Immediate Execution

Day 230 Week 33 Q3 Saturday, August 19, 2023

So you have a lot of ideas. We all do. And what do you do? Make a plan? Consider alternatives? Look for flaws? Optimize? Well, all of these might make sense when doing an engineering project that will take a long time, cost a lot of money, and require a lot of people. But what if you are an artist?

What if this is a one-person project? Like cooking dinner, making a sketch, improvising a short ditty, or riffing on something you previously invented or heard? Not all people can execute immediately, but some of us can in certain circumstances. 

As I get older, I find I am less interested in delaying gratification and more interested in being an artist than an engineer. And I remember switching from science to engineering for the same reason. Science projects can take decades, and engineering projects can take years or sometimes months. And artist projects can take between minutes and hours. Now as a musician, I can sometimes explore something in seconds. Of course, it took decades to develop the chops to do things in seconds, but now entering my eighth decade, it feels terrific to flex muscles instantly, which is more like being an athlete. 

I know it is not for everyone nor for every situation, but there is something tremendously liberating about being instantaneous once in a while or perhaps may be more than once in a while. Some musicians spend months preparing to learn to play a piece, but I am willing to bet the composer took less time than the to conceive of and execute it.

Notes go by in fractions of seconds. After all, this is not a space shot to Mars, where the downside of failure is death. The downside in music is a wrong note. And often, no one even detects it except for you because the note was not wrong. It was just not as good as the note that could have been played. 

We, humans, do not integrate over the same time constants. Some of us are a lot faster twitch than others. And there are many situations where you do not want a fast-twitch person on the trigger. There are other situations where the fast twitch saves your life. We are not in this situation often, perhaps never at all. But it does not always work if you try to turn a fighter into a farmer.

Still, sometimes we need to be farmers and other times, we need to be fighters. Even the most anal planner needs to act quickly some of the time, for a plan is like a map. It is not the territory. Increasingly, I feel the need to get out in the territory and throw away the map.

Just Sayin’