Lisa Robbin Young

Anyone can be a hero for a day.

An above-and-beyond gesture. An extra dose of good-will. Being in the right place at the right time.

Anyone can have a day like that, do something awesome, and be a hero for a day or two.

True heroes walk the walk, even when it's difficult. They do the right thing when there's NOT a profit to be made. Sometimes, they do the right thing when the wrong thing appears to be far more profitable in the moment.

True heroes are looking at the end game.

it's hard to ignore

They're concerned about eternity, not about right now.

When I say "eternity," I'm not necessarily talking "heaven or hell", religion, or anything of that sort.

I'm talking about being able to wake up each morning, look yourself in the eye, and know that you've made the most of yesterday, with a commitment to doing your darnedest to make today even better.

Action heroes get banged up, scratched and dented, and take a few beatings from time to time. They get a little dirty, bloodied up, and still they rise, because they know it's not about the short-term gain, it's about the end game.

Who's going to be at your funeral? What are they going to say about you? How will you be remembered? Will you be remembered at all?

Sarah Robinson once wrote about what I call the "Hero of Now," the hero of right this moment. The flash in the pan that looks good on paper, seems to be on a hot streak, or appears to have some of the success you desire. This "flash in the pan" can be pretty easy on the eyes. In fact, sometimes we get mesmerized and then we're stunned when that flash turns out to be of little substance, or simply doesn't have the long-term value that makes them a true hero.

I've been there at least eleventy-jillion times in my own life and career (give or take a few jillion). You see someone that's doing their thing and it's hard NOT to notice. In fact, our brains are hard-wired to pay attention to something in which we're interested. The Reticular Activating System (RAS) in your brain is what causes you to notice every silver Jeep Liberty on the road after you decide that's the kind of car you want to buy next... or ignore the voice of every other screaming kid at the McDonald's playland except yours.

Here's an excerpt from what Sarah noted:

I thought part of a leader’s job was to search for unnoticed diamonds in the rough and start to polish them. I thought true leaders never, ever forgot that they were once unnoticed and that someone reached out to help them become who they are.

Apparently I was wrong.

When I see “leaders” huddled together in a self-congratulatory group (I’ve even heard of an event where the leaders sit in a roped off area, inaccessible to the “common” attendees), it makes me question any aspiration I might have to someday be among them.

I know not all experts and leaders are like this and that gives me the hope I need to keep going.

Speaking as the kid in high school that was the music geek with TWO 6th hour classes my senior year, I know the uncool factor, and wore it well for a while.

Just like in high school, those would-be heroes are quite often real-life zeros once the playing field is leveled.

I can't tell you how many kids from my past - that thought I was uncool, unworthy, un____, now approach me with some kind of "wow! Look at you!" amazement.

They know I've "arrived" in a way they never did. But I'm still striving, and they're stuck wearing the blue apron at the local big box store.

So too are many of those internet flashes in the pan that were once riding high now facing their own issues: health issues, family troubles, bankruptcies, divorces, lawsuits, and other not so pretty consequences of doing their thing for momentary success, instead of building for the long term.

Your hard work doesn't go unnoticed.

People talk. Your audience sees you even if they don't always say so. Today's hero, if they continue to demonstrate heroic qualities, will continue to be a hero decades from now. If today's hero runs off at the mouth and ignores the music geeks too often, they end up fat, balding, and with no prospects...

Not that I speak from experience or anything (hee hee).

Think about music: Billy Joel is a legend. Starland Vocal Band? Not so much. Their one hit, "Afternoon Delight," was the biggest-selling single of 1976. They even won a Grammy, but by 1981, they had called it quits.

Do you want to be a one-hit wonder or a lifetime achievement award winner? Both of them may win a Grammy, but who will be remembered for their enduring contribution?

It's hard to ignore a flash in the pan... until the Hope Diamond comes along.  (Tweet This)

When you look at your business, your life, are you building something that lasts? Are you a true hero to the folks you serve, the colleagues that seek you out? Are you "The Hope Diamond" of your industry, or just another flash in the pan?

Sometimes it's hard to know for sure. We've all watched someone skyrocket to the top of their industry, stay there for a few years, and then get "shot down" by some kind of incident, controversy, or some other bad PR issue.

True heroes endure.

They stand the test of time - despite their shortcomings. True business heroes are around for decades or centuries, not months or years. True business heroes continue to learn and grow, develop their network, and rarely rest on their laurels.

True heroes adapt, are agile, and realize that getting beat up is part of standing up for what's right. Just because a company is making billions today doesn't mean it has the wherewithal to be in a future edition of "Built to Last". There are plenty of companies (and people) that started with a future just as bright as Facebook, and ended up extinct.

