Business Lessons From a Jazz Master


Before the pandemic, I attended a workshop called The Hidden Jazz of Teams. 

It revealed how artistic pursuits, such as playing and composing jazz, reflect and instruct business pursuits, such as team-building and creating.  

Dan Rubright — a jazz guitarist, composer, and teacher — ran the workshop with his partner Leslie Peters. 

I loved that workshop because it reminded me: 

All of us have a creative well within. 

And it challenged me to think more about how to tap that well.

When we learn to tap the creative well, we benefit in all facets of life — including business. 

Dan recently published his first book, The Musician’s Dilemma: A Guide for Integrating your Passion for Music with Real Life

Melissa, is reading it now, and when she’s finished I plan to devour it.

Meanwhile, I dug up an old email / post I wrote about Dan and the creative process.

I share this post often with business people who struggle to tap the well — who think storytelling or other “creative pursuits” are magic arts reserved for those born with the gift.  

I know better — thanks, in part, to Dan. 

Here’s that email / post from July 2021…

I listened recently to my friend Dan Rubright describe how he created a song. Dan’s a great jazz guitarist and composer who appeared on the Songs Out Loud podcast and dissected his tune “Prepare for Departure.”

This podcast blew me away — not just because I love great music…

…but because I love to create…

…and I help others discover the creative power within them.

When I discuss with coaches, consultants, and business leaders how to create powerful, business-building stories, I emphasize: Storytelling is NOT a magic art, reserved just for those with special talent.

We all have the power to create stories.

We just have to unleash and discover the power…

…and then work within a structured process to craft and deliver stories.

To Start Creating: Noodle, Doodle, and Jot

Here’s what Dan does. He picks up a guitar and he starts to noodle. He plays around and improvises without getting hung up on where it belongs, where it fits.

“It all comes from just that noodling on your own. (Start with) those little things. And little things add to little things, and then ultimately, it’s this piece that you know you just want to give it away like a gift,” Dan says.

Dan’s noodling reminds me of journaling. I write in my journal daily. Noodling with words, jotting down ideas.

Sometimes, I tap an idea that quickly finds a home in an article, email, blog post, video, or some other piece of coherent content.

Sometimes not.

Keep the Homeless Noodles, Doodles and Jots So They Can Sprout Later

Dan records noodling sessions on his phone. Often, he listens to the recordings and thinks, “I don’t have any place to put this…at least not now.”

Here’s how Dan describes it in the podcast: “You know sometimes you have to say no to something that’s really cool…because it’s just not right in the particular context you’re in.”

Give yourself permission to create without immediate purpose. Say, “No.” Say, “Not right now.” Those creations often bear fruit later.

That’s why Dan keeps the recordings — just as I keep my word noodles in my journal.

Dan and I revisit the noodles and often discover meaning and context we didn’t see at first. Those noodles often find a home.

During the podcast episode, Dan listens to a clip he recorded while composing “Prepare for Departure.” The noodle didn’t fit in the song.

But as he discusses it with the podcast host, Aaron Doerr, Dan says, “I’m glad we are looking back on this tune because (that noodle is) really good. I think I’ll work on that soon.”

So that lonely, homeless noodle may grow into something more.

Build a Creation Process

You may be thinking, “Noodling is NOT a structured process.” But Dan’s noodling sessions don’t happen accidentally. Dan has a process that includes noodling. Dan applies systems and uses tools to record and revisit those noodles. There’s a ton of habit and structure in what Dan does.

If not for Dan’s systems and processes, “Prepare for Departure” may never have taken off. And the homeless noodle, which could blossom into a song, may never have been recorded.

Same goes for me and storytelling. So many of my best stories grew from seeds I planted in my journal — or recorded to my phone. My journal is a tool. So, too, is my phone on which I record voice memos, random thoughts, and story ideas when they come to me.

We Are All Creative Beings…
…If We Choose to Create

Choose to noodle. Choose to doodle. Choose to jot down your thoughts.

It may seem aimless and random at first. But if you establish a creation habit, you will record ideas that deserve a home. And over time, you will create something powerful that will captivate and inspire others.

Don't go away yet..

p.s. Coaches, authors, and consultants hire me to power-up their creative content and storytelling to captivate prospects, stand-out and book more business.

Whenever you're ready, here are several ways I can help you become a storytelling stand-out so you'll land more clients without pitching and prodding:

1) Get the Story Power Profit Pack -- 52 Strategies, Tips, and Tactics  to Transform Your Content from Ignored to Adored.

2) Watch the free, 7-minute Micro-Training: “The 3 Most Important Storytelling Keys to Captivate Prospects and Inspire Them to Act -- Without Pitching and Prodding.”

3) Become a Story Power VIP: Master how to discover, assemble, and deliver business-building stories. Twice-monthly live masterclasses. Members-only content. One-on-one feedback and consulting sessions. And more… If you'd like to learn more about our VIP program, just reply to this email and put "Story Power VIP" in the subject line. I’ll contact you with more details.

4) Work with me one-on-one: If you’re interested in working directly with me -- to discover, assemble, and deliver powerful, business-building stories -- simply reply to this email and change the subject line to "Private Client." Tell me a little about yourself, your business, and what you'd like to accomplish, and I'll reply to discuss options.

5) Invite me to speak at an event: I can tailor a presentation that meets the specific needs of your organization. Informative. Entertaining. Virtual or live. Potential for continuing education credits when applicable for your group. If interested, reply to this email and change the subject line to “Speaking Engagement.” I’ll circle back to discuss the possibilities.

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Tom Ruwitch

Tom Ruwitch is the founder and CEO of Story Power Marketing. For more than 30 years, he has helped businesses grow by delivering powerful stories using a variety of different media.