Mid-day yesterday, the Earth passed through the mid-point of the trip between Winter and Summer – a day where there is no Difference between the number of hours of light and darkness. Exactly the same for a moment… and like teams that perform well, that stasis can only balance for the briefest moment. And yet, their contributions can last for far longer – some for years, decades, generations, and in the case of the team for today, centuries have passed, and yet what did the members themselves do Differently to make that contribution last – to say nothing of the leader?
This particular team did not get called to a conference room – they were pursued in their everyday lives by the leader. Some worked along the beach, some were public officials, some were revolutionaries, and others were out-and-out scoundrels. Many, as we studied them, were polar opposites, sworn to kill those who they were now working side by side with – every day. The good thing is that they had a crisis that brought them together – 2 major corporations were out to get them, to ensure that their product could never ship, would never see the first Beta, that there was no Minimal Viable Product… no MVP.
Producing a masterpiece doesn’t pay the bills (see Van Gogh and many others for details). Van knew that, and also he had to come up with something that was going to really represent his music… and that people would buy. His taste of fame with Them had shown that this was a life that was Different than his possibilities in Ireland, but to get it, he would have to change something. “I make albums primarily to sell them and if I get too far out a lot of people can’t relate to it”, he later said. “I had to forget about the artistic thing because it didn’t make sense on a practical level. One has to live.”
The first thing was his zipcode – following Bob Dylan out of the city into upstate New York with his new wife. He would rent a cabin on a mountain top in the Catskills and start to put down some music and lyrics. He also started to find some local musicians who could play with him, and after a little music festival made the area a little too crowded, he went back to New York with those musicians intending to record with them. His producer set him up with the Astral Weeks group, but he politely declined, and took the new team into A&R studios – (if you remember the series on Herb Alpert, the A).
As with Astral Weeks it was recorded mostly from some basic ideas, but felt different because it had a tighter horn section, and a rhythm section that was more pop/folk and less jazz. He later said “no one knew what I was looking for except me, so I just did it.” While not an overbearing presence among the record’s personnel, the singer later conceded to creating an atmosphere of artistic autonomy during the sessions: “When I go into the studio, I’m a magician. I make things happen. Whatever is working in that particular space at that particular time, I use, I take advantage of.” The results will form the next few days of our discussions, and they did exactly what Van wanted… Differently.
The leader we studied had a very short runway. He had to find enough people that he could mentor, train, and prepare as he was only going to be around for a few years. We learned that he never let his team members go out alone – they were always paired up, usually with someone that was Different. We also found that they generally didn’t follow the trends, and many times were seen in companies that were really not only off the beaten path, but were flat out the bottom rungs of their markets. Luckily like all good teams, there were a number of Scribes assigned, along with someone to watch the Finances, others to handle Marketing, even a few that could be seen as Sales. It even included women, which for the time, was truly revolutionary – and their voices were some of the most important, even while being very Different.
Ultimately, this ragtag team was forged through a series of business trips that were memorable enough to be remembered many years later. There was a great product launch, complete with a big parade… but the product crashed only a week later in a spectacular way that cost the leader his life. And… yet… these team members continued on, working through their initial doubts, to write a market-leading bestseller, and from this initial team, there have been many additional teams that have been recruited, and worldwide sales are constantly growing.
Van realized that his song lyrics were riddled with homophones – no not THAT – words that can mean multiple things depending on how you read them. Are they ethereal, talking about an astral plane, or are they referring to the docks of Belfast? He concluded, “I guess the song is just about being a part of the universe”. As you listen today, I wonder what renewal you will seek this day – the 7th day, the one that has been set aside for us to find our own midpoint, to remember and renew. A leader who, in spite of what you may hear, or even see, has a small team that follows him still. Join us… head Into The Mystic.