throw out the bad grapes

I’m a sucker for documentaries. I could watch one after another. It doesn’t even matter what the subject matter is. I love to learn about everything. As a result, I know a little bit about a ton of different things.

Sour grapes 1The other day, I watched film entitled A Year in Burgundy. It is the story of the wine made in the Burgundy region of France where the filmmakers look into all the different philosophies of wine and the best ways to create it. For some of the vineyard owners it was all about the science and very quantitative; to others it was an art form and something elusive. There was one thing that pretty much every vintner agreed on, and that was to eliminate the bad grapes.

There were scenes of people picking out bad grapes on a conveyor belt. There were speeches to the grape pickers about eliminating bad grapes before they go into the buckets.

The whole time I was watching these scenes, I kept thinking about all the work that went into those bad grapes. Even though they were bad, they still put as much work into growing them as they had the good grapes. All the bad grapes were bad for different reasons…rot, hail damage, bruised…but they were all bad.

The reason these grapes were thrown out was that they would affect the end product. For some of the vineyard owners…the scientists, would simply say bad grapes make bad wine. The artists among them would say you could taste the hail damage in the wine.

At this point, you’re probably wondering what this has to do with anything.

Well, by the end of this movie, I was really impressed with the discipline it took to get rid of the less than perfect grapes for the sake of the final product. If I were in their shoes and really knew how much work was involved, would I be able to do what was best for the end result? How many times have I sacrificed the best for the end result for the sake of a bad grape? A less than perfect stage set up or a slightly lazy lighting cue? To spend countless hours on a a video, then knowing it isn’t quite there, played it in the service anyway? To keep an chronically late volunteer on the team because, after all, they’re volunteering.

Regardless of the work I’ve put in or the team has put in, it might still be a bad grape.

There was a big service at Willow Creek that we had spent a ton of energy to make the set a certain way to achieve a certain result. It was a lot of work. However, in the end, it wasn’t right for the service, so we ended up scraping it. For some people on the team, this really bothered them. To others it was the exact right call.

I realize that many of my examples and many of the situations we find ourselves in are way more complicated than good grape/bad grape, but the question still remains: Is the thing I’ve spent so much time on going to make the end product better or worse?

Are we willing to sacrifice all of our efforts if necessary, for the sake of the end result?

Will we have enough discipline to set aside the less than best for the benefit of what we are really trying to do?

Which is hopefully to create life changing moments through the fusion for the technical and creative arts.

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  • Karen P

    I love your blog! Thank you so much for your thoughts and taking the time to invest in your online readers. My question as it pertains to this post is what was it about the project at Willow that made you decide to scrap it? Did the speaker decide to go a different direction? Did the project turn out differently than imagined? After how many hours of work did you decide it was a no-go? Was it a group decision or did you need to make the final call? To be honest, your post really challenged me personally because this goes against ever bone in my body. My bent is to do whatever it takes to fix it to make it work, despite how many additional work hours I have to put in…which isn’t necessarily the right move, or the healthy move. Thank you for giving this perspective and “permission” if you will, to discard the grapes if it comes to that. It will be a hard thing for me to think about but one I should probably keep in the back of my mind.

    • Thanks so much Karen!

      The questions you are asking are good ones, and I’m not sure there is one right answer. In my example, we wondered whether our idea was going to actually work or not, but until we could see it in action, with everything rehearsed the way we were going to do it, it was difficult to know for sure if we should cut it. However during that questioning time, the majority of the hard work had already been done, so we were trying to make the idea work because of all the effort we’d already invested.

      For me, this was less about about trying harder to make it work, and more about releasing something that we’ve spent tons of energy on, for the sake of a better program. We could have pulled a bunch of all-nighters and it still wouldn’t have changed this element working or not.

      With that said, I think that we often times discount our time as a valuable resource. There are times that it is more important to pull the plug on something because the cost in time is too great. That’s a more difficult call to make. You don’t want to give up, and you don’t want to let the team down. So you end up pushing through and driving your team into the ground. If this is a one time thing, it is probably the right thing to do…to work really hard on something to make it great. If it is a pattern, it is definitely time to reevaluate how services get planned.

      Going back to the bad grapes analogy, nothing you can do will make the grapes not bad, and if you don’t have the discipline to throw them out, you’ll have an inferior finished product.