Kindle Edition: $0.99 Amazon Paperback: $9.99
by David France
Publisher David France
Kindle Edition: $0.99 Amazon Paperback: $9.99
Inspiring yet simple step by step guide showing you how relationships can unlock unbelievable opportunities. This page-turner will give you the tools and the drive to Show Up and follow your dreams.
What's inside the book? • Strategies for building professional relationships and how to apply them to increase your chances to stand out. • Real examples of success stories that use the book's principles and the unbelievable outcomes achieved by investing in relationships• Self-reflection questions to help you understand yourself better to strengthen how you connect with others.
What will be your legacy? I’ve wrestled with this question for many years now. It is hard to know that one thing or those few things that will leave a lasting positive impact on our world. Currently, we are the most connected we’ve ever been while, at the same time, we’re the hungriest we’ve ever been for meaningful relationships. Relationships can often be the missing key and the catalyst to help us realize our dreams. It’s hard to know which single relationship or experience will be the most impactful. For instance, few would ever guess that a woman making Johnny cakes for her neighbors in the middle of the 20th century on the West Indian island of Nevis would later spark and inspire a world-class youth orchestra in Boston. This modest woman’s selfless act would have a powerful domino effect, being the inspiration that led me see the potent fruit of living generously by showing up and investing in relationships. Before diving into the meat of relationship-building, I’d love to tell you my story.
You can LEAVE the Bermuda Triangle!
A few years ago, I thought I had it made. I lived on the island of Bermuda and worked with amazing families, teaching their children to play the violin. An unbelievable chain of events would change the course of my life. The spark would be kindled by one simple yet powerful YouTube video. 40 years ago, in a parking garage in Caracas, Dr. Jose Antonio Abreu built a youth orchestra, against all odds, as a vehicle for social transformation. He believed that giving a kid an instrument, within the context of a supportive musical ensemble, could combat the feeling of isolation and promote youth development. I was in awe as I sat in front of the computer in Bermuda watching a sea of Venezuelan youth from some of their poorest neighborhoods performing in the world’s great concert halls. I scoured the Internet for more videos and articles, often watching the same videos on repeat daily, when I stumbled upon a noble idea that resonated with my own personal beliefs. Music can not only be used as a mode of artistic expression, but also as a powerful vehicle for social transformation. I found what I had been looking for my entire life: I wanted to put my love for music at the intersection of educational disparities in our inner cities and create a hope-filled future for youth through the vehicle of an orchestra. A few years later, I was offered a full scholarship to study “music for social change” at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. The ability to make the move, from my dream job on a beautiful island to the life of a poor student, was built upon a few smaller but equally significant life-changing moments.
“The American Dream is a lie” – John Piper
I was introduced to an original approach to the American Dream in John Piper’s book Don’t Waste Your Life. His words, unmasking the American Dream as a lie, unhinged me from the ideals of getting rich quickly or using money for the sake of societal envy or whimsical ease. There have been so many scattered pieces to the puzzle that opened my eyes to the treasure found in relationships. The symbiotic give and take found in relationships is sweetened by being rich. “Consider Christ, he was rich, but he became poor so that he might make many rich.” The richer you are in wisdom, wealth or work ethic, the more you can give in a relationship and the more magnetic you appear to others. It is this magnetism that allows you to connect with influencers and other people you hope to do business with. I have found a foundation upon which I could build a cause and mutually beneficial relationships would be the key, connecting me to the resources I need.
Alexander Hamilton wasn’t the only ‘American’ from Nevis
My parents believed and risked everything to move to this country from a small island in the West Indies called Nevis. They had a firm belief that their born and unborn children could have a better life in a bigger country with more opportunities. My father grew up with his mother in a poor village called Barnes Ghaut. Every morning his mother would make delicious baked goods, like Johnny cakes, so that he could go through the village and give them to their neighbors. A few years ago, at my father’s surprise birthday party, he recalled this story as the foundation and fuel for his own generosity. After moving to the United States, my parents worked more jobs than two people should be legally allowed, to ensure that their children could be whatever their dreams intimated. They showed up for work every day and still show up because they know that their dedication is creating a better future for their family and community. My parents have been giving their lives away for decades to our family, as well as to scores of immigrants needing a shoulder upon which to build THEIR American Dream.
