The Freshman and Steeled Tipped Boot of NFA

As a teacher and creativity coach, I sometimes need to square up and kick hard with the steel tipped boot of NFA. It can be kind of harsh. But it’s always backed with love. 

It’s true. Sometimes people need their hand held. Sometimes people need a nudge in the right direction. Or a cheerleader in their corner. And sometimes it’s all about the boot. 

The other day I was teaching songwriting lessons at the college. Lily is a freshman with big dreams, plenty of talent, ambition and drive. She recorded her first album in high school. NFA, for sure.

In class we took a deep look at the lyrics to her new song. I did my best to explain how lyrics need to go beyond the obvious, stir emotional responses, say things that matter and resonate with both the artist and the audience. I helped her deconstruct the meanings of her words and ideas, go deeper, drill into the core of her truth. Cool.

This went on line after line after line. By the end of the hour, I realized that I had literally criticized nearly every word in her song. I did it with positive intention. It’s all part of the learning process. And that’s what we’re there for. 

But as I was driving home I wondered if the steel tipped boot was too much. Too intense. Too big. Too NFA. I wondered all week.

Yesterday in class, I began by telling Lily about my concerns. Was that too much criticism last time? Could I have been softer or lighter with my comments? She just kind of looked at me and passed me her revised lyric sheet without saying a word.

I was floored. Blown away. In awe. Lily stepped it up in every possible way.

This time I had absolutely nothing to say. Except big time praise and a bunch of high fives. The song resonated with so much more energy, truth and power. Wow!

I asked her about her process. How did she do it?

She told me that after our previous session she went home and thought about it.

She decided that if she was going to be a great songwriter, she would have to be willing to drop the ego and pride that so many of us carry. Instead, she would do her best to learn from people who might be able to help her. Even if it’s hard. Even if it sucks. Even if it takes forty three drafts to get it right.

I was floored again. This is the growth mindset that is absolutely key to success. Fail fast. Learn from it. Squeeze out as much wisdom as you can. Do it again. And again. And again.

I gave Lily more props on her attitude and new lyrics. Then we celebrated by watching a Maggie Rodgers video on Youtube (and analyzing the lyrics to that hit song). F yeah!

2019-03-28T10:44:32-08:00

About the Author:

Jeff Leisawitz burns with a mission—to inspire writers, artists, musicians and random creative types to amp up their creativity, heal their hearts and shine in the world. Author. Award winning musician/ producer. Internationally distributed filmmaker. College prof. Photographer. Speaker. Consultant. Not F*ing Around—The No Bullsh*t Guide for Getting Your Creative Dreams Off the Ground is Jeff’s first book.

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