Business Is Nothing But the Blues
(Originally published Linkedin 22 April 2014)
Those who know me well have been witness to my blues journey. Today, I release a collection of new recordings on iTunes and Amazon. While my six-song EP is unlikely to set any sales records, it’s one of my biggest personal achievements — on par with starting my own company. On par with selling my own company.
Recording and releasing this music marks a return to my essential self. Playing the blues has given me access to my own “true north” (as my sister and business partner, Sarah, likes to call it). It’s allowed me to identify and summon my most authentic state of being — and not just when I’m actually recording or performing Junior Wells songs. My blues self has become a grounding force in my business life.
The world moves fast. Business moves fast. Digital media moves extremely fast. It is far too easy to allow ourselves to be constantly blown from one trend to the next. We wake up with the smartphone in our hand, spend the day in perpetual anticipation of the next step, and do our best to prove we can out-multitask our peers despite scientific evidence to the contrary.
In the process, we carve out very little space for ourselves. We see ourselves in relation to the work (and numbers) we deliver. Work is important. Business is rightfully (if only partly) about numbers. But we are more than the work we perform. In fact, I’d say that our work is a mere representation of who we are underneath.
The blues is deceptively simple. Verse and chorus. Sometimes not even a chorus. Four bars that repeat, no Auto-Tune, electricity optional. It is the most direct, bare-bones of content. There is no interference between the head and heart. Something either feels like the blues, or it doesn’t. You know it by the way it makes your heart swell and your ass shake. It is all about intuition.
And that intuition is the killer app — not just business intuition, but intuition about ourselves. We all have our blues. We all have that most personal of vehicles that puts us in touch with our best, most vulnerable, ecstatic selves. And if we’re willing to remain in that space, we can navigate through any world — business, family, philanthropic — on our own terms. We can guide our days instead of being blown around by them.
I’m always playing the blues: in the boardroom, the pitch meeting, the staff retreat. My mentor and old boss, Quincy Jones, told me (and many others) that the secret is leaving space for God to walk in the room. The blues gives me space. How do you create your space?