Armed with a supportive family network, I started the violin at age 7 and faced a society which told me that the violin was not an instrument for black people. Overcoming this bias, I added over 10,000 hours of practice on the violin, experiencing a great deal along the way: great teachers, terrible teachers, free instruments, expensive instruments, extensive world travel, summer festivals, mistakes, life-changing performances and a childlike faith in possibility and the God behind opportunities. From my parents, I learned to dream big and to step out in faith. The journey toward starting the Roxbury Youth Orchestra has been full of amazing musical adventures, including performing with John Legend, Smokey Robinson, Quincy Jones, and being the Concertmaster of the first YouTube Symphony at Carnegie Hall.
I was rich! When the crowd told me that the violin was for white people, I showed up and found my own voice within its strings anyway; when people dismissed my aim to win an international competition, I showed up every night to a solitary room and practiced as if my life depended on it. Eventually winning the YouTube Symphony competition. I didn’t have material wealth, but was blessed with the experiences and skills that come from showing up, over time. I put my nose to the grindstone, met people that didn’t want to meet me, and consistently reached toward the stars, even in the face of my own doubt. The generous spirit that moved through my grandmother Geraldine Williams, who showed up by waking up early every morning and making Johnny cakes for her neighbors, also moved through my father who out of kindness, housed more people than should fit in a small house. These examples would later inspire me to show up and give my life away to underserved youth in inner city Boston.
Thank you TED Prize
The videos of the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra in Venezuela led me to the TED Prize video of Dr. José Antonio Abreu, Founder of El Sistema. This famous conference hosting the brightest minds on our planet, annually awards a TED Prize to select individuals whose “wish to change the world” is then funded. Dr. Abreu was awarded the prize in 2009 and “wished” to start a training program that selected 10 people from around the world each year to train in Boston and Venezuela, so as to bring El Sistema to the United States. I was shocked to win this fellowship in 2011 and began the journey of following my dream to see the work in Venezuela for myself and use that vision to start my own orchestra.
During my last week in Venezuela, we pulled up in a small village in the city of Coro called Las Panelas. We were told that, if we were going to volunteer in that community, we would have to leave before sundown because it was a dangerous neighborhood. The project in Las Panelas was started by Isandra Campos. A year before we arrived, Isandra, a mother of 5, moved out of her home and in with her own mother so that the neighborhood children could use her home as a daily haven to make music. Seven days a week, neighborhood kids pour in and out of her home singing in a choir and playing various instruments. The music flooding out of the house is the curiosity of the neighbors as they sit on their porches and listen. Every day we saw children peeking through open windows inspired by the music. Isandra’s spirit of generosity stopped me in my tracks. In the backyard, she raised chickens and sold their eggs for one Bolivar each then, with the money she earned, bought the music for the kids. What Isandra receives from this investment is far more than she has given up and she is still there to this day. Because she has consistently shown up on behalf of forgotten youth, the life trajectory of these kids will be forever changed. This is the fruit of her joyful sacrifice. I realized that I no longer had any excuses in my mission to starting a similar orchestra. The question, however, remained: for which community would I move out of my house and sell eggs?
A Youth Orchestra is born in Roxbury
After a few months in Venezuela, I returned to Boston where I fell in love with the community of Roxbury. Growing up, many would say to me, “I’ve never met a black person that played the violin,” and I’d usually respond, “Me neither!” I was excited to develop a world-class youth orchestra in what has been dubbed “the most important black community in New England.” After graduating from the New England Conservatory, I subleased my apartment and spent the next half-year sleeping on couches and concrete while devoting my afternoons to forming strategic relationships to build the Roxbury Youth Orchestra. In February of 2013, the Roxbury Youth Orchestra was launched from its new home in the auditorium of Dearborn Middle School. Six weeks after our launch, NBC News sent a film crew and their famous correspondent Chelsea Clinton to cover the story. One minute after the story aired, I was asked to tell my story at a national conference. We started with the obstacle of no money, so I was forced to find a way over this seemingly dream-ending barrier. The foundation I built was a sea of relationships, nurtured through the art of showing up around the city, empowering the people that also showed up, and allowing them to invest in my dream.
