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Don't Believe the Hype

I think if more people were honest about the level of assistance that they’ve received then it wouldn’t feel like a shameful act to need help.

One thing that I’ve been told repeatedly over the years by several different people is that I am humble. When I peel back the layers on that, I realize that my humility stems from a few different places. One is from what I come from. My background keeps me humble. Even when I start to smell myself too much, God has a funny way of reminding me. Second, the people around me keep me humble and balanced. I make sure that I’m never the best, smartest, or most well off financially in my circle. I need to keep people close who inspire me and push me towards greater. Third, it’s the realization that a lot of what I’ve accomplished has been in part due to my relationships, reputation, and people being willing to help me bridge the gap.

Relationships and reputation have proven extremely important in my personal life, business affairs, and career. Relationship focuses more on the level of connection, while reputation is others’ perception of who you are, but they both go hand in hand. I’ve heard people say, “I don’t care what people think about me” and while to some level that’s true, your reputation should always be important to you. I can admit, I’ve made similar comments, and I do feel that way for the most part. I’m never going to get bent out of shape about who likes me and who doesn’t. However, my character, and my reputation are vital. Not liking me because you don’t know anything better than being a hater, and not liking me because I did something grimy to you are two totally different things. People who dislike me can’t say the latter, and for that, I don’t need to care.

There were several instances in earlier years where I noticed that a positive reputation preceded me. People typically deemed me to be loyal, trustworthy, and honest. This was confirmed my senior of college where I found myself in a jam and needed to figure out a solution quick. I had to convince 25 other seniors to give me their social security numbers to get a class opened, that I needed to graduate, or else I’d be forced to stay for another semester and spend money that I already didn’t have. When well over the required 25 people gave me their socials willingly, I knew then that my reputation preceded me.

I recall a defining moment where this lesson was so clear to me and still inspires me to this day. I remember being in college and telling my Uncle Renny, God rest his soul, that I needed an internship in my major. He asked what I was studying, I told him Journalism & Mass Communication. The conversation was brief, I didn’t really think much about it. The next day, he called me and said report to NBC4 on Wisconsin Ave tomorrow at 8am. I’ll spare you the rest of the details but I just remember thinking to myself, I want THAT level of influence. My uncle was actually my great-uncle (my grandmother’s brother), and he was the only person in the entire family at that time to have a degree. He went to Howard and was a well-known musician throughout DC, a PhD, and later a Pastor. I remember him being my only family influence academically. I’d always known him to be a very smart man, with an extremely kind heart, but that day when he displayed his level of influence, and the weight of his relationships to leverage an opportunity for me….whew! That changed the way I viewed everything and helped me to determine what I wanted for myself. I wanted to be like Uncle Renny. I wanted to be able to do THAT for my family as well!

My next paid internship came from attending a career fair on campus. I still have that relationship with the man who hired me. I’d bet he’d say that was one of his best decisions! Lol You know why I got that one though? I had done a few unpaid internships first and the entire time I was building not only my portfolio and resume, but my professional relationships. After that, I worked five years for a trade association. This is where I learned to put together large-scale events for 2,500 plus people. Remember, DCLA Productions? Full circle moment! From there an old college friend helped me get my first government contract job. Another friend told me about the position that I hold now, and it just all worked together for my good, I’d have to say.

My company’s first big contract also came from a friend. That contract helped us do our first ever concert as a production company. He doesn’t look at it as a huge deal, but I do, and that was a very defining and quite frankly, life changing moment for my company. For these reasons, I don’t buy into the concept of being self-made. I understand the idea I guess, but it’s also a pretty arrogant one, and in lots of ways, misleading. It’s true that I’ve done very well for myself, I’ve worked extremely hard, I’ve stayed up late nights and early mornings while others got to sleep. I risked my entire life savings on my company, and I’ve given every ounce of blood, sweat and tears that a human being can possess, but I still can’t take full credit. First of all, the DCLA team has been vital with every single member playing a role to land us where we are. Then in addition to that, lots of assists and God’s favor to carry the rest. Nobody does it on their own. Don't believe the hype!

