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How Community And Constraints Combine To Create Breakthrough Ideas

Unexpected lessons from the heart of Music City

Greetings from Nashville!

Read Time: 3 minute 58 seconds

I’m not gonna lie. I had 80% of this week’s MGMT Playbook drafted before we touched down in Nashville Monday night.

But then Music City decided to show off, and I can’t help but start over.

We’re here for 72 hours:

  • We attended a partner event Tuesday

  • We’re leading a workshop with 40 leaders today

  • We magically scored bucket-list Eric Church tickets for last night

And everywhere we’ve turned on this trip, I keep seeing the same two things:

  • Community

  • Constraints

People fueling one another to unexpected heights despite limitations that would derail most people.

Is this the magic formula in a town is oozing with creativity?

And if so, how can we apply these lessons to leading our teams?

Limitation vs Self-Limiting Beliefs

The most striking moment for me on this trip was a talk by artist Phil Hansen.

He started his career as a pointillist but got so obsessed with making dots that he developed a tremor in his hand. One that wouldn’t go away.

Depressed, he gave up art. But something the doctor who gave him the diagnosis of permanent nerve damage said in passing stuck with him, “Why not embrace the shake?”

So he started experimenting:

What he realized from this process is that he was confusing his limitation (his shaking hand) with his self-limiting belief (that meant he couldn’t be an artist).

In his words, “What-If had become What-Is.” 

Once he removed the belief, the constraint actually opened up new, creative paths. He now actively seeks out limitations as a path to creativity.

Tip: How would your approach to a problem change if you added a limitation?

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The MGMT Accelerator is a live leadership development program. The reason we teach live is because leadership is personal. And the best way we know to connect personally is conversation.

  • We invite people to chime in during each session

  • We break into small groups to problem solve

  • We include 1:1 coaching for every leader

Our last session for 2023 is filling up faster than usual. Please join us.

Nothing Teaches Like Repetition

We’ve gotten to see a lot of killer songwriters down here. Even cooler, we’ve gotten to hear their stories. Inspiration for their songs. Breaks they got. Others they missed.

And what’s striking about story after story is this:

Quantity led to Quality.

Most of them have written hundreds of songs. Very few of them were ever recorded by an artist. Even fewer became hits.

And as I look back on my career, I was damn slow to learn this lesson.

At Bridgewater, I did a lot of interviewing. Literally hundreds.

By the end, I ranked top 3 for those who could most accurately predict the success of candidates. But I don’t believe that I was blessed with any innate superpower.

It was nothing more than wisdom built through reps.

Tip: Where can you 10x the volume of what you’re doing to learn 10x as fast?

Nothing Builds Trust Like Vulnerability

After seeing a dozen artists, authors, and songwriters in such a compressed window, I noticed a pattern:

Immediate connection was built on the back of vulnerability.

I was magnetically drawn to the ones who shared stories of loss, of regret, of mistakes. It made them more human. It showed that their art was born of hard-won wisdom. It made me appreciate how they had derived joy from sorrow.

This is counterintuitive to everything we learn:

  • Exude confidence

  • Fake it til you make

  • Put on a brave face

And many of them noted this realization as a breakthrough in their career. When they started getting personal and authentic, people around them did the same in return.

Tip: What story can you share that shows your team it’s OK to be imperfect?

Shining Your Light On Others

We had a short list of places to hit from close friends, but we got in a bit late.

When our Uber driver mentioned that the best BBQ Joint in town was only a few blocks away, we quickly called an audible.

It was only a few minutes later he revealed his day job:

He’s a chef.

And his restaurant sounds incredible. But instead of steering us in a direction that served him, he sent business to the competition.

Because what was best for us in the short term is what’s best for him in the long run. You can bet we’re hitting his place before we leave town.

Why? Because he’s much easier to trust. Sacrifice builds connection. 

We saw a similar dynamic during the intimate concert we sat in on.

Two brothers from a very famous band called up a songwriter they saw in the crowd. When he started singing, jaws dropped and these stars started giggling in delight. And then cursing him for showing them up.

But our connection with them was greater because they risked sharing the stage with someone otherworldly. They were confident enough in who they were to elevate a struggle but talented aritst.

Tip: Who can you shine your light on even if they cast a shadow on you?

Not What-Is. What-Should-Be.

I personally struggle with labels.

On one hand, they help people connect by placing you in a familiar category. On the other hand, they’re equally constraining.

I’m an executive coach, but really I’d prefer you associate me with the practical, results orientnation of your favorite athletic coach.

We run a leadership development development program that many would call management training. But we consider ourselves closer to hands-on, personal trainers who only win when you win.

The event we attended on Tuesday was called Oasis, hosted by one of our partners the True Network of Advisors. Every minute was expertly and unexpectedly curated. Every attendee welcoming and positive sum.

What does this have to do with labels?

I overheard one attendee excitedly speaking to the organizer:

“This isn’t a corporate event. This is what corporate events should be.”

Tip: Where can you reset your target for What-Should-Be?

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Thank you for reading. Appreciate you!

Dave

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