Book Summaries

Book Summary – 12 Notes: On Life and Creativity by Quincy Jones 

Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr

Life is an absolute trip and you never know what’s going to come next.

80-time Grammy nominee and 8-time Grammy award winner Quincy Jones share lessons learned insights, and strategies that have helped him lead a life of creativity. Quincy grew up with a workaholic dad and a schizophrenic (dementia praecox) mum that was taken away to a mental hospital when Quincy was 7. He grew up in a tough neighborhood in southside Chicago with his baby brother.

Quincy breaks down his principles, approach to life, and philosophies, along with standout stories from his journey in twelve chapters called “notes”.

Learn to deal with the valleys, the hills will take care of themselves.

On Creativity

Creativity is made up of two parts: science and soul (left and right brain). The scientific side is that which needs to be learned and practiced. But the soulful side (which is composed of emotions) is something that can’t be taught—it’s simply the essence of who you are as a human being.

Growing up in an environment that stripped me of all ability to control my circumstances, creativity became the only way in which I could gain even an ounce of stability.

The 12 notes: Recycle your pain, if you can see it you can be it, go to know, establish your guideposts, always be prepared for a great opportunity, sharpen your left brain, avoid paralysis from analysis, understand the power of being underestimated, do what’s never been done before, value relationships, and most important, recognize the beauty and inherent value of life.

The 12 Notes

Nadia Boulanger, Quincy’s former teacher in Paris, used to tell him, “Quincy, there are only twelve notes. Until God gives us thirteen, I want you to know what everybody did with those twelve.” Bach, Beethoven, Bo Diddley, everybody . . . it’s the same twelve notes. Isn’t it amazing? That’s all we have, and it’s up to each of us to create our own unique sound through a combination of rhythm, harmony, and melody.

Note A: Recycle your pain

In the midst of adversity, it’s easy to let disappointment or anger take center stage, but I have found that my purpose is so much greater than my problems, although it’s incredibly easy to place an emphasis on the latter.

“Your mama’s not well.”

A phrase I heard repeatedly throughout my childhood. A phrase that haunted me. A phrase that would subconsciously inform much of the way I operated in my later years. The crippling fear of developing dementia and becoming as crazy as she was began to set in and fill the crevices of my mind. Night after night, there seemed to be no escape. Even my waking moments were filled with my mother’s ever-present voices, enough to convince me that I was, in fact, going crazy.

Nuturing

I’m convinced there are two kinds of people: those who have been properly nurtured and those who haven’t. There’s really nothing in between. When you’ve been nurtured, you know it, and when you haven’t, you really know it. The after-effects start rearing their ugly head through the ways in which you see and treat others, and maybe even less apparently, the ways in which you see and treat yourself. It starts seeping through the cracks of the drywall you try to put up in your soul, and eventually it begins to leak into your every move, and unfortunately in my case, every REM cycle.

No Role Model

Seeing the woman who was supposed to care for and protect me get tied up and taken to a mental institution is enough to rattle any kid’s world, let alone a kid who also lived in the ghetto with no real role models. With no mother and a father who was always away at work, I had no compass, and at times, a pervasive feeling of hopelessness. Although my suffering and anger were real and valid, I learned the importance of not keeping it locked inside.

Seeing the woman who was supposed to care for and protect me get tied up and taken to a mental institution is enough to rattle any kid’s world, let alone a kid who also lived in the ghetto with no real role models.

As a result of my maternal void, I allowed music to assume the role of my mother, and it has been a guiding force in my life ever since. In all honesty, without enduring the level of pain that permeated much of my developmental years, I may have never found my medium of expression and applied myself to it in the manner in which I have.

Embrace the Struggle

With the inevitability of hardship in this often broken world, it’s important to understand what fills your voids and also where you are projecting yours. The moment you slip into a victim mentality, not only are you faced with having to deal with external problems, but you’ve also given yourself a whole new set of internal problems that will only stunt your growth as both a human and a creative being. You don’t have to let the anguish that has permeated pockets of your life completely take over.

Creativity is one of the most beautiful gifts we possess. If utilized properly, not only does it serve as an outlet, but it also holds the power to transform heartache into something beyond a singular sentiment

NOTE A#: If You Can’t See It, You can’t Be It

Personal growth is just a journey from mind pollution to mind solution.  In other words, you have to sift through the dirt of whatever situation it is that you find yourself in, so that your future isn’t polluted before you’ve even had a chance to create it. Whether it’s a past trauma or a difficult family situation, mentally overcoming such challenges is often the most important first step in personal advancement.

Personal growth is just a journey from mind pollution to mind solution.

You are not where you are

As the saying goes, “You want to be what you see,” but if there are no tangible examples of what your life can look like or attainable ways in which you can achieve that vision, it’s incredibly easy to believe that your current position is your only position.

You want to be what you see.

Exposure to Hope

I’ve noticed that one of the main factors in my ability to outgrow my circumstances was my increased exposure to hope, and my relentless pursuit of it. Some may use the word “opportunity” instead, but it’s important to note that without hope, opportunities do nothing more than demonstrate to a disadvantaged individual what they are unqualified to be.

Without hope, opportunities do nothing more than demonstrate to a disadvantaged individual what they are unqualified to be.

You want to be what you see.

We imitated what we saw members of the gangs from back home do, and retained the mentality that if you want it, you go out and get it, by any means necessary. Breaking and entering. Stealing and escaping. That was our life, day in and day out. Aside from school, there were no playgrounds, parks, or anything remotely safe to keep us occupied. All we had were miles and miles of evergreen trees in the wilderness and plenty of ways to get into trouble.

