I will forever owe my joy and understanding of music to the irreplaceable Marilyn White Lowe.
She is the reason I can sit down with any band and play a song without reading music or having practiced before.
My first lucky break in life was that she agreed to teach me piano when I was a kid. But an even bigger blessing was that 20 years later she would agree to teach my kids.
A few weeks into her piano lessons with them, she called me and insisted that I come by her house so she could “have a word” with me.
So I obeyed her request and drove to her home that afternoon.
“Come in and have a seat,” she said.
A little nervous, I took a seat on the same bench she’d taught me piano all those years ago.
“Brandon, you are a remarkable musician.”
“Well, I appreciate you saying tha….”
She swiftly interrupted and said, “I wasn’t trying to flatter you.”
(This was the kind of fire Marilyn was known for)
She went on, “Now you have some amazing kids. I can tell they are also going to be remarkable musicians… as long as YOU don’t screw it up.”
Not quite sure where she was going, I smiled and waited for her to explain.
“Your urge is going to be to correct them towards perfection when they are supposed to be PLAYING. Whatever you do, DON’T do that,” She insisted.
“Your only job is to let them PLAY and stay out of their way. The moment you correct them, you steal their ability to have fun, and that will make them give up faster than anything.
Leave the teaching to the teacher.”
I wasn’t surprised by her boldness. But I did have a breakthrough that day as a dad and a leader;
She was spot on.
Playing is an irreplaceable ingredient in learning anything that is complex…
Without play, there is no joy. And without joy, everything becomes harder.
This is why people quit music, sports, and jobs; the juice ain’t worth the squeeze.
This is not to take away from the requirement of hard work… but it is to say, every human will work much harder when there is joy involved.
And the easiest way to find joy is to allow freedom to play around with their craft.
Do you want your people to work harder?
Do you want them to learn faster?
Do you want them to want to stick with it?
Don’t screw it up, my friend.
Let them have fun.
Encourage them even when they mess up.
Stay out of their way as much as you possibly can.
PS – Marilyn passed away unexpectedly last year. I miss her dearly, but there is rarely a day that goes by where she’s not still making an impact on my life.
What mattered to her most, and what I think she would want me to tell you today is this:
No matter what, you are capable of being a musician, regardless of where you are in life.
Feel the rhythm.
Mimic the notes to the best of your ability.
Play as often as you can.
Remarkable skills will follow, just as soon as you’re having fun.