An Evening of Pace, Pace, Lead with Chuck

I’ve been iPhone-only for the last 36 hours and it feels good to be on laptop again.  Yesterday was one of those intense max-tempo days where I left almost no slack and did everything I’d lined up (I wrote in detail about what such a day feels like in a ribbonfarm post, Allenism, Taylorism and The Day I Rode the Thundercloud). I like doing such days occasionally, simply to calibrate my operating envelope of tempos. I am taking a slower day today. More driving and blogging. Less activity.

I already blogged the events in the early part of the day, so on to the evening events. I had my first couchsurfing experience. My host was Chuck Wortman, a DJ in Wilmington, DE.

Hanging out with Chuck was a very unusual kind of fun for me, but the evening was bizzarely apropos for Tempo, for multiple reasons. Here goes.

Cashflow 101 in Wilmington

I got to Wilmington around 6:30 and met up with Chuck and some of his friends at a branch of the local public library for a game of Cashflow 101. We played online with the help of a shared computer and projector. The players included a 13-year old kid who was really good, and his grand-parents (his grand-father was sort of emceeing the game and providing mini-tutorials along the way).

This was a serious bit of serendipity, since I’d meaning to get into this game (originally a board game invented by Robert Kiyosaki of Rich Dad, Poor Dad fame), and began talking to Hosh Hsiao about it while I was finishing up the book (see his fantastic Quora answer to a question about board games that teach you to be a “scheming rat bastard,” where he discusses Cash Flow 101).

Put simply, the ideas in the game could be called “the tempo of money.” If I understood finance better, I’d have put some of the ideas in the book. Now that I have some basic exposure to how the game is played, I plan to get a more serious lesson out of Hosh when I meet up with him in Atlanta (any more Atlanta folks around? Maybe we could do a whole gaming session. I’ll be there probably 12/13 May or so).

More on Cashflow when I learn more.

DJing and Pace, Pace, Lead

After the game, it was off to downtown Philly for an evening of Salsa lessons. On the drive, I naturally grabbed the opportunity to question Chuck about the intricacies of DJing, since there is probably no other activity so close to the heart of managing tempo in decision-making. I asked Chuck how he decides what to play, and how he reacts to the mood of the audience.

His answer was deliciously simple: pace, pace lead. The art of DJing, apparently, is about taking control of the mood of the event by first matching the audience’s tempo and then gradually pushing them to a different energy level or mood. You could apply the exact same rule of thumb to managing great meetings or other situations. Start where the audience is, set a challenging but not too-demanding tempo for them to match, and then lead the tempo to different places as different moods are required. Pace, Pace, Lead

How to be a Happy Wallflower

I’d originally planned on joining Chuck for the lessons, and even paid up my fee at the door, but the moment we got to the dance floor, it became clear that the level was way more advanced than my rusty 8-year old rudimentary salsa lessons could deal with.

I have no problems making an ass of myself on the dance floor on occasion, but in this case it was clear that I might end up tripping or kicking somebody on the shins. It would have been a case of what electrical engineers call an impedance mismatch.

So I retreated to the bar, drank three bottles of Guinness and blogged the posts you saw yesterday on my iPhone, while watching the dancers. It was a very relaxing experience, since there were old and young people, people in work clothes, people dressed for a night out, and people in completely random clothes. The ambiance was friendly, open and relaxed, but it was clear that most of the people were regulars and knew each other. The food and drinks were pretty cheap, and that always (in my opinion) makes a club or bar a lot more fun to hang out in. Expensive/elite clubs have far too much posturing going on.

A curious thought occurred to me: I haven’t been inside a dance club for more than 10 years, and the last time, I remember my lack of dancing ability making me seriously anxious. Then too, I sat out the dancing, nursing a drink, while my friends hit the floor.

This time around though, though the dancers scared the heck out of me with their skill level, I was actually pretty comfortable in my own skin as a spectator. I guess at some point, you make your peace with who you are and what you are good at, and no longer feel deep anxieties when you’re around others exhibiting at virtuouso levels, skills that you completely lack.

“Regulars” are really “Reliable Irregulars”

On the ride back, I remarked to Chuck that most of the people at the club seemed to know each other. “Are they mostly regulars?” I asked, and his answer was very interesting. “It’s a community,” he said. “Sometimes you won’t see somebody for months or even a year, but then they’ll show up and keep coming weekly for months, and then vanish again.”

That’s actually a fantastic definition of community in tempo-terms: a group of people whose regularity of participation is not characterized by a fixed tempo of activity, but by the fact that they reliably keep coming back. So regulars, in a sense, are really “reliable irregulars” not people who keep showing up like clockwork.

Notes for a Future Edition of Tempo

  1. Pace-pace-lead
  2. Cashflow 101 and the tempo of financial decision-making
  3. Impedance mismatch in dancing
  4. The tempo of participation in a community: what characterizes a “reliable irregular” at a deeper level?

(I am going to be making some brief notes like this for my own benefit as part of this liveblogging, for later processing; free-association thoughts welcome).



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  1. It was good hanging with you last night Venkat. I still think you should’ve at least taken the lessons! The primary reason that club is packed week after week can be summed up in one word…Value. The club offers an inviting, friendly atmosphere through decor and reasonable food prices and friendly staff, while the DJ/instructor, Joe F., constantly keeps things fresh and plays music that everyone enjoys and can relate to including the salsa versions of some Top 40 songs that lend themselves to the crossover. By understanding where your ‘clients’ are, then you better offer them what they want as opposed to what you think they want. This is value and this in turn gets you what you want, whether it’s business or even relationships. This keeps them coming back for more of what you are offering!