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Presenting the humble ukulele: Jake Shimabukuro wows TEDxTokyo

Jake On Saturday I attended the 2nd annual TEDxTokyo conference. Last year was great; this year was even better. The event was extremely well run and the mix of presentations and performances was outstanding. My head is still spinning. What a day! One of the most memorable performances was by Jake Shimabukuro. Please set aside 20 minutes out of your day to watch this whole presentation/performance. Jake plays a few songs and shares a couple of good stories as well. Crank up your speakers and stick with this performance; it just gets better all the way to the end. Remarkable. (Also with Japanese translation.)

Beating people's expectations
In life, often people just don't think too much of you (or of what you do), even before they know much about you. They prejudge you. But rather than letting this get you down, you can use this as an opportunity to surpass their expectations and blow them away. Low expectations can sometimes be a blessing to be leveraged. I love Jake's money quote on this idea: "One of the things I love about being a ukulele player is that no matter where I go in the world to play, the audience has such low expectations. [This is] a huge plus for sure."  

There are many takeaways from this performance from the Zen Master of the the ukulele beyond mere entertainment. The ukulele itself, and those like Jake who play it so insanely well, represent both the struggle and the inspiration and delight that comes from blowing away other people's low expectations of you through your own hard work, unbridled passion, and dedication to excellence. As with the ukulele, others may misunderstand you or not take you or your cause seriously. Others may not give you a chance or think you are too small, too young, too old, too unusual to take a chance on. Few people take the ukulele for a serious musical instrument, and yet Jake shows us how misguided that kind of conventional wisdom is. Jake and his ukulele are an inspiration.

Playing naked
is best
All Jake had with him on stage yesterday in Tokyo was his ukulele and his talent. As he explains in this older performance below (it's an amazing performance from circa 2007), he used to have all sorts of equipment to play loads of special effects. People loved this. But he decided to go back to basics — to go naked in a sense — and strip everything away and to be what he really is: the best ukulele player you'll ever see. He is an amazing talent with a great personality that really shows through his art.

Photo in the slide above is by Ryota Mori


Glen Lipka

A few years ago I saw Jake on YouTube. It inspired me to take up the Uke myself. I loved it. Whenever I play it for people (and I'm not very good) the expectations are so low that even a simple song is a triumph. If I had a guitar, the enjoyment of others would be significantly lower.

I'm a designer. I find management of expectations is one of the most important tasks I perform. Great vs. "Meh" come down to expectations.

Jude Rathburn

One of the things that impressed me about Jake's TedxTokyo performance was the gentleness and grace that came through as he played each peace with reverence and delight. Thanks for challenging my expectations about the ukulele.

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