One of the most influential guitarists in history is the gypsy jazz virtuoso, Django Reinhardt.
Django is legendary. An accomplished guitar player by the time he was a teenager, he nearly died in a caravan fire at the age of 18. He was badly burned and permanently lost the use of the 4th & 5th fingers on his left hand. His doctors said he’d never play the guitar again.
Boy, did they get it wrong…
Starting from scratch, Django developed a dazzling level of mastery, eventually establishing himself as one of the greatest players of all time. His lyricism, technical ability and improvisational artistry continue to astonish and inspire guitarists today (despite being two fingers short).
I had my first guitar lesson in 40 years yesterday, and it wasn’t what I’d expected. Here’s why…
A few weeks ago, I decided to learn to play jazz guitar. I booked my first lesson and immediately started downloading albums.
The stuff I’d obsessed over as a teenager… John Scofield, Mike Stern, John McLaughlin.
The people who make the ‘10 best guitarists’ lists… Wes Montgomery, George Benson, Joe Pass.
And while listening to the tunes of my teens was a wonderful trip down memory lane, do you know what music’s really lighting me up?
Django Reinhardt and his musical descendants, Birelli Lagrene, Joscho Stephan and the Rosenberg Trio. Their playing has grabbed my attention in a big way.
And so to my first lesson, where I find myself a beginner again.
In the past, being a beginner at jazz was frustrating. I could play some of the licks and runs, but I didn’t have the ‘feel’ for it that I had for blues and rock. I could enjoy *listening* to jazz, but I didn’t understand it, so trying to learn it was confusing and disheartening.
I just didn’t “get it”.
This time is different. See, today I’ve got two advantages…
1) I’ve got a teacher. When I was trying to learn jazz before, I was doing it by myself. But this time, I’ve got a great teacher. And (in one of those charming serendipities), it turns out gypsy jazz is my new guitar teacher’s passion.
2) I know the power of understanding. When I first tried to learn jazz, I was trying to mimic what was going on on the *surface* (the licks and runs) without understanding the deeper *structure* of the music. Forty years on, I have an appreciation of (and respect for) the value of embodied understanding, so I’m putting that first.
This time I’m focusing on really “getting” the music. I know that as my understanding and “feel” for the music grows, so will my ability.
Of course, I still need to practice every day. Of course, my fingers already hurt from using muscles I haven’t used in years. Of course, I’m not very good at it yet.
But realising the value of understanding makes it so much fun to be a beginner again.
Because when you’re oriented to understanding, you’re pointing yourself in the direction of the unknown. You’re doing a balancing act between the fog of confusion and the dawning of insight.
The very domain that I used to find so frustrating I now find liberating and exciting.
And that seems to me to be the definition of beginner’s luck.
Let me know if you resonate with this, and have a beautiful day,
Tons of love,
PS I’m spending today and tomorrow with the students on my Advanced Coach and Facilitators Programme, and I feel very blessed to be exploring the space of understanding, mastery and insight with them. With any luck, we’ll all be approaching it with a beginner’s mind and an understanding orientation 🙂
This week’s podcast
INTERVIEW – Dr Rita Shuford, Happiness, wellbeing
and 40 years of sharing the principles
In this episode, you’re going to hear a conversation I had on the subject of happiness and well-being with one of my dear friends and colleagues, Rita Shuford. And here’s how I met Rita…
In 2011, I kicked off a one-year programme called ‘3 Principles University’.
We had a wonderful group of students, and every month or so, we had a different principles teacher spend the weekend with us, sharing their understanding. My good friend and colleague, Sandy Krot was scheduled to do the November weekend (on Leadership), and when she arrived, she had a friend with her: Rita Shuford.
Rita was the person who’d introduced Sandy to the principles, so I was super-curious to hear her story. I recorded an interview with her that weekend, and we’ve been friends ever since. Here’s a conversation I had with her more recently on the topic of happiness and well-being:
You can listen to the recording here, or wherever you get your podcasts: https://www.jamiesmart.com/030-dr-rita-shuford-happiness-wellbeing-and-40-years-of-sharing-the-principles-get-clarity-podcast/
PS As you may already be aware, my beloved Emma McDevitt and I are offering a new programme starting in January called the Clarity Professional Programme: Bring Your Unique Expression to Life.
The theme of uncovering and living your unique expression is one that’s very alive for us both, so we’re inspired to share it with a group of explorers.
We’ve clipped a quick video (12 minutes) from our recent ClarityLive! event where I talk about our inspiration for creating this programme.
If you enjoy the video and want to find out more about it, the first step is to go through our simple ‘unique expression diagnostic’ process. Its purpose is to continue deepening your awareness of your unique expression and to help us (me and Emma) get a sense of where you’re at in your journey.
Once you’ve completed it, we’ll review your answers, share our thoughts and send you the full programme details.
Q: Do you want us to send you the diagnostic?
Just reply to this email and type ‘diagnostic’ and we’ll get it right over to you.