What makes a true hero? Who are your heroes in life and business? Is there a secret ingredient? I'm guessing you have some thoughts about it. Share them in the comments, and let's start a conversation!

[AUTHOR'S NOTE: This article originally appeared one of my old blogs in March, 2011. I revised it for re-publication here, since I felt it deserved a little resurrection.]

It's not an easy song for a woman to sing. It wasn't written for a woman to sing. Until we started the studio rearrange, I wasn't sure I'd ever attempt to sing "Piano Man" - since my low range isn't very strong, and I couldn't boost the signal enough for it to be understandable.

But it's certainly a song I enjoy - and one that became the signature piece for the sixth Gershwin Prize winner, Billy Joel.

The Gershwin Prize is the equivalent of a lifetime achievement award from the Library of Congress - as it "celebrates the work of an artist whose career reflects lifetime achievement in promoting song as a vehicle of musical expression and cultural understanding."

As I watched Kevin Spacey and crew honor Joel with their tribute cover of his song, it dawned on me that the world doesn't need another Billy Joel. The world needs YOU - and you can sing Billy's song, but like Kevin and the gang, you've got to sing it your way. And some people won't like it, or even understand it (Leann Rimes? What?), but you've got to do it your way for your audience to embrace you.

The other thing that caught my attention is that the best way to pay homage to your heroes is to do things your way. No one on that stage tried to sing it like Billy. Even Billy did his own thing in the moment ("It's a pretty good crowd here in Washington.") - and Kevin Spacey learned how to play harmonica just for the event - even if hitting the high notes wasn't as easy as he'd liked. He, and all the others, did it their way.

The world needs YOU to shine bright and sing your song - YOUR way. (tweet this)

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Tomorrow, I turn 40 (Bradley Cooper and I are the exact same age, thankyouverymuch!). This clip was taken from November's show, where I realized it was over 20 years ago that I wrote this song. As Billy Joel gets the Gershwin Prize for his song, "Piano Man", this week, I wondered what it is that makes some songs so timeless. And I wondered if I'd ever have a song that had that kind of effect. Then, I realized that I'd already written a song that I still sing even 2 decades later. It might not be a Billy Joel-caliber tune, but it's mine, and I love telling the story behind it.

Photo: Martin Jennings

My drama teacher, Mr. Jennings, gave me an opportunity to write and record this song for a play he was doing by the same name. He was known for being quite creative with the productions he mounted. He wasn't afraid to set Shakespeare in the 1950's, and was known for his color-blind casting policy, which sometimes got him into trouble. At the opening of this show, he wanted to have tableaus that looked like scrapbook photos that would come to life. It was a great opportunity to do something I loved in a meaningful way - completely outside the curriculum of the classroom.

Mr. Jennings was one of the first people to give me a platform for my music. He was willing to take a chance. The world needs people like that. The world needs people willing to share an unknown voice or an idea with a larger audience. I'm grateful he was one of those people for me. As I look back nearly 20 years, it's a thank you that's been a long-time coming.

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This week, we're playing fast and loose with Billy Joel. Hopefully, I don't offend him.

I recall an interview - I think during his summer stint on SiriusXM this year - where he said that "Modern Woman" was his least favorite song.

Every entrepreneur I've ever met has a project from their past that makes them shake their head and sometimes cringe - in shame, embarrassment, or just because it's not where they are at this point in their journey. Like a bad Throwback Thursday picture (I'm about six, with braids like Pippi Longstocking), those old bits of our past are things we try to hide, deny, or just wish they didn't exist.

But, sometimes, in all our pouting and stewing, someone else sees beauty.

That was what happened for me when I remembered this piece.

"Ruthless People" was the first R-rated movie I ever saw. I was 11ish at the time. I think my sister and I told Mom we were going to see Karate Kid II (don't judge me!). Instead, we snuck our way into the theater and watched as Helen Slater and Judge Reinhold held Bette Midler hostage in their basement for most of the show. Bette's character has a turning point and she starts working out, lifting paint cans, and reclaiming her figure, her confidence, and her sense of self-worth - all in a classic 80's style montage with a soundtrack courtesy of Billy Joel.

Me, the "Early Bloomer"

As far as I know, Billy's never said why he doesn't like that song. But for me, the lyrics gave me hope: I didn't have to settle. I could be me, completely, and the right guy would appreciate me. I was one of those "early bloomers" - so I looked like a teenager long before I was one. There was a lot of angst that came with having boobs before any of the other girls in my class. And a lot of fear. I wore high-top sneakers - not Italian, but those two-tone Chuck Converse All-Stars were quite the rage in the 80's. I've always been independent. Came from a long line of independent women. The thought of dumbing myself down to appease some guy made my stomach churn - even at 11. I've loved Bette Midler ever since.

