What You Want to Create: Re-Examining Minimalism, Mistakes, & Musical Cognition

“Focus on what you want to create, not on trying to avoid mistakes.”-David Marquet [paraphrased, I think. Marquet wrote one of my favorite books called Turn the Ship Around! on emancipatory leadership and management]

I’ve found it more beneficial to focus on what you want to create, rather than the risk of failure or mistakes in strategy and life. Work for long enough with and learn from experienced practitioners in any field that demands creativity–entrepreneurship, counseling, the arts, even military strategy–and you’re likely to hear similar advice.

It’s been years (almost decades) since I really dived into minimalist music as a listener. Recently, I found a youtube video with sheet music from one of my favorite minimalist pieces by Karl Jenkins for a string quartet called The Fifth Season.

As someone who came across the piece as a listener first rather than a performer, it was surprising that seeing the sheet music made the piece “feel” more challenging to learn than it would be if I were to figure it out by ear. I think it’s because I associate reading the notes  with certain fingerings and where I’d need to place the bow–which instantly correlates to guessing the amount of effort it would take to process each piece of information note-by-note rather than let me imagine what it’s like to play a whole phrase.

For non-musicians, I’d equate this to reciting a beloved speech–recalling its phrases based on what you heard might be easier than forcing yourself to examine and deliver a speech word by word. It automatically frames your relationship with the work in a way that becomes risk-averse. Your aim shifts from wanting to communicate an overarching expression to wanting to avoid mistakes.

[go ahead and press play to listen and watch for a bit if you’ve got the time!]


There’s something about how our brains work best when we can let intricate details emerge or fill-in as we work toward processing bigger steps.

For anyone unfamiliar, Karl Jenkins is the composer who wrote Palladio which drove the Diamond industry into fame for the DeBeers “A Diamond is Forever” advertising campaign. It’s important to note the DeBeers Cartel’s and the Diamond Industry’s history of human rights abuses and violations continue even into recent years [1].

For anyone interested in hearing a less famous composer whose work has been running through my mind lately, here’s Simeon Ten Holt’s Canto Ostinato for Two Pianos and Two Marimbas:



Namibia: Exposing The Corrupt Practices Of The De Beers Diamond Cartel

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