Ratcheting and Repetition

Ratcheting is an interesting and fabulous phenomenon that exists in life. To ratchet is to gain a skill that once gained, you can’t really lose.

Think of it like riding a bike. Once you learn to ride, you can’t really unlearn. You have ratcheted. If you keep riding a lot, soon you will be attempting to ride difficult trails and jumping over things. Once you get skilled enough to jump a log, you can’t really unlearn that either. You have ratcheted again. If you keep going, eventually you will be one of the best bike riders in your community and your region. People will notice you. If you keep working harder than anyone else, you will eventually be likely to be very widely known. People like to see the result of a lot of ratcheting. We like to see someone do something difficult and “make it look easy.”

Ratcheting comes through something that is innate in almost every medium of expression. Repetition of form. Drawing the same thing over and over again. Shaping the clay into the same vessel shape over and over. Playing that same scale on the guitar over and over.

At first when we start our repetition, we think the purpose is trying to make the form perfect. After all, practice makes perfect. This is true. However, it is not the only purpose of repetition. The nature of the universe is, that no matter how hard we try, we will never make two marks with a pencil that are exactly the same. There are too many variables. How hard we push, the details of the surface, how long the mark is, our blood pressure, the moisture in the air, the consistency of the graphite and on and on and on... No matter how many repetions we make, we may be able to make our marks 99.9999999% similar, but never exactly the same. When we are mindful of this, suddenly the beauty becomes about discovering the differences. Discovering the uncontrollable, the chaotic. Some people in creative industry call these “happy accidents”

The real magic occurs when we find form in the accidents and we learn to repeat this new, unique outcome. Now we have added a detail to our repetition that is unique to us. This becomes our differentiator. Many people make this product, but not like this, not like us.

So, the question is. What is our focus? What is our why? What is the form we should be repeating and learning from as we ratchet? In this current world, it is so easy to be distracted and forget to dedicate to a daily practice that allows us to ratchet and become unique, strong linchpins in the world.

Mine is communication. Visual, aural and written. Right now, I focus on the skills that take the least amount of upfront financial investment and the most in time. It costs very little to expend graphite or ink onto a page. It also costs very little to write and practice sharing. Since these have been my core skills since I was a young child, returning to these practices in the last few years in a deep, dedicated way has proven very fruitful.

This is how we become irreplaceable, invaluable participants in our communities. If we ratchet, when some one hires us, they aren’t hiring us for an hourly wage as replaceable labor, they hire us because we have a lifetime of ratcheted skill that can’t be replaced. Not because there aren’t other highly skilled people, but rather, no one does it quite like us. We are a category of one. Lots of people draw, but not like this. Lot’s of people write songs, but not like this.

I hope you have a wonderful day working on your next ratchet, as will I.

Peace and Love,

Jesse Barney