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These Foolish Things

What does the hobby of playing the saxophone and jazz legend Charlie Parker have to do with running a business? It’s all about passion and dexterity.

Charlie Parker

I play the tenor saxophone. Well, I say I play; my wife Diane says I have a saxophone. Since I travel the world constantly on business, I can’t practice the way I should so after all the years spent with this instrument I can now play any song ever written–just not intentionally and not twice. I begin to tune up, neighborhood dogs begin to howl and my own gentle Labrador retriever frantically scrambles under the bed, refusing to touch dry food for the next 24 hours.

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I have vintage guitars at home and in my office but I’m still always drawn to the sax. Mostly because of Charlie Parker, whose remarkable natural prowess and fearless vision earned him a reputation as the best alto saxophone player in jazz history and one of the founding fathers of modern music. If you play music or like music or maybe have just heard of music, I urge you to listen to him.

I love his deconstruction and reconstruction of the established mathematics of his field, his unrelenting passionate pursuit of the new and the profound humanity that infuses his playing. It’s the same way I like to approach what I do in my own company. The slap company is closed every August 29, Charlie Parker’s birthday, as a paid employee holiday.

So I continue to listen and learn and play whenever I can, recognizing that I’ll never, ever approach the dexterity of my idol. And maybe that’s why I like it. Like so many of us, I’m competent and confident about what I do for a living. While every client assignment is new and not taken for granted, I’ve spent enough years and thought and resources developing solution methods that I’m sure will deliver intended results. Confronting this stubborn brass instrument means attempting an entirely new competency and dealing with the impatience, small victories and determination that go along with it. It’s a new source of energy, which helps fuel the energy I bring to my business and reminds me never to take other competencies for granted.

Well, I say the saxophone is an instrument. Diane says in my hands it’s more of a weapon.

Reprinted from Stan Slap’s Rage Page

Stan Slap has revolutionized performance for many of the world’s most demanding organizations. His international consulting company, slap, specializes in achieving ferocious commitment in manager, employee, and customer cultures–the three groups that decide the success of any business. His client list ranges from Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft to HSBC and Viacom. His book Bury My Heart at Conference Room B: The Unbeatable Impact of Truly Committed Managers is a New York Times bestseller and was released by Portfolio earlier this year.

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About the author

Emotional commitment from managers is the holy grail for explosive results, proclaims author, corporate strategist and business speaker Stan Slap. From Microsoft and HP, to Banana Republic and Four Seasons, Slap has become the consultant of choice for many of today's biggest, smartest, and fastest-growing companies

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