One of the first instruments I learned to play was the violin. I was three; it was the Suzuki Method. Shinichi Suzuki developed the Suzuki method in the mid-20th century. I actually met him when I was about 5 at violin camp in Stevens Point, WI. One of the hallmarks of Suzuki training is that you learn by ear, not by reading music (though that certainly comes into practice). In her recent biography of Shinichi Suzuki, Eri Hota explores the philosophy and background of Suzuki's life. "Suzuki's program," she explains, "was not intended to create professional musicians. His true goal, one that he maintained throughout his long career, was one of social transformation. He believed that the ills of his community stemmed from adults' failure to help children fully realize their potential and thereby become enlightened individuals."

What was interesting about what Suzuki taught was that it wasn't about musical aptitude or auditions to begin. It was about the environment—creating the environment for children to learn naturally, just like they learn a language. I remember we'd go to Pizza Hut (#personalpan) to get the round cardboard inserts from pizza boxes on which my teacher, Patty, would draw my foot position. This is how I learned to stand. A Smurf was clipped onto my bow to learn how to keep it positioned properly. And after you dabble in twinkle twinkle, one of the earliest songs you learn to play is Bach's Minuet in G. This would be my first exposure to Bach and the beginning of a love of his music that would punctuate so many great experiences in my life: from college to my wedding, to one of my favorite ballets, and ultimately some of my favorite late-night music


Fast forward 18 years, and I'm studying to be a music therapist at Berklee College of Music. Berklee was heavy on music theory, and a series of classes you are required to take are on Counterpoint. From wiki: In musiccounterpoint is the relationship between two or more musical lines (or voices) which are harmonically interdependent yet independent in rhythm and melodic contour.  Unlike how we approach traditional harmony, there is independence and interdependence. Some people see counterpoint as melodies that are opposing each other, but that doesn't quite capture the full picture. Bach did not invent counterpoint, but he was certainly a master at it. This link has great samples and visuals! of what counterpoint is in some of Bach's most popular works. A key statement by the author: 

"Being able to clearly compose lines that function well indepdently as well as together is essential for your listeners to follow your music, understand what you are saying or what feelings you wish to share with it, and most importantly, appreciate it—and even enjoy it!"

For those of you not classically inclined, one of my favorite examples of counterpoint in rock comes from Radiohead's Paranoid Android. At about 3:35, Thom Yorke composed in counterpoint at its finest. A full explanation of the counterpoint can be found here (5:46). There are ultimately 4 independent voices interdependent with each other to bring about one of the most transcendent harmonies in rock music. (Take a bong rip, play it loud, and see where it takes you lol :))


So what exactly does counterpoint have to do with management? Why is it more important than ever to heed these lessons of independence and interdependence? And what might Shinichi Suzuki teach us about the importance of environment over aptitude?

The first takeaway lies in a founder's and leader's ability to manage themselves. Peter Drucker, our guest from last week, has a famous series on Managing Oneself. Though a bit outdated in its approach, the emphasis he put on managing oneself is still one of the most important aspects of managing others and being able to build a team. Most of us aren't good self-managers because we aren't good self-reflectors. We're not honest with ourselves about our projections onto others, our inability to own our needs, and our capacity to take personal responsibility—apparently also the astrological theme of March 2023. We often abdicate responsibility and expect our team members to "manage up" when we can't even manage ourselves.

The second takeaway builds off of the first. Unless we fully individuate as humans, working harmoniously with others and navigating independence and interdependence is almost impossible. There's so much talk about collaboration and community in today's entrepreneurship. But the most fruitful collaborations come from fully realized individuals, not those living out the Jerry Maguire myth. It's important to be clear that a fully realized human is never about perfection but a sustained commitment to curiosity and awareness of self. It is not about aspiring to become flawless but instead embracing our flaws and working towards the integration of them, not denial. Integration and integrity are the truest self

The final takeaway is a culmination of the first two. It is to reflect on the environment we create when we abdicate responsibility for ourselves. If Shinichi Suzuki was right, that environment plays a more important role than aptitude; we must take the time to look not at our blind spots, but our buried spots. Buried spots are those areas of ourselves, our personality, that we avoid at all cost, which unconscioulsy taints the environment within which we work and try to build. If we are delegating away our personal responsibility to another human or a program, we're setting ourselves up for limited expressions, and instead of finding harmony in our interdependence, we find only sustained dissonance

If this resonates with you, consider revisiting the Leadership lesson from the miniMBA for more resources. 

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