25 September 2011

To be truly amazing at something you have to invest huge amounts of time and energy. It requires commitment over and above the call of duty.

This applies to all walks of life; athletes, business, musicians etc. You require levels of discipline that exceed the norm and the fruits of your labour are usually directly proportional to the effort and care you put in.

This week, I was invited to Manchester Town Hall for a civic welcome for Gábor Takács-Nagy, a Hungarian musician who joined the Manchester Camerata this summer as the Orchestra Leader.

After a quick introduction, Gabor kindly treated us to a sneak preview of what can only be described as a new Camerata. The same people, the same instruments, but a totally different sound.

Standing up, casually dressed, the chamber orchestra lit the room. I was spell bound. I have seen the Camerata play a number of times, but never like this.

I am someone who spends a great deal of time studying other leaders in the hope that I may, in turn, inspire others one day with what I am able to learn and pass on.

This is one of the reasons I take my 2 daughters, aged 5 and 7, to events like the concert last night at the RNCM where the Camerata did their first full concert with Gabor at the helm. My 2 daughters were captivated and both fell asleep on our knees in their party dresses, to the most wonderful music I have heard in Manchester for a long long time.

It is safe to say, Gabor is an inspiration and if you get an opportunity, you have to go and witness it for yourself. If you can’t afford the ticket, please come as my guest. Either way, you have to come.

Gábor is one of those people you hear about in history from a previous generation, but you never get lucky enough to meet.

Yet, here in Manchester, making himself accessible after conducting his first Manchester Camerata concert last night, he is – in my opinion – one of the most inspirational people I have ever had the pleasure to meet and our Great city of Manchester is a better place for his arrival and efforts.

And I cannot be alone in my thoughts because the members of his chamber orchestra must feel something special to be able to raise their game to that extent.

I have met him a few times now and each time I leave a better person, lifted to a new level.

So, what is it that makes him special?

If I was only allowed to use one word, it has to be “passion.” When someone speaks with so much congruency and feeling it is difficult not to get engaged.

Gabor uses raw emotion to lead his orchestra and, watching him at work, he balances his very dynamic and energetic movements with carefully chosen words when describing what is about to be performed.

Leadership is about honesty. You have to love and believe absolutely in what you do if you want others to follow you. Even then, you don’t have a God given right, these are merely credentials to enter the game. You then need the passion to get people engaged in the challenge you are ultimately setting them. If there is no challenge, there is no game.

Finding the challenge can be a challenge in itself. It’s essential though, if you are to inspire others to unite and raise someone’s game. The greater the challenge, the more likely you are to inspire the person presented with it. It’s too easy to assume that everyone wants an easy life. Why on earth would you want an easy life?

When something is easy, it is no fun. The fun in life comes from developing skills to combat new hurdles.

Something only becomes satisfying when you’ve picked yourself up a few times, dusted yourself off and run headlong at it again. Pretty soon, you learn how to solve the conundrum and then it’s time for a new challenge.

When I sit watching musicians, I always reflect on the hours they sacrificed for their instruments. My favourite moment in any film is the scene in Groundhog day when Bill Murray starts to learn the piano. Stuck in a timewarp where each day restarts, he eventually learns that he might as well make a difference to everyone else’s life if he can’t improve his own. This becomes his challenge!

When you see him hammering the piano, entertaining the whole room, it puts into perspective how long he’d been there; literally a lifetime.

And that’s what’s required; a lifetime of commitment. If you want to become truly great at something, you better get focussed. There is a long road ahead.  If you want some entertainment or inspiration during your journey, please do come and see what I am talking about.

Mohammed Ali said, “I run on the road long before I dance under the lights.”

Gabor, you have earned the right to dance.



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