September 18, 2011

The Pipe - This Isn't Just About Business

"It's called the zone, or Nirvana. You, know? You just get into it, and it's like you're not playing the instrument. You're the instrument and the universe is playing you. It's some kung fu stuff. I don't know. You're just in there, and you don't feel it. You're just flowing, and nothing can stop you."
--Qbert, from the documentary Scratch

It's been said many ways by many people, and Qbert nails it as much as anyone I've heard. I'm in the process of gathering everything I'm learning here about how to extend that "zone," to increase that "flow" - how to widen the pipe that connects us to that thing that's bigger than us, no matter what we're doing.

Turns out, the work required to connect to the "flow" doesn't provide the same transcendence of self as being in it. It ain't magic. It takes deliberate practice. Translation: hard work.

"Day in, day out. When I go to work, he's getting ready. When I get back from work, he's still practicing. When I go to sleep, still practicing - until I say, 'It's enough, or else I'll break the needles."
--Steve Dee's Mom, from the documentary Scratch

So, whether it's cooking, shooting baskets, painting, public speaking or introducing a new process to a work team, you're not going to be all that great at it right away. That's why it's so important to choose work that draws you in naturally - that attracts your attention and keeps it. You have to be willing to give your work a lot of sweat before it starts giving back to you beyond your paycheck - before it becomes meaningful.

Connecting to the flow is going to be a slog. Widening the pipe? More slog. So, find the stuff you like most about whatever you're doing, and keep working slowly and deliberately on it. Can't find anything you love about it? Time to sit down with your inner seeker and look for something else at which to excel.

Apart from loving the music, I love the movie Scratch because it threads a needle through discovering something brand new, to becoming the best in the world at it, to evolving the medium itself to higher impact. I'll close with a quote from Jazzy Jay that speaks to the passion it takes to do that.

"This wasn't just something we did for the money. We believed in this. I mean, when I left, I could play for 6, 7 hours outside. And, when I would come home, I'd set up my turntables and play for another 6, 7 hours. You know what I'm saying? It was something I had to do."
--Jazzy Jay, from the documentary Scratch

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