Bruce Springsteen and the Tale of Two Bosses

Have you ever been so inspired, your mind bursting with ideas, that you just had to share them? That best describes me at the moment: I’m completely inspired by what I’ve been listening to, and it’s triggered old memories and created new pathways to thoughts I’d like to share with you.

I’ve been listening to the Bruce Springsteen biography Born To Run on audible. It’s a rich, vibrant story of a legend! It’s particularly good listening to the author read the book because not only can you hear his words, you can feel the tone and energy behind every vignette.

It’s not that I ever disliked “The Boss”; I just never knew what all the fuss was about. I knew his songs Born in the USA and Born to Run. I knew he was from New Jersey and that he was a musical legend. But other than that, I was pretty ill-informed. I’ve since become a Springsteen fan and am now listening to his back catalogue to catch up. I’m in awe of his grit, drive, artistry, excellence, love of women, and overall character.

Many years ago, the BIG boss in our office offered me tickets to see Bruce Springsteen in concert. I wasn’t available for the date and so he offered the seats to an assistant. Assistants get amazing tickets all the time from their bosses who can’t go to shows. Going to live events is part of the job in the entertainment industry, and we’re fortunate to get backstage passes, VIP seats, and luxury suites. This is in order to better serve the talent by meeting them and being exposed to their work. It also makes up for the low pay and overtime that assistants work.

Now, before this lucky assistant could even say thank you, she saw that the tickets were general admission and not VIP (translation: she’d be standing the entire time). In addition to being terrible seats, as he left, Big boss said, “Make the check out to my wife.”

“What?” I thought. “BIG boss, this very successful man, a millionaire many times over, wanted the assistant, who isn’t making very much money, to pay for her gift to see The Boss, and from the worst seats in the house? This can’t possibly be right. There must be a misunderstanding.”

The assistant came to me asking for advice. She loved Bruce Springsteen and was happy to get the tickets for free, but it wasn’t worth the money for the tickets, cost of parking, etc. It was a tough pill to swallow, especially when previous bosses had be so generous. I know this sounds like a jerk thing to say, but once you’ve experienced really great seats, it’s hard to go back.

Personally, I couldn’t believe for one second that BIG boss did this. I thought it must’ve been some kind of misunderstanding and wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. To that end, I helped the assistant craft an email that went something like this:

Dear Big Boss – Thank you for the Springsteen tickets. He’s one of my very favorites, and I’d love to go. Unfortunately, $120 isn’t in my budget. I hope you can find someone else to buy the tickets.

I was so pleased with how the email was crafted. It gave Big Boss an out to say, “Oh my gosh, of course you don’t have to buy them. They’re yours.” He could have saved face and been generous by then giving her the tickets. Instead, he said, “No problem. I can find someone else to use them.”

The next day, without any shame, he asked the assistant to send a messenger to “Lucy”, who happened to be the assistant of one of BIG boss’s celebrity attorney friends. He mentioned that he wanted to surprise her for all of her hard work.

“Is this really happening?” I thought. BIG boss is asking the assistant who can barely afford to live on her meager salary—and whom he wanted to pay for tickets—to send a messenger (which cost about $40) to deliver $120 tickets as a gift to someone else?

Sure enough, “Lucy” was thrilled with the gift that she didn’t pay for, and the assistant discovered the true character of BIG boss. I don’t know what it says about a person of great means to lack not only generosity but also sensitivity to another person’s situation.

Listening to Bruce Springsteen’s biography triggered that memory and the reminder that I continue be surprised by human nature. Have you ever been surprised by someone’s character? Send me an email , I’d love to hear about it.