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It’s either good or bad

“Oh, that’s like Instagram but for poems.”

When we see or hear something, our brain automatically compares it to the things we know. We put it in context of the things we have experienced before and find a category for it.

Sometimes, though, we make the mistake of using this category as an automatic measure of quality. We shouldn’t.

Duke Ellington, the famous Jazz Big Band leader, made music in the category of “light music” – according to traditionally trained musicians (read: European classical music) who considered “light” music to be inferior to “serious” music.

Ellington vehemently disagreed with this assessment (as do I):

“You have to stop listening in categories. The music is either good or it’s bad.” – Duke Ellington

I think the same is true for almost any categorical thinking.

Let’s take presentations as an example. A presentation is either good or bad. It changes people’s minds or it doesn’t. It resonates or not.

Whether it took you 300 slides to do so or 3. Whether you told a story or presented plain, raw facts. Whether you were pacing up and down the stage or standing still.

If it resonated, it was good. It doesn’t matter if it was in the “Steve Jobs style” category or in the “my math teacher from junior high school” category.

In other words, never forget that it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.

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