Change the instrument

i’ve riffed copious metaphors on music and entrepreneurship.[1, 2, 3]

one insight i did not write down happened in 2018 while planning my next solo album. until then and for over 15 years, all my songwriting started with a guitar or violin. but i was getting sick of my go-to progressions. so i devised a theory: IF you change the instrument, THEN you change the song.

next thing you know i’m taking piano lessons in midtown Manhattan. every Wednesday i’d sit in a tiny chair, surrounded by small children and trophy wives, waiting for my turn to play scales. it was embarrassing, humbling, and perfect.

last week Bryan sent me Rick Rubin’s The Creative Act: A Way of Being. among the first pages is this quote, a pitch perfect echo of my 2018 sentiment:

With training, we can improve our interface with Source and radically expand the vessel’s ability to receive. Changing the instrument is not always the easiest way to change the sound of the music, but it can be the most powerful.

what qualifies as an instrument?

you don’t need to blow a trombone to benefit from esoteric juxtapositions of the local symphonic and your day job. just look at your hands. what do they do, and why?

maybe you dial phone numbers (sales), maybe you draft contracts, maybe you write code, maybe you cook dinner. in other words your instrument is people, ideas, bytes, elements.

now consider: what would happen if you changed it?

my instrument

since 2012 i’ve invested thousands of hours in pixels. i’ve been around the software block enough iterations to last a lifetime. so it might be time to break from that loop.

last night i innocently (ignorantly?) spent a hundred bucks on a micro computer:

then i browsed DIY blog posts to get a basic understanding of what i’ll be dealing with. here’s what i learned:

  • MQTT is like HTTP (really WebSocket) for IoT devices
  • GPIO pins are a lingua franca for connecting sensors, robots, etc w/ code
  • sensors output serial/binary data per the BAUD rate (9600 == 1 second)
  • if you transform raw data into something useful, you win

to learn my way around motherboards and flashing OS i have a couple project ideas ready to rock. each seems doable in a day or so. my tech stack is Ruby, English, and 2 bare hands. will report back with results.

what if i fail?

this not a declaration of my Next Thing. it’s way too early to tell.

but we can’t wait around for the muse to strike. we have to click an Amazon button, read punny tutorials by a fat British guy, and see what happens. it’s called The Path to Discovery.

also, i was wrong in 2018. Rick Rubin is wrong too. when you change the instrument, you don’t just change the song or the sound. you change the musician.

try it.