The benefits of clear, succinct thinking

As some of you might recall, I’m in the process of writing a book. Right now the book is about how I perform and how I teach, and I call that “song drumming”. This book is about teaching folks how to become an effective song drummer in the genres of Rock, Pop, R&B, and Country.

I was at a jam session last night in Woodside CA, and I was talking to the house drummer. This guys a total pro, went to Berkelee in Boston–just a great, great drummer. And I was trying to explain to him my whole song drumming thing and it was only going… Okay. I was making progress but I wasn’t doing it simply and quickly.

And this is something I need to work on — I need to be able to quickly and succinctly describe what it is I’m doing with the whole song drumming concept. It’s especially important because it’s not a common term or concept with drummers so it’s kind of a novel thing.

Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about. One of my definitions of great teachers is this: someone who can make a really different or difficult subject seem accessible and approachable to you.

At my old corporate job, I did market and design research. Within that I mostly did qualitative research and ethnography–not so much the quantitative stuff (all that math stuff slowed me down 🙂 At one point, I was taking on a role on a quantitative project and I need to have some principles explained to me. And here’s the tale of two types of teachers.

One of the folks that I went to to learn from gave me a really detailed response… a lengthy and detailed response. And, I left that meeting even less sure that I could pull that stuff off. Less confident than I had been coming into the meeting.

By contrast, I talked to another person in the company about the same issue. In this case the meeting went relatively quickly, my teacher gave me lots of examples that related back to work that I knew how to do well already, and I came out of that meeting much more confident that I could actually pull this off.

So I ask you— Which of these two is the better teacher? From my point of view, the better teacher was the one who taught me quickly, gave me analogies to the things I already understood well, and sent me off into the world with greater confidence that I had before the meeting started.

And that’s what I need to achieve in explaining sound drumming to everyone. Last night at the jam session, I was the poor example of a teacher–I took too long in explaining it, and I’m still not 100% sure if they really ‘got’ what I was trying to say. What I need to become is that latter example of a great teacher: explain it very simply and quickly, and relate it to things that my audience already knows, or is aware of. And–best of all — I leave that little chat confident that the people I was talking to understood what I was trying to say.

Is there something in your life (could be personal, professional, recreational) that could really benefit from this type of thing? It could be teaching, it could be an elevator pitch…just something that could benefit from good, clear thinking, and a succinct explanation.

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