My daughter, Nancy was on the phone today from California and I was at my computer and the small drawer on my computer table was open. It is crammed full of stuff and wonderful memories and as I glanced down I saw this little Musical Wheel. I turned the little stem on the wheel and told her about the history of that little wheel. First I let her hear it tinkle. Then I laid the base of it on my table and turned the stem. It played its own stirring rendition of the tune Yankee Doodle Dandy.
I’d found my first little wheel in a fascinating sort of junk store on the Dixie Highway just outside Pontiac, Michigan in early 1988.
This was not retail material they offered, it was stuff they bought from manufacturers who had parts of things they made and this wheel was something not used in the manufacturing of Music Boxes. They carried all sorts of fascinating things like eyeballs from dolls, miniature drum sticks,tiny springs and all sorts of parts of things, mostly junk in the eyes of most people, but, as you might know, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. I’d visit the store monthly with another idea person named George and we’d brainstorm as we went through the entire store bouncing ideas off one another and having a wonderful idea exchange.
I bought a couple of these little musical wheels for about 20 cents each. I’m a professional speaker, a motivational humorist and I am always looking for stuff a client might use to make a point. For instance I put together a dozen little cards for an auto company. We pasted little items on cards to reinforce some point. We sent them out once a month with something different pasted to a card. Something like an eyeball saying “You only get two of these, use them wisely.”
After carrying that little musical wheel in my pocket for a few weeks I went back to the store and bought a hundred. When I gave a talk on leadership at Notre Dame University for students I talked about how the President of Grand Trunk Western RR had changed my life. He spotted my talents and then gave me permission to just do my thing to change attitudes and improve performance. I said that he was a sounding board for my talents.
I gave each of the students a musical wheel and first we all turned the wheels together and I asked them for the name of the song it played. One by one they figured it out. Then I had them hold the wheels up and a hundred wheels tinkled in the classroom. Then as I challenged them to become sounding boards for others talents I invited them to hold the wheels on their desk and turn it. The desks served as sounding boards and the room was filled with music.
My Mentor, Herb True, Ph. D. and Anita Jacobs PhD, both professors at Notre Dame and St. Mary’s were in the room and later, at lunch they both agreed that this was the most powerful hand-out they had ever seen. I rushed back to that little junk store the next day and asked the fellow how many of these little wheels they had and he replied, “10,000.” I dickered with him on the price a bit and got him down to a dime each, that was $1,000 and I bought his whole stock.
In 1988 I was speaking at the National Safety Council’s Early Morning session and I would estimate the audience at 2,000. I gave each attendee a little music wheel and repeated the above material. McCormick Place in Chicago was filled with 2,000 tinkles and then with the use of their chair backs as sounding boards music swelled and so did my heart. I challenged them to take this little wheel and put it where they would see it every day and then to try and discover the music that is hidden in each person they come in contact with and to act as a sounding board for others talents.
What happened to those 10,000 little wheels I purchased back in 1988? I have doled them out very carefully to many thousands of teachers, to safety leaders, to college students and others I have found in positions where they might have the challenge and the opportunity to touch the lives of others. How many wheels left? Perhaps twenty hiding from me in a drawer up in my music room. They are waiting for my call when just that absolutely right opportunity arrives. I’m certain I will recognize it when it comes.
“Music hath charm to soothe a savage breast.”