Interestingly enough, my husband is quite the "old-fashioned man" and it works.

I really like this song. It was one of the first songs I dreamed of re-imagining in a jazzy, swing style. It will definitely make the final cut of the new album. It was my way of saying thanks and putting my own spin on a tune that changed my pre-teen years (and my perspective on me and my relationships) forever.

"She's got style. She's got her own money. So, she's not another 'honey' you can quickly disarm." - Billy Joel, Modern Woman

If I were to guess, the synthy-pop and hard-driving, frenetic stylings of the original make it a difficult tune to enjoy much beyond it's 1986 birth date. But like so many things, the right setting can make all the difference. So Des and I slowed it down a little, gave it a swingin' groove, and I got to do a little scatting.

Who knows? Maybe Billy will hate it a little less now.

We've all got those things we grimace about from our past

What if, instead, you allowed for the possibility that it wasn't your job to make it perfect, just to get it out into the world? What if the world needed you to create it so that someone else could appreciate it and do their own thing with it?

Can you be okay with that?

Sometimes we make the biggest impact by just showing up and doing the best we can. It's not about perfection, it's about contribution. Here's my contribution - with the help of Des. Enjoy!

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Sometimes we make the biggest impact by just showing up & doing the best we can (tweet this). // New York State of Mind. Billy Joel cover. #300songs

"Sometimes, friends are as family." - an inscription from The Secret Watch

A couple of weeks ago, I took a trip to Great Barrington, MA, to reconnect with myself and some friends from an online group through which we all met. On the way, I stopped in Lewiston, NY to visit my friend and long-time accountability partner, Winnie Anderson (I'm working with her on a re-launch of my book). She was kind enough to let me crash in her guest room on the way out and then she and her charming husband took me to lunch on my way home.

I'm pretty blessed to have such amazing and supportive friends. I didn't see myself as someone with many friends a few years back, and that made my life's journey pretty rocky most of the time. As outgoing as I am, it takes a LOT for me to connect to and maintain friendships. For years, I'd wished it wasn't so difficult, and it's something I've spent time focused on improving. You'd think it would be easy for me to make friends.

Making friends isn't the hard part. Keeping them is.

Life happens. People get busy. I get busy. For years, I took that busy-ness personally - and assumed they did, too. What I've learned over the years is that the stories in my head often keep me from enjoying what life has to offer.

When you're wrapped up in your judgments, it's hard to see the beauty and wonder in life. (click to tweet)

It's been something I've made a point to work on and work through - thus the trip to Great Barrington. This wasn't an easy trip for me. Driving 12 hours cross country to connect with people I've only met once before - and some of whom I'd never met before - has been a "scary story" in my head since I left home as a teenager. It's not the drive that's the problem, I actually enjoy that part. It's the meeting "strangers" part that gets me wonky. But that's another story for another day.

I'm counting my blessings and recognizing more often just how many friends I'm truly blessed to have - and now, I'm seeing them pop up all over the country. All because I'm willing to drop my judgments about myself and just show up and be me as best as I know how.

Guess what? People have a chance to like the real you when you take off the mask and stop trying to be someone you're not. That's scary at first, but really rewarding in the long-run.

When I hear this song, I think about how Billy Joel left LA - a place where he never really fit in - and went back to his roots in New York - on the Hudson River Greyhound line, no less. He was ready to stop pretending and start living life on his own terms. That's part of why this song speaks to me and is one of my all-time favorite Billy Joel tunes.

This week's video features photos from my trip - and all the wonderful friends that made it so valuable for me. Many thanks to Melanie, Nicole, Lou, Deb, and Trisha for all their photo taking, and their permission for me to share these wonderful pictures from our time together.

Subscribe to Lisa’s YouTube Channel | More from the 300 Songs Project // You're Only Human (Second Wind). Billy Joel cover. #300songs

On the heels of last week's post about Comparison-itis, I was driving in the car with Hubby yesterday and this tune came on the radio. It reminded me that nobody's perfect, we all make mistakes, and that's how we learn.

Have you been beating yourself up because you're not perfect? This catchy little tune might help. 🙂

Subscribe to Lisa’s YouTube Channel | More from the 300 Songs Project // Lyric from Billy Joel's You're Only Human (Second Wind). #300songs

One of my favorite songs of all time, I think it is one of Billy Joel's most underrated pieces. It's a powerful, melancholy, yet hopeful tune. You kind of yearn to know how it's all going to turn out. I sang this for an audition once with an Irish accent and it got me the part in a musical. It was also the song I auditioned with for "Duets" - but Lionel Richie backed out of the show, so I never heard back on my audition. *sigh* Such is life, I suppose.