We are all very familiar with the classic 1939 film The Wizard of Oz – on our screens again over the holidays - and especially the most enduring song from the film ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’, sung by Judy Garland. In the years since the film first appeared it has become accepted as the ‘standard’ version, now full of memories and association for many people. Although lots of other singers have since offered their own versions, no-one ever really made a dent in Judy Garland’s ‘ownership’ of the song.
Then, in the late ‘90s, a new version appeared and did something really surprising. It was a fabulous new version, beautiful in its own right and utterly different from the original.
I can clearly remember the first time I heard it. I was listening to my car radio and, even though I arrived at my destination while it was playing, I had to stay in my seat until the end of the song because I wanted to hear all of it. Then I waited for the name of the singer because I knew that I would want to hear it again - Eva Cassidy. Next step was to go and buy it for myself and, unsurprisingly, I liked everything else that the singer had to offer and am still listening to it all these years later.
Why am I telling you this? Hearing the song again the other day triggered the memory of my feelings of surprise and delight at discovering this new way of looking at something I was so familiar with. The content was the same but the delivery was new and unexpected. I also realised that I did not have to decide whether it was an improvement on the older version but that I had quickly accepted that the two versions could exist side by side.
DIFFICULT BUT NOT IMPOSSIBLE
How had the singer achieved this? She had found a new and intensely personal way of looking at something familiar and had made me, the listener, appreciate the content afresh. She triggered an extraordinary reaction in me and a great many other people who also heard the song that day.
I have huge admiration for the singer, having the courage to take something so familiar and do something truly different with it. A huge gamble that could have backfired badly but she made it uniquely hers with no detriment to what went before - just completely different.
At work and in our everyday lives we all allow ourselves to continue doing what we have always done before without questioning it – it’s easy that way. Have you ever wondered whether easy is not always best? Now would be a good time to apply a fresh pair of eyes to what you have been doing for a while, giving it a good shake and seeing if perhaps there might be another way – perhaps better, definitely different, maybe leading you to other changes. Change for its own sake is not always the best route but it can occasionally lead to improvement, even just by relieving the tedium of unending repetition.
Use the key attributes of professionalism of integrity and the search for excellence. Have the courage not just to do the right thing for you but also look beyond the ordinary and the mundane, beyond entrenched attitudes to find something better, something newer and, by upsetting the status quo, perhaps produce something for the benefit of everyone. Give yourself permission to dream and you might just find your rainbow!
“If we all did the things we are capable of doing we would literally astound ourselves” – Thomas Edison