Career Advice from a Guitar Virtuoso

Leo Kottke

Leo Kottke

I recently heard Leo Kottke perform in a striking performance center appropriately named The Egg (I’m linking to a photo of the building for architectural fans…you’re not going to believe this structure).

Kottke is a true talent on 6 and 12 string acoustic guitars. But he’s so much more. Wikipedia says he “intersperses humorous and often bizarre monologues with vocal and instrumental selections.” They got that right.

He dispensed a lot of career advice over the melodies. 

“A true story except for the part that wasn’t true.”
Most of his stories seemed to be true even if embellished a little. Telling them simply demanded melodic phrasing and peculiar words. I have no reason to suspect that the facts had been altered.
Business communications should be factual but more interesting and personal than the normal formulized regurgitations.

“Speaking of which.”
This phrase should link two thoughts on the same subject. Unfortunately, it’s sometimes used as a devious transition to a new subject.
People who try to control the conversation, whether using this technique or others, often end up talking only with themselves.

 “I didn’t inquire any further.”
There’s a hint of not wanting to know. Sounds dangerous to me. Are you afraid of finding out something:

  • Improper that would force you to react?
  • Negative about yourself?
  • Generating unwanted work?

This is a halfalogue experience: it’s easy to imagine many potential scenarios (The link goes to an earlier blog I wrote about halfalogues, which I enjoy).
You have to ask questions since what you don’t know really can hurt you.

 “This would have been a different night on a trombone.”
Kottke’s first music teacher told him that he should play the trombone, not the guitar. Luckily for the sold-out audience, he didn’t take that advice.
It would be interesting to list and prioritize the worst business and career advice you ever received. Think of how different your career could have been. For example, I was told, many times, not to take risky jobs which turned out to help my career.
Obviously, only you can make the best decisions for yourself.

 “You tune the least out of tune in the most number of places.”
I’m not sure that I captured this phrase exactly right. Regardless, I like the thought as I interpret it.
You can make the biggest improvement in your performance by making a lot of fairly minor and easy changes.

“It’s probably not a smart way to introduce a song.”
Sometimes, despite problems and roadblocks, you just have to move forward.
Acknowledge that the transition isn’t smooth, but it’s necessary to start taking actions.

 “There are more types of bassoons than you could ever think of.”
Even in a music performance, talking about “more types of bassoons” is unexpected and intriguing. It pulls in the audience to listen intently for what’s coming next.
It’s good to add some quirky language. It helps you control the conversation and gain needed memorability.

“It’s worth knowing that because the lyric is a little over the top.”
It’s good to prepare your audience when your proposal is “a little over the top.” This makes you and your pitch more credible.
You can be more believable by simply using transitions to help your audience understand what’s coming.

“Let the door bell ring.”
Don’t put up barriers to success. Sometimes good news walks in the door.
Be open to opportunities.

I’m heading out to another performance tonight by Time for Three.
These classically trained musicians energetically deliver American roots music. Unfortunately, it’s an instrumental group, so I don’t anticipate getting material for my next blog—although you never know.

About Richard Sellers

Richard is Chairman Emeritus of the Marketing Executives Networking Group, founder of Demand Marketing consulting firm, and former Sr. VP of Marketing for three multi-billion dollar companies: CEC, WLP, and Service Merchandise. His early career was at GE, P&G, Playtex, and Marketing Corporation of America. He’s also a volunteer counselor for SCORE assisting small businesses in upstate New York. You can follow his communications about marketing, job search and careers here and at mengonlineENTREPRENEURS QUESTIONS, and on Twitter at @Sellers_Richard.


PreviousSales of Older iPhones, iPads Banned After Patent Infringement Claim NextShelly Palmer Radio Report - June 6, 2013

Get Briefed Every Day!

Subscribe to my daily newsletter featuring current events and the top stories in technology, media, and marketing.