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… the renewal of Patient…

by | Oct 11, 2020 | Patient, renew, William Ackerman

It was the classic corporate meeting, conducted in a classic large conference room on the West Coast.  All of the officers of the company were gathered to hear from our new CEO.  Until recently, he had only been a member of the board, but with acquisition after acquisition (48 in all) going badly, the board lost its Patience, and fired the CEO.  It was not what I had anticipated would happen, but I had seen this rodeo a few times before, and I knew it was likely very soon, things would be very different, and that only steepened my own glide slope.  I had ended up with the most complex problem in the company – knitting together teams that were in 12 time zones, 3 of whom were competitors before we bought them, and most of which were underperforming for customers and their own people.  None of this was going to change the outcome of this particular meeting, where I was being super Patient…

As I learned more about Will, his story became much more complex, and yet, familiar.  Following his instincts for music had brought him what he thought he wanted – success in the eyes of the world.  A very successful label, 27 Gold and Platinum records, and accolades from critics who raved about his invention of a completely new category of music.  And… the crushing realization that even all of that had not brought him the renewal that he needed.  He had dark chapters of his life that he had not dealt with, and running as fast as he could from them only darkened them more.  He finally faced them, and slowly sold off his interest in Windham Hill, and returned to the east coast, to Vermont.  ‘Screw it,'” he recalls, “‘I’m going to Vermont, I’m gonna buy some land, get a chainsaw and build again.'”  He now has another new label, Imaginary Roads Studios in Windham County, and is back to producing and recording new artists that he discovers, or discover him.

… I watched as the new CEO – of the company that ran the internet – in a full 3 pieces suit… in Silicon Valley.  He could not have looked more out of place – literally not another person had on even a sport jacket.  He and the other executives were on a Dais – literally looking down at us – and said one after another how the new company and plans would be consistent with what we had been doing, but not even they believed it.  A well-known blowhard stood and asked a very nasty direct question (we all could have anticipated that) and the new CEO stood up and addressed the question – politely and clearly, with no substance but a pleasant smile. The blowhard tried again, but someone stopped him thankfully.  And the best part was I was as Patient and calm as I had ever been… waiting for an email.  It would confirm the sale of some stock, and the transfer of that stock to a title company southwest of Charlottesville, that would provide us with a new start.  It is where I have been working from home for the last 13 years,. and when people talk about the Road Less Traveled, the reason that is true is it is not easy. As Will found back on this coast, trying to rebuild something that doesn’t take back over your life is much easier said than done.

There’s an irony in Ackerman finding peace by fleeing Windham Hill Records; millions have flocked to the calming sounds of the paragon of so-called “new age” music seeking the same. The Windham Hill canon is the soundtrack to new-age bookstores and therapy sessions the world over. Ackerman is aware — you might say painfully so — of these associations. And he’s an advocate for therapy, having seen therapists for most of his adult life — though he refers to them as teachers.  He does not like the phrase New Age, and often will be very rude to those who use it in his presence… ironic for the King of “cool”.  Similarly, I now sit on Zoom or the phone, (…and used to sit across the table from) people that are struggling to make sense out of their lives.  Is this role the cap of their career, and if not, what does it take to be at the next level… where surely things will be better.  I had a new person recently declare “…when I am at the table I will be able to do what needs to be done”.  I just smiled, and channeled my inner Ackerman riffs, and at least have learned to be Patient as they figure that out… or don’t…

I was chatting with a new friend recently – someone who is pretty much my polar opposite.  He is a Sikh, and a self-proclaimed liberal, and there was a particular set of posts that troubled us both – for different but we found the same reason.  We have started a dialog, and I am hopeful that it will continue.  More and more conversations are seeking the renewal of what matters – and also recognizing we are all being tested by all aspects of this crisis.  What does life mean, and what is worth living for? How do we treat each other, and really understand the differences that can on the surface be insurmountable?  He saw through that – and saw me – in the back of the conference room, waiting for my check to clear, and waiting for….. what?   As you are reading this, on the Sabbath day of the week, what causes you to be Patient… and how do you find that still small voice inside you that needs to be heard?  It’s there, and success and fast cars only lengthen the time to hear it for most.  This final selection comes from a newer collection of Will’s, and is an old folk tune that no one is clear where it came from.  I think it is built into our normal makeup as humans – one of those universal songs….and an invitation for you, with a wink from Will. Patiently consider what will cause you to start the journey, for … The River Is Wise…

 

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