10/15/2013 11:19 am ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Music and the Third Metric: The Day We Stop Being Right!

Miri Ben-Ari

I was running the treadmill on a gloomy Tuesday afternoon while watching President Obama's press conference about the government shutdown. Aside from politics, the words that stayed with me were "...there are enough reasonable Republicans and Democrats in the House;" I couldn't help but think, how come all these reasonable people cannot come together to end this chaos?

Why is it so difficult for us to "hash things out" and resolve conflicts? Why do we focus on the individual mandate, instead of looking at the bigger picture?

Maybe it was the endorphin release that kicked in while I was running and once again I found myself entertained by the thought that if all the people in this world started their day with yoga or meditation practice or were able to play music together, we would probably be able to communicate in a better and more productive way.

Yes, I know it sounds surreal, but can you imagine the results?

I moved to New York all the way from Israel to study Jazz. In Jazz music, there is a tradition of playing jam sessions, where Jazz musicians come together to play Jazz standards. The Big Apple is the perfect place to find jam sessions attended by great Jazz musicians and I used to go to Jazz clubs almost every night, bring my violin along and jam. The funny thing about playing in a jam session is that you don't need to know anything about the people you play with in order to create music together; all you have to do is listen to each other while playing. At the time, I couldn't speak English very well, however I was able to jam with other musicians and express myself without feeling compromised. Jazz music taught me that great listening is when you are able to alter your choice of music notes in order to accommodate notes played by other musicians. A jam session is almost like a group effort; everyone supports everyone in order to sound great together. I was able to apply that experience later on in my career, collaborating with artists from different music genres. For example, although I did not grow up with Hip Hop music, when collaborating with Hip Hop artists, I was able to fuse, apply and adapt my musical knowledge simply by listening. Is it possible to apply that way of listening in other areas of our life?

Apparently it is very difficult. We are designed in a way that does not allow us to give up that easily our "choice of notes." Our ego strives to stick, defend and justify our choices all the time for the sake of being right. Our ego creates a false belief that we must stand our ground or else. If you are asking me, our need to be right can be very dangerous. As a matter of fact, people would do almost everything just to be right; people argue to be right, fight to be right and even kill each other and die being right!


So what can we do to prevent our righteousness from taking over our life and getting bent out of shape whenever we cannot have our way? Perhaps my earlier suggestion was not too surreal. I've recently learned about the growing trend of practicing yoga and meditation in corporate America. Businesses realized that by providing yoga and meditation practice to their workers they would not only contribute to their health, but also help their creativity and productivity. What business wouldn't mind having a better work environment while watching their revenue go up?

My Jazz experience taught me that in music there are no "right" or "wrong" notes, a band that listens to each other and plays together can make every note sounding "right." This active listening is very valuable at a time of a conflict, it can help us reach our potential to work together, find solutions and be productive since the communication is not based on the need of being right. I know it is not so easy giving up "being right" which is almost a paradoxical to our human nature. However ,if we don't free ourselves and our ego, from having to justify, compete and prove cases all day, we will in fact wind up with a government shutdown, no matter of how many reasonable Republicans and Democrats there are in the House.

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post in conjunction with our women's conference, "The Third Metric: Redefining Success Beyond Money & Power," which took place in New York on June 6, 2013. To read all of the posts in the series and learn more about the conference, click here. Join the conversation on Twitter #ThirdMetric.

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