. There are a lot of amazing nuns then do help and want to help the poor, but who is the best known Nun in the entire world? She's no longer with us anymore.

But Her name as Mother Teresa and she was the best sales woman and she not only sold the vision, but she just like Dr. King yelled from every high mountain and platform that she could and said, look at what is happening here. Pay attention to this and this suffering of these people. The Mother Teresa was bad ass. I'm sorry you don't mess with Mother Teresa. Nobody messes with Mother Theresa. She, she would, she would throw down in her frail rickety ways she were though down. But taking those two examples, they are not sales men or sales women, but they are, they don't wear name tags and greet you in a store, but they weren't selling you to take from you. But they were selling to add value and to give not only to themselves because that was what they were called to do. That was their passion. But it also, because it's served not just one person, not just two people, but an entire nation of people, an entire global community. So whether we like it or not, I truly believe that we performers are salespeople and most of us are terrible at it and we'd lean on luck.

So what's the solution here? Okay, great. Justin, you're just insulted me and my, everything that I do. You can call me a salesperson. Then you called me a terrible salesperson. What kind of education is that? Okay. No. What we need to do is we need to ups up our scales. Scales, scales are sales skills. Say that five times fast. We need to up our sales skills. But sales is dirty. Justin, oh, you don't like to sell? What do you think you're doing every time you step on the stage or into an audition room….you're selling, You're selling yourself and you're selling emotions. You're selling those feelings. And ultimately, regardless of whether you're in the audition room or you're on the stage, you are selling an experience, especially when you were on the stage in the theater or in your church or wherever it is that you choose to make your venue simply by doing what we love to do. We are adding value to people's lives.

Think about it. So yeah, it's okay to sell and wait, when I step into the audition room, I'm selling to the other people on the other side of the table and I'm not selling them. Like, Hey, look at me i'm not selling my body, thank God. Although you could argue that that's a Smidgen of It, right? But really what you're doing is you're selling the work, you're selling emotion, just sellling an experience. And then when you get the Gig or when have you actually performed on the stage doing what it is that love to do, what we love to do. We are selling that experience and in so selling that experience, we are adding value to the people's lives who come to see it.

I mean think about it. I played Fiyero in Wicked. I'll give you an example from my own life and that show is a hard show. It's not nearly as hard on Fiyero as it is on, on the witches, on the ladies. That is a, I don't know how they do it, but it is a challenge for all the cast members. It's a three hour tour. It is. It is serious work. And what was challenging for me was the Fiyero. I mean I can put out three hours, four hours of a show if I need to, but what gets me is coming out, having all this energy and then going and sitting for 40 minutes and then coming, having to ramp back up and come back out and have all this energy and Fiyero doesn't come into Ho hum scenes Fiyero. I was never like, oh, I'm just going to, you know, take a stroll.

No, fear was always, there's always some sort of drama, some sort of something surrounding Fiyero and his interactions with people. It's like you gotta be up and on the front foot and it's hard. Ask any of the Fiyeros to go and just sit and then go back out and hey, it'll be Fiyero all night and goes sit and then go back out and have to be Fiyero and then go sit for an extended period of time, both on both sides of intermission in the middle of it. And then be, and then you know, in the end come out and do your thing. So there were days when I was just like, ah, I don't feel like doing this crazy. I know, there are people who would kill you, Me, our entire families and everyone else that we know in order to have a day on Broadway, much less a run of shows on Broadway. But whenever I got into that place, and I, I've spoken about this before, whever I got on the place? I remembered that there was a kid just like me when I was young who was out there and this was their first Broadway show, and that I would be doing them a disservice if I went out and I gave anything less than my best because I knew that giving my best just might inspire that child to pursue a dream, to become another member of our community, to create performances, characters, or costumes or stage manage or do something within our community, not just on the stage, maybe behind the stage that do something that would impact someone else's life that would change someone else's direction. You see, I believe that if you create something that adds value to people's lives and don't we do that everyday folks? Don't we attempt to do that every single day to create something, a character to create a story, to create a costume to create a safety if you're a stage manager, to create, if we are creating something music, if we are creating something that adds value to people's lives then I believe it is our moral obligation to sell it to them.

