Twenty years ago I started to work professionally as Forrest Gump. Here is that story.
“Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one.” – Dr. Seuss
The Need to Get Good
“You’re really good!” I heard that on Day 1 of being Forrest for Bubba Gump Shrimp and I heard it a hundred times during that first month.
Of course what people were referring to was my look. I looked like Forrest Gump. I was a really good look-alike.
I graciously thanked folks for their sincere and kind compliment. But I didn’t necessarily feel good. I wasn’t doing anything but showing up and taking advantage of a God-given gift.
An important decision was made right away – I didn’t just want to be a lookalike. Being a lookalike didn’t take any special talent, skill, or effort – it was natural. I wanted to get good at the craft of being Forrest and entertaining people.
I also feared that if I just sat on my buttocks and relied only on my genetic luck, then my career would be short-lived. If I was going to provide Bubba Gump with real value – I needed to get good.
In the mean-time, Bubba Gump was going gang-busters. People were lined up to get inside. Everyone from corporate management to the restaurant managers to the wait staff and the kitchen were working their butts off. I was sitting outside by myself. I was an island. Bubba Gump was paying me … but I was on my own. I thought to myself, “I can keep this special job as Forrest if I can figure it out … by myself … on my own.” I had to get good. Fast.
The next three parts of this story will address areas that I did figure out and I did eventually master. They are:
In the big picture, it took me about 5 years to master being Forrest Gump. Year 1 was spent figuring out the basics and become competent – a lot of trial and error. Years 2 & 3 were when I started to get good – I understood what needed to be done and figured out how to get it done. Years 4 & 5 were when I became a master – with the basics all under control, I was able to go deep into perfecting my craft.
It took several years, but I had become very good. Then, when people said, “You’re really good!” … I knew they were complimenting me on both my look and my performance skills.
Next up. Part 4: Crowd Control