I have to say that I was honestly more surprised by the death of Billy Mays than anyone else over the past weeks. Not that I was a huge fan, but being a bit of an infomercial junky, I came to realize that Mays had carved out for himself something of a very unique niche in that market. His was really one of the great modern success stories of just sweat and hard work from the bottom up. He was never an actor, never involved in any major scandals, never did anything particularly important except to perfect a technique of generating interest in gadgets and products that may or may not improve your life slightly.
It's funny because there is nothing about him that should have made him a television success. His voice was a bit harsh, he was often over-animated, he never dressed up, he was a bit hefty in build, and in a time of laser hair removal and male leg-shaving, he sported an overtly black-dyed full facial beard. Yet for some reason, he became iconic and truthfully very good at what he did. I imagine everyone on the glowing end of the television knew that here was a guy selling cheap gadgets and taking himself entirely too seriously, but for some reason, his excitement about these wares was infectious.
After his incredibly successful campaign with Oxi-Clean (which I still buy habitually), I started seeing his face on TONS of other products. I would routinely ask why the "Oxi-Clean Guy" was hocking an extendable grabber gadget and what that had to do with laundry. But after a while, I guess I just stopped wondering and started to believe that if Billy Mays was endorsing it, then well, it can't be all bad. After a while, when I would pass the "As Seen On TV" sections in the store, I found myself relegating a particular and peculiar level of trust to the products featuring the bearded Mays, almost as if the box itself was yelling at me with that familiar infomercial rasp, reassuring me that "Billy Mays [is] Here".
So, was he a great guy? I have no idea. But I do give the man his due in becoming a pop-culture icon by just trying to be good at what he does. It seemed like for him, he really enjoyed what he did and truthfully I always got a kick out of his presentation style and flair. There could be a lot worse ways to spend your life than selling things, and with Mays, I'll always give him credit for being able to get people excited about something as simple and boring as detergent or wall adhesive.
For those of us concerned about exciting others toward the more weighty matters of life like freedom, God, and family, perhaps we could learn at least a little about presentation from Mays. At the end of the day, even his hefty, slightly obnoxious, bearded, middle aged persona could not outweigh his personal enthusiasm and seemingly genuine confidence in the ability of these gadgets to positively make our lives easier, cleaner, and more...scratch resistant.
We might surprise ourselves how influential we can be in our relationships with a little of Billy Mays' approach. One scoop of genuine confidence in our ideas, mixed with an ounce of sincere desire to help others, applied generously in a memorable method of communication that is clear and to the point, and I think you've got a winning formula for exciting and motivating others that could change ways of thinking and habits as old as laundry itself.