Garbage In, Garbage Out

Youth is an extremely impressionable time of life, and while that can be a great asset, it can also be detrimental to your development if the things you are molding into don’t serve your best interest. You could have it all, in a material sense, but if you’re assimilating to the wrong crowd or not allowing the right things to come in, then you only block yourself from your potential.

Life is a beautiful responsibility, but it’s also a beautiful burden. It’s ultimately yours to protect for the time you’ve been given. Whether you’re on the side of seeking out hope or in a position to help spread it

You are more courageous than you think, wiser than you know, and more loved than you could ever imagine.

NOTE B : You Gotta Go To Know 

You’ve got to step outside of what is familiar to you because falling prey to comfort only prevents you from experiencing the fullness of life that different people, places, and languages have to offer. Not only will you be able to see more of the beauty that this planet has to offer, but, as a creator, you will in turn be able to reflect that in your art.

My creativity comes from my experiences, and without experiencing more of the world, I would only be able to create from a limited perspective.

Establish guideposts

Establish guideposts in order to stay grounded in who you are. If you haven’t properly set up a foundation for yourself, there’s really no point in trying to learn how to become the best musician, or businesswoman, or actor, or whatever it is you want to be because it’ll come crashing down once you reach the first intersection of struggle and desperation.

If you’re waiting until after your back is against the wall to establish your guideposts, the odds are sure to be in favor of your opponent.

NOTE C#: Always Be Prepared for a Great Opportunity

Good luck usually follows the collision of opportunity and preparation, so you’ve got to be prepared. Keep developing your skills, and then let whatever might happen, happen. It doesn’t matter what job title you have, or if you feel as though the work you do is insignificant; do it to the best of your ability.

NOTE #D: Sharpen Your Left Brain

Similar to physical exercise, the process of sharpening your left brain may be frustrating at times, but it functions like a muscle that builds strength over time. As with anything, the more you sharpen that left brain of yours, the easier your tasks will become.

Purposeful practice only leads to improvement, and you simply can’t have one without the other.

NOTE #D: Avoid Paralysis from Analysis

Move out of your way so that you can make way for what is to come naturally. Getting into a flow without giving your conscious mind a second to project internal judgments is the sweet spot, so even if a word or phrase doesn’t make sense in the moment, write it down! You are often your own biggest creative block, so stop monitoring yourself and let. It. Flow!

NOTE E: The Power of Being Underestimated

“Being underestimated is the best position to be in because it provides you with an opportunity to not only meet expectations but also to exceed them. Focusing too much on what others have to say about you will lead you down a path to defeat before you’ve even had a chance to act. You can either entertain their skepticism or remove the chains from your creativity by allowing yourself to rise to the occasion.

 Big dreams don’t come without big failures. Things will get tough and you will make mistakes. Repeatedly. We’re human and we’re going to flounder, but it’s what you do to get back up that matters.

Don’t limit yourself. Whether that’s in the area of pursuing equality, creative freedom, or whatever else that looks like for you, step into the roles that aren’t being filled. Oftentimes, our greatest creative challenges come from a place of inner change because we’re pushed, pulled, and stretched into shapes, corners, and directions we never thought we’d occupy.

It’s important to set lofty dreams in order to avoid outgrowing them because an ego is really just an overdressed insecurity.

NOTE F: Do What’s Never Been Done Before

Don’t limit yourself. Whether that’s in the area of pursuing equality, creative freedom, or whatever else that looks like for you, step into the roles that aren’t being filled. Oftentimes, our greatest creative challenges come from a place of inner change because we’re pushed, pulled, and stretched into shapes, corners, and directions we never thought we’d occupy.

It’s important to set lofty dreams in order to avoid outgrowing them because an ego is really just an overdressed insecurity.


NOTE F#: Understand the Value of Relationships

You must have humility with your creativity, and grace with your success. Feelings of invincibility may start to creep in when you reach certain levels of achievements, but money and fame don’t make you better than anybody else.

“Your music can never be more or less than you are as a human being.” – Nadia Boulanger

Everything in this business, and life, revolves around relationships—the people you meet, and most important, how you treat them. You’ve really only got one shot at a reputation, and how you handle the relationships you develop along the way fills a big portion of that equation.

Acting without integrity might get you to a certain point, but the consequences of your actions will always catch up to you.

NOTE G: Share What You Know

A mentor is simply anyone who can see the question marks or glimmer of hope in your eyes. There is no rulebook for how to be a mentor, other than the fact that you just have to stay true to a desire to make a difference in someone else’s life. There’s no secret to it. Oftentimes, all a person needs is a sense of belief.

You don’t need to be some type of celebrity or have a massive platform to be mentored or to become a mentor; it simply comes down to finding someone who believes in you, and finding someone else you believe in.

NOTE G#: Recognize the value of life

If you’re not careful, stacking up material accomplishments and possessions may provide a temporary sense of fulfillment, but only at the juncture of life and death did I come to learn that the simple, yet complex, gift of living life itself is the ultimate achievement.

Careers are volatile and status comes and goes, but when it’s all said and done, what legacy will you be proud to leave behind? And what will you be proud to have done with the time you’ve had?

The tricky thing about life is that you have to continuously reflect on your growth. A habit is a habit for a reason. They’re hard to shake, and it’s easy to forget lessons you’ve learned once they’re in the rearview mirror.

Life is an absolute trip and you never know what’s going to come next.

All the Best in your quest to get Better. Don’t Settle: Live with Passion.

Lifelong Learner | Entrepreneur | Digital Strategist at Reputiva LLC | Marathoner | Bibliophile -info@lanredahunsi.com

Comments are closed.

Exit mobile version