Alonzo Jones: don’t wait, create your own platform

I remember one Saturday morning in Braamfontein, Johannesburg. Looking down out the window on the fourth floor. I was attending a digital media training programme and I got an important insight. I was watching a guy playing a musical instrument, with a hat (for tip collections) upturned in front of him. People couldn’t pass by and once they stopped, they found themselves throwing money into the gentleman’s hat.

He is a talented guy, so he soon had an audience in front of him. (Including me, overlooking from the top.)

But what became a highlight for me was when a tall, seemingly confident man walked up to him, apologised for disturbing his playing, spoke to him briefly, whipped out his phone and took the musician’s mobile numbers. I took that to be a person who needs his services. I was elated.

And this is why: Don’t wait, create your own platform!

Which is precisely what one Alonzo Jones did in America. He was once kicked out of the family home by his mother after he finished high school. She had asked him what he wanted to do with his life and Alonzo answered, “I wanna be a dancer, mom”.

That’s what had caused the rift between them.

Jones comes from San Francisco and has been a Dancer / contortionist from 2007. His passion is unrivaled. And he is a self taught professional and has gone through difficulty to get to that level.

So, after he was chased out by mom, he was homeless for two years. Doing street dancing in that time. I reckon that was the period that pushed him to fine tune his skills and strengthen his resolve about wanting to be a dancer. It could have been easy for him to give up in that two years and go back home, seek a job and have the benefit of sleeping on his warm bed. Driven by his passion, he decided to stick it out.

Alonzo stayed in hotel rooms from the money he made from dancing in the streets of New York and other cities. At this point, you could say he was getting a crash course on using his talent to run a business. And another thing to note, and applaud, is his insistence to go on when other people refused to believe in him. By his own admission, there were many instances where people told him to go get a job and stop being lazy as they passed him by practicing his craft on the streets.

Which is what I have picked up happens when you are pursuing something that takes longer to bear fruit. People on those pursuits are often tested because they can always abandon their talent based project, get a “real job” and quicken their success. Any disagreement with that thinking is seen as not wanting to work.

So then, when Alonzo checked into a hotel room at the end of a hard day working in the streets, he would often practice until the wee hours of the morning. Get sleep for a few hours and go back to the streets. And so on the body twisting cycle went.

Pushed by his love for dance and the goal to master his craft, his work ethic was on overdrive.

To succeed, you need to put yourself out there! It might through singing at a busy street in your neighborhood. It might be through filming tons of videos, writing, recording podcasts and pushing out your story to the world.

Of course, some people will look at you funny and think you are crazy for attempting to achieve what you want. Some will say you are wasting yours and their time. Why not just get a job? So, realise that doing your thing out in the world despite its blows takes guts.

DO YOU HAVE FAITH?

In whatever you do, do you have faith that it will work out some day, somehow? Because there comes a period of complete despair where there isn’t even a clue what to do next to move forward. In those moments of darkness, if you will, you have to have a voice that keeps telling you that you will break through.

Do you have faith in your hustle?

HOW STRONG IS YOUR DEDICATION TO YOUR CRAFT?

The truth is, being the best at what you do isn’t child’s play. The musician I saw in Johannesburg got over what people will say about him playing his music in the streets. Alonzo Jones accepted being kicked out of home, not having a clear path for his future, being homeless and street dancing to refine his craft.

What are you willing to do to further your work?

YOU HAVE NO PLATFORM? CREATE IT. ALONZO’S STAGE WAS THE STREETS.

If there was anything significant I have learned and now live by, it is this: Don’t always seek permission to do what you want.

In every industry, there are gatekeepers. The people who decide who is talented enough to be granted access, or turned away. So what then happens is many people wait on those people to start doing their work. Some get lucky. And some wait forever.

Take it from me, if you want to get ahead, create your own stage. Anyone else will find you performing.

And one last take away. Go the extra mile. “He is willing to break bones to change his life,” said America’s Got Talent judge. Alonzo contorts himself in all sorts of directions and is willing to do anything to break through.

You know, when I watched the episode of America’s Got Talent and saw Alonzo, I was taken back to the moment of watching the musician playing in Johannesburg. Though vastly different, both stories carry the same powerful lesson of not waiting to be handed an opportunity, but going out there and finding a spot on which to start working. Create your own platform. Often, the gatekeepers you are waiting on to give you permission will come to you when word spreads about your work.

So, it bears repeating. Whatever you do, don’t wait to be put on. Create your own platform and get to work.

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