Maybe the best line I have read in a book in the last decade, or so – from Twyla Tharp, The Collaborative Habit

collaborative-habitAs a choreographer, my task is to make the best possible work with the dancers I find in the room on any given day.
Twyla Tharp:  The Collaborative Habit:  Life Lessons for Working Together

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(Too much speaking; not enough blogging recently.  Sorry for the absence).

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I quoted the line again this past week, this time in Brownsville.  I realized that it is the line I have quoted most often over the last few years.

Twyla Tharp is a Kennedy Center Honoree, multi-award-winning choreographer.  She has worked with the very best (Baryshnikov) and the good at lower levels.  In her book The Collaborative Habit, she talks about working with dance troupes in many cities, large and small.  In that context, she wrote the words:

As a choreographer, my task is to make the best possible work with the dancers I find in the room on any given day. 

So clear; so simple; so challenging…

There are lessons here.

#1 – Chances are, you are not the very best on the planet at your job.

#2 – Chances are, you don’t have access to the very best on the planet to hire for your team.  – Baryshnikov could not dance two dances at one.  Michael Jordan could not play for two teams at once.  Twyla Tharp can not lead two dance troupes at once.

#3 – BUT…it is the job of a leader to help pull out of the “dancers in the room” on any given day the very best work they can produce. Their best possible work!

#4 — By beckoning forth the best from the team members you have on this day, you build confidence in your team about their own abilities; their own greater capabilities

This is good advice for any team, and any individual, on any day, in any place:  My task is to produce the best possible work I can on this day, with these people, for this audience/customer/user.

This is one to put up somewhere pretty prominently.  It sets a high, but honest and  realistic bar.book_creative_thumb

We’ve all got our work cut out for us!


By the way, I think this book, and her other book, The Creative Habit, are both worth reading.  Very good books indeed.

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