Now that may say seem, well, why aren't you giving it to them? Or I'm sorry, don't I need to make a living too? Aren't I adding value? Think about it. I don't. It could be the biggest corporation or a farmer's market. Ain't know farmer's market in the world. When you walk in the middle of it and they're like, hey, take some of these. take some of them, look, I look, I've got 16 acres worth of corn. Just just take it. No, that's their livelihood. They get put blood, sweat, tears, time, and everything else sacrificed in order to grow that corn in order to make that product. Haven't we done the same thing? Have we not spent hours, months, years, learning the techniques, the skills and the mindsets. It takes two to go out and make what it is that we do look so effortless, so then why should we not sell our wares to them? Sell doesn't seem like such a dirty word anymore does it because we're not selling say, hey, come buy it. No, no, no. We're just doing what it is that we do to love and that happens to be sales, the best kind of sales because instead of taking from people we are adding value to their lives.

I'll give you a couple of examples of creating something that is an obligation. Again, I'll go back and say it again. If you create something that adds value to people's lives than it is your moral obligation to sell it to them.

Do you know that before 1959 there were very few seatbelts in cars. Crazy to think now, but before 1959 there weren't that many seat belts in cars that move more or less just as fast as they do today. If you hit something at a good rate of speed, even sometimes a minor fender bender could be deadly or do a lot of damage. It gives me hives to just say this next thing, but new mothers would be driven home from the hospital holding their babies in their arms with no seat belts. I remember the first time I drove my son home, my first born son from the hospital, we had him in the, like the deluxe car seat, that was like rated. The two, you know the, the, the crash test highest thing and it was this, this complicated like twisting, locking, interwoven system that kept him safe and there like a five point harness. And I was still traveling at a good 20 miles under the speed limit, which I think was like 35 and I was so nervous. I was sweating because God for bid, anything should happen to my child, my newborn, innocent, delicate. If you've ever held a baby, God, if you've ever had a baby of your own, you will understand.

And to think that his great grandmother held his grandmother in her arms as his great grandfather drove them and the old American. You know, you name the, the kind of car. But when those big boats with no seat belts from the hospital, who knows how many miles to to home, wtih no seatbelts and a baby in the arms in the front seat, Oh, I'm, I'm, I'm breaking out. But then in 1959, a man by the name of Nils Bohlin, I think that's how you pronounce his last name. Nils Bohlin created what we know to be the modern seat belt. He was a Swedish inventor and he invented the three point seat belt, which we use today. And it began to save lives. I think the, I forget what car there was like, I don't know, it was a Pontiac or something like one of these cars like debuted the seatbelt. They're like, hey, it was probably a selling point for them. Now what would have happened if Nils Bohlin the inventor of the seatbelt had been kind of Ho hum about it. About you meeting the seatbelt. See, Nils saw a problem.

He saw people are dying. Every single day in cars because they have nothing to stop them from flying around through being crushed by these impacts.

I want to create something that solves that problem and I want to add value to people's lives. What if he had in creating that been like, well, you know what I mean? I just think you should, you should have his seatbelt. I mean, isn't really like that. Good. Um, but I'm just gonna, I'm just gonna show you this thing. It's called a seatbelt and you know, I'm excited about it, but I'll understand if you don't like it or don't, you know, want to buy it. It's it, you know? But it means it works. And it would be really great if you used it.

Could you imagine the numbers of people all over the globe that would have died and would continue to be dying to this day, had he not been on the flip side and said, look, people are dying. I've got this thing. It's called a seatbelt. Have you ever been in a car and gotten into a fender bender? Even if you're going at a, you hit things right and it hurts, doesn't it? Well, I've got this simple thing that with one click can save your life, can save your child's life, can save your spouse's life, can save the lives of billions of people around the world. You need to have this. And when he did that, and the people who run the show, quote unquote saw how well it worked and how many lives it saved and how it produced all kinds of human and financial costs involved with the death and destruction that happened when no seatbelts existed before. When they saw all of that, all of the value it added, they made it into a law. They required that all cars have them. He created something that added value to people's lives and then made it his moral obligation to quote unquote sell it.

