Ordinary Things — Lessons from Graham Nash


This past week, Nashville did her thing and hosted the Americana Fest.  Living in Nashville for over twenty years now, I often find myself taking Music City (and sometimes music in general) for granted what with all the insane talent boiling over at every turn.  Hell, you can even hear some pretty first-class country covers the second you deplane at BNA.  Yep, the airport Tootsies will nearly have you convinced 99.99% of this town can carry a tune.  

Friday night was special in that I fell in love with songs all over again and was reminded just how vital story really is. I had the honor of accompanying my better half to a live recorded tribute to the incomparable Graham Nash. The night featured him as well as other established and burgeoning talent, all offering their versions of some of his most memorable tunes. 

His second skin embodiment of the sounds he creates blows me away.  You simply can’t separate him from his music; you’d be dismembering a limb of sorts.  If you’ve ever seen him live, you know his passion and reverence for the craft is unmistakably palpable.

Perhaps my favorite part of the show was hearing the story behind his song, Our House, Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young’s smash hit.  It seems I’ve become just as mesmerized if not more by where songs come from as I am the song itself.  

In his charming British way, Graham (just going to go ahead and assume we’d be pals) recalls a lovely if uncharacteristic blustery, grey Los Angeles afternoon with his then live-in girlfriend, Joni Mitchell—naturally.

He wryly renders “oftentimes songs come from the most ordinary of experiences,” you know, like a Saturday afternoon shopping jaunt with ordinary people like Joni Mitchell?!

He had us all engaged, leaning in, smiling and hungrily eating out of his hand. Apparently, Joni had found a quirky little antique vase for a steal and was eager to put it to good use.  Upon their return home, he turns to her contentedly and urges, “I’ll light a fire, and you should go put some flowers in that vase you found just now…”  An hour later she returns with an arrangement to find Graham wrapping up a classic.  And so, the conception of a song—no big deal.

This post is not about songwriting or Graham Nash for that matter.  It’s about you and the story you believe about your value.  The day after the show I turned to my husband Daniel and said, “You know, he’s had thousands of opportunities to dial in that Joni Mitchell story. It’s so good and clever partly because he’s lived in it so much.”  

Cynical much? No really, that wasn’t my heart behind the comment.  It’s an epic song with an epic story and cast, yet, he’s had decades to perfect it, test it, and perform it.  He’s not getting in his own way every time in order to re-create the wheel; he’s working his edge.

What I’ve curiously pondered in my heart the last several days since is how ingrained our stories get into our hearts and brains; so ingrained we believe them, bowing down to them as if they had the keys to our life’s success.  

You see, people believe what we show them to be true about who we are.  Oftentimes, we clumsily miss the opportunity to draw them in because we’re stuck living out our scarcity story— fearful and highly undervalued.

Over the next several weeks on the blog, we will explore practical ways of tweaking our story in order to “work our edge.”  I heard that phrase in a yoga class recently.  It was one of those classes where the heat’s cranked up, and it smells like a gargantuan eucalyptus plant is sweating.  Our annoyingly fit and enthusiastic teacher kept charging, “find your edge and work it.”  I was too busy slipping all over my mat and looking like a frustrated beet to remotely find anything edgy.  Still, the phrase stuck and I kind of love it.

Awareness is the first step towards change, so this week, I encourage you to be a student of yourself.  With a beginners mind, simply observe the little things you do that make you come alive.  This can be cooking a meal or writing in your journal or going for a run.  What are those things that come naturally to you that you assume everyone else does with such pleasure too?  Is it writing a thank-you note, encouraging a friend, or researching printer ink (sky’s the limit here, folks)?  These little things are the making of your edge.  They are how you lead, and consequently, they are highly valuable.  

So, just like we learned from Mr. Nash, oftentimes the most brilliant stories come from the most ordinary-seeming things.  Your story is one of a kind. Now, its time to work that edge.

Love & Gratitude,