Last night I was lucky enough to attend a Paul Simon concert. It’s his “Farewell Tour.”

Perhaps needless to say, it was – and he is – spectacular. The gratitude he felt – and showed for the crowd – was touching. You could pretty much feel how blessed he felt to be playing in front of the crowd and how much he adored our adoration of him. And his music, In My Humble Opinion – has been (or at least mostly been) amazing for decades. Decades.

That is what I think I found most amazing. How long he’s been playing and how many different genres and musical histories he’s touched and incorporated. How local his music is from way back when – his roots in New York City, and Queens in particular, shone through, and his music from the last decades has integrated sounds and musicians from nearly every continent.

Perhaps this is why he’s been around so long and is adored so much. Here is a synopsis of what I “learned” from him.

  • Know your strengths and come from your strengths – Okay, so I grew up on Simon & Garfunkel, but when Paul played the simple first guitar chords of “Bridge over troubled water” or “Sounds of silence” you knew why he’s been playing for so long to so many idolizing fans. His simple music and poetic lyrics were – and are – a strength. We all need to live in our strengths authentically.
  • Be willing to change and grow – As noted above, Paul Simon’s music has evolved over the decades. You could sense his love of musicality and creativity – there were washboards used as instruments and musicians from around the world. You could tell that this love propelled him to continuously search for new sounds and wider inspiration. We all need to change, grow, and develop.
  • Do what you love – Again, his love of the music, his musicians, creating new sounds, and playing in front of an audience were all crystal clear during the concert, and maybe this is a good part of what makes his music so wonderful and so lasting. We all need to find our passions and do our best to live them.
  • Practice gratitude – While my seats were far from the stage, each time Paul clasped his hands to his heart as a show of thanks to the audience for coming out and letting him play, while I couldn’t really see his face I felt as if I could see his heart. It was overflowing with gratitude and appreciation. And each time he thanked the crowd for their applause, the crowd screamed more loudly. It was a love-fest that brought the evening to even higher heights. We all need to practice – and express – our gratitude.
  • Let beauty speak for itself – Okay, so again I am a huge fan, and I was raised on Simon & Garfunkel. But the last few songs, played with only his simple guitar riffs and chords, filled the stadium with beauty. And he let that speak for itself. We all need to let what is beautiful be beautiful.

It was just an amazing Paul Simon concert, but it taught me so much about living – and leading.

What leadership lessons have you learned in somewhat strange situations?
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