Be A Duck

Last Saturday night I was at a wedding, sitting at table 16 next to the dance floor with a clear view of the floor, the DJ booth and the bride and groom. It was a great wedding with fantastic food, music, and atmosphere. It was about 8:00 PM and I’d been awake since 4:30 AM and still had a long drive home and dinner hadn’t yet been served. Nonetheless, I was people watching and enjoying myself. That’s when I noticed the DJ. He wasn’t the M.C., he wasn’t the one to rile the crowd, he was just the guy who played the music. For all intent and purposes, he was behind the scenes.

As I watched the DJ, my already good mood got better. And then it hit me, he was being a duck. I know you have absolutely no idea what that means but I’m going to explain and take you on a small trip back to my days selling radio ads on Long Island. Names and such have been replaced out of respect.

It was the spring of 1999 and I was selling radio advertising on Long Island. I worked for a country radio station and that’s not an easy sell. I used to joke that selling country radio on Long Island was harder than selling rap to the rednecks. Based on some of my current friends I now know a fair amount of self-proclaimed rednecks that really like rap. Hence, another lesson about not making assumptions. But I digress. This one particular client I had, Rich was some type of bad-ass ex-military or covert government employee who had seen and experienced the things we hear about or see in movies. I remember Rich well.  As I got to know him I realized he had incredible insight into people and that’s what made Rich so valuable to the government. I would stop and see him in the course of my travels and we would talk, initially about things like the weather or the seasons but the conversations became deeper and more engaging, the type of conversations I like. There was a point when Rich shared that he wasn’t feeling well, more of a terminal thing so I felt like my time with him was more valuable to him than me and I was happy to sit and listen to his stories and engage in conversations. His stories were fascinating. Of all the stories and the excitement that accompanied each one, I only remember one. At the time, I probably thought it was silly but it’s stayed with me for over 20 years and I think about it often.

Rich had shared that he and his wife had a nice house with a nice backyard, all the accompanying outdoor furniture and an inground pool that was seldom used. He then told me about a duck that had adopted him and his wife. I was puzzled.  What do you mean a duck adopted you? It made no sense. Rich explained that one day when they came home from work there was a duck in their yard who seemed to be dazed, confused and possibly hurt. While they tried to approach the duck, it avoided them at all costs, kind of like a game of cat and mouse, but this was human and duck. They started putting food and water out for the duck and watched it slowly getting better. They never really knew what was wrong but they suspected a broken wing. Over time, as they would sit outside and soak in the sun while sipping on their drinks the duck would sit nearby and watch them, never really joining them but never leaving either. The duck was rather solemn and always peaceful, kind of like that relative that comes to stay and you don’t even know they’re around. Then one day that all changed. It was a nice summer day and Rich could hear a commotion in the yard. As he and his wife went to see what was going on they were astonished. It was the duck. He was swimming and splashing, flapping his wings and making waves, he was quacking and they were convinced he was laughing and smiling. He was bobbing his head in and out of the water, and frantically kicking his feet with joy. Then he’d stop and just float around for a few minutes and start all over again. It looked like he was having the time of his life. I remember asking Rich what the duck was doing and his response was perfect. He’s doing exactly what he’s supposed to do, he’s being a duck and it’s beautiful. I’ve seen kids be kids, leaders be leaders and on Saturday night I saw a DJ be a DJ and it was awesome.

If you are going to do something, anything, find the purpose, find the passion and be a duck. Life’s too short to settle so be happy and kick ass in whatever you do!

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