Reflections of a Musical Visionary: Interview with Sebastian Ruth, Part 2

This is part 2 of our interview with Sebastian Ruth. Please see part 1 if you have not yet read it.

This is a continuation of our interview with Community MusicWorks founder Sebastian Ruth. In the second and final part, we discuss the issues of time management, creativity, and leadership.

String Visions: You only have limited time and resources but a seemingly limitless amount of work to do. Can you share some strategies you use to help keep yourself grounded and manage your time effectively?

Sebastian Ruth: Time management is not one of my strengths. It’s always one of my challenges. But because of that, I’ve had to think a lot about that question. I am kind of a last minute person, and that’s hard. But again it’s made me develop some strategies.

In my work, email could rule everything. If I got up and said my job is to read and respond to email I could do nothing but that. I think so many people in all kinds of professional circumstances have that challenge.

But the mindset of being constantly available and feeling this need to constantly respond is in some ways – in my analysis of it – somewhat contrary to the mindset required to be focused, creative, and generative of:

  • New ideas
  • Responding to inspiration
  • Allowing time for inspiration

Mr. Ruth emphasizes the importance of finding time to recharge, both personally and professionally. That’s critical in today’s world where the pace of life seems to push us to always go full steam ahead. It is important for us to realize  that without some down time we can easily max ourselves out and run the risk of performing at a sub-par level when it really counts.

Sebastian Ruth: For me as a strategy, I know that taking time out is critical….

Each time I’m on a practice retreat I just try to allow the room for the ideas, rather than to try and force them.

String Visions: That broaches the topic of my next question. People need an outlet for generating and building upon their ideas. I know that several of my friends and associates who are creative types have little things they do day-to-day that help when they can’t find enough time to get away from it all. Do you have a particular creative process that works well for you?

What I’ve been thinking about is that it’s not usually the active – pushing yourself to find an answer – process that comes up with the best answer. It’s usually engaging in the problem, giving it some thought, thinking through the dimensions of it, and then putting it down…and really engaging with it, not just cursory…(then putting) it down. And, it’s when the mind has a chance to NOT be fully engaged with something that the ideas start to emerge. I think that’s true of problems, and it’s also true of more generative ideas.

My teacher used to say “there’s action in inaction.”

String Visions: My last question is about leadership. When you first started CMW, you didn’t have a lot of leadership experience, but it was something you had to learn and develop. What have you learned about yourself through being a leader, and what are some responsibilities you have had to assume as a leader?

Sebastian Ruth: Leadership is a multi-faceted topic. I guess one of the types of leadership that I admire is “facilitative leadership,” the idea being that the most effective leader is facilitating the success of the people around him or her.

I also strive to have good discretion about what leadership action is appropriate to what situation.

There are times for a symbolic bold action, and there are times for stepping way back as a leader and letting other people make a decisions, and there are times for taking a stand because it’s the thing that will motivate people.I think I’m trying to learn how to be a leader where I can respond in the way that is appropriate to the situation.

Here in our final audio clip Mr. Ruth shares some great reflections and ideas on dealing with people and ego. (We also get a little musical treat from a passing ice cream truck!)

Why is it that I would be attached to my way? What’s so important about my way?

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