I subscribe to the email newsletter of Jason Calacanis, the CEO of mahalo.com. If you like Seth Godin or Malcolm Gladwell you may like Calacanis as well. If you don’t know who any of these people are, well, on with the blog.
Calacanis sent out a newsletter a few weeks ago where he spoke frankly about the shortcomings of some of his companies apps. He talked about how getting a product to a 7 is actually not all that hard. So, let’s say you have a good idea for a song. Assuming that you have a base level of skill and creativity, that good idea should get you at least a 6. Work and polish will get you a 7. A 7 is not just above average, a 7 is good. A good song. A good book. A good app.
A 10 on this scale is f’ing mind lowing. To tell the truth, you are not capable of a 10 and neither am I and I don’t know who the hell is. It’s better than great. Better than amazing. A 10 will destroy the earth and reshape the landscape.
A 7 is good. And if I am honest with myself, much of what I do has aggregated to a 7. Recording wise, I think some of my songs might be 5′s or (horrors) maybe a 4. Live, I think I have hit a 9 a couple of times based on the faces in the crowd and the CD sales afterwards. I like to think that I am above average but my powers of self assessment keep me from claiming that I am an 8. So, the real question is: How do I go from a 7 to an 8?
Again inspired by the Calacanis newsletter, I have two possibilities. First, get my 10,000 hours. Malcolm Gladwell, in his game changing book Outliers, provides compelling proof that to become the best in the world at what you do, you need to do it for thousands of hours. The more I write, record, produce, perform, and collaborate, the better I get. However, the improvements needed to move from good to great are time-consuming and, for many folks, are not tangibly noticeable. It’s a grind. Going from being a bad guitar player to an average guitar player is a big deal. From average to good is noticeable. How would you notice if one song is produced ‘good’ and another ‘great’? Slow but steady, I guess.
The second idea is a bigger deal. I need to make big changes to the way I record. My last four CD’s- Ghosts Don’t Disappear, The Exploration of Dangerous Places, Age of Steam: Strange Machines, and the upcoming Another Creepy Christmas were all recorded at the same studio with the same producer. After almost three years, I feel that Zack (producer) and I have gotten better. We’ve put out songs that may have been 5′s but also those that might be 8′s. Time, practice, trial and error has brought us to a place where I truly feel that the new album might be an 8. I’m still in the middle of recording and not objective, but it feels like a full step forward instead of refining my place. And we did this by getting closer to 10,000 hours.
But! To become a solid 8 and, dare I say, attempt a 9, requires a change. A big one. Something that gets me out of my groove and pushes me. Hard. It will probably at least double the cost of my next album. It’s a little scary. It will happen.
Here’s to 2013.