When life throws lemon at you, make a lemonade. That sounds like a great quote, till you deliver this line to kids. When my niece heard me say this, she retorted “Who will give sugar and soda”.

Jokes apart, we end up facing such situations in life. The main challenge that my friends and I faced while growing up was not having enough money to buy decent Cricket kit. We used to lament, “God gave us talent but not enough money to show our talent”.

We face such situations at work as well. We get this grand idea but our manager ensures a premature death of the idea. If you are lucky to have a more sadistic manager, you may get a go ahead but with a stringent budget. It is like tying up your leg and asking you to dance. or may be like giving you a broken piano and expecting you to perform the best melody.

Not possible isn’t it? Unless you are Keith Jarrett, American Jazz Pianist and Music Composer.

Keith Jarrett expects perfection when he plays music. He gets upset even to coughing noise from the audience during his performance. He is known to have stopped his performance and walked out hearing excessive coughing. He feels that extraneous noise affects his musical inspiration and distracts his mind from the purity of the sound. As a result, cough drops are routinely supplied to Jarrett’s audiences in cold weather. He has also complained onstage about audience taking photographs, and has performed in darkness just to prevent this.

The story of a broken piano happened on 24th January 1975. Keith Jarrett was invited to play in Koln. The event was organised by a 17 year old Vera Brandes. Every thing was set for a great concert. Tickets were sold out. Though Keith Jarrett was suffering from back pain due to excessive travelling, that was not going to stop him from performing. Keith Jarrett visited the hall to check the ambiance and the Piano. He found the Piano too small for the hall. He also noticed that some of the keys were broken. He decided to call off the performance. With just few hours left for the concert, Vera Brandes tried her best to replace the Piano with a better one. Her efforts ended up in vain due to lack of time. She had to beg Keith Jarrett to change his mind and he agreed. The rest as they say is history.

Keith Jarrett produced a masterpiece on that concert. To this day, this recording remains as one of the most popular concert recording

Life at times appears to have lost its sunlight, but that leaves us with the hope for a fresh start and to achieve bigger feat in life.

What did Keith Jarrett do ?

He adapted his strokes to match the broken down Piano.

Following are the lessons that I pick from this story :

  1. When something is broken, never worry. Just adapt to the situation. You may end producing a wonderful performance much more than what you could or the world even predicted.
  2. Know the rules and leverage your strength to get the maximum within the constraints of the rules. When Keith Jarrett decided to play the broken piano, he pretty well knew that he has to play within the constraints. The rules, which we feel like constraints, at times, can bring out the best in us.
  3. Take that risk. Keith Jarrett put his reputation at stake when he decided to play with the broken piano. The risk of not playing safe to safeguard the reputation. When we decide to free ourselves from the expectations emanating from our past success, we can soar to new heights.

Next time when you come across a situation where you feel that life has given you broken piano, remember to produce a master piece.