Michael Jackson and Jackson 5 Victory Tour poster 1984

I was standing in the nose-bleed seats on the fifth level of Mile High Stadium with my parents, my cousin Tyrone, his dad – and most importantly, my binoculars.  This was my first concert.  I was never an excitable kid, but when Michael Jackson stepped onto the stage with his brothers for the “Victory” tour concert that night, my hands flailed in the air and I screamed uncontrollably – like one of those silly girls I’d previously made fun of from old footage of The Beatles.  I was in 7th grade and I thought he was the cutest, sweetest, most talented, most entertaining guy in the world.  His photo graced the inside of my locker at school.  I marveled at his dance moves, regularly sliding backwards across the kitchen floor in my socks fruitlessly attempting to moonwalk.  I sat for hours and listened to every song on the Thriller album, memorizing all the words, and when the Thriller video came out, my parents let me stay up late one night to see it. 

His music is the soundtrack of so many happy, childhood memories.  The first memory happened one afternoon in 1978.  I can still picture our three smiling faces – rocking back and forth and snapping our fingers to Michael’s hit “Rock with You.”  I still love to dance, but that day at five years old in the living room with my mom and Tyrone is my first memory of dancing.  Then and now, his music never fails to make me feel good – and for me personally, that is his legacy. 

We wonder how people can feel emotional when someone they never knew passes.  But the truth is, in this media age, we let many people into our lives that we don’t know – we buy their music, watch their movies, and invite them into our homes through our television sets.  In moments with people we know and care about, these entertainers and public figures become a part of both our milestones and everyday moments.  We don’t know them personally, but the gifts they share become a memorable part of our life experience.

I often write about the importance of knowing your purpose – and how that purpose emerges from your innate talents.  And even though his talent is far beyond what most of us can imagine for ourselves, he was an example of the power of using what God gave you to make an impact.   Your purpose can be as simple as “bringing joy,” “provoking thought,” or “influencing attitudes” – in his case, he probably did all three through music and entertainment.

Your purpose should answer this simple question:  How is someone’s life better because they cross your path?   Besides elevating the music industry and breaking records, Michael Jackson gave millions of us entertainment that made us smile, dance, and connect with the people around us – and I can say for sure that my life has been richer for it.

Coachable moment:

How is someone’s life better because they cross your path?  You don’t have to be a megastar or have immense talent to have an impact.  Know your gift and use it to the best of your ability.