Why Every Entrepreneur Should Listen to Jazz

Originally published at Unreasonable.is

This is a song of mine called Twos. I am playing saxophone with a vibraphonist named Mark Clifford and drummer named Colin Stranahan. Two of my best friends and favorite musicians on the planet.

This is jazz, but this also is also an audio-metaphor for entrepreneurship.

As an entrepreneur, you are an artist. Art is the willingness to go fearlessly into the unknown and create. A dedication to look past the fear, to take risks in search of something beautiful, and to find possibility even when there seems to be none. Where others see sticks, entrepreneurs see a fire. What distinguishes entrepreneurs from the rest of the business world is their drive to explore the environment around them with great intention.

As an entrepreneur, you are an improvisor. Improvisation at a high level is a sophisticated process. An improvisor takes in all available information, deals with that information from an educated perspective, makes a choice, and then acts.

Great jazz musicians improvise in the language of music. Great entrepreneurs improvise in the language of business.

We build things together. When Mark, Colin and I played “Twos”, we were simply three people, working together, supporting one another, in order to create something greater than we could build individually. As you’ll see in the outline below, there was a plan. That said, much of the performance was left undetermined. In order to be successful, we had to go together into the unknown, be open to whatever happened, and trust each other as equal partners in the creative process.

This is a single, continuous recorded performance. There are no edits. No auto-tune! We are playing this in real-time, together.

Take a look at the “plan” for Twos:

  1. 0:00 – Mark plays the 1st melody on the vibraphone.
    1:07 – I play the 2nd melody on the saxophone. Mark continues to play the 1st melody.
    2:37 – 4:02 – We’re improvising. In jazz there are often structures that are maintained during an improvisation. In this song, we are simply improvising. We don’t know what will happen here.
    4:02 – I continue to improvise while Mark plays the 1st melody again.
    4:53 – I play the 2nd melody again while Mark continues to play the 1st melody.
    5:16 – Mark and I play the 1st melody together.

Jazz musicians write compositions. Entrepreneurs write business plans. To an entrepreneur, a business plan is simply a place to start. Entrepreneurs look at the world from an artist’s perspective. They step into the unknown, discover new possibilities, and create change.

Entrepreneurship is tough, and some days are tougher than others. The next time you’re scratching your head, excited about a new idea or pulled in a thousand directions, listen to this and remember that jazz is proof that it’s possible to start from inspiration and make something beautiful. Proof that when people build together, it’s amazing. Proof that through integrity, transparency, and supportive collaboration you can do great things.

All of the arts are metaphors for one another. This kind of cross-pollination gives us perspective and enriches our lives in unexpected ways. In taking the time to develop relationships with art forms outside of your own, you will make discoveries that will support you on your journey to becoming a great entrepreneur.

You are an artist. Go into the world, into the unknown, look for possibilities, and create!