Notes on the Journey

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Shining Eyes

I watched a TED talk today of Benjamin Zander (a symphony conductor) talking on music and passion.  Every TED talk I've listened to has been wonderful, but this particular one was exceptional.  Benjamin Zander is funny and engaging as a speaker and a very talented musician who illustrated some of the points he was making by playing the piano.  At one point, he stated that he had full faith that when he was finished, everyone in the room or listening would understand, appreciate and enjoy classical music.  And, of that, he had no doubt.  He said, "One of the characteristics of a leader is that he does not doubt for a moment the capacity of the people he's leading to realize whatever he's dreaming."

And, he's right.  For a leader who has no doubt and is clear in their intention, we will follow willingly.  But, if the leader is unclear, or doubts their purpose, there is fear and discontent in the ranks.  If the leader doesn't respect those he/she is leading then he/she loses their loyalty.  But, if those being led have the respect of their leader and feel the leader's faith in them, they will do whatever they can and more to accomplish the task.  The overriding thought will be, "We can do this together."

Zander had an epiphany after conducting orchestras for twenty years, and the epiphany was that the conductor made no sound.  He realized that his success was dependent on those he was conducting.  He finally understood in a deep and transformative way that "his power depended on his ability to make other people powerful.  And, that his job was to awaken possibility in other people."  Those are profound realizations and, for him, changed the way he did his job.  Changed it to the extent that his players asked him what had happened.  The epiphany had shifted his perception and focus from himself to those he was working to empower.  And, his job became about helping every player in his orchestra to be the best they could be.

With this change in focus, he moved into his heart.  He fell in love with his players.  He got to know them, to really know them, and each and every one of them mattered.  The way he said he could tell if he was succeeding in inspiring and empowering those around him was seeing their shining eyes.  If their eyes weren't shining, he wasn't doing his job.  And, then he would ask himself, "Who am I being that my players' eyes are not shining?"  He took responsibility.  If their eyes weren't shining, it was a reflection of him and his actions.  He saw the whole experience in Oneness.

He took this idea to, "Who are we being in the world?"  What kind of vision are we holding for our world?  And, what are we doing to achieve it?  He talked about holding a long-term vision, and explained how the musician doesn't just play note after note, but that great musicians see the long line of the piece and hold the whole thing and then play it through.  He gave the examples of a bird flying over a fence--or, a mountain for that matter--and not looking down but looking forward with the long view of where it was going and what was necessary to get there.  He asked the audience, "What was Nelson Mandela doing in jail for 27 years?"  And, the answer was, holding a vision for South Africa.  Holding the long view and having faith that it was possible.  It wasn't 27 years wasted in jail, it was 27 years spent visioning how the country could be and willing it into being.

Nelson Mandela said, "There is no passion to be found playing small; in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living."  Benjamin Zander doesn't play small, he plays big.  He has a passion for life and for music and for teaching and for inspiring and for empowering, and he allows his passion full rein without holding back.  And, when he was done talking, his audience was full of people with shining eyes. 

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