When my husband and I got to LA, it was prior relationships, through years of business dealings, that landed us meetings and tour deals with Live Nation Headquarters and top execs at Warner Brothers. You don’t get to just prance your way into those meetings. Either your reputation precedes you, or someone important enough gives the green light that you’re worth the meeting. In our case it was a little of both. We had done a lot of work in Live Nation venues on a local level, that it was pretty easy to get the meeting with corporate executives. That’s where the idea was birthed of a tour deal for DCLA Versus. From there, we started getting booked Live Nation venues across the East Coast, and then finally landed to Los Angeles. Prior to COVID, we had just signed a residency deal for every Friday night in downtown LA. Those relationships were beneficial because LA is a super hard market to infiltrate as a new kid on the scene. No other area has been as challenging for us to break into.

All this to say, I think the self-made, super independent, got it all on my own façade causes people to feel discouraged when they need help. It’s the illusion that all these other people did it on their own and something is wrong with me for needing an assist. I think if more people were honest about the level of assistance that they’ve received then it wouldn’t feel like a shameful act to need help. Also, if we weren’t in such competition and maintaining the crabs in the barrel mentality, I’m sure there are plenty other ways we could assist each other even further.

I say this to you. Don’t let your pride kill you. Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall (Provers 16:8). God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). Don’t allow your pride and your flesh to keep you stagnant. At the same time though, make sure that you’re not always the one with your hand out. For as much as I’ve been helped, I’ve also done a LOT of helping. Relationships should be mutually beneficial, and efforts must be reciprocal. Make sure that you bring something to the table or else you might be asked to give up your seat. If you become the one to drain the entire table and never replenish, then resentment sets in, things fall apart, and either way you lose.

Bottom line, people work with who they like so take pride in your reputation and make sure to keep your character solid. Then next comes exposure/relationships. It doesn’t matter how talented you are if the right people don’t know. It’s your job to make them know! Now let’s talk about how to get pass the awkward parts of relationship building and networking. I’ve struggled with this personally for years. I’m great at meeting people. I can go to any event and leave with 10+ phone numbers having made actual connections that day. However, my follow through sucks! I’m always like ok, now what am I supposed to say?! This is especially true when the connection was made with someone a lot more established. It almost makes me feel unsure of myself like what do I even have to offer to this situation.

One strategy that I’ve learned along the way, from a friend and former client, is to barter services. People aren’t interested in helping you for no good reason most of the time. You need to identify a need that they have, and figure out how you can fulfill it, before pitching your need to them. When you approach people with what you can do for them, as opposed to what you need from them, you’re going to get their attention, even if just for a moment. Make it count. Again, it needs to be mutually beneficial. This isn’t a charity case, it’s a business. Make yourself valuable.

Do random check ins WITHOUT a request. I can’t tell you how annoying it is when you only hear from someone when they want something from you. Stay in touch, and on people’s radar so that when opportunities come along, you’re on their mind. Offer people out to lunch meetings, coffee dates, etc, and you treat! Our first year in Los Angeles, I think we needed a whole separate budget for networking, because we were having meetings with everyone, everywhere we could. My thought is that if you’re the person doing the inviting, then you should pay. I can’t lie though; my favorite Live Nation exec ALWAYS PAYS! He never lets us pay. He usually likes to go to high-end places, so I am grateful not to pay, although always prepared just in case. LOL

What opportunities have you missed out on from being a closed mouth? How are you going to leverage your current relationships this week? How are you going to develop new relationships? What do you have to offer that is valuable to others, that will earn you your spot at the table? There is no short cut to hard work, sacrifice, financial risk, or any of that. However, you can do all of that and more, but if you’re not in relationship with the right people, none of it will matter. Bottom line, we need people, we need great working relationships, and we need a reputation that says we are of good character and have something to offer. I challenge you to do at least one thing this week towards making that happen. Thank me later😊

With Love,

Michelle L.


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