When pianist Keith Jarrett arrived at the Köln (Cologne) opera house in 1975 he found the wrong piano had been set up for him. It was an old, practice piano — out of tune with sticking keys. The upper register was harsh and tinny. It was simply not the kind of piano that a musician of his calibre should be expected to play. So he refused!
Somehow the young promoter managed to win him round. Maybe Jarrett wanted to teach her a lesson, who knows?
But by agreeing to work creatively within the constraints he had been given, Jarrett created the most successful solo jazz album of all time and the most popular piano album in history.
His improvisation that night* was “magical, amazing, breathtaking, electrifying… a masterpiece.”
We all face challenges in our work. Overcoming or working within those challenges is not a barrier to our job, it is our job. And if we choose to treat those constraints not as limits but as frames that focus us on the difference we can make then we all have the opportunity to create inspiration.
Are you facing constraints in your work? Is there an opportunity to switch your focus from fighting what you can’t change to creating the very best you can out of what you have?
* You can listen to the full concert here.
Adapted from Inner Leadership: tools for building inspiration in times of change.
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