Jimmy Buffett…lesson of Stagnation


I’d like to start this blog by looking at the definition of stagnation,

the state of not flowing or moving; lack of activity, growth, or development

As regular readers of my blogs are well aware, the Field’s #1 goal is Expansion.  Thus, it is clear that stagnation is the opposite of expansion.  Now for the obvious question, “What has stagnation got to do with Jimmy Buffett?”

First, for those who may not be aware, Jimmy Buffett is a billionaire, largely due to the various ventures under his umbrella organization, Margaritaville Enterprises.  When asked in a 60 Minutes interview what drives him, Jimmy relayed this story,

The first thing that pops into my mind is – and this was years ago – is seeing a ‘has-been’ country singer working in

a Holiday Inn bar in Nashville…and it was obvious it was someone who had been there [successful] and come back down. 

And I never wanted to make that run back down.

Jimmy of course went on to have Billboard hits and platinum album sales.  His biggest hit, “Margaritaville”, hit #8 in 1977.  The success flowed.  No stagnation in sight.

However, things changed in the 1980s.  A recent Los Angeles Times article captures a critical turning point in Jimmy’s career,

In the middle of the 1980s, he recognized that the tide was turning:  his generation was becoming the old guard.

I figured the age of the singer-songwriter – people like me and Joni Mitchell and James Taylor –

I figured those days were about over and I better deal with it.

Noticing poorly made pirated “Jimmy Buffett” t-shirts at his concerts, Jimmy opened a store in Key West in 1984 to sell high quality Jimmy-Buffett-themed T-shirts.  The merchandise store grew in size, evolving into the first “Margaritaville Café.”  The merchandizing products expanded, additional Margaritaville restaurants and stores were opened, even spinning off other Buffett-themed restaurants.  Books, a Broadway show, more albums, sold-out concerts, and multiple resorts would follow in the years to come.

Jimmy’s income and assets grew and grew, now worth over $1,000,000,000.

The Field at Play.  There are several dynamics at play above, but the main one I would draw your attention to is stagnation.  Both at the very beginning of his career (seeing the has-been performer in a Nashville hotel) and in the 1980s when he realized the peak of his songwriting earning potential was behind him, it was Jimmy’s awareness of stagnation that spurred him onward.

Who knows in what complex ways fears of stagnation motivated Jimmy Buffett…but the point is, it motivated him.

Duality of the Field.  I often write of focusing on activities at work that you are drawn to, or doing things in your spare time that bring you joy.  These lead to positive and satisfying feelings and experiences and, yes, success.  At the same time, the Field is immeasurable, and, thus, the Field’s ability and range to nudge and guide us is also infinite.

So, look not just for fun things to focus on at work, or for exciting adventures in your spare time, but also raise your awareness of feelings that are not positive:  fear, dread, and, yes, stagnation.  These, too, can be nudges and hints, motivating us to embark on new paths of learning and growth.

A Final Quote…in Complete Unison with the Field.  I’ll close by urging you to pay attention, even (or especially!) to feelings of stagnation.  When you raise your awareness – of both positive and negative feelings and nudges – you will uncover new and unexpected directions and opportunities for growth and success.

To be clear, the Field does not want stagnation.  Stagnation is just a tool, an indicator…a challenge.  The Field wants us to be challenged and to grow from those challenges.  Such growth leads to accelerated learning (a.k.a., accelerated Expansion, the Field’s #1 goal).

This is why, “The only constant in this world is change,” is such an enduring truism.  Or as Jimmy Buffet himself put it,

It’s those changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes….Nothing remains quite the same

From all of us – and the Field – thank you, Jimmy!

John Jay McKey

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