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A Teachable Desire To Improve: Sorting Out The Stuff That Really Matters
I'd love to tell you I learned all of this without making any horrible or expensive mistakes. Yeah. That would be nice...
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What would you say is the most valuable skill in our industry? I recall a top mix engineer saying that he wants to work with sound team members that have an innate understanding of signal flow and a good attitude. I agree. Absolutely. But, I’d like to add another highly valuable skill: simply, a teachable desire to improve.

The definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result. A mentor long ago taught me these three laws of knowledge:

1) All you know is all you have learned.
2) All you know is not all there is to know.
3) Some of what you know is wrong.

It’s bad to not know. It’s even worse to not know that you don’t know. It’s tragic to pretend you know when you don’t. Arrogant and unteachable is a fatal combination in this business. Admit when you don’t know. Everyone else already knows if you don’t.

We all make mistakes. That’s how we learn. Good judgment comes from experience, experience comes from bad judgment. No problem. Just don’t have the same problems week after week. Learn and move on.

The first real PA system I ever installed (with the help of some fellow neophytes) was comprised of mostly used gear. That’s probably a very generous way of saying it. It was actually gear that had been retired after a long and meaningful life. Some of it was older than me. But, miraculously, it was functional. Even though we managed to make noises come out of it, we didn’t really know what we were doing.

We pieced that pile of junk together with ancient, unbalanced cables. Hung big loudspeakers from ceiling joists by eye hooks and cheap chains. Stabbed the channels randomly with no idea about what made sense. Moved knobs and faders until something made a sound. We were quite proud of ourselves.

We were also lucky we didn’t kill anyone or burn that place down. We didn’t even know that we didn’t know what we were doing.

I’d love to tell you I learned all of this without making any horrible or expensive mistakes. Yeah. That would be nice. But I did. I would love to tell you that I was one of those smart guys who listens and learns the first time. I wish I could speak only of my successes instead of my failures. But I can’t.

I learned most of it the hard way. I found out the value of a properly installed and adjusted crossover by destroying a pair 18-inch subs. That was a $1,900 education.


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