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The Midweek Motivator – Self Sabotage

Canadian born radio programmer George Johns is someone to be admired. He’s largely under-credited with format-crafting while with the former exemplary Fairbanks Radio Group, owners of legendary stations in Dallas, Boston, Indianapolis, Philadelphia, and West Palm Beach plus numerous others since. Like some of the talent he helped nurture, George continues to be an epic story teller and has shared numerous accounts of his success. I admire him as a colleague and craftsman. Worth noting, before coming to the states for Fairbanks, George had tremendous success in his native Canada. Raised near Winnipeg, George points to the spirited ethos of Canadians, including those cast from his “wheat field soul” radio days in Winnipeg.

A few years ago George shared with me his reunion with good friend Burton Cummings. Burton was doing a one-man show in Boston. While the Boston Globe was interviewing Cummings, Johns was hanging out in Cummings’ dressing room looking forward to their reunion. George relates, “You know Tim, we started talking and all of a sudden Burton turns to me and says, ‘George, you’ll understand this; you’re from Winnipeg and you know how it is. Back when I was about twenty-one we had the number one record in the world, American Woman. Not only that, we were scheduled to play Carnegie Hall in New York! And from that performance we were going to release a live album, The Guess Who Live from Carnegie Hall. Can you believe that George…someone from Winnipeg playing at Carnegie Hall, captured live forever on an album?’ Then Burton looks down, shakes his head and says to me, ‘have you ever heard the album’?”

Johns admitted to his friend, “Wow, no! I never even knew it existed!” Cummings shrugged and said, “Well…that’s because it doesn’t. Come on George, we’re from Winnipeg; you know the drill, what the hell were we thinking…Carnegie Hall? No way. We know our place…some of us never really get out of Winnipeg.”

Johns asked the inevitable: my God Burton, “what happened?” Cummings recounted his squandered opportunity. “We were so excited we stayed up and partied all night…then SLEPT right through the appointment! Never made the gig, man! Can you believe that? I never made the *#%@ gig. No matter what happens, I can’t get that precious moment back. But hey, I’m from Winnipeg, maybe it was never meant to be.”

With much reverence for George, Burton Cummings and The Guess Who, and with apologies to Winnipeg (I’ve always really liked the city!) we benefit from this insightful life lesson: Winnipeg or Hollywood, Cummings’ story goes right to the power of our subconscious and the influence it can hold over us all. When people are conditioned to “deserve” success, more often than not, they find success. Conversely, from an early age those who may be programmed into the “So it goes, that’s just not me” self-image, often view their destiny differently; subconscious self- sabotage that slots them forever in a world of disappointment.

Ball players, CEO’s, politicians, musicians, and some of the rest of us often can’t live with repeated episodes of good fortune, subconsciously finding a creative way to trash our trophies.

Burton Cummings deserved to play at Carnegie Hall. The band had talent, work ethic, and the limelight of the moment. The only reason Burton Cummings and the Guess Who never recorded a Live at Carnegie Hall CD, was because in the pantheon of the subconscious, possibly Cummings didn’t really believe he belonged there (even though he did). It takes an intrepid sense-of-self to withstand repeated attacks of success.