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April 29, 2021
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Focus on the end goal, not the shiny extras

During college I played music professionally. It was a wonderful experience and I loved getting to know and work with some pretty crazy people.

Jazz musicians in particular can be neurotic at times. (That’s why I fit in so well, haha!) Take sax players. Some sax players never take their horn off. Wherever they go they have their horn in their hand and they are always noodling on a riff or a solo idea. Other sax players are obsessed with their gear. Mouthpieces, reeds, pads, ligatures. If you can switch it out and experiment they’ll try it.

Of these two types of sax player, which do you think were the better musicians? The gear heads were tons of fun to be around, but the obsessive players were much better folks to have on the bandstand with you. They were so good because they focused on playing, which of course is the end goal of being a musician.

There’s a lesson here for all of us. Whatever it is you do in your work or your art, make sure you focus on the most important parts. Being a gear head is easy: focus on the minutiae, the shiny objects. You’ll spend money in pursuit of better gear, which can be mistaken for making progress in your work or your art.

It’s better instead to focus on the end goal of your work. Ship your art. Make that your mission. Don’t lose sight of that goal.