Tommy Emmanuel is one of the world’s best guitarists, yet he’s not widely known in a field that often places glitz above skill. As Emmanuel explains in the opening to a very entertaining TEDx talk, when he told a fellow traveler in business class that he made a living playing the guitar, he had to respond to the question “What band are you in?” with the fact that he played solo guitar. His seatmate looked at him as if Emmanuel had stumbled into the wrong section of the aircraft.
But as he thought about it, Emmanuel explained that he does, in fact, play in a band. A one man band. In his TEDx talk he showcases the amazing skills that have made him so in demand by demonstrating how he plays the bass line, the drummer’s riff, the fills from a rhythm section, and the melody line all at once. If you’re like me, your jaw will drop with the complexity of the music and you’ll laugh at the line “look at how much money I’m saving up here!”
This is clearly someone who has found how to blend his passion with his job. As Emmanuel describes it, he has a calling.
Angela Duckworth, the MacArthur Fellow recipient and author of Grit notes that,
“Fortunate indeed are those who have a top-level goal so consequential to the world that it imbues everything they do, no matter how small or tedious, with significance. Consider the parable of the bricklayers:
Three bricklayers are asked: ‘What are you doing?’
The first says, ‘I am laying bricks.’
The second says, ‘I am building a church.’
And he third says, ‘I am building the house of God.’
The first bricklayer has a job. The second has a career. The third has a calling.”
Emmanuel is fortunate in that he recognizes that his work impacts people in special ways. He knows that what’s important is not the critics’ take on his work, but the connections he makes with those who come to hear him play. Connection with others is not just a musician’s stock-in-trade, but is a skill many of us—not fortunate enough to have killer guitar chops—find important in taking a job to a calling. To do work we are passionate about. Emmanuel also notes that none other than the great Chet Atkins called him “the most fearless guitar player he’d ever heard.” Emmanuel continues, “I think that being fearless is a huge part in breaking molds and in raising self-belief.”
Connecting with others. Fearlessness in what we do. Building self-belief. Remembering that you are the master of your own obituary. Or, as Tommy Emmanuel says it at the end of his talk: “Life is not a rehearsal, so you’d better get on with it.”
Have a good week.
More to come…
P.S. – For you Jason Isbell fans, in the video above you can hear Tommy play and Jason sing on a signature song by my first guitar hero, Doc Watson, from Tommy’s most recent album Accomplice One. Enjoy.