The value of identifying your values

I was asked a few months ago by Pat Strother of Strother Communications to name my three core values as an artist, musician and composer.

He was looking for a three-word distillation of the guiding principles that motivate me to get up in the morning and move forward every day.

When I received this question (via e-mail) I was on a tour of Ireland.

I sat down with my iphone on a sofa in the lobby of the hotel I was staying at in Cork, thinking I would be there for some time.

But it took less than a minute.

I suddenly realized, no one had ever asked me.

My three core values are (and have always been) originality, universality and timelessness.

What do these terms mean to me?

Originality means something came from a creator and is uniquely theirs, containing and communicating their unique personal stamp, character, design, expression or brand.

It means something was not borrowed, derived, adapted or tweaked from someone else’s work or someone else’s idea. It is original. One of a kind.

Original does not mean without influences. Everything has influences and everything had a starting point.

It means without precedent.

Something that is original has transcended its influences to convey something truly new.

Listen to John Coltrane’s music.

You can hear many influences in it: blues, bebop jazz, the popular music of the time, perhaps some techniques or phrasing identifiably borrowed from some of his musical heroes.

Yet his sound is original. Many (if not all) jazz saxophone players have tried to play like Coltrane, yet no one has ever succeeded in sounding like him.

Universality means that what someone has created posesses a universal character and appeal. It has the quality of being understandable, relevant and involving to all people, of all ages, from all cultures. It transcends cultural and geographical boundaries.

Music as an art form always has the potential to be universal because it reaches a different area of the psyche from other forms of expression.

Music can help us all experience our human connection to each other (instrumental music possibly more so because there are no lyrics needing translation).

Timelessness means that a creation doesn’t date, but rather remains meaningful, applicable and valuable through time and across generations.

These are the qualities I have always admired, embraced and striven to embody in my creative work.

I found this exercise to be of great value in identifying the reasons and motivations for what I do, i.e. to look at what has always been operating behind the scenes.

It has made it possible to move forward creatively with even greater confidence.

Thanks for asking, Pat.

By the way, what are your three core values?

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10 Responses to The value of identifying your values

  1. Beata says:

    doing meaningfull things with joy, be fearless, be a good example for others…that 3 my core values 🙂

  2. Avinash S says:

    This was inspiring, i have to start figuring that out now! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Darell says:

    i like my beat down low, my top laid back and my windows pitch black, homie

  4. Garrett McIntyre says:

    My three are being authentic (not being afraid to be who you are and having the courage to maintain in the face of pressure) being honest (with yourself and others), and sincere (having a passion or meaning behind all your actions).

    • fretgenie says:

      Sounds good Garrett. What’s important is what these values mean to you and how they guide your choices and actions throughout your life.

      • Garrett McIntyre says:

        I agree completely. Your core values certainly shine through in the music that you create. I’m somewhat of a new listener and I find your music fascinating. Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

  5. Sean Clarke says:

    Hey Preston,

    Just discovered you, your music and guitar magic today, and wanted to say firstly a big thanks for being such a humble and talented role model for us younger guys figuring out how to live in and explore this lil planet with our creative gifts, inspirational brother!

    My three values are very similar to your own though stated a little differently, as of course is ‘the way it seems to work’:

    MAGIC: whatever ‘it’ is it just has to spark and happen in the moment, it has to live, we all know it when we encounter it, an aliveness, the unexplainable, its just cool as f, simply because it is, hehe : )

    LANGUAGE: it has to speak, every aspect of this universe has its capacity of speech, a fact which is endless, and we humans have the gift of decipher, of ultimate acknowledgement, of translation, regards any extent of universality, that I feel is our responsibility, to express cleanly what is real, free of distractions.

    PEACE: my core guiding premise, that which stabilizes this wildly creative and able mind, allowing it relatively safe passage through the myriad ripples and waves of events is a simple statement: “everything resolves”, for me, everything starts in and resolves into the same peace, the music is the bit that happens in between peace and peace, as it figures itself out, and hopefully enjoys doing so : )

    Thanks Preston and Pat for triggering this sequence of insights, here’s to many more fun journeys…

    ~ Sean

    • fretgenie says:

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment. Really enjoying the interesting, individual responses this post has provoked.

      • Sean Clarke says:

        You’re most welcome Preston, its great to have these opportunities to think and speak about something worthwhile and useful!

        …after talking about you and your music a fair bit this past few days, and having missed your north east of England gig, I discovered your music two days after you left : ) I was, as luck would have it, invited by some London friends to go to your Fri 24th gig. So very much looking forward to the ‘live experience’…

        warmly
        ~ Sean

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