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  • Writer's pictureBruce & Gail Montgomery

Living a "Yes, And..." Life: There's a World Whistling Championship - And, Yes, I've Competed In It

Updated: Oct 17, 2023

Every once in awhile I need to remind myself that I run an improv mindset-based company with my wife, Gail. We actively work to get people out of their comfort zones so that they can think more creatively, be better teams, and dramatically improve organizations. We encourage our clients to take risks while experimenting with living in ambiguity. Occasionally, we need to turn the mirror on ourselves.

The 2019 Masters of Musical Whistling was this year's world whistling championship. It was held in Pasadena, CA at the Pasadena Convention Center. And yes, I competed.

Look, I've always had a pretty whistle. It's melodic, warm (as whistles go), filled with vibrato, and I can even improvise my whistling (in tune and in key, for the record). So, while I was sitting in a hotel room over this last Memorial Day weekend, lamenting the fact that I had to work through the weekend, I was whistling some random tune when it hit me: "I wonder if there's a whistling competition?"

One short query into Google and I had my answer - a resounding "Yes," and THEY WERE ACCEPTING SUBMISSIONS AT THAT MOMENT.

There's a lot that goes through your mind when you're staring at an idea that's crazy. Why would I ever think I could compete at the international level of anything, much less whistling? And why was the thought so, well, ... FUNNY?!

Full disclosure: I'm wired to take more risks than I suspect the average person is. But this one seemed really SCARY. And I find that when I run into something that's really scary, then THAT'S the reason I should pursue it. It's my internal compass: If North is scary, then due North it is. Bonus if it's hilarious. Fun comes first.

So, 45 minutes later I had my audition video recorded and submitted via YouTube. And then, well...I forgot about it. Here it is, for your viewing pleasure. You can even see the Springhill Suites lamp in the background.

Imagine my surprise 4 weeks later when I received an email saying that, based on my audition, I had been chosen to compete!

This comes to another point of decision: If you've taken the steps to do something crazy, when you get the opportunity to do it, do you? And the answer for me was:

How could I possibly pass up the chance to live a Christopher Guest movie, like Spinal Tap, The Mighty Wind, or Best in Show? (Gail and I have been workshopping a potential movie title. We like: "Blow Hard - The Rise and Fall of Johnny "Bird-lips" Mueller." If Christopher Guest is reading this, please feel free to contact me for the full pitch. :-) )

The competition itself was a 2-day, 62 competitor, whistling extravaganza - and it was filled with everything you'd expect - drama, tears, hangers-on, fans - and that was just me.

The competition culminated in 13 hours of straight whistling, everyone vying for winning their division - and, honestly, I thought I had it.

What I wasn't prepared for was that THERE ARE SO MANY PEOPLE WHO CAN WHISTLE. And whistle WELL.

There were a few highlights:

  1. There was a retired Italian Army general that could whistle two tones at the same time.

  2. The Japanese have a clear lock on all things whistling. The grand prize winner was a Japanese woman who was fantastic. More interesting, however, was the "J-POP" band that showed up. Think of three 20-something men, replete with purple, pink, and gray hair respectively. Their "lead" whistler walked around with a face mask on that I'm pretty sure was pre-oiled with high quality lubricant because every time he went to whistle his lips were shiny and supple.

  3. My wife saying "I love you more than anything, and 13 hours of whistling is just too much." She was right.

All in all I'm incredibly proud of what I did. No, I did not take a place. And, I'm more than thrilled that I actually took a chance on doing something crazy. I had a baseball coach tell me once:

You miss 100% of the balls you don't swing at.

Who knows - I might have actually won! For the record, they didn't award anything beyond 3rd place - so, I'm banking on the fact that I took 4th.

It's important that we should all approach life like a child - brazenly willing to try new things and put yourself on the line. The 2019 Masters of Musical Whistling was just that for me.

So here's the question for you: What are you doing?



Bruce T. Montgomery

President, ExperienceYes

ExperienceYes focuses on corporate innovation, culture and leadership development by leveraging the neuroscience behind improvisation and creativity.

Soft Skills. Hard Results.

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