It was a business trip. 8 days in sunny Vegas, while my family was snowbound, just HAD to have some kind of a story, right?
SPOILER: this one begins with guilt, shame, and resentment, and ends up with me feeling like a princess, and six lessons you can use in the pursuit of your dreams.
Let me break it down for ya...
All work and no play in Las Vegas?
It began as most business trips do: with lots to do and not much time to get it all done. Between flights, a showroom rearrange before the annual January Gift Market, and training for the sales reps - not to mention the Gift Show itself, I really didn't expect to have any time to "enjoy" Vegas. I was, after all, there for work. An earlier version of myself would have holed up in my hotel room during all off hours and either slept (to make up for the time zone shift) or worked (because, well, I'm an overachiever like that).
Not this time.
Instead, I got to know the hotel staff. Rashad, the concierge, was a hoot - and a brilliantly gifted guy. He taught me the ins and outs of getting around Vegas - and we had a couple of deep discussions about the state of music today. We consoled one another about the flagrant abuse of autotune and how music seems to have lost the sense of authenticity - reminiscing about when a singer actually had to know how to sing to be considered any good.
In short, he gave me the gift of his time and attention, shared some of his musical dreams with me, and got me fired up to actually experience Vegas.
I also met Ms. Saadia, another of the hotel staff. She's a talented writer who turned her difficult relationship with her mother into a poetic work of art. She shared her poem with me one evening, and it moved me to tears. An excerpt:
"Your hands pushed me in the right direction
Your arms were always there to hold me
Your shoulders were there to share my burdens
Your heard was there to give me so much love
You were my hero and I was yours
Mother, you taught me love"
- Saadia Jacquelin Abdelaziz
Two brilliantly gifted people tucked away behind the concierge desk at the hotel. Several times during my stay I wondered what other talents the hotel staff might be hiding. Who were the artists, the painters, the best parents? What gifts did they have that I would never know about because sharing it wasn't part of their job description?
Lesson One: Talent and passion are everywhere around you. All you have to do is open your eyes and be willing to look for it.
So after the din of the Gift Market subsided, I had an evening all to myself. Rashad suggested I take in a show, but I'm a little too critical for most of the music on the strip. I wanted to see real music - GOOD music. He and his concierge partner in crime, Jordan, suggested dinner at the Top of The World and Frankie Moreno's show at the Stratosphere.
My last Vegas trip left me cold
It was a big conference I'd plunked down thousands of dollars for, and it fell sadly short in many ways. I never thought I'd be back in Sin City - and certainly not for work. My first "work" trip left a bad taste in my mouth, and I am not usually a glutton for punishment.
But here I was, and this time, I had time on my side. I had some extra time after the market closed and before my flight home. This time, I just might be able to enjoy my time in Vegas a little.
So my concierge posse set about getting me a great seat for the show (front row!). And check out the view from my dinner table. Cool, no?
Lesson Two: Just because you had a bad experience once doesn't mean it will always be that way. Just make sure you do your homework before you try it again.
I got myself dolled up and took a cab the few blocks to the Stratosphere. Then began all the guilt. See, in my quest to lose 100 pounds, I've started pulling out foods that create problems for me. The last thing I wanted to do was enrage a world-class chef at a pricey restaurant. Flashbacks to Chef Didier in Last Holiday came to mind as I stared at the menu trying to find something that I could eat without much fuss.
My server, Ricky, treated me like a queen ("no wheat? no corn? no eggs? no dairy? no peanuts? no soy? no problem!") and they even conjured a special dessert just for me. I wallowed in guilt for about 10 minutes until I realized - hey, I'm paying for all this!
Lesson Three: Ask for what you really want. More than likely, the answer's yes. Mom always said "the answer's always 'no' if you don't ask." And Dr. Seuss reminds us that "those who mind don't matter!"
That was a major epiphany for me. In the past, I wouldn't have gotten that far, stayed stuck in guilt, and the evening wouldn't have been nearly as enjoyable. And it was about to get a whole lot better!
Havin' a swingin' time in Vegas
I took the elevator downstairs to see the show. My peeps booked me into a front row seat - at the end of the stage runway! Our Thursday night crowd was small but mighty, and Frankie & his ensemble cranked out a huge and powerfully fun wall of sound the entire night. They were so hot the fire alarm wet off about half way through the show. No matter, Frankie kept playing.
