Wynton Marsalis and coaching

Last week Rafał and I met with Kuba Stankiewicz in our beautiful South Park and went for an evening walk together. One of the best world-class jazz pianists and internationally acclaimed musician and composer, Kuba always shares fab stories about jazz and personal and funny anecdotes about famous musicians and to our delight this time was no different. He told us about a PhD student whose doctoral thesis he was reviewing, and who has made Polish folk music from Łęczyca into a great jazz record. When Kuba asked what inspired him to look into these regional harmonies, he said it was no other but Wynton Marsalis. This world-famous jazz trumpeter and composer and winner of Pulitzer Prize for Music apparently once said to another musician: ‘I’m from New Orleans, so I can play our local music. You’re not from New Orleans, so you can’t. Play your own shit, man.’    

And when I heard this ‘play your own shit’ phrase, it immediately made me think of coaching and how true and universal it was. Coaches always work with their clients in a partnership to help clients discover their own and unique ways to achieve their goal. In other words, we don’t tell our clients what they should be doing in order to achieve whatever it is they want to change in their life. We ask them probing questions, pick up and unpack their limiting beliefs, help them see and appreciate other perspectives and keep them motivated to keep up the necessary work. But we never tell them what to do or how.  

Particularly for clients who are experiencing coaching for the first time in their life, they often find it really difficult to make their own decisions, choose the best actions and trust in their own talents and resources. In the early stages of the coaching process new clients often want our approval or validation of their choices. They often ask: Is this ok? Should I do it like that? What do you think as a coach? And that’s the moment where I would most like to quote Marsalis: ‘Do your own shit, man! Don’t ask me, but do what your heart and mind tell you is best for you and will work for you.’ Luckily, soon enough my clients come around and become more and more comfortable at hearing and trusting their own voice, designing their own plans. And that’s the moment when they truly start ‘playing their own shit’ and that’s the best music to any coach’s ears 🙂

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