“You’re a fantastic bass player!” he said.
In truth, I’m an advanced beginner, at best.
But I’ve been rehearsing with the pop-up band that my synagogue assembled for the Grateful Dead Shabbat Service at the end of this month, and it just so happens that Grateful Dead songs are a great vehicle for beginning bass players.
“Easy” keys. Lots of open strings.
And if that’s all Greek to you, suffice it to say, the songs are not complex or difficult to play.
Let’s be clear: I’m not doing anything fancy — just outlining the chord progressions and keeping the rhythm.
But it brings to life an old joke I first heard years ago:
A kid came home from their first bass lesson, and dad asked how it went.
“Today we learned the E string.”
The next week the kid came home from their second lesson and dad asked how it went.
“Today we learned the A string.”
The next week the kid came home and dad asked, “So what did you learn at your lesson today?”
“I didn’t go to my lesson today. I had a gig.”
Until I started playing bass, I didn’t really understand the truth in this joke.
Now I really get it.
Bass Players Are Always in Demand
Bass players, you see, are a necessary part of a band, and tend to be harder to find than the more “marquis” instrumentalists.
After all, a lot of high school kids dream of being a guitar hero, soloing in the spotlight, impressing their peers. But bass heroes? It’s not really a thing.
The bass is the less flashy foundation instrument. It does double duty as both a percussion instrument and a tonal one, but despite such virtuosity, it’s rarely in the spotlight.
And as I’ve discovered first-hand, if you have solid rhythm and a basic understanding of where to find notes on the fingerboard, even a beginner can start playing with others pretty quickly, and helping the group sound better.
Now that I’m an advanced beginning bass player, playing in a band and getting compliments on my (admittedly) amateurish skills, I get it.
Here’s the deal: what feels basic and simple to me seems “fantastic” and wildly important to someone else.
I’m “just doing my thing,” at the most elementary of levels, but for the band, I’m the glue holding it all together.
Everyone Is Playing Their Role
In fact, the same could be said of any of the instruments, really, because each has its own role to play, and without it, there would be something missing.
Sounds a lot like any high-performing team, doesn’t it?
Everyone has their own role to play, doing what they’ve been hired to do.
In the best case scenario, what they’ve been hired to do is something they really shine at. But of course, we’re all continually developing, no matter where we are on the path.
And this is where learning and development programs come in.
Just imagine that band after everyone has taken their skills up a few notches.
And then after the band has learned to work together more effectively.
Our rehearsals would be so much more efficient and stress-free.
We’d waste less time.
And our sound would be out of this world!
Bands are Like Business Teams
It’s the same for any organization.
Great performance doesn’t just happen. You’ve got to invest in your leaders and teams.
Just as it takes time and commitment to become a great bass player, it takes time and commitment to develop leadership skills, and to transform a team into a Dream Team.
But smart companies know it’s worth it.
Like the creative agency I’m working with right now, training four cohorts of leaders and HiPo’s in an Improv Leadership Training, to help them connect better with audiences and clients, use storytelling more effectively, and think on their feet so unexpected questions and situations don’t throw them.
The agency leaders who hired me know that these skills will help the leaders and HiPo’s who go through this program in their work throughout the organization, including helping them win business faster.
Yes, it’s an investment up front, both of money, and of time away from their regular work, but the payoff will be worth it.
And I’m all about THAT bass!