*Disclaimer – I know nothing about music – just embrace the metaphor.
The musicians filed into the auditorium and took their places on stage. One week till the opening performance and the conductor was sweating it; rehearsals weren't going well, there was bickering amongst the musicians, and the cymbals seemed to be channeling Lady Gaga ever since seeing the Billboard Music Awards. It was crunch time.
"I have been picking up some disharmony amongst some of the sections here and I think, if I understood better where your heads were at, it may help us come together more quickly," the conductor said calmly. The hairs on the back of the necks of the string section stood up. Calm was not a natural state for this conductor. "So, let's start with percussion. Aerosmith? Really? They aren't even in the program – what the hell?" he cocked his head to one side as he threw up his hands.
It was the bells who spoke first. "I think we are just feeling more confident these days – braver, more fearless. The economy seems to be on the rebound and all." He trailed off but the bongos nodded at him encouragingly.
"But last week you said you were fearful and frugal," noted the conductor.
"Yes, well that was last week and you asked the question differently. I was responding to your cues really. You should be careful how you phrase questions," said the bells.
Hands rubbing on his forehead, the conductor turned to the string section who were all focused intently on the dust bunnies on the floor. "And you guys seemed trapped in the 80's. Care to explain?"
Second chair raised his hand. "It was a time of change – anarchy man. Stand up to big brother. Government says we are obese – we say we are OK with that. Power to the pudge! My kids may be overweight too but I don't see it – I just see love, dude." He sat down to a round of applause from the other strings.
"Moving on, what about you, horns? Tribal music one day, East Indian, Aboriginal chants, Celtic? Is there a connection?"
"Truth, simplicity, purity, vitality – what else is there really? We are reuniting with our heritage. Animal rights, indigenous ingredients, seasonal eating, collective bargaining, fin to tail, wild crafting is where it is at. It is grounding – you should try it" said one if the trumpets.
"I thought you were about comfort since you all were carrying around those stadium cushions for practice last week," the conductor recalled.
"Oh, we are soooo over comfort. That nebulous, undefined crap is depression ... suppressing," the others nodded in agreement.
The conductor turned his attention toward the keyboards. "And you! Why do you keep playing throughout the performance instead of coming in on your specific sections?"
"Budget is out – convenience is where it's at. And it is way easier to just keep playing along then to jump in and out. Its too much work, all that calculating, planning, forget it – ya know?" The keyboards didn't quite understand the problem, actually.
The conductor told the group to take the day off so he could think about how to bring such a disharmonic group together in one week. It was then that his assistant came to his office and had a heart to heart with him. She explained that disharmony simply signals a shift in the current program everyone has become used to. Patterns shift based on their own trajectory regardless of corporate strategic planning and rehearsal schedules.
And so consider this list of Red Herrings to be aware of in 2012 along with their refocused pathways.
Red Herring: Gluten-free; Re-focus: Allergy Aware
Red Herring: Private label; Re-focus: Brands Make Comeback, Brands = Value
Red Herring: Functional Food; Re-focus: Whole Food, Nutrient Density, Unprocessed
Red Herring: Rock Star Chefs; Re-focus: Rock Star Butchers, Bar Chefs, Farmers
Red Herring: Comfort Food; Re-focus: Global Comfort, Playfulness, Risk, Adventure
Suzy Badaracco is a toxicologist, chef, and registered dietitian. She holds a Bachelors of Science degree in Criminalistics, an Associates degree in Culinary Arts, and a Masters of Science degree in Human Nutrition.