The American Dream takes many forms. It can be a successful job, a marriage, or even a thriving speaking business. Many people have realized it and lived it, some in very logical ways, and others in ways you would find far-fetched.
While traveling across the world speaking, I encounter so many entrepreneurs and executives. One individual, in particular, that I recently connected with did something unique.
He didn’t make anything original. He didn’t do anything that people would consider to be extraordinary. But, what he did opened up the opportunity for him to accomplish things many would find unimaginable.
Deno Taglioli has held events with Oprah Winfrey, the White House, Apple, Microsoft, and Super Bowl XLV. When it comes to weddings, a few celebrities he helped include Mark Cuban, Angie Harmon, and Emmitt Smith. But what unique talents were required to make this happen?
Deno’s uniqueness was not based in originality. He took existing songs, gathered together a group of artists, then turned his stage presence into a business. For someone who grew up in Detroit in the 1960s and 70s, when the Motown Sound and Techno started and Smokey Robinson and Bob Seger began their careers, you can see where his inspiration came from.
I asked him to tell me how Detroit influenced his music.
“Being around seven years old and just miles away from Hitsville USA (the studio where Berry Gordy recorded all the Motown hits), I’ll never forget these classics blasting on CKLW,” recalled Deno. “The hooks of these catchy songs left a lifetime of musical memories.”
You would think that putting a business together that could come this far would take a lot of money and resources. But growing up, Deno didn’t have much that translated into his entrepreneurial career. “We had little,” he says. “I never took anything for granted. Every day, I am thankful for the blessings I have been given.”
One of my favorite pieces of advice to give is that successful people don’t do what everyone else can’t do. Successful people do what everyone can do, but not everyone does.
And I thought to myself, This guy is extremely successful, and one of the reasons he’s so successful is that he took existing content, music that people love, gathered a great team, and made the music come alive. He took his music skills and created an experience.
Detroit didn’t just leave its influence on Deno; it led him in the direction of making music his life. He studied with Ray Makowski of the Detroit Symphony and later attended Wayne State University.
If you know me, you know I am a fan of education. My parents were both teachers who became principals, then became administrators. If I have learned one thing, it is that a broad approach to education is worth its weight in gold.
When I asked Deno what he focused on, he replied, “I studied everything from Classical to Jazz big band.”
For me, getting various perspectives and learning all aspects of a field is a recipe for innovation. And that is exactly what Deno did.
When Deno made Texas his home in 1983, he founded Emerald City Band. This was how he intended to innovate the music scene.
At that time, country was the primary genre of music in the area. He wanted to introduce something that mixed his influences with local trends. The result was a combination of everything from Sinatra to high-energy dance music.
Although Emerald City started out small, it grew quickly and went from performing local events to playing gigs internationally.
How did this happen? Dino was not afraid to try something new, to change things up.
And years later, one foot in front of the other, their success continues to grow.
“Our New Year’s show has now become the biggest event in Texas,” he added. “You can count on an amazing, high-energy party attracting thousands of people – amazing dinner, music, and dancing is how we celebrate the end of the year.”
Deno personifies the American Dream.
Using music to make his mark, he gained a reputation, and his personal brand grew. One person who took a shining to Emerald City was George W. Bush. On two separate occasions, this Texas native invited the band to perform at the White House.
I asked him how that felt.
“Performing at the White House was an incredible experience,” said Deno. “Can you imagine us leading senators, congressmen, and dignitaries through the White House doing the love train?”
I couldn’t help but smile at the thought.
Deno grew Emerald City into one of the most sought-after groups in the U.S. In fact, demand grew so much that he started three other bands patterned after Emerald City (Limelight in 2009, Downtown Fever in 2009, and Party Machine in 2012).
For advice to the next batch of up and coming entrepreneurs, Deno said to do something you love. It is simple advice hiding in plain sight – you just have to remember to look for it.
“It really is true. If you can dream it, you can achieve it. Don’t waste your time doing something you’re not in love with. People can tell the difference.”
I know how Deno feels. But instead of music, I love speaking. Since speaking with Deno, before I start a talk, I take a moment to be thankful. I acknowledge that I am doing what I love, then as I look at the thousands of eyes staring at me through the stage lights, my nerves turn into excitement and I start my keynote.
But, remember, you can love what you do and still have things go wrong.
I asked Deno how he deals with failure. His answer was something I have heard before and will likely hear again.
Deno said to learn from your mistakes.
“I learned early in my studies that I was going to make mistakes. The key was learning from them and not repeating them. When I fail, I’ll just say, ‘This was a private lesson in a course called life.’”
It made me think about when my mic fell off my ear when I did a big jump as part of my TEDxQuincy talk and I lost audio. After the talk, I had a hard time shaking the mistake. But I got over it quickly and now know to bring a little extra tape to make sure my mic stays in place no matter how much I jump around on stage.
So, no matter what your dreams are or what you love to do, take things one step, one speech, one song at a time. And when things go wrong, which they will, don’t let them stop you from moving forward. Learn from them and keep chasing after your dreams.
Keep chasing that American Dream.
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