Thoughts on good quality
Updated: Nov 22
Imagine three employees. The first one - let’s call him Steve- spends twelve hours per day at his office. He eats there, sleeps there, he doesn’t have any life outside of work. The second employee- let it be Stella - is extremely messy. Her desk is always covered with papers and half-empty lunch boxes. She hardly ever arrives at work on time and calls in sick almost every month. The third employee, Mark, is gossiped to be a company’s genius. Most of the time you can see him scribbling ferociously on a blackboard in his office or staring blindly at the distance.
Which one of them is the best worker?
Imagine three pianists. Arnold has a very strict routine. He practices every day between 6 and 9 am and in the afternoon between 3 and 5 pm. His nutritionist created a special diet for him - it busts up his creativity and stamina. Daisy can’t work without inspiration so she spends whole days looking for stimulation at art exhibits and bohemian parties. When she finds the right feeling, she spends long night hours at her piano. Everyone says Austin doesn’t have to practice at all. He sight reads like the Devil himself and seems to have no technical problems. His repertoire is so big that he plays four recitals per month with entirely different programs.
Which one of them is the best artist?
The secret of great quality has been bothering me for a long time. I couldn’t help but feel that there was a common condition for achieving high standards in all areas. I tried to find it in the number of hours devoted to a goal, in work routine, in a lifestyle outside of work... but there didn’t seem to be a pattern in any of these.
The more experience I’ve been gaining as a teacher and an observer of people outside of the musical world the more I have been starting to understand two facts. First, people differ extremely between one another and second, within those differences there seems to exist one common mindset which sets us for great quality. It is the simplest recipe for achieving high standards I have found so far.
Because of the fact number one there is no universal set of rules one should follow. Some people need regular working hours while others perform best under an impulse and sudden flow of inspiration. Some of us think faster, some think slower, some do great under pressure while others need a relaxed environment to work. There are no rules - or, more accurately- each and every person has their own, unique set of rules that are the most optimal for their mind and body.
The fact number two, the right mindset, can be described as constant balancing between paying attention to details and maintaining the big perspective with the sight of our goal as a whole. Whenever we put too much or too little weight to any of these two ends our product’s standards decrease. The way in which we manage to find the right balance - working ten hours or only one, being chaotic or organized - doesn’t really matter.
Let’s have a look at some examples. Imagine that a pianist is preparing a suite by Bach and brings to perfection all the polyphonic voicing and brilliant ornamentations but forgets that it’s a set of dances and makes them all sound too heavy. Another pianist is working on a Chopin’s Ballade and builds a great dramaturgy of a whole piece but omits different colors of harmonic modulations and beautiful sound quality so the whole Ballade sounds ‘run-through’ and no spot truly attracts listeners’ attention. An architect submits a modern project with many innovative solutions but doesn’t keep in mind functionality of the building and it turns out a pain to live in. A high-tech inventor develops an app which perfectly meets current market demand but it has problems with data transfer and customers don’t find it comfortable to use. A doctor takes into account all the symptoms of a patient but overlooks a single trip to a foreign country he mentioned and fails to diagnose him with an exotic illness he suffers from.
I believe that it’s the ability of frequent switching between a magnifying-glass and a hawk-eye attitude that leads to the greatest results. It demands a solid amount of flexibility and effort but in my opinion, it’s the most efficient and intelligent way we can use our energy. What do YOU think?