Recently, I participated on a panel for the Council of Alumni Association Executives in Scottsdale, Arizona. A highlight during the event was a presentation by Kai Kight who identifies himself as an innovator, speaker, violinist, and entrepreneur. Kai created an experience for the audience that was steeped in music and visionary thinking. He believes in a future where we all feel compelled to offer our unique passion to the world. A recent graduate of Stanford University’s d. School – where innovation reigns, Kai Kight is taking the world by storm with recognizable career and life themes reimagined.
As a woman who used to make her living as a professional musician, I was particularly intrigued by Kai’s musical message. He aims to inspire people to reach new heights in their work and lives by composing their own unique paths. With disruptive innovation, an entrepreneurial mindset and a palpable passion, Kai shared these ideas that can help you reimagine your life and career.
Connect Across Genres – like most musicians, myself included, Kai’s training was steeped in Classical music. The revered composers of history – from Beethoven and Brahms – to Mozart and Mendelsohn, Kai encouraged us to think outside of the confines of how we were trained or educated. He shared that his favorite music crosses genres and generations to give him a unique perspective and to keep things fresh. His playlist even includes the underwater sounds of whales.
Consider this in your work environment. Are you engaged by different people on a regular basis? Are you doing the same thing over and over again or are there opportunities to innovate and reignite? Connect beyond your department or company. Different people bring new ideas and will allow you to create a remix of your career song. Collaborate across diverse disciplines.
Rethink Your Instrument – Kai is also a composer and played new works he wrote for his solo violin, that span musical styles and repertoire reflecting his innovative thinking. He urged us to adjust our environment and creative constraints. Play your own music and consider your strengths and how best to showcase them in life and career. If your work environment does not honor what you have to share then perhaps it is time to look for a better fit. If you are stymied by the status quo, then consider how you can rethink your role and your contribution. Don’t wait for someone else to give you permission. Take a risk and reconsider what you want your impact to be in the world.
Enhance Your Ensemble – develop a surrounding culture of support. I speak a lot about my Personal Board of Directors and this concept is similar. I have a professional posse, whom I tap for help, wisdom, and accountability. A performance ensemble is similar to a work team in that all players need to be engaged and ready in order for the performance to fly.
Surround yourself with the people who bring out the best in you – at work and in your personal life. You have choices about who you choose to work with and spend your personal time. Consider if these are the people who can support you to do your best work.
Accelerate the Tempo – increase your sense of urgency. So many people are waiting for their big career break and hoping they will be recognized for exceptional work. Pick up the tempo of your life and career and regain control of your destiny.
Make something happen and don’t let the permission paradox of not having enough experience stand in your way. Be pro-active and do something every day to move you closer to your goals. Often the fast paced sections of music are the most difficult and virtuosic for the instrumentalist or singer. Tap the virtuoso in you and up your career tempo.
Target Your Theme – define your individual and collective purpose. Kai mesmerized the audience with a new composition that hinted at the theme of a popular song. The theme was recognizable but different enough that Kai created a new motif altogether.
Self reflect about your career and life themes. Get quiet and really consider what your purpose is and that of your organization. Dusting off your sense of purpose gives you chance to really prioritize what’s important. It’s ok to change your mind but don’t let the inertia of a job cloud your sense of drive and intention.
Embrace the Dissonance – lean into the discomfort of change. A music history class would clearly articulate how musical dissonance was received throughout the ages. What may have sounded shocking to the live Mozartian audiences of Europe sounds familiar and easy to listen to by 21st Century ears. What would they think of Hip Hop today?
Change is the only constant we have in life. Those who embrace change take risks and are willing to try something new and have adapted to the uneasiness of change. New leaders emerge during times of change and innovations evolve when people are willing to fail. Embrace the possibilities and know that you can always rebound from a mistake.
Iterations are the possibilities of the future – enjoy the uneasiness and celebrate it.
What a great dose of inspiration Kai Kight shared at the CAAE conference. With his signature performance of playing the violin interspersed with his spoken wisdom and vision – he captivated our audience. I hope you will take his wisdom into consideration as you re-imagine your life and career. Kai Kight believes that innovation happens at intersections. Get creative – diverge from the linear and expected path and find your intersection.