By Jamie Beckett
Johnny Mercer was on to something way back when. After hearing a sermon that included a particularly intriguing line, Mercer wrote out the lyrics to a song that has transcended musical styles to be recorded by old school crooners and punk bands alike. He titled his song, Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive. Harold Arlen put the lyrics to a melody. You know it. In fact, it’s probably taking root in your head right now. Great songs have a way of doing that.
Perhaps the song is so popular, and so easily molded into the style of the individual or band that wants to make it their own, because the lyric is simple, humorous, and true. It provides us with some much needed, timeless advice. It basically says, promote the positive, avoid the negative, and steer clear of those who are indecisive.
Not since the Disney movie, Bambi, have we been presented with such a clear indication of how to conduct ourselves. I recall the instructions included in that movie to this day, no doubt because my mother quoted it to my siblings and me on a regular basis. In the movie a fun-loving, mischievous little rabbit named Thumper repeats this nugget of parental guidance, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.”
I think we may be on to something here. Because general aviation is slumping. It needs to catch its breath, to stand up tall, to feel important and vibrant again. Yet too often what we hear when we spend time with general aviators is the doom and gloom approach. In short, we have too many Eeyores and not enough Thumpers.
Eeyore is an old grey donkey. He’s gloomy and depressed most of the time. While he appears tired, he always has the energy to point out what’s wrong in the Hundred Acre Wood. And even while his friends Piglet, Pooh, and Owl enjoy themselves with the simple gifts they’ve been given, Eeyore makes it a point to find the dark gray soggy center of every cloud that passes by.
I hope you’re seeing a trend by now. General aviation is one of the most exciting, life-affirming activities any of us has ever encountered, yet so many of us air our grievances so often, we are sending a strong negative signal to those who might otherwise want to join us. We’re telling them in no uncertain terms, turn back, get out of here while you still can. It’s horrible here. Don’t come to the airport. Oh goodness, no. Anyplace but the airport.
That’s not exactly a textbook example of good marketing. Can you imagine if your favorite store did that? After all, Black Friday is coming, with hordes of shoppers teeming in the aisles of stores across America. This is the day when their balance sheets finally see black ink – assuming customers actually make purchases, of course. It’s all a moot point if all they do is window shop.
Customer: “Excuse me, can you tell me where I can find the hottest new toy of the year?”
Salesperson: “Sure lady, it’s over there on aisle 12 or 14 or something. It’s way overpriced, though.”
Customer: (who can’t believe she just heard what she thought she heard) “I beg your pardon?”
Salesperson: (with disinterested malaise) “It’s not as cool as you think, either. I heard there’s going to be a new model in February that makes this one look lame.”
Would anyone blame that customer for leaving the store empty handed? Probably not. And could you feel anything but compassion for the store manager who can’t figure out why the hottest toy of the season is just sitting there on his shelves, rather than flying out the door as he expected it to?
To a large degree we make our own luck. If that salesperson had answered instead, “It’s right over here on aisle 12. Let me take you there.” That store would have made a sale, and that customer would have gone away happy, feeling well served. There’s a good chance she would tell a friend about the level of service she found, too, which just might result in a second sale for the store. Two sales instead of none. That’s progress.
Yep, Johnny Mercer knew a thing or two about how to get people motivated, engaged, and working together. If you’re thinking that your airport isn’t the greatest airport in the world, I would suggest you take a listen to any one of the myriad versions of, Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive. Then you might want to sit yourself down, reconsider your airport and general aviation, and start looking on the bright side for a change.
We could use a few more Poohs in this industry, and a lot fewer Eeyores. Remember, you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar.
Ah, I could go on like this all day