What can jazz legends teach us about business and startups?

In the 60’s saxophonist Steve Lacy worked with legendary jazz pianist Thelonious Monk. During that time, Lacey is said to have taken notes as a reminder of what Monk taught him when playing in his band.

Thelonious Monk (source Library of Congress Performing Arts Index)

If you’re a muso, there’s plenty of great advice here, but when I read it, I see parallels for business and startups in particular. I’ve always seen bands and business as the same thing from the perspective of contribution and balance. Each instrument has its strengths but when played out of proportion it impacts the experience (even as a drummer I don’t want to hear a drum solo in every song).

Monks’ advice is the same, balance what you do with everyone else (hint you need to listen to what’s going on around you). Don’t do someone else’s job, do yours but take the time to enjoy it.

For founders a couple of things stand out — avoid the hecklers is great advice. Staying strong if you have an idea with validation but not the traction can be a tough thing but you need to back yourself.

Don’t sound anybody for a gig — just be on the scene

The big one for me, and great advice for anyone seeking something new working in a technology field is “Don’t sound anybody for a gig — just be on the scene”. Spraying out hundreds of job applications won’t get you a job you are stretching for & nor will it help you build a new business.

Melbourne has a fantastic startup scene and getting yourself out there and meeting people is a super easy first step towards getting involved. You don’t have to want to start something yourself — it’s also where you might find your next gig working at a startup. Even if you don’t have the experience, meeting people in the industry and offering to work for free will open doors. And of course we all want cats interested enough in what we are doing to come check out it out!

Here’s a scan of the notes. Let me know what speaks to you in the comments below.

A scan of Lacey’s notebook with Monk’s advice (source: http://eltigredo.com/blog/2011/11/07/monks-adavice/)