For all the right reasons–which I’ll tell you about soon–Random House / Doubleday / Currency has decided to move back the publication date of my next book from September, ’08 to January, ’09. We’ve got some cool things going behind the scenes that will coincide with the book’s launch, so I’m ecstatic that we’re waiting just a bit to make sure that all the proverbial ducks are lined up and quacking in unison.
In the meantime, here’s a preview of what I’ve been cooking up. Since my editor is yet to whack at it with his magic pen, I can’t promise that you’re looking at the final form. We’re still wrestling with the title, so for now let’s just say that the story explores the principle I’ve been referring to on this blog as Greater Than Yourself. Here then, is the current state of the prologue and Chapter One:
The obsession seized me with all the subtlety of a sumo wrestler hopped up on anabolics.
I’d been playing guitar for 35 years, and I’d owned a couple of decent ones from time to time, but suddenly I needed—needed—that 1959 Gibson hollow-body electric hanging on the rack at Vintage Brothers Guitars in Carlsbad, California.
I don’t know what it was. I’d seen nicer guitars, to be sure. There was nothing unusual about its sunburst finish, and with only one pickup in the middle position, the ES-330 wasn’t considered the most desirable of collectable instruments. But other than a few minor nicks on the headstock, it was in perfect condition, and as I sat in the store’s small demo room, playing it hour after hour, I fell deeper and deeper in love. The neck was fast, the tone, sweet, rich and mellow. Yeah, I was in love, man, but not all love and obsession winds up in marriage, so eventually I put it back on the rack, inquired just one more time about the price, and walked out into the salty, San Diego, Pacific Ocean air.
I’ve played better guitars, I kept telling myself, and I’ve seen better deals on vintage instruments. But as I walked towards my car, I couldn’t shake it. Then the sumo got me, spun me around and shoved me back down the parking lot from where I’d come. My pace quickened as I approached the shop, and my wallet was out before I even got through the door. I paid the price and grabbed the case, and, minutes later, grinning a grin that tested the limits of my cheek-muscles, I tucked that baby into the passenger seat and buckled it in like the prize it was.
I had to have that guitar. Had to.
And now, just a few days later, I know why.
I’m not really sure what to call it when things line themselves up without my slightest knowledge or influence. It’s like someone is executing a profoundly interlaced conspiracy to make all the random pieces of my life fit together. What is it? Karma? Kismet? Synchronicity? I don’t know, but it happens to me a lot, and more often than not it works out well. I just seem to meet the right teachers at the right time.
I’ve been blessed (maybe that’s the word) with the opportunity to work with some of the world’s preeminent thinkers in business leadership—like Tom Peters and Jim Kouzes to name a couple. And in recent years, under extremely odd and seemingly fortuitous circumstances, I’ve learned directly from some of the masters of Extreme Leadership—like William Maritime and Agnes Golden and Ted Garrison, names that’ll be familiar to readers of my previous books.
I’ve done a pretty good job of conveying the lessons I’ve learned along the way, and I think that’s why I’ve made a bit of a name for myself in certain circles. Some have even used the words “Steve Farber” and “leadership guru” in the same sentence, which, although gratifying to my ego, makes me squirm like I have a load of wet worms in my socks.
Right teachers. Right time. Odd circumstances.
I was thinking I should print that on my business card, because it was starting to happen all over again.
I was back in my apartment on the bay side of the Mission Beach area of San Diego. The ocean and its frenetic boardwalk were a couple of blocks to the west, but calm, tranquil Mission Bay lay just a few short yards to the east of my building, affording a view through my living room window worthy of tourist’s post card.
I had returned from Carlsbad a couple hours earlier, cleared my agenda by taking care of a few time-bound tasks, and was now—finally!—ready to spend some quality time getting intimate with my new companion.
I gingerly placed the tattered, 49 year-old, mottled brown guitar case on the dining room table, flipped open the latches, lifted the top, and let my gaze linger over the sunburst-colored curves of my new six-string babe.
Sitting on a bar stool with the guitar propped in my lap, I twisted the tuning knobs until the sound was just right and fired off a couple of quick blues licks in the key of E. I’d plug it in later; for now I was enjoying the smooth feel of the Brazilian rosewood fingerboard and the muted, rich sound resonating off its un-amplified, maple body. I was just about to settle in for a few hours of serious playing (which sounds like an oxymoron—but it’s not), when something in the case caught my eye. I set the guitar in a stand and got up to take a closer look.
The pink, plush lining on the inside bottom of the case was pulled slightly back at the seam and a small, yellowed piece of paper stuck out from under the fabric. I pinched the corner and pulled on it gently. It slid easily from under the velvet and revealed itself to be a handwritten note.
I felt a voyeuristic jolt similar to what an architect must feel when finding a relic that gives a glimpse into another’s life in another time.
“Dear Jessica,” the note began. “This guitar is my gift to you. It was made in 1959, 31 years before I taught you your first lesson. What a player you’ve become in just 5 short years, and now that you’re old enough to vote and on your way to school and the distractions of adult life, you’ll need this guitar to remind you of your wonderful musical gift. And may it help you to become a better player than I ever hoped to be. I have no doubt you will.
You have brought this old teacher of yours more joy than you could possibly know and I want you to know that I’m very, very proud of you.
“Your friend and teacher,
“You’ve been around, haven’t you?” I said to the guitar in the stand.
I read the note one more time and tried to imagine the teacher, the student and the strong bond that had obviously existed between them. It was an unusual thing, that kind of connection. I’d been lucky enough to experience that student-teacher bond in my professional life, and I knew how rare and priceless a thing it could be, so, naturally, I found myself wondering where these people were today and what, if anything, had happened with Jessica’s life as a guitarist—or if she even continued playing at all.
The way I figured it, (I had to use a calculator, I admit), this note was written somewhere around 1995, and if Jessica had just been reaching college age, that would put her in her early 30’s today.
Had “GZ’s” pride been well-placed? Had Jessica grown into the kind of adult he’d hoped she would? And why, if their relationship had been as special as the teacher’s note implied, had Jessica eventually gone on to sell this wonderful and sentimental gift? And you’d think if she’d returned even a little of her teacher’s affection, she’d at least have kept the note.
I know I would have.
Given my sudden and intense curiosity about all this, I found myself faced with two possible paths: I could either make up imaginary answers to these questions, or I could snoop around to see if I couldn’t uncover the real story of Jessica and GZ.
And I bet you can guess which road I traveled by.