By Eric Waisman, Jaunty's Founder
I thought the band was going to kick me off stage. I was fucking up. A lot.
I am currently in Memphis, Tennessee with plans to head down to Clarksdale, Mississippi to rendezvous with a blues society in the exact spot where Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil. We’ve then got a week of workshops and jamming sessions.
I’ve only been playing the blues for about a year. I was on stage at the Hard Rock on Beale Street tonight with bandmates who have been playing the blues for a collective 150 years, and played with people like Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughan. I played rhythm guitar tonight and I was not playing at my best. In fact, I was lost about 50% of the time. They were good, really good. It was hard to keep up but I had a nerve-racking blast, and was way outside my comfort zone. I was with a great friend who is much more experienced than I am, and he kept reminding me about how the blues, is about community.
The blues is about truth, and stories…and of course of feeling blue. At the break I was envisioning getting the cold shoulder from the pros I played with. I hadn’t backed them up as well as I could have. I thought of Andy Warhol, who would apparently ignore artists at parties he thought of as lowly, which meant professional death for them. That’s not what happened.
Instead, the blues musicians approached me. I was 30 years their junior and they wanted to learn more about me. They treated me as warm as their buddies who they have been playing with for decades. I told them my passions, and they told me to keep it up. The positive encouragement and support meant more to me than the high I had on stage. My friend had only helpful words for me, reminding me that it was my first time on stage in over 11 years.
I see the blues as the most undervalued genre of music. It’s really where everything started in American music. The community is small, yet strong and accepting. The blues started as a creative outlet for dealing with segregation and oppression, and an ounce of that negativity inside the community would turn it inside out.
It got me thinking about the communities we live in. The organizations we are in. The intentions of the people we surround ourselves with. Entrepreneur, author, and motivational speaker Jim Rohn said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” With that in mind, what kind of people do you want to surround yourself with? People who ignore you or put you down when you aren’t doing your best? Or people who love you for who you are and motivate you to keep trying? Friendship is a two way thing. Are you a supportive, empathetic friend to the people in your life? What can you do to show people even more kindness and compassion while still making sure your own needs are met?
We can choose these communities. The greater our social intelligence skills, the better able we are to consciously surround ourselves with people who help us thrive. How? Because the better your people skills, the more you realize you can approach and create meaningful connections with anyone. That gives you a powerful abundance mindset.
I might not be great yet at playing the blues. But I know that if I show up with a guitar to a session it’ll be my personal communication that speaks louder than my guitar. At Jaunty we call this inner vs. external status. The same can be worked on with social skills. Your intentions of empathy, and assertiveness, and storytelling are way more important than your resume. I might be playing the blues, but feeling that genuine connection with good people, makes me very happy.