Be The Grandmaster Flash to your Grasshopper
Trill or Not Trill?
“The Get Down” is an incredible Netflix series that depicts the cultural, political and musical dynamic of the 1970s in the Bronx. While most of the characters are indeed fictional, they represent the people who had an influence on what hip-hop is today. It can help to understand the corruption that occurred between the music industry, disco clubs and the politicians alike. It takes place during a time before music was so readily available. The few ways to access music was via radio, disco clubs or at underground parties. Music was everything and if you were an artist or a DJ you were an absolute superstar.
My favorite character in “The Get Down” is the iconic Grandmaster Flash, a real DJ, who is often given credit for the birth of hip-hop. He was a pioneer in the DJ industry by mixing and scratching records that eventually allowed B-Boys to breakdance and rappers to rap. What I love about his character is his leadership skills and his ability to understand how important it was to grow the next generation of DJs.
As a professional or student leader it is your job to embrace new staff or potential leaders by allowing them to grow. I am in many ways still a grasshopper (as you always should be) but I am also now in a position to be a Grandmaster Flash.
Here are some tips on how you can become the Grandmaster Flash to your grasshopper.
“In order to fly a DJ must trust his wings.”
Shaolin Fantastic, is a street hustler, who makes his living stealing for a drug lord who also runs the hottest club in NY. He falls in love with the underground scene know as “The Get Down” where Grandmaster Flash is creating the dopest music that anyone has ever heard. He wants to learn how to mix so badly that he’d do anything to have Grandmaster teach him. He goes out and steals records for him but most importantly he tells him that “In order to fly a DJ must trust his wings.” Before we can help our students, employees, friends or family members we need them to go out and do their own work first. Allow them to gather the resources that are essential for the job in question. Allow them to learn parts of the game on their own. This helps them grow an appreciation for the process, which they can teach, to their grasshoppers in the future.
Give your grasshopper a purple crayon.
Once Shaolin puts in the work to meet Grandmaster Flash’s demands, he begins to show him how to mix and scratch. The first thing he does is hand Fantastic and his crew a purple crayon
and gives them 24 hours to figure out how he does it. This is by far the most important lesson to learn. I know that it can be easy to just give your grasshopper all they need to know to complete their task, however this stunts their creative and leadership growth. Give them tasks or challenges that are meaningful and time bound. Allow them to come up with their own solutions. For me, this was an essential lesson as a leader because it gave me confidence and helped me learn how to problem solve. Remember, it is okay to let your grasshoppers get frustrated because this is another way of showing they care about their goals. They will eventually come to the right solution.
Ask powerful questions
One of my favorite scenes in “The Get Down” is the meeting Shaolin Fantastic has with Grandmaster Flash after he finds his bootleg cassette on the streets. The following conversation occurs:
Shaolin Fantastic: “You’re like a mentor to me.”
Grandmaster Flash: “Forget me, what is your purpose grasshopper?”
Shaolin Fantastic: “I just like to spin records, man.”
Grandmaster Flash: “okay, but why?”
These two simple but powerful questions allow the grasshopper to fully understand and explore their reasons for being passionate. It allows them to answer the, “Why am I doing this?” question. Do not assume that you know their purpose. Ask them and let them ponder, even if it takes them some time. Be comfortable with silence as this question may even take them a semester or a few months for them to truly understand it. Keep in mind that this question may be the first time they were ever asked.
Let them know about their challenges.
Grandmaster Flash tells Shaolin that,” [Music] will move you forward and open up doors that everyone says are shut”. This is a way to let him know that there will be challenges and that people will doubt him. Help grasshoppers evaluate what their challenges are by writing them down or verbalizing them. Remind them of the people who will try bringing them down, saying no or saying it is impossible and that they will not be the first to have ever experienced this. This is also a good time to share what your challenges have been and how you over came them. While it is great to talk about how people like Steve Jobs have overcame adversity, they have someone right in front of them who they admire who they rather hear from instead. Transparency and authenticity are key in this situation.
Give them Feedback.
Allow grasshoppers to problem solve, fail and get back up but always be there to give them constructive feedback and call them out. Grandmaster questions Shaolin’s leadership by asking him, “Where were you when your wings found that tape? You the DJ ain’t you? That’s your crew, right? You supposed to lead.” He calls him out on his lack of leadership but reminds him that he’s the leader. Sometimes they need to hear that especially if they’re the type of leader that believes they know everything. That was me and until my Grandmaster Flash told me about it, I was going to keep disgruntling my fellow peers and student leaders.
Whether you are a Higher Ed professional, Student Government president or an entrepreneur, be sure to notice those who follow. They are looking for your assistance and guidance and can help you grow professionally as well.
Antonio Talamo is a young higher education professional that has experience working in Student Activities and Advisement. He has brought his talents to Montclair State University where he will be the Coordinator for Commuter Students and Programs . He has grown from a go-to-class-go-home student to a professional who is passionate about giving students the best college experience at any level. He is a huge sports fan that loves the New York Giants and the Boston Red Sox and swears he is the reason the Red Sox broke the Bambino curse.