"I'm the captain of this ship, and I'm staying," he said. It wasn't a drill, and the alarm was set off somewhere near the theater, so I'm glad it wasn't serious. But if it had been, I probably would have died happy. Blaze of glory, baby!
Frankie may be the front man, but the whole group swings. If you pay close enough attention, you can feel it and see it. The writing of the Moreno Brothers (that's right, it's a family affair) is at once fun and fluid, heartfelt and meaningful - and gosh darn it, they really play! No flagrant misuse of AutoTune here!
Frankie's a 25-year overnight sensation. As an 11-year old kid, he found his way to Star Search at a time when they didn't have a spot for kid pianists... so he learned to sing a song...
Lesson Four: There's always a way in. Sometimes, you've got to work for it or be a little creative. The more you want in, the more you're willing to do to get in.
The music was infectious, engaging, and downright entertaining. Frankie is noted for doing mostly original music - and none of it disappointed. His handful of covers kept the audience engaged and acted as a great social trigger for people who might not have otherwise known his work (he quipped that the Beatles wrote "Eleanor Rigby"... for him).
While the music was cool, and the show was a blast, the best part of the evening for me was after the show. I went back stage, took a couple pictures (including this glossy red bust of Beethoven!) and schmoozed a bit with the band, the crew, and Frankie's family: Tony lived up to my stereotypical image of a bassist (tall, talented, and more focused on the music than anything else). One of his sons made a guest appearance on stage, and his Dad has only missed 2 shows in Frankie's entire career (he even played guitar with him for a while). Ricky's the glue that holds it all together, keeping the talent on task, driving sales at the merch booth, and helping to craft the signature sound of the group. Gentlemen, everyone, and cool cats to boot.
Can you imagine what Frankie's son will be like when he's Frankie's age? Shut the front door!
Lesson Five: Support and encouragement go miles toward making dreams come true. The road isn't any longer, but it's sure a lot harder without it.
If that were all, it would still be plenty to take in, but there's more! My best stories always seem to come from the convergence of seemingly unrelated stories. Like my weight loss adventure, a night in Vegas, and a rainbow. You've heard about two of them. Here's the third.
Vegas: the morning after
I rose early to pack for my trip home and to help the time zone shift along. My coach called out of the blue and asked if I had time before I left for a mindset exercise she'd been working on. Always game for broadening my horizons, we set about something akin to the Core Desired Feelings work from Danielle LaPorte's book The Desire Map.
As we were working through the exercise, I hit on these words: Freedom, Space, Service, Singing, Joy - and then it happened. This rush of resonance and willingness flooded through me.
"This is what I want for myself. This is how I want to live. This is where (in my spirit) I want to live. This sense of sovereignty, divine alignment." All the lessons of the past 7 days converged. To know I can order my food without guilt or shame, to go places and experience joy, fun, and lightness of being. No strings. No restraints. Wholeheartedly living and making music the way Beethoven commanded: "Music should strike fire from the heart of man and bring tears from the eyes of woman."
Then came the rainbow...
It wasn't a stormy day, but it was grey, and looked like rain would threaten the sky. This soft, subtle rainbow appeared in the Vegas sky. It just sort of faded in and grew more vibrant as I honed in on the five words that will become a filter for my life and work this year. As if to validate my sense of direction.
At first, I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me. It was a late night, after all. But no, there it was in the sky. This pulsing beam of broken light... Roy G. Biv fading in and out, swelling my eyes with tears.
My coach, bless her heart, had no idea what I was witnessing. Fifteen floors above the ground, it was if the rainbow was there just for me. I could almost reach out, grab it, and tuck it away in my suitcase.
Lesson Six: You don't need validation or confirmation to own your dreams, it's everywhere if you're looking for it.
The return home was marked with moments to remember those words:
Space: giving myself enough time to move from the hotel to my boarding gate without stress.
Freedom: a full flight meant they'd check my carry-on so I didn't have to futz with it on the plane.
Singing: the long flight from Vegas to Minnesota included an option to create and enjoy a musical playlist of my choosing.
Joy: seeing my husband after 8 days away, knowing that he braved the cold and snow to pick me up at the airport at O'dark thirty at night.
And Service? Well, that's what this post is all about! Whatever I'm doing - working in the studio, traveling, or just living my life - I'm constantly looking at what my life lessons can mean to you.
More than anything, I want to inspire you to own your dreams and get moving on them. The world needs you to share your gifts. And I believe in you!