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Hopeful engagement…

by | Nov 9, 2020 | engage, Hope, Santana

Our little card was starting to get some notice across IBM, and for our little team, I was assigned to go out and meet with customers.  As such I had been having conversations with a sales rep out in Chicago that was working with a very large publishing firm.  She had set up a meeting with one of their team, and I was flying out for the meeting.  I keep saying that this was pre-everything – no pagers, no cell phone, and while I had enough conversations to think I knew her well, I realized that we had actually never seen each other.  I emailed as I was leaving DC I would stand in the median at O’Hare with my coat off, and matching yellow suspenders and tie.  I didn’t have to Hope she would be there… and within about 5 minutes, a car pulled up, the window went down, “Mark?”  “Karen!” … and we were off! 

Scott Eblin, a good friend, defines Leadership as 1) Define Reality, and 2) Provide Hope.  But exactly what is Hope?  Is it simply a wish for an outcome, as in “I wish I was 6 feet tall” 😉  I like to add this definition another friend provided me:  “Hope is a confident expectation of a future good’. It carries with it the thought of a rope of good anchored in the future and running into the present, something that we can hold onto in a storm and aspire to in good times. Most psychologists say that without hope there is only despair, without hope we cannot dream for a better future.” This was the type of Hope that both Karen and I were working from, although we didn’t really know it at first…

Santana has a record that even the Beatles didn’t achieve:  their first 3 albums were Platinum, selling over $1 Million copies each in their first years. But it all started with him hanging around Fillmore West as a 17-year-old where Bill Graham drafted him to replace a drunk Paul Butterfield for a Sunday matinee show.  Once he had that start, his Hope was a work ethic that started in Mexico where he was born in 1947.  He learned the violin at 5, and guitar from his father a mariachi musician at 8.  His family moved from Mexico to Tijuana, where he started playing with pick-up bands in his teens.  The family moved to the Mission District of San Fransisco in his early teens, which was why he was hanging around the Fillmore for his “lucky break” he had been Hoping for…  

..his music was such a unique blend of jazz, rock, and rhythms from Latin music, and came from his friends.  The mixing bowl that is America put all those elements in front of him, and he started pulling all the pieces together.  Getting a standing ovation for his substitute bill, Graham got them signed to Columbia where they had recorded some tracks through the early part of 1969 but nothing that was ready for release.  The festival schedule for 1969 included a new show in upstate New York who wanted to book the Grateful Dead and the Jefferson Airplane – also managed by Graham.  He insisted that Santana be included, and much like his first set at the Fillmore, they were substituted for another band and played mid-day Saturday – to another standing ovation.  The album was released just after that in late August, the perfect timing for one of the “overnight successes” coming out of Woodstock. 

…on our drive out to the location, Karen opened up that just GETTING a meeting was a HUGE success.  Whatever happened after that was gravy.  She had been shut out because nothing else IBM had was even interesting enough for her customer to take a phone call. Something about our work was just interesting enough to get a conversation going.  My boss had learned from his years at IBM Research that the leading edge computing work was not done by computer people, but by customers who had problems bigger than current computers could handle. This was one of those meetings – and I was now used to it by now – and my Hope was one of these would eventually turn into a group that would take a risk with us.  As we move into the last few weeks of this year, what is your own Hope – for you, for your team, and for the path forward?  Is it a wish, or a rope to pull you forward?  We engage this week with the song that provided Santana with 10 minutes of his Hope from Woodstock… and not his Soul Sacrifice… 

 

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