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Thinking Outside the Box Like Jerry Garcia

With all of the media attention on the recent Atlantic piece focused on alternative careers for lawyers, I thought I’d continue writing about the topic of thinking outside the box.

Yesterday, I posted a video focused on the infinite possibilities of the everyday with the hopes that it would inspire people to think outside the box if they’re currently stuck inside their own heads or feeling stuck in paths that don’t fit them.

Now I want to give a shout out to the late Jerry Garcia, who today (August 1) would be celebrating his 72nd birthday if not for his premature 1995 death due to the rock star-lifestyle. Jerry’s band, The Grateful Dead (1965-1995), were masters of thinking outside the box.

Thinking outside the box can help you to see things that you don’t normally see. Ignoring what’s expected of you and what you feel pressured to do can force you to listen to your heart and do what will make you happy. This is essential when exploring careers.

The Grateful Dead helped me to think outside the box. I feel incredibly lucky to have attended 30 Grateful Dead concerts before Jerry Garcia left us. They remain one of my favorite bands and had a huge influence on me through my student years and beyond.

Aside from the fact that the band created a unique sound that relied on improvisation and blended all forms of American music from rock to jazz to country to blues, they also created a unique business model.

Music acts have historically relied on record sales and radio play for success. Typically, if you didn’t play and succeed at that music industry game, you didn’t exist.

Rather than follow the industry model, the Grateful Dead created their own. They focused on the live concert experience rather than chasing hit songs and hit albums. Where most music acts play the same concert night-after-night while their fans expect to hear the hits and visit the beer and bathroom lines during the rest of the show, the Grateful Dead would play a different setlist of songs every night and, thanks to improvisation, always play the songs in a unique way.

Without the marketing power of being on the radio, the band helped word-of-mouth to spread about their concerts by allowing fans to record the shows and share the recordings for free! So you wouldn’t only have a unique experience if you attended Monday’s show, but you could relive it forever thanks to a free recording – and share that recording with your friends who missed out.

The band pumped a lot of money into a great sound system and light show to enhance the fan experience. They created a party-like atmosphere that meant you could go to a show and feel like you just had a celebration – or squeezed a vacation into the night.

Since the shows relied on improvisation, the lows could be lower and the highs higher than a normal rock concert. Fans shared that journey with the band – and when things clicked, like a basketball team on a great night, magic happened.

All of this made for such a special concert experience that fans (me included) often felt the need to see the band as often as possible. Due to the band’s business model keeping them on the road on a regular basis, it was common for fans to follow the band around, traveling from city-to-city. Catch the Chicago show tonight and drive to Detroit for tomorrow’s show.

Experiencing life on the road added to the excitement for fans and helped to build a strong community around the band.

Watching a band succeed musically through improvisation taught us fans the importance of listening: listening to the energy of a room, listening to each other (important skills for networking, interviewing, and communicating effectively at work).

Watching a band break all the rules and grow to being one of the biggest national concert attractions, ultimately filling football stadiums across the country, taught us to follow our guts, listen to our own internal drumbeats and write our own rules (key to finding a career that fits you).

Meeting like-minded people along the road (“Deadheads”) who were all bound together by a love of the band would lead to developing relationships without even trying. It was pain-free networking!

Like any road-trip movie or travel experience, there were many obstacles to overcome to get from show-to-show. Important life lessons were learned: on being flexible, adjusting, dealing with other personalities, things not going exactly as planned…

Participating in this unique journey taught us to think big and do something that matters…something real…not calculated…something we can be proud of.

Your Call To Action

Think about what provides you with similar inspiration. Whether it’s music, travel, sports, meditation or Sudoku, I suggest diving in to get your mind’s juices flowing and thinking outside the box.

Let that exercise open your mind to what would really make you happy. Let it guide you to what’s missing from your current work day. Let it point you to career paths that might contain the activities you enjoy and are good at while removing whatever currently drags you down. Let it shine a light on a potential future that you haven’t yet allowed yourself to see.

Then sign-up for, download and fill out the free Career Mirror self-assessment so that you commit your soul-searching to writing and have a roadmap.

While you’re doing that, I’ll be celebrating Jerry’s birthday by listening to some Grateful Dead music.

If you’re interested in experiencing the Grateful Dead beyond the videos above, I recommend any officially released live recordings from 1972-1974, 1977-1980 or 1988-1990. You can still catch the surviving band members on tour. The band Phish, still playing at the top of their game, has a different sound, yet provides a similar concert experience. You can find me at their California shows this fall!

Related Posts:

Careers Lawyers Commonly Change To
Finding Your Career
Alternative Careers For Lawyers



Thinking of leaving the law? The best first step you can take is a good look in the mirror. START HERE:

it's free!
You’ll also get periodic updates, reminders & access to career guidance programs sent to your inbox. We respect your privacy. You can unsubscribe via a click at any time.