Approximately 2 months ago I received a unique phone call from a very good friend of mine who is the founder and president of an incredible organisation named “The Independence Fund.” I was in Israel at the time and was really pleased to hear Steve’s voice over the phone as we took time to catch up on all of the latest news that has been going on; I was getting ready to relocate my life to Los Angeles, and Steve was about to put on the biggest show of his life to date! The Independence Fund which Steve is the commander and chief of, is a one-of-a-kind homegrown organisation that takes care of severely wounded warriors who have fought in the Global War on Terror (troops from Iraq, Afghanistan, etc…). Once a year Steve puts on a big show in the magical town of Beaufort, South Carolina where he raises money for the wounded veterans, honours them, and brings out the whole community along with The Lieutenant Dan Band – headed by actor Gary Sinise. The band rocks approximately 3,500 people every year in a spectacular event, but this year will be MUCH different.
The military academy in Charleston gave Steve an offer he couldn’t refuse; to produce the renowned event at the academy’s football stadium (The Citadel) at no charge! This was a definite GO, and the number of tickets that he had to sell suddenly skyrocketed from 3,500 to 25,000 happy human beings! Even though he is a former hardened Marine, I could pick up through his modest and cool composure that Steve was excited, and overwhelmed by the news of such a huge profile upgrade for his humble organisation. But the best part was yet to come…. well… at least for me…
Steve called me in order to ask a small question;
“Would you mind opening up for the Lieutenant Dan Band with SIREN?”
What a break! We’ve dreamed about this kind of thing happening for a very long time. 25,000 spectators who are whole heartedly coming out to have a good time, enjoy great music, and fight for an amazing cause! What could be better? My immediate answer to Steve was “yes,” as it would be for nearly anything that Steve would ask of me, however my inner voice was communicating a message more along the lines of “DUUUUHHH.” Not only is the organisation and this event very close to my heart, but it will get my band’s music to fifty-thousand ears; it will be an awesome story of an IDF veteran who is singing for US troops; it will bring in more people, more fans, more press, more hearts, more love…
“So what date is it on Steve?”
“on the 14th of September…”
“Great! I’ll make sure that my band is good to go and we’ll all fly out to Charleston to make it happen…”
And a few minutes later the conversation ended. I opened up my calendar to make sure that I close down the 14th and make the arrangements to get the band out to South Carolina when my eyes caught a disturbing sight. In a pink coloured box, hovering above the 14th of September, appeared the words “Yom Kippur.” I gasped… Yom Kippur is the most sacred and holiest of days in the Jewish faith; Uh-oh. This is the day of judgement – the day in which God takes a long look at one’s behaviour record over the past year and decides whether you’re going in the white book or the black book. This holiday is most known to its practitioners as a hardcore fasting day (no food, no water, no doing anything amusing, and lot’s of praying at the temple). In Israel, it is a day where BY LAW, everything must be closed and no cars are allowed to drive in the whole country except for emergency vehicles.
Doesn’t this jeopardise my performance at the big event? On a day like this which there is complete consensus among my people, and even though I am not a religious guy, wouldn’t it be grotesque to go on stage and hit 25,000 people with a full on, balls out rock and roll show? The thoughts began to race through my head – neurons firing – values challenged – past obligations rethought – meaning of life revisited – foundations tested – principles shaken – belief in God… would he want me to cancel… ? is this a test…? — so I went to my loyal advisors.
My mother thought that there is NO DOUBT that I SHOULD go on stage. My father thought that I should NOT. My General from the military whom I happened to meet while walking down the street told me, “don’t even think about it.” My Rabbi and great friend… well… of course he thought that I should not do it. My drummer –> a definite YES. The answers were all over the place – pretty much a 1:1 ratio for and against the event. To me however, it seemed like I was leaning intuitively towards the NOGO decision because I felt that it would be irresponsible. It felt to me like something that “you just don’t do…” – the closest thing that I could think of would be like throwing the annual Gay Parade through New York City on September 11th… (I have nothing against gay people – the Gay Parade simply seems to me like the happiest event of the year!). In addition to the religious aspect of Yom Kippur, some people even thought that it would dishonour the fallen Israeli soldiers of the Yom Kippur War – Israel’s bloodiest war. And on the other hand, some thought that it would be a beautiful gesture to get on stage that night and honour the fallen before crowd.
I found myself sitting down alone and thinking about all of the arguments; thinking about my intuitions; thinking about my future; thinking about my band; thinking about my roots; thinking about practically everything! The thought of 25 thousand bobbing smiles was fuelling the clash between 25 thousand different points of view. However, approximately 3 years ago I was privileged enough to meet one of the most sought after individuals on earth, and a truly brilliant man who became one of my role models – Warren Buffett. Although he is the 3rd wealthiest man on earth, he carries the modesty of an average blue collar worker and among his many wise sayings, one in particular stuck with me ever since meeting him in Omaha, Nebraska.
“Before you ever do anything in life that you are not sure about, always ask yourself if you’d have a problem seeing it on the front cover of tomorrow morning’s newspaper… and if it makes you feel even a little bit uneasy… then just don’t do it… let it go… the opportunity will come around again some time later on.”
“Oh hey Ronny – what’s up?”
“Listen… about the SIREN show that you asked me to do… I’m going to have to pass on it this year my friend…”
After making the decision, I felt that a huge burden had been lifted off of my shoulders. I felt proud. I felt that we have passed a very serious test as a band; that what leads us is not the viscous desire for money and fame – but rather we march by the tune of Character and Integrity. We decided to do something that no other band on earth would probably ever do… and it felt amazing.
What do you think that you would do in this kind of situation? – Leave it as a comment below!