The Legacy of Vance Music and Beal’s Law
Adam Hansen, New York
While working on my MBA at Indiana University back in the Cambrian Period (vertebrates had just emerged – wild times!), I was fortunate to be a manager at Vance music store, headquartered in Bloomington. A second store 30 minutes south of the Bloomington flagship, in Bedford, was the site of perhaps more impromptu jams than big-ticket sales, as weeknights in Bedford, Indiana were, y’know, slow.
One of our sales guys was a wonderful, kind-hearted cat named Tug Beal, native son of Bedford proper and about 15 years my senior. Tug and I got along really well – Tug, the salt-of-the-dang-Earth southern Indianan guitarist and honky-tonk-music aficionado; yours truly, the rascally punk-funkster keys dude from Idaho. Not an obvious match, but music is this amazing social spackle that consistently smoothes over the more-superficial incongruities.

After a while, Tug had seen what I could pull off on the keys in several jams with the locals and had asked me to join his group, Tug Beal and Legacy, the go-to purveyor of sonic delights across the hippest joints on southern-Indiana Friday and Saturday nights; namely, The Elks, The Moose, The American Legion, The VFW, etc. Great crowds, often involving three generations of a family because it was southern-Indiana Friday and Saturday nights, and the competition wasn’t severe

Photograph by Diego Catto via Unsplash
We had tons of great conversations at the Bedford store because the sweet golden sales nor the impromptu jams didn’t always materialize. This, after all, was in a mall anchored by K-Mart. Unhopping, often. A conversation one slow weeknight turned to the topic of getting along with others. We were both pretty congenial men, with lots of different experiences wherein we’d negotiated a decent role for ourselves in groups of interesting folks, so comparing notes was always productive.

Out of the blue, Tug takes in a healthy breath and says:

“Adam, you know, you can get along with anyone if you’ll spot them two character flaws.”

Revelation in the boonies. A moment of pure, crystalline clarity. This was just so dang good! Holy smokes!

The test of a great insight is that it’s obvious only in hindsight, and this cleared both hurdles, handily. Its obvious but brand-new power landed with a beautiful BOOM – I instantly recognized my two-plus character flaws and the really profound wisdom in Tug’s parting of the heavens here for my benefit. I told him how brilliant I thought that was, and how I could see multiple situations in my life that, had I had this in mind, I could easily have saved myself (and certainly others) a lot of frustration. I was glad that so many people had accounted for my faults. I saw how easy it is to cut others slack when you’re invested in them. This thought with so much juicy life-force gave me permission to invest more in others. To hang in there. To get lovingly realistic about others and myself. It has served me tremendously countless times.

Since this conversation, sometime in the spring of 1987, I have told at least 200 people about what I quickly named Beal’s Law. And the standard for great insight is reaffirmed, as everyone agrees to its succinct power. I have always mentioned Tug’s name, seeing myself merely as the messenger of the exalted-figure’s wisdom. At this point, perhaps more than a thousand people have been exposed to the loving counsel of Tug Beal. Seems that reverberation is a motif in Tug’s life.

I lost track of Tug for years. I graduate, leave Bloomington, move to three different places across the fruited plain, and determine in 2010 that I need to get back in touch. Thanks to these wonderful InterWebz, I track down Tug’s phone number and give him a call. /Adaptive/ stalker behavior, I tell myself. Gracefully, Tug responds “Well…Adam, sure I remember you, and wondered what you might be up to!” We talk about the good old days, our experiences together in his band, the great jam sessions in the Bedford store. Warm, cozy…great. He’s still Tug. Such a good man.

I told him, “Tug, y’know we were talking once at the store…”, recounting the above story.

There’s a pause. Kinda long. Some hesitation. Tug says “I said that?”

I burst out laughing. I had imagined all these years that this was a central precept in The Beal Philosophy Of Life And Guide To Gentlemanly Action, and it had been an off-the-cuff comment. He had never said it before that moment together. I told him that I had told so many people about it, and had always given him the attribution.

We both had one of those rich, laugh-filled moments that bring old friends, even long-lost ones, into pure time entanglement, when the distinction between present and past dissolves, leaving us enjoying this moment and all attached to it as one.

Humans are great at two critical things:

(1) Spotting Patterns

(2) Learning From Each Other, if we slow down enough to allow both to happen.

Tug Beal had and still has no titular authority. He wears neither the robes of a priest, nor the slight tweak of these when academics convoke in commencements and other official capacities. He’s not a famous poet. Not a writer. What he is, is a humble, aware man who has packed more reflection into his three-score-plus years than many to whom we reflexively, obviously turn for sage insight. And his generosity of spirit allowed him to share an important idea with me. It was easy to note the clarity and depth of the pattern he presented to me.

“When the student is ready, the teacher appears.” It was the right moment for me to let Tug’s wisdom get in to my heart. I had been too closed-off, too self-concerned most of the time before that, and, regretfully, too often since. But at that moment…an opening.

When we’re in Ideation sessions with clients in my innovation work today, we tell people not to “Yes, But…” each other, but to be more resourceful and even mercenary with ideas. We warn them that the person they’re /most likely/ to “Yes, But…” is themselves, and then not share an idea that isn’t quite perfect yet. When they hold back, they short-circuit a moment in which their idea potentially cracks open something really helpful for someone else.

We just don’t know where our input can be taken in someone else’s journey. We’re not prescient. But we can be as thoughtful and warm as Tug and share ourself.

The gems are there. Have we made ourselves ready to spot them?

Beal’s Law is True, and I strive always to be its worthy messenger. And I love talking to Tug more regularly now and gleaning additional pearls from him.

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