Marc Roberge is lead singer and rhythm guitar player for O.A.R. (Of A Revolution).  He also is their primary songwriter and has been described by his band-mates as, “Our Leader.” He formed the band with his best friend (and drummer) Chris Culos for an 8th grade talent show 23 years ago in Rockville, Maryland.  I first saw him play at a college bar called “First Run” on the Miami University campus in Oxford, OH my freshman year (2000).  Since then, O.A.R. has gone on to sell out Madison Square Garden.  We recorded this episode in Austin, Texas next to the stage at Stubb’s Waller Creek Amphitheater.

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The Learning Leader Show

“A part of leadership is knowing when you’re wrong and when the other idea is better and move on.”

Show Notes:

  • The importance of persistence and why
  • Our 20-year history – Watch them playing at First Run in Oxford, OH – The journey from small college bars to selling out Madison Square Garden
  • Chose Ohio State because they have the most bars in a small area – Earned the Buckeye National Scholarship
  • “Money was not part of the equation at the beginning.  We just needed enough to keep the van gassed up.”
  • The primary reason why you’re so happy it goes well is so you get to keep doing it.
  • Two initial goals: Finish college and build the band. – The band started in 8th grade for a talent show.
  • “We wanted to get on the road, scrape our knee, and build to sustain. It was never about money; it was about gaining ground.  Moving forward, progressing.”
  • The first word to describe Marc from other members of the band: “Leader.” – What it means to be a leader of creative people…
  • The stages of Marc’s leadership: 1st Stage: Driven completely by the vision of wanting to make music out wandering the world.  “I wanted to make these songs because they made me feel good.  I wanted to be out with my friends and empower each other.” 2nd Stage: “It becomes our vision.” – “You may no longer provide the best leadership, so you need to empower people in your camp to lead.  In order to be in the drier seat, you have to know what other people’s superpowers are so each one can flourish.  3rd Stage: Chris (the drummer) – He nudged the group forward to a rebirth.  Became motivated to get back in the driver seat and now he had amazing co-pilots who had their own creative genius.  “Realize the powers of those around you and harness that. That was the afterburners for us.  It’s built out of mutual respect and admiration for each other.”  “Being a leader has to show that things aren’t always going to go great.  You must maintain, be composed, don’t flail your arms around.  Move forward.”
  • Respectful disagreement:  How to decide which song to open with at Madison Square Garden… How to make decisions through disagreement?  “I know when I’m wrong, I know when I’m right too.  Good ideas… It’s a self-filtering system.  You have to listen, be open to others.  In that moment, it was perfect.”
  • “A part of leadership is knowing when you’re wrong and when the other idea is better and move on.”
  • “When one of your heroes is standing next to you and says, “I really like this,” that impacts you.  “I was wrong and wasn’t thinking of the big picture. It was selfish.”
  • How to handle people who don’t like your work? Story: Opening for Dave Matthews Band at The Gorge – The entire front row turned their back in protest of the opening act.  “I get angry.  My new goal was to get them to turn around.  It’s a lesson: You can either get hurt or say, “I get to play my songs at the Gorge.  Eventually they will respect us.”
  • Giving a TED Talk: Authenticity – Being real, true to yourself.  “Everything I’ve created has stemmed from a few nostalgic pin-pointed childhood memories. I’ve tried to build my whole life to tell those stories of what we can do when we’re together.”  Fans for Life: “We were living a life we’ve dreamt of.”
  • The resistance of chasing approval of others – “That theme is rooted in unabashedly telling a story about where you come from.  Sticking to the same morals we were instilled with since growing up.”  “I’m not seeking approval because we aren’t adjusting music to fit in, we play what makes us feel good.”
  • Chasing your curiosity and obsessions with great rigor – How to create a life to do that?  “My dream is we’ve built something that allows us something time to create.  Keep working on live shows to continue to play them.  We love them.  If you don’t play 5 nights a week, it won’t be there for you.  You have to get the reps.
  • Sustained excellence:  Commonalities: 1) Drive 2) Social – Able to work a room, communicate well with others. 3) Willingness to fail – “If you aren’t willing to jump off that edge, you don’t deserve to get it.”
  • Song writing process: “Each song has a different method for me.” “There are moments when I’m walking down the street in NYC and it comes to me.  I’ll run to the studio and quickly record it.  There are so many different styles, but it all has to come from being inspired.”
  • The creative process:  Working with Greg Wattenberg to be a sounding board and offer honest feedback.  “We’ve never changed what we’re doing.  We’ve only built upon it and have always focused on our story.”
  • “People get so confused, they want everything, they want a boat, a house, so much.  We just want to keep going.”
  • Celebrating the 25th anniversary of the band.  “We want to celebrate the fact of a few buddies being together for that time.”
  • “Tell your story.  Don’t be afraid to tell your story.”
  • How to not get complacent and conservative after success?  For fear of failure?  “We take risks every year.  We book a year in advance and we book some locations that we know might not work.  We maintain pressure at all times.” “You have to take calculated risks and create things that may make you a little uncomfortable at first… To move the art form forward.”
  • Gratitude – The importance of John Lampley being added to the band.  “John Lampley is magic.  He brought joy in the room.  His life gratitude, how he looks at opportunity of everything: meals, being alive, we just exercised in the truck and he keeps talking about how good he feels.”  It’s about being grateful for what you have and what you get to do on a daily basis.
  • Practicing all day long – Love the craft.  Loving the process of working on it.  “This is what we do, this is how we operate.”  The mindset of daily improvement. “We feel very lucky to be doing this.  You better earn it and keep it.” Don’t pay attention to what others are doing, Focus on improving your craft.
  • “What they really like about your group is how it makes them feel?
  • General life advice: “Find something that you truly feel connected to… there’s energy in this world that will tell you when you’re in the right spot. And then work. A lot of people want to be famous, how you going to get there. And then grind.”  Bring joy to yourself and others is life.
  • “Be willing to play anywhere.  Just keep going.” – It’s all about getting the reps. “What you love, go love it.  You might be broke for a while, but you’ll be fulfilled.  It will fill you up.”
  • “Everyone carries around a bucket.  You can fill it up or empty it.”
  • “Find what you love and chase it down.”
  • Preshow ritual: “What is going through your mind the 90 seconds before you go on stage?” – “We have a group huddle.” – “Remember when we were in the basement and we said, one day we’re going to do this.  Remember how happy we were.  We’re here.  Go be a Rockstar.”
  • The feedback received from fans/listeners – That’s the juice that fuels you.
  • Use the “Get To Know You Document
  • Why joining The Learning Leader Circle is a good idea

“Remember when we were in the basement and we said, one day we’re going to do this.  Remember how happy we were.  We’re here.  Go be a Rockstar.”

More Resources:

More Learning:

Episode 078: Kat Cole – From Hooters Waitress To President of Cinnabon

Episode 216: Jim Collins — How To Go From Good To Great

Episode #300: AJ & Keith Hawk – How To Instill Work Ethic & Curiosity In Your Children

Episode #303:  General Stanley McChrystal – The New Definition Of Leadership