Not a Column on 'Business Lessons From Bill Murray'

Created 14 days ago
by Rita Palmisano

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by Jeremy Nulik

Years ago, Bill Murray was traveling around the San Francisco Bay Area. He hailed a taxi near Oakland and told the driver he needed to get to Sausalito. Of course, the driver recognizes Murray right away, and he’s thrilled he’ll have a celebrity story to tell.

“So, what do you do when you aren’t driving your cab?” asks Murray.

“I used to play the saxophone in a band, but I haven’t had much time lately,” says the driver.

When Murray asks him why, the driver says he is in his cab for more than 12 hours a day just to make ends meet.

“Where is your horn now?” asks Murray.

“It’s in the trunk.”

“Pull over,” says Murray.

It is then that the magic happens, as you may have predicted. Bill Murray drives himself toward Sausalito while the driver warms up his saxophone in the back seat. At one point, they pull over at a club, and Murray advocates for an impromptu performance. The driver gets to play onstage that evening while Murray watches from the crowd.

The internet is filled with these Bill Murray legends. In some, he is washing dishes at a fraternity house. In others, he offers relationship advice at a bachelor party. He even photobombs a couple’s engagement shoot.

These stories seem too good to be true. But the strange thing is that they are not at all falsehoods. Enough have been supported with photos and evidence to suggest that there is some bigger story here. And perhaps something that Murray is working to communicate.

When these stories are taken in the aggregate, it appears that Murray makes a conscious attempt to make the people with whom he is interacting the heroes of their own stories. It is no longer his celebrity that matters. Rather, he uses the celebrity to perform a different task.

Imagine for a moment that you were that taxi driver. Just the fact that Bill Murray got into your cab should be good enough. But something much bigger happened that evening. You performed on a stage while a celebrity watched from the floor. For that night, you were the center of attention. You could not go the rest of your life without feeling different about yourself.

It seems Murray seeks out the overlooked or underappreciated — people like you and me who do not have the power of celebrity. And his behavior allows for moments when the audience is the hero of the story.

This is not a column written to instruct you that you ought do the Murray magic for the audiences you serve. Though such a posture to an audience would be advisable, this is not a “Business Lessons From Bill Murray” column. He is a tangible and ready example of an even deeper principle: serving the deepest, most evergreen human need.

Bill Murray is an actor. He is in the business of portraying characters and receiving funds. There is no ostensible reason for him to behave as he does.

However, there is a perfectly logical explanation if his real business is the performance of an evergreen job: helping others to be seen and to matter. He can perform this job in a pep talk in “Meatballs” or a cab ride in Oakland.

The question for you: What is the evergreen job (serving the deepest human need) I perform for my audiences? With the extent to which you are intentional and conscious of this job, you can realize greater brand awareness, attention and profits. If you know the evergreen job you can perform, you can more quickly find the people who want to buy. Instead of spraying your message to those who do not need you, you could surface the people who are in the emotional need for just what you offer and just what you are.

Your evergreen job is not what you do. It is what is fulfilled in your audience when you (in particular) do it. Example: You do not build condos. You move lives. It may seem academic, but can make you more sustainable and responsive in a fast-changing world.

Jeremy Nulik (jeremy@bigwidesky.com) is evangelist prime at bigwidesky, a human business consultancy, in St. Louis, Mo.