Take the LEAD
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In 1937 at the Kansas City Reno Club, a teenage saxophonist sat in on a jam session and during a solo over the tune “I Got Rhythm” he revealed that the title was more of an aspiration than a characteristic.
The solo was just plain bad.
So bad, that the band stopped playing and the drummer threw a cymbal at the young man to express their frustration.
The saxophonist left the stage that day and went home to practice, learning every popular jazz tune in every key, and went back the next year to blow everyone away, going on to become one of the greatest saxophonists of all time: The Bird, Charlie Parker.
Insight from a Jazz Legend
When we experience a gap between desire and reality and between expectation and outcome, the result can often be frustrating, humiliating, and discouraging. What I love about Charlie Parker’s origin story is how it demonstrates the determination needed to achieve anything of significance. Instead of running away from the early moments of frustration, humiliation, and discouragement, Parker used the experience as fuel to continue leaning in, educating himself, applying his knowledge and skills, and doing more than expected and more than others are willing to do.
Take The LEAD
Through my educational company, Hashtag Positivity, I facilitate a workshop for emerging leaders and their influencers at schools, companies, and organizations, called “Take the LEAD,” where LEAD is used as a useful acronym to remember four valuable practices for pursuing mastery in any chosen field. Even though The Bird has never taken this workshop, he clearly lived by these four practices as a saxophonist:
1. Lean In
Parker didn’t wait until he was great before stepping onto the stage. He leaned in even though he was only “good enough” and used those early experiences on stage to inform his emerging talent and as fuel to keep going.
2. Educate Yourself
Parker recognized that there was a skills gap between what he wanted to do and what he was currently capable of doing. He rolled up his sleeves and invested time in learning what he needed in order to fill in that gap.
3. Apply What You Know
Knowledge and skills aren’t enough. We actually have to apply what we know. After a year of practice, Parker went back to the Kansas City Reno Club to apply what he had learned in a real world setting—and blew everyone away!
4. Do More Than Expected & More Than Others Are Willing To Do
Job descriptions are for people who don’t want to lose their jobs. For people who want to excel in their vocation, job descriptions are a launching pad. Parker did more than expected and more than most of his peers were willing to do, and changed the shape of popular music, inspiring a new generation of musicians for years to come.
When we experience a gap between desire and reality and between expectation and outcome, the result can often be frustrating, humiliating, and discouraging. Yet, when you’re engaged and inspired by a dream and motivated by a vision, you become empowered and encouraged to Take the LEAD by leaning in, educating yourself, applying what you know, and doing more than expected and more than others are willing to do.
Schedule an exploratory positivity call! Or, become a member of Hashtag Positivity to access exclusive resources to help you and the people you serve manage positive change for your growth and development.
Jonas Cain is an educator, facilitator, and coach, working to engage, empower, and encourage leaders and the people they serve to experience joy.