4 Things I Learned While Listening to ‘The Lesson’

Photo by Seif Eddin Khayat on Unsplash

“You’re born special. The cool thing is no one can take that away from you. Your job is to improve on that specialness and present it to the world. Now, we present it to the world by what we do, but it always comes back to who you are.”

— Victor Wooten

Victor Lemonte Wooten is an American bassist, songwriter, and record producer. He has been the bassist for Bela Fleck and The Flecktones since the group was formed in 1988. He owns Vic Records which releases his albums. He also wrote the novel The Music Lesson: A Spiritual Search for Growth Through Music and later released the book’s sequel, The Spirit of Music: The Lesson Continues, on February 2nd, 2021. He has won five Grammy Awards. He won the Bass Player of the Year award from Bass Player magazine three times and is the first person to win the award more than once.

As someone who just started playing the bass and recently got somewhat good at it, Victor Wooten has been an inspiration and a mentor but he has been even more than that. For people who have either heard Victor speak live or watched a video of him teaching on a particular topic or just playing the bass, they can boldly say that he is wise and eloquent. He’s gifted as a speaker as much as a bass player. But of all the things I have heard Victor talk about and say, I learned a lot more simply listening to a bass solo of his which he named ‘The Lesson’.

  1. We’re special, but not in the way you think: There are several things that make us inherently unique or special. Your fingerprint has never been here before in the history of mankind and it will never be here again. That’s a special trait that we all carry. In a sense, one might argue that we are born special. Hell, even Victor said so. But the reason I said we aren’t in the way that we think is Victor acknowledged that he and his brothers became good at music because they were born into it. He knew that anyone else who had the same opportunity and took it up would be just as good or better depending on their skill level and how much they practiced. Some might argue strongly that Victor is special because of all the cool things that he can do on a bass or cello, but it’s quite the opposite really. If you give anyone the resources they need to excel at something, they will excel if they put the work in. People around the world who have made a name for themselves and done amazing things were either born into the availability of resources or the sought out those resources and worked on themselves. The true thing that makes any of us ‘special’ is what we do with what we have. What we do with our time, how we relate with people, how much self improvement and development we’ve done. That’s our specialty.
  2. We all won’t do ‘great’ things: Now, this is kind of a controversial one and difficult to swallow. In today’s age, making a name for oneself is something sought by everyone. Everyone wants to make it big, have tons of money, be verified on Instagram and Twitter, buy a yacht, have our names and pictures on major billboards or probably a portrait of us sitting next to the Mona Lisa in the Louvre. But we won’t all do that. The actual number of us who will succeed to do so is staggeringly low. Everyone wants to quit their 9–5 and start a company but if we all do that, who will work in those companies? Sometimes, we need to take a step back and consider that we all won’t do something mind boggling or something that will shake the very core of the world. But it doesn’t mean that the little things we do have no meaning whatsoever. The companies that thrive today don’t thrive because they have a figurehead or CEO. They thrive because everyday men and women go to work and do their jobs so the company can succeed. We can all do great things even in our small circles of influence, which is a point I will come to later.
  3. Music is therapeutic: Good music has this feeling it brings. Every time I listen to The Lesson, I’m amazed and I don’t have the words to explain. There are no lyrics in the song. Just a man with his bass. Listening to Victor play on his guitar makes me understand that music isn’t about the lyrics that are being sung or the tune to which the singer responds to, it’s the feeling being injected into the music that gives it life. Listening to someone sing a song or play an instrument with their very soul is one of the best feelings ever. It can cure a gloomy day and bring a smile to a saddened face. It brings people together like nothing else I’ve seen. Two people can have completely different world views but like the same kind of music and that brings them together. They forget everything else and vibe to the tune because it speaks to them in ways other things can’t.
  4. Be a positive influence: Victor Wooten has influenced the world of bass players and of music in ways that will be spoken of for generations. Sharay Reed, Scott Devine, Rich Brown, Paul McCartney, Jimmy Hendrix, B. B. King, and many other musicians in their category have done and continue to do things that amaze us because they found their space in life. The cubicle where they could insert themselves and influence the world. And not just them. There are people today, right now, who are influencing the world but we don’t know about them and we may never know about them. But they’re doing good where they can and it is literally changing people’s lives. So, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a waiter at a restaurant or if you serve coffee at Starbucks. Let everyday mean something, put smiles on people’s faces, let people want to come to work or visit the same restaurant every day because there’s something you bring to the table that others don’t. You don’t have to be known by everyone in school for you to effect change or be someone of influence. It’s good but it’s not a prerequisite for that. After all, you don’t see sound engineers on stage when you go to a seminar or concert, but without them, you wouldn’t enjoy what you hear or listen to. We all have a space around us, a little community, where what we do matters and where we can add value to the lives of people. Find that space, find out what you’re good at, and get to work.
Victor Wooten, jamming in Craig Chapel at Drew University

Get outta here, and as always, I’ll see you in the next one!

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Ikechukwu Victor Oji

Ikechukwu Victor Oji

Writer | Editor | Proofreader. Freelance and SEO writer at Decarealms Media. I write about relationships, love, self growth and improvement. And chess.