3 Essentialism Questions

One of the more recent books on the topic was written by Greg McKeown and he raises three questions worth passing along as very useful especially to innovators. I am paraphrasing not quoting here but it should be pretty close.  Here are Greg’s three questions that are part of his process.

What do you have a passion for?  What do you have a talent for?   What will make a difference?

Innovators notice many things, are curious about many of them, and come up with large numbers of ideas all of which can make for a noisy existence cluttered by an excess of focal points, vantage points, and perspectives. This is why we helicopter around so much, as Malcolm an early SVII member puts it. Just because we can helicopter around, does not necessarily mean that we should, even though it is fun, it is not always productive, which is where the three questions mentioned above seem to be useful. Over time we may have the passion for a relatively large number of topics or fields but integrate over a long time constant to see what rises above the rest. 

I have been passionate about trying to understand why sound in general and music, in particular, have such a profound upon many people, including me. This led to decades of study and eventually professional work in the areas of acoustics, signal processing, psychophysics, music theory, composition, production, reproduction, and most recently orchestration. My life has been littered with science, engineering and music books, papers and instruments. I still do not have a single conclusive answer but do have many ideas about the topic and am still learning several degrees and careers later.

Now the second question do I have a talent for it? This is a little more complicated because according to who? But perhaps writing, performing and recording and releasing a number of musical pieces counts in some way even if they have not and may never change the world. And contributing technologically to digital pianos and computer sound systems may also qualify as I did earn a living doing these at Apple, Bose and other places. 

The third question having to do with making a difference or having some sort of impact is also somewhat subjective but having publicly performed over a thousand times and having influenced products used by millions implies some sort of traction.  Now here is the interesting part, fifty years after heading down this path of music and technology I am still reading, thinking and listening about both, still performing and still attempting to harness or invent technology to lower the overhead for musical creative expression.

In several decades one does not likely have a single career and I am no exception. Having worked in industry, government, and education, I am still passionate about the same topics, and still, wonder if I have enough talent or impact. I do not need to have answers or impact or fame or fortune form these activities – I still like them and still do them and they still function as priorities.  I had not thought to qualify these as organizing priorities, in a long time until beginning to listen to Greg McKeown’s book on Essentialism.

So thanks, Greg – you reminded me to ask important questions which help me to be clear about my priorities, reduce the noise, and focus my energy.