I recently watched the fascinating documentary Fyre Festival: The Greatest Party That Never Happened on Netflix. I have to say it’s very much worth watching. In a nutshell, it’s about Billy McFarland and the failed Fyre Festival of 2017. The Fyre Festival was supposed to be a luxury mega festival in the Bahamas that was endorsed by celebrities and social media influencers. Among the event’s many woes, there were problems with logistics, toilets and sanitation, meals, security, accommodation, artist cancellations and insurance.
I enjoyed the documentary immensely and think it’s valuable viewing for executives, entrepreneurs, sales people and up-and-coming leaders alike. Here are some key lessons from the documentary:
1. Creativity is cheap:
I say this regularly when I speak at events. It’s not that hard to be creative, what really impresses me are not the creative-types but the implementers.I’ve seen dozens of “creatives” in my career, but very few of them were able to translate their ideas into reality. The documentary’s protagonist, Billy McFarland, is the ultimate “creative” and “visionary” type who thinks, talks and acts big – but cannot implement to save his life. He’s a brilliant salesperson but only knows how to sell hot air. Beware of the “creative” and “visionary” people my friend. Let them show you things they’ve actually donebefore getting involved with them.
2. The Reality Distortion Field is real:
The reality distortion field (RDF) is “a phenomenon in which an individual’s intellectual abilities, persuasion skills and persistence make other people believe in the possibility of achieving very difficult tasks.” Steve Jobs famously had an RDF. So did Bill Clinton and other leaders. According to people in the documentary, whenever someone tried to talk sense in to Billy McFarland, he would convince them otherwise using his charm and shear charisma. In one part of the documentary, a colleague of Billy’s says, “he can convince anyone of anything.” It’s important not to get drawn into the visionary’s RDF and keep your critical thinking abilities on. It’s all about the attention to details. As a founder-CEO of several businesses over the years, I’ve always pushed my team members to think about the details. Great leaders pay attention to the little things.
3. The Marketing worked:
According to the documentary, the social media marketing campaign was so effective that 95% of tickets were sold within a day. It’s worth watching the documentary again and taking notes of what was done for the marketing. Billy employed celebrity models and influencers to promote the event. He also created slick, sexy videos and brought on board rap mogul Ja Rule. He may have been fraudulent, but he knew how to sell and market.
4. Stay within the law:
This might be an obvious one, but I cannot emphasise how important it is to be ethical and legal in all your endeavours. Billy was sentenced to jail with his reputation in ruins. He will probably never be able to sell anything again, nor will he find investors to invest in him again. You’re just a social media post or documentary away from a ruined reputation. ALWAYS be ethical and operate within the law.
Here's the trailer of the film:
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