Friday, April 12, 2013

Owning your history allows you to move forward in interesting ways

"But in jazz music, there’s no escaping what came before you. Each new player does their best to understand the contributions made by others before them and to expand, reinterpret or say something new with that knowledge in hand. History is vital to jazz music."
Chris Ferguson, SteelCity Jazzfest

Full disclosure: I take some credit for this quotation because I raised the guy who wrote it.  And I am very proud that I raised someone who is immune to the opportunism and amnesia that plague both our businesses and our self-help movements.  Every day I see Facebook memes that suggest dumping anyone who does not seem to be immediately useful to you. They do this in the name of owning your energy and developing personal power.  It's nonsense. Power comes from congruence and congruence comes from owning your situation.

Some of your situation is the history you carry within you, the accumulation of events and beliefs that your past has given you. Some of these are old news: they are not immediately useful in their original form. Jazz is only one of the many art forms that tells you that the richest way to create something is to re-imagine something that worked once and now needs to change. This is not just true of musical forms: it's true of what your parents taught you to believe, of what broke your heart (the first time), and of what drove you anytime you worked and struggled and sacrificed to achieve something.

Some of your situation is the relationships that are part of your life, the same relationships that the Facebook means and simplified slogans are urging you to dump. The people who wear you out, drag your down, and generally seem to be much more trouble than they are worth.  Don't believe it. The people you discard are more likely to end up under your skin, changing you in ways you don't recognize and probably wouldn't like. People should not be disposable.

What do you do with the negative energy of people who once made an amazing contribution to your life (and may do so again)? Act like an artist. See the bigger picture and the longer time frames. Grab what they're throwing at you and transform it.

History is vital to jazz music. It's also vital to shaping a life worth living.

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