Neil Peart takes lessons from Freddie GruberA couple of years ago, I caught a portion of a documentary about the rock band Rush. I’m a casual fan of theirs but probably even more so a fan of their drummer, Neil Peart. He’s an impressive guy for many reasons. In addition to being widely recognized as one of the greatest rock drummers of all time, he is responsible for writing nearly all of the band’s epic lyrics.

One of the reasons I find him so fascinating is the fact that even after multiple decades of incredible success, in the mid 90’s he began to feel like his physical talents had taken him as far as they could. He wasn’t satisfied and wanted to push himself even further. Most elite performers, athletes, business leaders, etc. wouldn’t dream of taking advice from anyone else, let alone seeking it out. But that’s exactly what Peart did. He sought out famed and eccentric jazz drumming instructor Freddie Gruber asked for some lessons.

What did he learn? It turns out he was holding his sticks wrong and wearing the wrong shoes. But that’s not what’s important. As I watched a short interaction between the two, there was another lesson I took from Gruber and it might surprise you to know that a jazz drummer could teach you something about social media.

The How Determines the What

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In this brief video, Gruber begins with a powerful statement that struck me immediately: “How you do what you do is almost as important as what you do. The approach to what you do results in what you get.”

The message I heard from Gruber in the short lesson is one of wasted motion and energy. He references youth several times and also talks about not getting ahead of yourself. These remind me of Gary Vaynerchuck’s oft-mentioned analogy regarding social media marketing. He compares is to a young guy who is trying to “score” on the first date. He’s a perhaps a little too exuberant and almost certainly getting ahead of himself. Or as Gruber ponders, “Be where you’re at because if you’re not where you’re at, it begs the question and one would want to ask, ‘Where are you?'”

Nowhere is this more true than in social media. The approach is everything. It is almost exclusively about how you do what you do. The words you choose. The value you offer. The conversations you move forward. The help you give. Your audience is going to react much more to the way you use Twitter than the links you share and the calls to action you offer up.

And stay within yourself. Don’t get ahead of yourself. Establish a healthy pile of social capital before making withdrawals by going for the “score.” Picture your social media marketing as a continuum between offering value and asking for the sale. Where are you on that continuum? Like a drummer moving his stick from drum to cymbal, are you merely smashing something with a stick or are you executing a fluid motion from one space to another that results in a beautiful sound?

If one of the greatest rock drummers of all time can change the how, why can’t we (marketers, organizations)?

P.S. Here’s a sample of Peart’s incredible talent and the results from changing his approach. Enjoy:


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