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wonderful Courage

by | Dec 10, 2021 | Courage, Journey, wonder

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“I know that we have the right team to pull this off!” said our VP from the front of the packed room. Giving us encouragement was one of the wonders of this particular leader’s talents, and what had got us all together. And, the wonder now was that this speech was exactly the same we had heard about a year before… and wasn’t working. Now it sounded more like pleading… and the feeling in the room was different – more desperation, and less belief we could actually do this…

Jonathan Cain was born and raised in Chicago, and always around music. He sang in a boy’s choir in his Catholic School (in Latin no less) and survived a fire that killed nearly 100 students and 3 nuns in 1958. He was a prodigy on keys, starting first on the accordion and moving up to the piano at the Chicago Conservatory of Music in the late ’60s. He bounced around most of the ’70s in LA through various bands until he landed with The Babys with John Waite, and had moderate success but was really not going anywhere.

On his calls home from LA, like Steve Perry, he was about to give up, thinking that he would never really have much success. His father would constantly say to him, “Don’t stop believing, or you’re done, dude”. After one of those calls, the phone rang, and it was Neil letting him know that Gregg was leaving the band, and he had recommended Jonathan take over. Impressed with both his singing and his piano work, Gregg had identified the perfect successor. He joined just before recording started on Escape

… and he had the beginnings of the song, but not the climactic chorus. Schon and Perry worked with Cain to build to that by telling the story of “… people coming to LA looking for their dream. We felt every young person has a dream and sometimes where you grow up isn’t where you are destined to be”. They worked in a homage to Midnight Train to Georgia by weaving in the story of two lovers leaving their hometowns by train. They also buried the ultimate chorus nearly 3 minutes into the song. By now, it is no wonder you can sing along with it, from all of the various places this has been used as a theme song including The Soprano’s.

By this point, there were about 8 of us that were at the heart of the project that consumed every hour we had, and a mentor for most of us suggested that if this was going to be done, it was us that would have to do it. We couldn’t rely on people above us to sort out things, we would have to take charge, and start to pull together, cover for each other, really become a team not just a group of individuals. I wondered how that could happen, and he suggested (and set up) an offsite luncheon to be really candid about our own hopes and fears. It sounded dramatic, and it was… and the wonder was, it really worked.

Even with the daily 3-5 meetings (including the daily beatings…) we really didn’t know each other, and in that lunch, there developed a resolve, and Courage, to really be vulnerable and stick together through what was mostly a death march up until that point. It was still terrible, but there was enough humor we worked into each day to keep each other smiling, including a man that could say the F word with such sweetness, you just had to laugh. Disasters became comedy skits, and failures were simply things to try again. One project had literally 4 completely different solutions being developed simultaneously, knowing only 1 would be picked… and all 4 teams saw that as a good thing 😉 Competition became collaboration…and celebration…

Courage is contagiously wonderful if you nurture it. It is the steady resolve to simply not accept defeat. And it is clear-eyed and sober – not the stuff of bumper stickers or if I might add ironically, Power Ballads 😉 As with the second speech, those approaches ring completely hollow. It is the deep belief and Courage in yourself and others that has to be real, has to be felt, and has to be maintained in every context. And wonder, with its natural partner, Curiosity, helps maintain that spirit… if you dig deep enough to find it.

So today, read and wonder beyond the simple plea, the trite advice that you are probably sick of hearing… “You should….” Particularly as we are all coming through these last 2 years, wonder needs to come back to the forefront, and Courage to grab what you really need and want now for you. And don’t forget Courage is not a solitary sport – it requires partners that you develop, cultivate, and constantly nurture – particularly with humor. The ending here is simply the advice from a crusty Chicago Dad – Don’t Stop Believin’.

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