Monday, April 15, 2019
ALTERNATIVES TO MAKING DO
Most people remember The Beatles. In the 1960s they were the most famous pop group in the world, and were responsible for writing some of the most memorable songs of that era. People are still humming their tunes today. So where did the songs come from? In their later years, the band used to meet up in a recording studio and mess around for hours, on guitars and keyboards, eventually coming up with something they were happy with. There is a memorable piece of film from the time that shows them working on a title song for their self-made film, 'Magical Mystery Tour'. It was at a stage when most of the filming had already been done. The band had a title for the film, all they needed was a song to go with it. The background documentary shows them trying out all sorts of ideas, before finally deciding that they had done enough and needed to break for the day. At that stage the only thing they had agreed on was 3 chords, A, D and E. In a signature moment, we see Paul McCartney looking round and shouting, 'Somebody write that down'. The next day they came in and finished the song off, recorded it and moved on to other projects.
Unfortunately, we can't all be The Beatles. Ask yourself, if you arrived in a recording studio and all you had to look at was a scrap of paper on top of the piano that said 'A,D,E', would you be able to make something of it? They did. They used that combination for the first line, repeated; added a call-back; then a bridge. If you've ever listened to the whole song, 'Magical Mystery Tour', it would seem impossible that the total package grew out of a concept that was simply one line. One line. The Beatles 'made do' with that, and developed it into something wonderful. Could any of the rest of us do that? No? So why do we risk it?
A few years ago I worked in a small charity. It didn't have much money or many resources, but it had a computer, and I often commented that the machine could be put to good use and save everyone time and effort. For instance, addressing envelopes. We regularly sent out mailings to people, (it was a long time ago) and for many years the Secretary had been in the habit of writing out all the envelopes laboriously by hand, but it was always to the same people. I told her it would be easier in the long run to type those names into a simple database, and then she could simply print out labels each time she needed a new set of envelopes. She said she was in a rush and had to 'make do', but would be sure to do it 'next time'. She never did. She somehow never found the time to prepare the database, and therefore wasted hours of effort every month in copying out addresses onto brown envelopes. She was so used to 'making do', she couldn't ever bring herself to save the effort and try a new approach.
Why was that? Was he scared of the computer? No, she had taken herself off to training courses and knew full well how to prepare databases and make mailing labels. She just never did. Was it habit? Maybe. Some of us have developed time wasting and wasteful habits over the years, but they are so familiar that we can't ever seem to ditch them. I notice it all the time.
Just the other day, a friend of mine was showing me his holiday photos on his office computer. Every time he clicked on a pic, we had to wait while a photo editing program loaded up before it displayed it. He then closed the window, selected another photo and clicked on it. We then waited for the program to load. I pointed out that if he didn't close the window, just shrunk it, then his editing software would still be open and wouldn't have to load up for each new photo. It would import the photo chosen and display it without having to open again as a program. He looked at me with puzzlement. He had always done it this way. It was the way he had been shown. Was I seriously suggesting he should chance his life? Why not? If we are any sort of genius, then maybe we can 'make do' and get by. Otherwise, it might be advisable to try and find the best way of doing things, not just the only way we know. Who knows, maybe there will be a better way, if we stop, think about what we're doing, and consider alternatives.
Meanwhile, real talent can cope. When my brother got married, he invited an old friend to be his best man. The guy was entertaining company, a witty speaker, and people were looking forward to his speech at the Reception. We arrived at the banqueting hall after the formal wedding, and while everybody else was queueing at the bar for their first drink, I noticed he was in a corner, scribbling on a small business card. He jotted down several bullet points and appeared happy. Later, when we had taken our places, he stood up and delivered a blistering speech, which had people howling with laughter and rolling in the aisles.
Now, the only time that I have made a speech at such a similarly inspiring occasion, I worked on it for months. If I had tried to 'make do' and make it up on the day, like I had seen done at the wedding, it would have been awful. Well, I had seen the guy planning his talk, and it was nothing but the barest of 'bare bones'. Still, he managed to create something marvellous out of it. Good for him. As for the rest of us, it's an insult to the world to 'make do' and deliver less than your best. Take the time, make the effort. If you 'make do', it will show and you'll be doing no one a favour, least of all yourself. Doing 'your best' sometimes means committing the time and effort to ensure that you have put in all that you have to offer. 'Making do' is skimping. Don't do it. Leave that to the genius people. They can pull the rabbit out of the hat at the last minute and create some magic. Most of us have to prepare.