Friday, March 23, 2012

The Maestro

the subway
The Maestro

The other day I was sitting on the subway when I heard someone ask “what time is it”.  Guy next to me looked at his watch and before he could answer the first proclaimed “its doo wop time”.  And right then he and his 4 friends broke into a great rendition of an old Cleftones song.  Wowzer!!

I’ve been here in New York City more than a year and these subway performers have faded into the background of my attention lately.  But I listened to these guys sing and dance their way from one stop to the next and was moved to give them a donation for their efforts.  And then I started to notice all the others who I’ve ignored this winter,  maybe  because it’s Spring and I’m not wearing a hat pulled down over my ears these days…. or maybe the weather has them singing more loudly than before.  So it was with a bit of surprise that I noticed a guy playing a saw; no kidding, the kind you manually cut a board with.  He had a bow like a violin and was bending the saw as he accompanied a song playing on an old cassette player.  I had to stop and look twice at this.  And because he had several CDs I noted his name – Maestro Moses Josiah.  Look him up on the internet!

The subways here are filled with people – from singers to proselytizers - who apply for and are approved to sell their wares or entertain in stations and on trains.  Sometimes they’re just a lone soul selling verses from the Bible or singing a-cappella, other times they’re a group of old musicians better suited for Bourbon Street in New Orleans, sometimes there’s a steel drum and other times there are many voices and instruments, sometimes they’re young and other times they’re old.  But every time what they’re doing is their job – the way they make money, the way they make their mark.  Because where there’s a will, there’s a way.

And the human spirit will most always find a way.  That guy who quit Goldman Sachs and posted his reasons on the Op Ed page could end up here singing a mournful tune; or better yet, he should have taken note of these enterprising people and thought twice about outing the fools he worked with.  Fact is, there are fools everywhere, and rather than suffer them in silence until you explode, it might be better to confront them with your questions and concerns.  Sure, it’s easier to avoid those kinds of confrontations, but every time you do, another fool gets away with their foolishness.  The best job you’ll ever have is probably the one you already have – the key to success is to make it, and your colleagues, and their work, better. By talking rationally, sensitively, confidently and directly to others you can make them better.  And in the end, you’ll make yourself better too.

The Maestro and all those other performers communicate with thousands of people every day – sometimes it’s direct, and other times it’s just a subtle reminder about something.  Whatever your act, act appropriately, responsibly and effectively today.  You, and everyone around you, will be glad you did.

My message this week is about the art of communication:

Arte NathanWhen you least expect it, someone may actually listen to what you have to say. 

-Maggie Kuhn

Maggie Kuhn (1905 – 1995) was an American activist known for founding the Gray Panthers movement in August 1970, after being forced into retirement by the Presbyterian Church. The Gray Panthers became known for advocating issues targeted at the aging population, including nursing home reform.

Anyone listen to you today?  Better yet, did you listen to anyone today? Both are important – in fact, listening is way more important than talking.  Because in life you’re most likely doing things with others, and listening is the best way to learn what they think, or what they’re doing, or maybe even what won’t work in a situation.  And even if you don’t expect it, you should always expect others to be listening to you just like you should be actively paying attention to what others are saying.  And when you hear something, don’t just ignore or dismiss it – think about what you hear, consider it, and see if it doesn’t make your thinking or actions better.  When groups of people – whether they’re formal teams or not – get together to do something, listening is the thing most critical for their success.  So say what you mean and mean what you say today because someone might actually be listening.

Stay well.

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