Career Lessons from Yo-Yo Ma and The Silk Road Ensemble

Recently I saw a movie called “The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble”.  Yo-Yo Ma is a world renowned cellist.  He also is interested in the intersection of art and culture.  Almost 20 years ago, he invited musicians from all over the world to share their musical culture and instruments.  The result is the Silk Road Ensemble.  The music in the film was great, but the discussions of culture was what really interested me.

In one of the interviews, Yo-Yo Ma said (and I’m paraphrasing here) that true creativity occurs at the intersection of cultural ideas.  In other words, we become more creative the more we engage with and understand people who are different from us.

There’s a career lesson here.  The more we listen to others who have ideas and thoughts that differ from our own, the better we will understand the world and ourselves.  These days, there’s not a lot of listening going on.  All you have to do is turn on CNN and watch for a couple of minutes to see what I mean.

I tell members of my career mentoring site that they should listen to hardest when they’re speaking with people who have ideas different from them.  This isn’t easy to do.  But it’s the best way to make progress.

My friend, Judith Glaser, author of Conversational Intelligence, says that there are three types of conversations: 1) Transactional – exchanging information, telling and asking; 2) Positional, exchanging power, advocating and inquiring; and 3) Transformational – exchanging energy, sharing and discovering.  When you engage in transformational conversations you are in a co-creation mode.  You open the way to broader insights, wisdom and shared success.

That’s what Yo-Yo Ma has done with the Silk Road Ensemble.  That’s what you need to do if you want to create the life and career success you deserve.  Get to know people who are different from you – race, gender, religion, national origin, political persuasion – engage them in discussion.  Listen to their points of view and present yours ina respectful way.  That’s way to broader insight, wisdom and success.

Your career mentor,


PS: I write this blog to help people create the life and career success they want and deserve. Now I’m going one step further. I’ve created a membership site in which I’ve pulled together my best thoughts on success. And, as a reader of this blog, you can become a member for free. Just go to to claim your free membership. You’ll be joining a vibrant and growing community of success minded professionals. I hope to see you there.


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