Our orchestra is now a safe house for youth and youth development in the community of Roxbury. It is a furnace for musical excellence and community renewal. An orchestra is a model community where members must listen to each other and work together to achieve success.I call my umbrella organization ‘Revolution of Hope’. This revolution is envisioned as a cathartic social movement that changes the face of institutions and can bring a liberating freedom to pursue dreams that were not possible before. The goal is not merely to give kids a place to go, but to show them how to build a home. We strive to create a lasting community upon a tradition of equity, opportunity and confidence that comes from music. Our academic goals fit alongside our social goals, as we believe that an excellent, joy-filled music program can affect executive function skills and teach 21st century workforce skills. Ideally, after our time together, our students can feel empowered to walk onto the streets of Boston, armed with self-esteem and the will to dream.
Wherever you go… Give your life away
A few summers ago, I arrived in Chicago with just enough money to take the subway into the city. While there, I proceeded to busk, performing in the subway system. I’m never a fan of the police but one night, while illegally busking in the subway, I was “caught”. Two armed officers stopped me and asked for my permit. My heart was racing. I stopped playing and began rustling through my case, taking out extra strings, books, computers, papers, music, pencil shavings, and then finally my newly purchased Boston subway permit. I placed it sideways on my case and pointed to it. They kindly said, “Just keep it visible; you sound great.” As they walked away, I started to play “Somewhere over the Rainbow”. In the distance, I heard a very low voice singing. When the man came near I noticed that the man who sang had a cane and was blind. He stood directly in front of me and we continued our soulful version of the song. It was so incredibly moving that I had goose bumps. Standing next to us was a random guy with his jaw dropping. After we finished, he reached for some change and threw it in. He then reached for more change, then a few dollars, then threw all his money in the case, saying he was so moved. The blind man said he had nothing to give but I disagreed. The experience of performing with him was priceless.
I sincerely believe that it is only when we give our lives away that we truly begin to live. We give our lives away by showing up not only at events but also by being present in a conversation, coming early to an event to help set up, staying late to take down, giving advice, listening and with a myriad of other ways we can add value to others. Powerful relationships have a special magic when one or both parties give more than they expect back in return. When the gifting of ourselves happens in simple authentic ways, this creates a natural atmosphere for powerful relationships, which are best nurtured when, over time, we: Show up!
The ideas in this book emerge from the fruits of my own personal story. I don’t believe that ideas exist in a vacuum but rather they find their genesis in the soils of our unique narratives. I’m fascinated by the fact that a group of people raised in the same environment, often in the same family or community, can routinely turn out so differently. My search for the common denominator in so many of my unbelievable opportunities has led me to the conclusion that meaningful relationships and consistently showing up are the keys to unlocking a lifetime of opportunities. When others make excuses to stay at home or believe that an opportunity is out of their reach, showing up and investing in the relationships that present themselves, has for me, made all the difference.
This book explores the connection between relationships and generosity, giving you actionable strategies to help you stand out from the crowd and connect with the people perfect for you. Along the way, through stories and ideas, you will gain tools to help you nurture mutually beneficial relationships.
 The Bible, 2 Cor. 8:9
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David France is an international performer, an innovative educator, and author of the Amazon Best Selling Book Show Up: Unlocking the Power of Relational Networking. He is currently the founder and Executive Director of Revolution of Hope, an arts for social change initiative in Boston whose flagship program is the Roxbury Youth Orchestra. He was recently named a Top 40 Urban Innovator Under 40 in the United States and a top 100 most influential people of Color in Boston. In 2009 he became the Concertmaster of the first orchestra auditioned on the internet, The YouTube Symphony. He has been featured in New York Times, NBC Nightly News, BBC Radio, Time Magazine and has recently spoken at TEDx Fenway and INBOUND 2017. He has performed with today's leading artists including Smokey Robinson, Josh Grobin, Kenny Rogers, and Quincy Jones. As a keynote speaker he has spoken at The Harvard Kennedy School, MIT, Imagination2013, the Babson Entrepreneurship Forum, the New England Conservatory of Music, and Berklee College of Music. He is the founder of Ziryab Ventures a think tank for young entrepreneurs and is a producer on the TV show Ambitious Adventures. He believes that joy in this life is maximized when you Give Your Life Away.