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8 Lessons I Learned at Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp 

Part 4 – Keep it Simple


I just finished 38 years in the corporate world with the last 25 leading 9 different meaningful pieces of work.  So, I have a point of view what the corporate world is all about.


As I entered this 4-day immersion called “Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp” I was intrigued to see how the incredibly creative culture of Rock and Roll would mesh with the structured, disciplined and measured culture of the corporate world.  I was listening and watching for things I could learn and share with those of us from the corporate world.


This is the fourth of 8 articles I will share that highlights what I observed and some insights for corporate leaders.


Lesson:  Keep It Simple


If you read the first 3 articles you have a flavor of the 4-day immersion into Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp. At 6:00pm on the first day you are introduced to your counselor and your band for the next 4 days.  You have to pick a song, decided everyone’s role and practice so you can play with Nancy Wilson at 1:00pm the next day.  You also have to be ready for Chris Layton on Saturday with a new song, play at Reggie’s in downtown Chicago Saturday night and have another song ready to play with the legendary Buddy Guy at Legends Sunday evening.  So you must have 3 songs, maybe 4 if you want to add a song to your set Sunday evening.


So you meet 6 other people for the first time and start picking songs.  That’s no easy task.  Everyone has a favorite, has a lick they rehearsed, has a song that fits their vocal range, has one they have practiced 100 times, and so on. Our counselor, Chip Z’ Nuff, was a master at navigating us to our song selection and what everyone was going to do.  And he was very clear with everyone about it.  For example, you play rhythm, you play lead, you jump in here, you don’t sing, etc.


After we picked the first song there was lots of ideas on how add to it.  A few fancy licks here, an added vocal, a little drum solo maybe a long harp solo (harmonica).  These were all good ideas.  Everyone had a specialty and had probably practiced it a 100 times.


But Chip said we must keep it simple.  Some of the best songs ever written and performed, are simple.   You don’t complicate them just to complicate them. Keep it simple.  That meant playing some simple chords and rhythms.  Add a few single note melodies.  Keep the vocals clean and simple.  He kept reminding us we have one song with Nancy, Chris and Buddy so lets keep it simple and hit a home run with that one song. (my translation – Chip might have used another phrase)


So that’s what we did. I have to admit I got a little bored the 25thtime we played some of those songs.  I wanted to add a little something as did the other band members but we stayed the course and kept it simple.  


In the end we were not the best band or the worst.  But we did what we set out to do.  We played with Nancy, Chris and Buddy and we played at Reggie’s and a few extra songs at the Legends after Buddy left.  I got to do exactly what I wanted to do when I signed up for Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp.  I got videos and pictures and autographs and it was a fantastic experience because we kept it simple.  I am sure it would have felt different if we had tried a song that was really hard and we screwed it up.  I would probably be still thinking about that vs what a great experience the entire camp was for me.


That’s because we kept it simple.  Thanks Chip.



As business leaders do we keep it simple?


My experience is that we have a gravitational pull to make it more complicated.  It just pulls us into a process that adds unnecessary complications, process, people, time and cost.  It seems we just can’t help ourselves.


Maybe it’s because we want to take everyone’s input and add it to the process so they feel included. Maybe it’s because we lack confidence, so we add a few extra steps.  Maybe it’s because we lack the courage to say no to a few highly influential contributors because they might not like it. (Chip said no all the time to our ideas) Maybe the idea is just bad and you need to start over but can’t admit you were wrong.  Maybe we think we need to add a few extra steps to look smart or clever.


The reason we make things more complicated is probably complicated but we do it.  I think as the bandleader, Chip had been through thousands of times where someone in the band had to be the leader and make decisions and he was very comfortable doing it.  He was confident it what we needed to do to play a solid song with Nancy, Chris and Buddy.  He measured our skill level, navigated us to the right songs and kept us on track.


Here is a challenge for all leaders this week, make things less complicated this week.  Take out unnecessary steps, make decisions faster, be clear on what needs to be done and what does not need to be done.  Be as comfortable saying no as you do saying yes.


Try this for a week and see if it makes a difference.  I believe it will.

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