14 – Storms, Choices & Jazz

Before beginning: Click play and listen while you read.


In my recent exploration of routines, tactics and habits, I’ve discovered tools and methodologies to maximize and optimize certain aspects of my life. Some aspects are more willing to accept process refinement. Others merely respond with a wise, thoughtful chuckle and the obligatory, Oh, bless your heart (if you are in the south).

Just before the holidays, my wife and I found ourselves in a giant swamp crowded with treacherous creatures with malfunctioning ears. These creatures were also on individual missions to make each other miserable. Even with all the awesomeness that comes with having children, the occasional storm rolls through the once peaceful port.

We’ve weathered storms before, but this one was particularly special.

Our vessel was on a dead heading into the hurricane force winds and banshee-like shrieking from our three year old’s dissatisfaction with socks, thunderous exchanges over iPads and lego pieces between our five year old and nine year old, and the monsoon of tears pouring from the eyes of our 11 year old.

All evasive maneuvers seemed to only increase the chaos.

(PAUSE STORY … Chaos does a number on distorting time and perspective. In the big picture, this is a small challenge that every parent faces.)

As things settled down, I found myself in the garage with some hair clippers. It’s funny how earlier that day, I made the decision to return to the high and tight haircut. About once or twice a year, I find myself craving the simplicity of a shaved head. Driven by the idea of subtraction, I was applying a #3 guard to the complexities of my current hair situation, which obviously parallels other events.

As a parent and entrepreneur, choices (and nerf bullets) are launched at my face every second of the day. The available capacity for dealing with these choices can be depleted rather quickly. Minimizing non-critical decisions can help limit noise and free up capacity to deal with more important tasks.

Sure, it may sound silly to view a simple haircut as a means to minimize chaos, but it is really all part of the cumulative benefit of eliminating the number of decisions you have to make.

Decision fatigue is real …

Why did Steve Jobs wear the same type of mock turtleneck every day?


Why does Chris Sacca wear cowboy shirts on Shark Tank?


Why do the majority of successful people keep a consistent morning routine?

Subtract the noise. Save your patience, brain power and energy for more critical tasks.

So, there I was watching large chunks of hair hit the cold garage floor and something hit me. While many aspects of my life can be hacked, optimized and refined, parenting is not a willing recipient of such a systematic approach. I realized that I was trying to apply optimization tactics to something that wasn’t seeking optimal performance.

It was seeking patience, discipline, consistency, and the ability to stop and listen.

You write the book as you go, enjoying the journey with the hope of a happy ending.

My musical brain took this concept a step further.

Classical music is very structured. It has a defined mission with a specific set of instructions for up to hundreds of participants. Every millisecond is planned and rehearsed for optimal performance. Each participant is content with being heard within the collective sound palette. Classical music is a single direction broadcast.  Classical music is intolerant to improvisation. One wrong note could sink the entire performance.

Being a parent is living within a jazz ensemble.

Jazz music is improvisation. It is a multipoint musical dialogue. Musicians in a jazz ensemble have individual freedom to express themselves with responsibility to the  framework of the song. The same song is rarely performed the same way more than once. Emotion plays a tremendous part in the performance. Jazz is chaos interlaced with beautiful melodies and sweet, collaborative moments.

Yep. My dinner table is the Village Vanguard. Raising children is jazz.



Notes and links:

Chris Sacca’s Cowboy Shirt

Jobs and the Mock Turtleneck

Combating Decision Fatigue

History of Village Vanguard



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