Major workout inspiration: Music that’s really hard to write.

This guy and his band got me through last week's tempo run. 1968, meet 2014. You can't get better than this.
This guy and his band got me through last week’s tempo run. 1968, meet 2014. You can’t get better orchestral jazz than this guy.

Had a workout revelation last week during my 7-mile tempo run. I always run to music, and truth be told, my workout mix has gotten a bit rusty. It’s full of fun power-ballad stuff, danceable stuff, every-song-is-four-minutes-long stuff. But on Friday, during a particularly hard 7-mile run that absolutely had to get done because I skimped a bit on mileage during my L.A. trip the previous week, I pulled out what I now realize was a secret weapon: Buddy Rich’s “Mercy, Mercy” live album, recorded in 1968 at Caesar’s Palace.

And suddenly, musically as well as athletically, I was home.

Running to really complicated jazz music reminds me of how hard it is to create anything worth doing. It takes major time. Real time. Concentration. An astounding love of the art. And a complete lack of interest in whatever public recognition you might get for the results, because you just can’t possibly judge what’s going to happen when you put a piece of art into the world. It might be seen by five people – or five million. And even if it’s seen by five million, maybe only five will really get it, and understand where you were coming from when you did it.

I relate to that idea this week because the universe sent me a very loud and large signal last week that right now is the time for me to delve into a project that could be life-changingly awesome – or could fizzle and just drift down to earth like the fragments of a burnt-out meteor. I have no idea where it will land. But it’s a passionately intellectual and personal project that might affect a lot of people very positively. And it is going to take major time.

When I listen to Buddy Rich’s jazz orchestra, I hear centuries of musical training in one sound. Those drum and sax solos are among the hardest things you can do in music. Jazz is stunning because it’s so amazingly complicated and sounds like there’s no way all of those sounds should be able to go together – but they do. It’s incredible stuff. And this week, I realized that that’s what I want to be listening to when I work out – because I’m building something hard too, something that will take a long time, something that demands long-term, compassionate commitment to the craft. I love this stuff. I hope it helps you too.

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