#21) Portability

Quick: quote one line from the movie “Avatar.”

You probably can’t, at least if you’re like most of my friends who saw the movie.  Our reaction was usually pretty much the same: visually stunning, entertaining – but not memorable.  (One of my friends commented that he liked the film better when it was called “Dances With Wolves”, but I digress.)  It was also not quotable.

By contrast, James Cameron’s previous effort, “Titanic,” was very quotable.  Like it or hate it, it’s become part of our culture.  The phrase “I’m the king of the world!” may be laughable to some, but it’s recognizable to everyone.   Even though movies are a concrete thing, they are passed down much as an oral tradition.  People who were born in the 90s recognize lines such as “Say hello to my little friend!” and “No….I am your father,” just as I grew up with, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” and “Go ahead, make my day.”

Being quotable is an example of another concept that I call “portability”, or being able to access something any time, any place.  Recently the mother of two of my students described the process they used to hire a teacher.  She said that they had found one who had great credentials, was very knowledgeable and good with the kids.  He basically had the gig, but just to be sure, she asked him to play a song—not from sheet music, but just from memory.  Anything he wanted.

He couldn’t do it.

While I’m sure that he could have probably played circles around me with his sheet music, not being able to be spontaneous and instantly accessible cost him a gig.  This musician, for all of his studies and accomplishments, wasn’t able to convert his art into a portable form.  Being able to “whip it out” whenever, wherever, is portability.  Whether it’s a movie quote, a spontaneous performance, a concept from a book or blog, a company slogan or a 30-second “elevator pitch”, portability is important.

The idea may sound somewhat superficial, and in some ways it is, but portability is more than just instant gratification.  Portability means that something has become a part of you; something you take with you.  Being able to access your art, ideas or skills spontaneously is the ultimate sign of having mastered it – meaning that it will probably be more valuable to others.

I know I’m not the best piano player in the world or the best music teacher in the world.  I might not even be the best piano player or music teacher in my building.  But when the challenge of pitching myself to new prospects arose, I said, “Go ahead, make my day.”

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