Forget All That and Just Wail

You’ve got to learn your instrument. Then, you practice, practice, practice. And then, when you finally get up there on the bandstand, forget all that and just wail.” – Jazz great Charlie Parker

And so it is with many things in life, as illustrated with the most recent Pinkcast from Dan Pink.

In this episode, Dan talks with author and entrepreneur Suneel Gupta about his book: Backable : the surprising truth behind what makes people take a chance on you, co-written with Carlye Adler.

In Backable, Gupta reveals how the key to success is not charisma, connections, or even your resume, but rather your ability to persuade others to take a chance on you. This could be from an interview, an audition, or an investor pitch.

A significant step in the process of becoming backable is through the use of exhibition matches. These are low-stakes practice sessions that people need to engage in before they get into a high stake moment.

Gupta has three key rules to get the most out of these exhibition matches:

  1. No venue is too small. Ask a friend to listen to you, and ask them to invite some friends.
  2. No director’s commentary – give the real version of your pitch.
  3. When you are finished, don’t ask, “what do you think?”. Instead ask “what stood out you to the most?” or “how would you describe what I just told you to another friend?”

In the most memorable part of teh short interview, Pink then asks Gupta how many exhibition matches people should engage in before they are ready for the real thing. Gupta responded by saying the average backable person he studied plays around 21 exhibition matches. This gives the person the opportunity to reach a level of mastery with the material so that when it is time for the real thing you’re no longer focused on your script, but on what is happening in the room.

That’s where Charlie Parker’s quote comes in. You’ve done all those exhibition matches so that when it’s time for the real thing, you can just wail…

18 thoughts on “Forget All That and Just Wail

  1. How comfortable you feel letting yourself “wail” at a job interview has a lot to do with the person interviewing you i think! When the one interviewing you puts you at ease, its a lot easier!

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    1. I think practice does help, but I also think some people just come across as being backable naturally compared to others…. When you have that natural inclination, and combine it with lots of exhibition matches, you’ve got a winning combo…


  2. like pete, i also like, “what stood out?’ when learning about how you come across to someone. as much as you rehearse, i also think the ability to improv and go with the flow as needed is helpful in the process. you never know what will happen.

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  3. This is a wonderful analogy. Practice cements the meter, key, and melody for the performer. With these components firmly in place, the artist can then add the flair and flourish of improvisation to each performance. The most beautiful notes are rarely found in the sheet music.

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