news.cuna.org/articles/115972-kai-kight-bring-new-music-into-the-world
Kai Kight: ‘Bring new music into the world’

Kai Kight: ‘Bring new music into the world’

The ‘inefficient’ path often leads to the most novel discoveries, innovator says.

May 1, 2019

Violinist Kai Kight likens leaders to composers: they must coax the sweetest notes out of their performers regardless of the instruments they play.

“Composers must revise their music so it fits the individual’s context,” says Kight, who will address CUNA’s 2019 America’s Credit Union Conference, June 17-20 at the Walt Disney World® Resort in Florida.

He offers several ways leaders can inspire those around them, and shares where he finds inspiration.

What’s the best way for leaders to inspire those around them?

The ideas of a composer mean nothing if the performers cannot play them. The composer’s job is not simply to have a vision for the world but to turn that vision into notes—a language that is simple and actionable for others.

In music, every instrument is shaped differently and presents different circumstances to the hands of the performer. The music written for a violin, for example, cannot always be played by a clarinet.

So, composers must revise their music so it fits the individual’s context.

To spread their vision, composers must be willing to acknowledge the reality the performer faces.

In life, we often have ideas that are important. Yet they have no power to inspire in the world because we are unwilling to put them into terms that can be understood by the very people we are trying to guide.

We see our new idea as way to look down on others who don’t understand—those who are perhaps stuck in the past. Our ability to inspire others begins when we realize that knowing something and teaching something require two very different skill sets.

We must, for a moment, move our ego to the side and learn the language of those we wish to lead.

‘Each person is the pilot of their own plane.’
Kai Kight

Where do you find inspiration?

I love people and community, but my foundation for inspiration is silence in nature. I currently live in Los Angeles, and I often feel lonelier while surrounded by others in a big city than I do when alone on a hike somewhere.

For me, the process of reconnecting with the earth allows me to finish projects faster and develop melodies with ease.

What advice would you give your younger self?

There is no point where the learning ends. Life is a constant work in progress.

Try your best, work hard, but remember to treat yourself with compassion.

What’s next for your career?

For a while, I was often driven by this question: “What’s the next thing?”
But I realized this fixation and longing for some better path caused me to greatly devalue the work and the beautiful process that is right in front of me.

I love playing the violin and I love sharing stories with people. Live events are one of the few remaining platforms that we have to create community together.

I am no longer trying to go “wider” with my aspirations and do more. I’m just trying to go “deeper.”

This means that instead of trying to expand into another field, I am slowly trying to develop my presentations into a fully interactive format. I want to grow my work from a typical keynote/speech to something audience members are truly a part of.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

The best advice I ever received was when I emailed a mentor asking for help, but they never responded to me. This forced me to realize I actually knew what I needed to do but was looking for some shortcut that would save me from the difficult work in front of me.

This may sound counter-intuitive given that my job is to literally speak on stage to others, but I’m not a big fan of advice.

On stage, I share my stories as honestly as possible and I try to offer thought-provoking questions. But I’ll never assert what I think someone else should do with their life. That’s not my place or job.

My job is simply to help people come back to the wisdom they already have. Each person in the audience is the pilot of their own plane.

In the search for efficiency, we look to receive answers about our path from those who might seem wiser or further along in some way. And while learning from others is important, we should not be afraid to make mistakes and bump into things along our journey.

The “inefficient” path may lead to the most novel discoveries. When we study our own personal struggles with curiosity, we develop the capacity to create solutions no one else could imagine but us.

What message will you bring to the attendees of the America’s Credit Union Conference?

My message will be to inspire people to “write new music” in their lives and work in credit unions.

I hope to convey that creating new music isn’t just about having an unlimited imagination or fantastical creativity. Bringing new music to the world is truly about facing and overcoming the difficult realities we often work to avoid.

New music lives in our imperfections. New music lives in the people we might envy.

New music lives in the imperfections of others. New music is everywhere if we can build the strength to listen.

My hope is to use the stage to share my mistakes so we can laugh together and remember our flaws are simply what make us human.