What James Brown Taught Me About The Vision

James Brown may be the greatest entertainer of all time.

The Godfather of Soul could sing. He could dance. He could write songs and he led one of the funkiest bands of all time.

If you love Prince or Michael Jackson or Justin Timberlake or just about any other musician who injected some soul into their pop music, you have James Brown, at least partially, to thank for what you are hearing.

I came across some behind-the-scenes rehearsal footage of JB recently on YouTube that revealed a big part of his process.

He’s in the middle of working through one of his more well known numbers called – and this is actually the title – “Get Up (You Make Me Feel Like A) Sex Machine” when he stops abruptly, clearly frustrated.

He walks over to every member of the band, starting with the guitar player.

“What instrument are you playing?” James asks.

“The drums”, replies the guitar player.

He then walks over to the bass.

“What instrument are you playing?” JB repeats.

“The drums,” the bass player sheepishly answers.

He goes up to the horn section, the organist, everyone else in the band and asks the same question.

And he always gets the same answer.

“I’m playing the drums, boss.”

Funkiest band in the history of the planet

As someone who likes to nerd out about music, this is both fascinating and revealing. That Brown saw every instrument as an extension of the drums. That they should be focused on the rhythm and beat and percussive elements of their respective guitars, horns and keyboards.

Upon listening to his music in this new context, it becomes pretty clear as to what he is trying to accomplish. He wants everything to swing and pulse in an effort to make the music danceable and intensely captivating. There is a reason that he is far and away the most sampled artist in hip hop music.

As a fitness enthusiast and small business owner, this type of singularity is even more intriguing.

In business, having this unity of vision is absolutely critical. It’s not that everyone shouldn’t have their own vision and backgrounds – their own instruments and past lessons, to take the music analogy one step further – but they should coalesce into one grand vision.

Fitness is very much the same way. You can have many tools – barbells, kettlebells, bikes, sleds, plyo boxes, yoga mats, just to name a few. But those tools should come together in one grand plan that has a very comprehensive vision and road map for success.

I would never tell someone not to pursue the fitness modalities and systems they enjoy. And there is some benefit in experiencing different approaches. But a singular, solid, well thought out system will beat class hopping every time.

To be even more direct, going to a boot camp class twice per week, spinning once per week, the gym on your own once per week and yoga once per week can be fun and expose you to a variety of ideas, but it will not get you in as good a shape as the place that specializes in whatever it is you want to accomplish.

And the reason for this is simple. No one is at the helm of that ship. Each place has its own program (hopefully!), priorities and point of view. It’s the opposite of James Brown. Not only aren’t they all playing the drums, they’re each playing a different song.

Our singular training vision is simple. Our goal is to get every client in the best shape they’ve ever been in. And to utilize the best tools, techniques and proven modalities to get them there.

As I tell people all the time, if your goal is to get to a 900lb squat as quickly as possible or make the Olympics in downhill skiing, this is not the place for you. You need to go to a facility and be around others who are all focused on similar goals (though I would argue we could help the skier get stronger and improve performance, but that is a detailed conversation).

But if your goal is to drive up general fitness qualities – strength, work capacity and body composition – in as efficient and effective manner as possible, you have found the right place. Every program we write, tool we use and system we put in place is in pursuit of that singular vision and outcome. It’s an important distinction.

Every morning I wake up before my family when the house is quiet and play my acoustic guitar. And since I don’t have a world-class band with me, I try to play all the parts myself. My thumb is the bass. My fingers play the melody. My foot keeps time. Sometimes I even open my mouth and sing.

And every once in a while, for a few seconds, it all comes together just like James Brown commanded. And I completely understand his obsession.

Because that vision, synergy and execution may be the best thing there is.