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Life Lessons From the Penticton Elvis Festival

Elvis?  Yes!  I competed in the 15th annual Pacific Northwest Elvis Festival during the weekend of June 24-26, 2016, something that was on my Bucket List for a few years.  I have been a fan of Elvis Presley’s music since I was a kid, thanks to my Mom.  I had performed only a few times in my life mainly for fun as a surprise at family weddings or birthday parties.  A good friend and I were having a long conversation about life goals and he dared me to enter an Elvis competition (in exchange he signed up for an Ironman Triathlon), so I did.  I never sang growing up, I never took band in school, I don’t play an instrument, and I don’t come from a musical family.  But in July 2015 I registered as a participant in the Penticton Elvis Festival, under the name “Stelvis”, with just under one year to prepare.  Yes, this was a *serious* stretch to my comfort zone.  A total of 29 Elvis Tribute Artists competed this year, 17 in the Non-Pro division including me, and 12 in the Pro division.  This article describes how participating in this competition reinforced a few key life lessons.

Life Lesson #1: Set a goal

I’m a big believer in the power of goal setting.  I have daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual goals.  I also have life goals, or my “bucket list”, categorized into 1-year, 3-year, 5-year and 10+ year goals.  Do you have a life goals list?  If not, I challenge you to define 100 life goals – e.g., adventures you wish to experience, things you want to own, places you will visit during your lifetime, etc.  This is harder than you think. 

In my experience, it is important not only to have goals, but to write them down and track accomplishments against those goals.  Once you have a goal, tell people about it.  They will help to hold you accountable.  More can be accomplished with the support of family, friend and work colleagues.

Life Lesson #2: Engage a coach

Don’t go at it alone.  Find someone who is a subject matter expert at what you want to do.  Want to lose weight and get in shape?  Hire a personal trainer.  Want to be a good golfer?  Take lessons from a golf pro.  Want to be a good cook?  Take courses from an esteemed chef.

I engaged an Elvis coach.  He just may be the only one in the country (continent?).  He helped to elevate my game.

Competition #1

Life Lesson #3: Work hard, work smart

As a (very) new performer, I had a lot of room for improvement.  I knew I could bridge the gap from where I was to where I needed to be with focus and hard work.  As the saying goes, there is no elevator to success – you have to take the stairs.  I began practicing one year in advance of the competition.  In the last three months before the Penticton Elvis Festival, I was up to 90 minutes of singing per day, plus working out at least three days per week, plus marketing my Stelvis Facebook page, plus, plus, plus ….  I spent 30 hours per week on “Stelvis” knowing that work ethic is “king” (pun intended).

In terms of working smart, I learned a valuable lesson from my friend doing the Ironman Triathlon.  Before his big race, he participated in warm-up events like a sprint triathlon, a half triathlon, etc.  Think of it as risk management.  To eliminate stage fright, I scheduled performances before the Penticton competition, including a sold out show the week before with 150 of my closest friends and family.  I believe that 95% of confidence is preparation and the practice shows got me into game shape.

Life Lesson #4: Create special moments

Life is about making special memories with the important people around us.  My “friends and family” show was one of those moments.  Competing in Penticton in front of many people who made the trip to support me, including my wife, kids, parents and good friends, was another.  Seeing my Mom in tears when I was selected as a Finalist was another.  Sharing this adventure with friends and loved ones was very uplifting for me.

Competition #2

The Results

So what happened in Penticton?  Here is a brief summary of my participation in the event:

  • I performed four songs (for fun, not judged) at the jam-packed “pre-party” at a bar in Penticton on June 23rd.
  • I performed two competition songs on June 24th (judged) at Okanagan Lake Park on the large outdoor stage in front of hundreds of people.
  • I performed two more competition songs on June 25th at the park, this time in front of about 1,000 people.
  • The top seven contestants in both the Pro and Non-Pro divisions were announced late that afternoon based on judges’ scores from the four competition songs. I was selected as one of the seven Non-Pro Finalists, meaning I would perform the next day in the Finals.
  • The next morning, I performed two gospel songs (for fun, not judged) at the park on stage for a crowd of 3,500 people.
  • I performed my two Finals songs on stage at the Penticton Trade & Convention Centre in front of a sold out crowd and a panel of judges. The top four Elvis Tribute Artists in each division would be recognized and awarded prizes.

The end result?  Believe it or not, I won my division and was awarded a trophy, prize money, a Penticton Elvis Festival jacket, and two Platinum passes for Graceland.  You can see videos of my performances here:

In closing, I challenge you to do something that stretches your comfort zone.  Don’t play it safe.  You only get one shot at life.  Do something that scares the hell out of you.  That is truly living.

The Finals

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