Three weeks into summer I become utterly disgusted with my rate of productivity. Not only do I dive deep into the archive of posts, comments, videos, lists, infographics I don’t have time for during school, but I have nothing to show for my work. I go to sleep watching a documentary on my laptop and wake up scrolling through interesting blog posts, then read a non-fiction book at breakfast. Worst of all is the continual impulse to keep consuming information, even when it keeps me from digesting the information already gathered.
In short, the beginning of my summer is filled with INFORMATION and not UNDERSTANDING.
While information is the raw amount of facts consumed, understanding is far more complex. Understanding comes from the layering of experience, action, and context onto information. Information is what something is, understanding is what, how, who, why something is as it relates to you.
Here are a few examples
- read about the 7 best vegan foods for optimal health
- watch documentary about Chicago
- listen to podcasts about marketing
- know about an illness
- read Building Violin Skills by Ed Sprunger
- eat the 7 best vegan foods for optimal health
- live in Chicago
- launch and promote a Kickstarter project
- take care of a loved one with an illness
- build a bow hold on your own student
- teach a three-year-old how to take a bow
Information alone is not the problem. In fact, information is essential to understanding. However, the misunderstanding is that one can consume themselves to success.
“If I read THIS article I will have the secret to [fill in the blank]!”
And this is why the temptation, addiction even, to knowledge is prevalent in our generation. Not only is there an unprecedented volume of information available, but we all have equal access to it and are filling our entire days with the consumption of it.
I urge you to consider this. Acknowledging that billions of people have access to the same information as you, who will have the advantage? The informed? Or the one with understanding? The one with facts? Or the one with experience?
I argue (in good company) it is to our economic advantage in an information economy to understand and master a small sliver of the information we are bombarded with. Deep understanding of relevant information is the only way to provide value in a saturated information market.
To explore the way musicians operate in this market, I chose to attend fresh inc hosted by Fifth House Ensemble based in Chicago. A pre-eminant chamber music ensemble known for crashing through ceilings that traditional classical musicians don’t know exist, they have put brand strategies, audience psychographics, marketing tactics, and forms of communication to the test. Fifth House can speak on contracting, resume building, social media use, grant writing, and civic practice with authority because they have an understanding through layers of experience.
Yesterday Paul Wang of Northwestern University was invited by Fifth House to speak to our group on the nature of musicianship in the 21st century. With a cue tip he asked us to trace the path through a finger labyrinth. Racing to the finish, doubting the path, wondering if there was a shortcut, my fellow musicians struggled to patiently follow the way to the center. Wang illuminated the very point of moving to the center is the journey, or the in-between phase. Traveling through the labyrinth is what makes our art art. Traveling in between start and finish is what infuses our information with meaning, and delivers us to understanding.
In your performing and teaching life, seek understanding and not merely information. Your slow journey to mastery will involve many books, observations, and perhaps some inspirational quotes, but far more important are the moments you steal to test disseminated information for yourself.
I acknowledge the irony here. Despite my persuasive language, you are still only reading my words on a small mobile device on my own personal website. These words alone have little relevance to your life as merely information. What is necessary now in order to understand the concept of understanding is to DO.
Follow this procedure to understanding
- discover: read/watch/scroll/receive notifications
- choose: select the one change that is relevant to you
- understand: cultivate silent pockets of time to live with this change
- decide: evaluate the positive or negative impact of this change
- discover: then (and only then) read/watch/scroll/receive notifications on the same topic