A night at the movies: art, serendipity and lessons for entrepreneurs

A good friend of mine has been organizing these movie sessions dedicated to the Spanish art of flamenco. We all gather in a local cultural association periodically to watch the movie she selected and the event is complemented with related performances like dancing or guitar playing.

Last night, as I was attending a documentary on the master of Spanish guitar Paco de Lucía, I suddenly realized what she is really doing: she is (and I believe John Hagel would agree with me – see his book The Power of Pull), creating a serendipitous environment where people with a passion for the arts of classic Spanish guitar and flamenco can meet!

To understand what I mean, a bit more context: our local culture has never been very much influenced by that of the Southern Spanish region of Andalucía, birthplace of flamenco, so those that like it always feel that they are part of a tiny tribe. Also, since it is not what people usually call “a social dance”, such as tango or salsa, you rarely have the chance to meet other aficionados outside the classroom.

The movie sessions started as a way for my friend to gather her students and contribute to the development of their knowledge through movies and documentaries, preceded by her explanations and context. But last night, as I scouted the packed room with many strangers, all slowly drinking the words of wisdom of master Paco de Lucía, I came to realize that she is in fact building something much bigger, even if that was not her intention in the first place. And I felt proud!

“The stomach fills easily; the spirit is insatiable” Paco de Lucía

Last night’s documentary, about the life and work of the great Spanish guitar genius Paco de Lucía, also reminded me of the similarities between art and other types of work, and the lessons entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs can draw from great artists:

Ceaseless work

Paco was born out of a family with a passion for flamenco, yet humble, so he did not had the chance to study music and guitar beyond the age of 8. Nonetheless, his passion drove him to keep trying and improving. As a boy he practiced endless hours each day, with the neighbours at times thinking the family had, in fact, bought an expensive record playing device because they couldn’t believe it was in fact him playing all those hours.

“Many times I thought of giving up, I thought I wasn’t good enough” Paco de Lucía

Deserved (at home) recognition usually takes a while

Paco was the first non-classical music artistic to perform at Madrid’s Teatro Real, a mecca for classical music. That day marked the recognition of his work and of flamenco as an art as “deserving” as others to be featured at such a venue. Yet, he explained in the documentary that by that time he had already received praise and performed at other equally important venues around the World.

Lack of “formal” training should not stop you from trying

Since he did not formally study music, Paco felt that he lacked some knowledge and skills. When he was invited to play the famous Concierto de Aranjuez piece by Joaquín Rodrigo with an orchestra he knew that he was unable to read music as they did but, with a special annotation on the musical scores, he was able to deliver a harmonious and unique performance.

Step out of your comfort zone. Learn from others. Go to the edge

Throughout his career, Paco always tries to do different things, try new sounds and record different albums. At some point in his life, he went to the US and started playing with guitar giants Al di Meola and John McLaughlin. “That scared me a lot”, he explained, “because I didn’t knew how to improvise. It was all new to me, jazz was very apart from the rigid structure of flamenco, and I felt I lacked the harmony that they had”. Guess I won’t have to tell you that their trio record was a mega hit, do I?

Disconnect to reconnect

Paco lives in Yucatan, Mexico, where he says he can just be Francisco Sanchez (his birth name), the man, and not Paco de Lucía, the legend. He draws inspiration from the quiet and beautifully natural surroundings, and has the necessary tranquillity to practice endlessly and try new sounds.

“When your passion becomes an obligation, then the passion goes away” Paco de Lucía


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