Growth and Stagnation

In Archives, Uncategorized on December 13, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Why do some people keep growing, and why do some people stop? In music, for example, Miles Davis or the Beatles would have continued to evolve for 200 years. But many good musicians’ playing has stagnated: they sound helplessly like themselves, or like a recording of themselves.

I think we stagnate when we latch onto a particular movement, style, or idea, and declare “This is it”: “This is what a jazz trumpet solo sounds like,” “This is what a rock song sounds like.” We reach a level of comfort and familiarity with our discipline—we always sound good, in precisely the way we should sound—and therefore we think we “get it.” Comfort destroys our curiosity, and growth stops.

I think this holds in any discipline. If, for example, we fixate permanently on one approach to development, we’ll quickly lose touch with a changing world. (In fact, this often happens, and cozy, squared-away ideologies like the Washington Consensus are the most dangerous for it.) Our understanding of what we offer the world needs to be strong and coherent, but not comfortable—that’s a bad sign.


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