Why Not Be a Superstar: The Story of Snubby J (aka Ken Jenkins)

I want to introduce you to a super awesome dude – Snubby J (aka Ken Jenkins). Inspired by the Blue Man Group, he built (with his dad) a PVC pipe instrument and has learned to play a number of songs with it. Watch the video below, it’s fantastic.

On one hand, the fact that he’s done all this is amazing. I mean you can kind of see it in the faces of the other guys in the performance. I can just imagine the thought process in their head:

  • What’s this kid doing with this goofy haircut and weird instrument?
  • Whoa, interesting – he can make music with this!
  • Man, he’s pretty good!
  • WTF, how the hell does he know so many songs?
  • What?? His friend knows how to play a little too?!? OMG

One hand, without taking anything away from Ken, you can argue that this movie is what this kid has done is triggered the failed simulation effect. This is a concept I first learned from Cal Newport of Study Hacks:

The Failed Simulation Effect: Accomplishments that are hard to explain can be much more impressive than accomplishments that are simply hard to do.

Which makes a lot of sense right? Becoming Class President while maintaining straight-A’s is hard, but imagineable. Running a business out of high school that makes a 33x return on investment in 10 months is unimagineable. Becoming a dude who lobbies UN delegates in South Africa is unimagineable.

Becoming a dude with 2M+ views on Youtube for performing a self-taught medley of songs on an instrument you built yourself is unimagineable.

But here’s the kicker – it’s just as easy/hard as doing anything else. Ken is helpful enough to answer a number of questions in a youtube video and basically it boils down to:

  • he followed his passions (Blue Man Group, performing arts)
  • he was resourceful (built the first PVC instrument for less than $300 based on trial & error and light internet research)
  • he was persistently focused (he’s been playing since around 2007).

None of these things required lots of money, special connections or insane talent. All the things he did are within most people’s reach – he just happens to be the only one who cared enough to go for it.

So go be a superstar. It’s not exceptionally harder than anything else – and is totally worth the effort. it just requires you to think and act a little differently.

PS – If you’re curious about the songs he plays in the video above, here’s the list:

-Office Theme Song (0:18)
-Linus and Lucy (0:38)
-Turkish March (1:13)
-Mario Brothers Theme (1:27)
-In the Hall of the Mountain King (1:54)
-Bad Romance (2:07)
-Viva La Vida (2:50)
-Like a Virgin (3:03)
-Crazy Train (3:23)
-Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger (4:01)
-James Bond Theme (4:15)
-Pirates of the Caribbean Theme (4:35)
-The Final Countdown (featuring my friend, Quin) (4:56)

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Jason Shen

Jason is a tech entrepreneur and talent expert. He is CEO of a performance hiring platform called Headlight, a Fast Company contributor, and an advocate for Asian American men. Follow him on Twitter at @jasonshen and subscribe to his private newsletter.

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