5 Reasons Why an Entrepreneur is like a Jazz Musician | Author Jan Moran
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Owned & Operated by Sunny Palms Press, LLC.
Owned & Operated by Sunny Palms Press, LLC.
Owned & Operated by Sunny Palms Press, LLC.

5 Reasons Why an Entrepreneur is like a Jazz Musician

Painting by Debra Hurd

By artist Debra Hurd www.debrahurd.com

Recently I saw Eric Marienthal perform in an informal jazz session with other musicians, and I began to think about the similarities between a jazz musician and an entrepreneur. And yes, I include writers in the category of entrepreneurs.

Jazz is visionary and demands cutting edge performances; a successful session requires leadership, collaboration, and nimble thinking. Musicians must often shift course on a moment's notice.

And so it is for the writer or entrepreneur; you're the CEO of your vision, the leader of your company. Market shift? You have to respond – and fast.

In these shifting economic times, what gives a team its rhythm? Success starts at the top. A good leader knows how to set the tone, on the bandstand or in the boardroom.

So, borrowing from our jazz masters, here are five keys to making beautiful music in business:

  • Jazz musician Eric Marienthal performing

    Eric Marienthal www.ericmarienthal.com


    Creativity – The successful set begins with every team player bringing the best of their creativity to the effort. A good leader allows creativity to flow, encourages ideas, and rewards creative thinking.
  • Collaboration – Why can't we all just get along? That's right, it starts with teamwork. Creative synergy is the goal, to produce through collaboration an experience or product that's finer than what could have produced alone. Whether you're a solo performer or lead a team, few musicians or business people really go it alone. For example, successful solo authors build a team that includes an editor, agent, financial counselor, and attorney, as well as marketing and publicity pros.  And don't forget the consuming public – the reviewers and readers.
  • Improvisation – Jazz musicians are known for improvisation; it's a hallmark of their craft. The successful CEO or founder must often improvise. Resourceful thinking is key. The entrepreneur doesn't hear “no,” they hear “how?” How can we raise the money, find the right people, create the right product, achieve success? Those questions are music to the ears.
  • Interaction – Entrepreneurs often dance to a different tune. Having trouble with your fellow players? Instead of “my way or the highway” thinking, find a common ground for interaction. The musician who's off-key destroys the synergy. During a jazz set, talented backup musicians often get a chance to strut their stuff. Try this in the real world – you may discover a gem of an idea when you yield the spotlight and listen to the riffs.
  • Transformation  – When musicians are in the groove together, transformation occurs, the music takes flight, and the players and audience alike are emotionally transformed in the presence of true artistry. This requires mastery, a high point where each person is contributing their excellence. If you hit a sour note, keep going, but take time to learn. How can we improve? Is there a new instrument, or skill, that needs to be learned? True mastery takes commitment.
Jazz painting by artist Debra Hurd

By artist Debra Hurd www.debrahurd.com

All that Jazz

Making beautiful music is a process.  Whereas an orchestra requires more regimented corporate thinking, jazz demands resourceful creative thinking and teamwork. That's when transformation occurs.

And that's the beauty of achievement.

Special Thanks

To Austin artist Debra Hurd for lending her beautiful artwork to this post, and to jazz musician Eric Marienthal for a fabulous performance at brunch and for inspiration for this post.

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