This weekend while riding in the car, Russell had a classic rock station playing and I was crocheting. It wasn’t a song I knew so I was hearing it, but not really listening to it.
Then I realized that what I was hearing was someone killing it on a flute…on the classic rock station.
My imagination began to run wild. I could just hear a kid telling his parents, “When I grow up, I want to be a rock and roll flute player.” (Yes, I know there is a word for flute player but for some reason, I don’t like the word flautist. )
I’m sure his parents said, “You want to be a what? Son, being the lead flautists in a rock band isn’t a thing” and then they lamented their failures as parents behind closed doors. I have no doubt his guidance counselor suggested a back up plan.
Yet, there I was listening to Ian Anderson, the front man for Jethro Tull play Locomotive Breath. I confess, I have never listened to Jethro Tull and had to ask Russell who the band was. After I thought about it, I could think of other rock songs with flute playing in them likeDown Under by Men at Work but, let’s face it, a rock and roll flute player isn’t the norm.
As it turns out, my imaginings about Anderson’s beginning were wrong, but it is still a story with great teaching and learning points.
In high school, Ian Anderson could play some lead guitar, but decided he would never be as good at lead guitar as Eric Clapton. He decided he could be a bigger fish in a smaller pond. He picked up a flute and taught himself to play. If a guidance counselor had made a suggestion for a back up plan, it should have been marketing.
I don’t really know anything else about Ian Anderson as a person and he may be a crazy jerk so don’t think I am giving him some big stamp of approval or building him up as a person, but there are things I can glean from this story of rock and roll flutery. (Yes, I know flutery isn’t a word, but if dude can play a rock and roll flute, I can make up words. Shakespeare did. And before anyone loses their mind, I am in NO WAY comparing myself to Shakespeare.) Where was I?
- When someone has a crazy idea, consider encouraging them. Look for ways they can instead of ways they can’t. Muggsy Bogues was only 5’3″ and he play in the NBA. Think he was ever told, “Sweet baby that just isn’t going to happen for you.” I would bet the answer is yes. You may have a crazy idea. Pursue it.
- Dream big. As a high school kid, Anderson felt he would never be as good as Clapton. Before had any real success in a band, he was pitting his skills against literal rock stars. Who makes that kind of comparison? Someone with a vision.
- Find a way to stand out in your field. There is an ocean of lead guitar players playing rock and roll but a small pond of flute players. Seth Godin calls this the purple cow concept. No one notices a herd of cows in a field, but they will notice one cow if it is purple. Be the purple cow. Had it not been for the crazy good flute playing, that song wouldn’t have stood out me.
- Realize there is a difference in a wishing and working. Anderson didn’t just wish he could be great, he worked to be great. He taught himself to play the flute and made it a thing.