Have you seen the More Cowbell sketch from Saturday Night Live?
It’s more than just funny. Believe it or not, it’s a powerful metaphor for a successful work life. And it provides insight into the kind of people you need on your team, and what makes an effective team.
Everyone has at least one cowbell — it’s your unique, profitable talent people pay you for or your company’s unique offering. It’s something people have a fever for. When you discover it and give those people a ton of it, you gain success and happiness for both yourself and others. It’s a win-win.
A cowbell is simultaneously something you love doing and something other people really want as well (although, as we’ll see, you still will have detractors and critics). A cowbell creates joy for you and other people. It makes them yell for more. They can’t get enough.
How Cowbells Increase Joy
Life is short and you live the life you create. So what better life can you create than one that’s based on you doing something you love — that other people love too?
Didn’t Gene Frenkle, the cowbell guy, look happy playing his cowbell?
What a fool! Doesn’t he know how stupid he looks? Maybe he does. Maybe it doesn’t matter. Some of the most talented people and most creative groups on earth look really stupid when they are at their best.
Any offense run by star quarterback Peyton Manning seems to be learning how to run the play for the first time right before the ball’s snapped. It’s one thing to call an audible and quite another to actually grab players and physically drag them into position. But it makes the fans happy and is valuable because it works.
The whole happiness-from-your-cowbell formula doesn’t work if you have serious obstacles like true depression. There’s also a type of depression that might not fit a clinical psychotherapist’s definition. You might just be vaguely frustrated and feel low. You might be bummed out your life isn’t more amazing. You might feel like you wish things would go faster.
Affirmations and meditation and relaxing or inspiring music can help. As your life changes, as you take more action and feel better about yourself and your life, as your identity and self-esteem solidify, you can let go of those things. Deep inside you finally know that you are valuable and important. You no longer need Stuart Smalley affirmations.
And there are sometimes real circumstances in which it would be selfish and irresponsible to make drastic changes chasing after your cowbell. For many reasons, cowbell progress can be slow, but that makes it all the sweeter when you attain it.
For example, there was a time when Brian wanted to be a full-time freelance consultant but didn’t yet have the network or assets in place to get enough gigs to do so. It was the responsible thing for him as a husband to take several full-time jobs and develop his career before going freelance again, this time successfully. That wasn’t a ton of fun, but it was a formative time that helped get him to a place, internally and externally, where his cowbell was stronger and the joy from it was great.
Over time, you can negotiate your obstacles and fulfill your responsibilities, moving toward the cowbell experience in a way that doesn’t hurt anyone or leave any wreckage behind.
Until you are really experiencing joy in your own uniqueness, you won’t shine, and you might not fully “get” how awesome a cowbellian life is. You need some self-esteem, which is best when it comes from action, but sometimes you have to start with ideas. Once you do reach that true cowbell experience on a daily basis, you’ll know it, because you’ll feel invigorated, validated and inspired!
Thanks to guest bloggers Brian Carter and Garrison Wynn. This post is an excerpt from their forthcoming book, The Cowbell Principle: Career Advice On How To Get Your Dream Job And Make More Money. During the first couple of launch weeks, the Kindle version will be only $0.99 on Amazon. Get it here.
Are you experiencing joy in your own uniqueness? What’s your cowbell? Share your thoughts in the comment section below because we’d love to hear from you. Thanks!