The Identity of Appropriateness

There are two modes of thought that we go through in order to make decisions. Stanford professor James Marsh calls them the logic of consequence and the logic of appropriateness.

The logic of consequence is, as Adam Grant puts it in Originals, “[w]hich course of action will produce the best result?” It is based on the immediate consequences a decision will have and planning accordingly. If you do x, y might happen.

Then there is the logic of appropriateness. Grant describes this as follows: “What does a person like me do in a situation like this? Rather than looking outward in an attempt to predict the outcome, you turn inward to your identity. You base the decision on who you are – or who you want to be”. I am x, so I should do y.

Let us delve into the latter a bit more.

There is another layer within this logic of appropriateness. Being a musician or a music reviewer or whatever else is the base of one’s identity. It is not all there is to it.

What we do within music takes up most of our time: rehearsals, gigs, writing, practice, touring, etc. But at the center of this “what” is a “who”. Who we are, not only as musicians, but as people, can also affect at what lengths we will do these various things.

Perhaps being a generous soul will make it natural for you to throw in a twenty dollar bill for the touring band with no expectation of compensation. Being gregarious and open will make collaborating with other musicians seem like the best thing to do.

For how much it can take our time, being involved in music is only a tiny sliver of our identity. Deeper down are traits which will shine through what we do within music. Perhaps it our task to cultivate this inner identity so that, when we come to a decision, we can be brave and generous enough to believe in who we are and who we want to be to follow whatever will take us there.


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