To make sure that people got it. Dr. King, Dr. Martin Luther King added so much value to everyone's life regardless of race, color, creed. He added so much passion. He gave his life for his vision, not just for himself, but for not only just the African American race, but all people who were subjugated, who were downtrodden and he sold it so hard via the word via his speeches. via his none violent way of doing things, that they turned it into a law. And while it is imperfect, it is far and away better and has created for I would not be here.

Did segregation still exist in the way it did then? My black father never would have been able to come even close to my Italian mother and I would not be sitting here today had it not been for Dr. King, selling his vision to the world, to this country. So much so that they turned it into law.

Last thing, Mother Teresa's vision was so strong. She sold the message of the fact that there are people suffering who do not have enough to eat, who do not have enough to drink, who do not have shelter, who do not have the basic decency, the basic rights, rather that a human being needs to survive food, shelter, clothing, safety. And she was so powerful and got so many people to pay attention. She sold her vision, she sold her message that the Catholic Church gave her the highest honor, that you can have next to becoming Pope that made her a Saint. I was raised Catholic and part and for my Catholics who are out there listening, you know how deep that is. They don't just, you know, maybe we will make her a Saint, let's do some polls. That's just a big no, no, no, no, no. There was a serious process that goes down before you can be canonized and when you are a Saint, you aren't... It's almost like they give you a pair of wings. You are a performer of miracles.

And that she was, well ladies and gentlemen and Non Gender Specific folks who are listening to this, the service we provide is no less valuable. It sounds crazy to say in comparison to those, those Saints and Titans, but think about what we do and the lives we change. How dare you not make it your duty to learn how to sell your unique product because you never know whose life you will save. What child will see you and say that, yes, it's okay to be me regardless of my race, religion, sexual identity or gender identification, I have found a home in this community. How many people who are listening to this right now can, can empathize with that? How many of you have that same story and that's just scratching the surface folks, you see good art entertains, great art inspires ....great art, inspires people to ask existential questions that have the possibility to radically alter the course of their lives and the lives of the people around them and the people around those people and the people around those people. The people around those people to ripples can be endless, but we don't think like that. Do we..we Far too often only see five feet in front of our faces or as far as the next paycheck or as far as, the next audition or as far as the next job.

There's something that I'm introducing to this podcast that I haven't talked about before. That I've only maybe alluded to and mentioned to mentioned to mentioned before, and that's the Warrior Artist Alliance. That is the tribe, the group, whatever it is that you want to call it, the community, that will soon be available if it's not already available by the time you listened to this, for you to be a part of. If you feel something from what I'm saying and what I've talked about in this podcast,then you belong here with us. You belong in this community with us. If you feel nothing my love to you, but if you want to continue to grow and to learn and to begin to have a new perspective on what it is that we do and what it is that we are worth, our true value. Because Ladies and gentlemen, if you've ever stepped inside of an audition room, if you've ever stepped on stage, if you've ever stepped foot into our business, the business of performance, the business of music theater, you will know that you have been treated at some point like the hired help, you will know that you have been treated like worth less than what you are. You will know that you could have felt like you are worth less than what you are. And my aim is to begin to change that.

And together grow and learn and work towards reclaiming our power because we have given it away for far too, for far too cheap. If you can't tell. I'm a little passionate about this. I see people suffering. I see my people suffering, my fellow artists, my fellow performers whom I love and cherish and am inspired by i see us suffering.

And I'm creating a community within our community. You know how they used to have city states and there was the, even you think game of Thrones, you know there's like, there's like the big, the big thing with a big wall around it. But then there's the keep where the kings and the queens and the court go when things get really bad or when they want to feel safe and feel protected. And I want to create the Red Keep that's not evil like it is or whatever, and suspect like it isn't a Game of Thrones. But I want to create the walled city within the walled city of our community. That is a place that is safe, a place where we commune, a place where we work and learn and grow and rise together.

So, I've spoken about being better salespeople in this episode. In the next episode, I'll tell you one of the biggest secrets I know, to being a master salesperson in our business.

Justin Guarini