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Timing is Everything


Timing is everything. We hear that so much, whether it be spoken about business or politics or love.  I remember growing up as a kid in South Africa. We had African Time…which usually meant relax…we’ll be there when we get there.

My assimilation into American culture via Drum Cafe has taught me the profound relevance that drumming has when it comes to business practices and timing.  I’m not talking about drumming a point into someone’s head until they get it. That’s not timing…that’s repetition (which has its own merits). I’m referring to the connection between knowing the timing of something and actually acting upon it. Whether we’re dealing with sales or internal management, when you say something is as important as how you say it. Drum Cafe – and music in general – provides a powerful metaphor to reinforce this.

In our programs, we start with the basics – one drumbeat per measure, usually on the first beat. So if I stand before a group and count 1 to 4, the next time I say ONE – the group hits their drums. Sounds simple, but not really. In a 4-beat measure, there are actually hundreds of incremental beats sitting silently in between. Like atoms in an apple – they are all too small to count, but you know they’re bouncing around in every bite you take. So if my hand is hovering over a drum — ready to hit on the first beat – there’s the chance of me hitting on the off beat too. A BIG chance. So what keeps me in perfect timing? What instinct, what coordination must I engage to stay on beat, in time?  Listening, deciding, acting…sound familiar?

We all develop great instincts through life. They inform the way we respond in a given situation. As a drummer, I know that instincts evolve over time.  I can join in a drumming circle, and notice that I’m hitting in a certain pattern. I don’t think about it too much – I just instinctually start contributing to the music in that way. My timing is good not just because I practice but more importantly because I have an acute awareness of what my options are AND what contributions I can make to create a better overall rhythm.  When we work in community, whether in small business units or in global teams, our sensitivity to what needs to happen when is critical not only to overall outcome but to day-to-day culture.  It’s the same in music. And drumming stands out as the most obvious illustration of this, because if the beat is off – all bets are off, too.

Sometimes, to loosen people up – I encourage sonic cacophony. Drums beating every which way – no discreet rhythm what so ever. The beauty of coming together after that is nothing short of breathtaking. Imagine 500 drums out of rhythm slowly moving towards each other’s gate so that eventually there’s one beat, one story being told. When timing is king, and everyone is at attention – that’s a huge reminder to all of us. Great timing means nothing is forced and everything is as it should be.  How often do we experience that? Indeed, not often enough.

In joy and rhythm –
Natalie Spiro

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