Quality means caring enough to do it right

Seth Godin is one of those people that anyone involved in business should be aware of. He has written more great books on the topics of marketing and customer engagement worth reading than just about anyone else I can think of.

Recently, Godin wrote about, of all things, playing the clarinet. He describes having taken lessons as a kid and eventually giving the instrument up around the end of high school.

While I was most well-known for playing the saxophone, I have played over a dozen instruments, including the clarinet. I literally laughed out loud when Godin wrote the following:

And yet the lessons I was given were all about fingerings and songs and techniques. They were about playing higher or lower or longer notes, or playing more complex rhythms. At no point did someone sit me down and say, “wait, none of this matters if you can’t play a single note that actually sounds good.”

See, the clarinet is one of a few instruments where just making a decent sound is extremely hard. On piano, guitar, even saxophone, producing a basic sound is pretty easy. I knew many clarinet players who practiced the instrument daily for more than 10 years before they make a sound that wasn’t like fingernails on a chalkboard for me.

Godin continues:

Instead, the restaurant makes the menu longer instead of figuring out how to make even one dish worth traveling across town for. We add many slides to our presentation before figuring out how to utter a single sentence that will give the people in the room chills or make them think. We confuse variety and range with quality.

Practice is not the answer here. Practice, the 10,000 hours thing, practice alone doesn’t produce work that matters. No, that only comes from caring. From caring enough to leap, to bleed for the art, to go out on the ledge, where it’s dangerous. When we care enough, we raise the bar, not just for ourselves, but for our customer, our audience and our partners.

Ultimately, Godin gave up the clarinet because it wasn’t worth it to him. He moved on to other art forms (like marketing and writing) that he did care enough about to do right.

I gave up the clarinet after a few months. I took that extra half-hour I gained back each day and reapplied it to practicing the saxophone. It made me happier, made me appreciate the sax just that much more, and ultimately made me a much better player.

The world does not need another mediocre clarinet player.

Link: Seth’s Blog


Image courtesy Andrew Fogg