“The wrong piano”: how the challenges we face are an opportunity to create something extraordinary

When pianist Keith Jarrett arrived at the Köln (Cologne) opera house in 1975 he found that the wrong piano had been set up for him on stage. It was an old, practice piano — out of tune and with sticking keys. The upper register was harsh and tinny. It was simply not the kind of piano that a musician of his high calibre should be expected to play. And so he refused. Point blank.

But somehow the young promoter managed to win him round. Probably Jarrett wanted to teach her a lesson. But by choosing to work creatively within the constraints he had been given, Jarrett created the most successful solo jazz album of all time and the most popular piano album in history. His improvisation that night was “magical, amazing, breathtaking, electrifying… a masterpiece.”

We all face challenges in our work. Overcoming or working within these challenges is not a barrier to our job, it is our job. And if we choose to treat them not as limits but as frames that focus the impact we can create then we all have the opportunity to create a masterpiece.

You can listen to the full concert here.

Are you facing constraints in your work today? Is your job to overcome them? Or is there an opportunity to accept some of them for what they are and to focus instead on creating the best you can out of what you have?


Adapted from Inner Leadership: tools for building inspiration in times of change.

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4 Replies to ““The wrong piano”: how the challenges we face are an opportunity to create something extraordinary”

  1. Particularly good blog today for me. Thank you. I listened to the Koln concern much of the way through college. Interesting to hear the back story. We learn to make lemonade from lemons. 🙂

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