Back when I was regularly playing tabletop games, I was also an avid player of the card game Magic: The Gathering. One of the biggest lessons that game taught me was to use the cards in my hand to their fullest potential. Time and time again I would play my opponent and they would cry “If I had drawn *this* card I would have beat you!”. I would gently remind them that they did not, in fact, draw that card and they had now lost.
I summarize this lesson as “Play the Cards You Have, Not the Ones You Want.” This means to focus on the assets that you do control and not waste precious time pining for those that would make the job easier, but you do not have.
When we moved Boomer Music to its present location in 2010, this lesson was reinforced to me in spades. During the renovation of the sales floor, we wanted to relocate a restroom door. When we opened the wall to frame in the new doorway, we were confronted with one steel column and five wooden columns, all load bearing, and none more than a foot apart. Locating this door anywhere on this wall would require some major engineering or the second floor would likely collapse on us. In other words, this was not going to happen.
“What do you want to do?” asked Russ, the contractor.
I laughed, “This one is simple. We keep the door where it is, and I redesign the layout of the sales floor. We may only have deuces, but at least it’s a pair.”
So that is what we did. And a funny thing happened. The layout of the sales floor is much better than what it would have been. Instead of a door to a restroom, we now have a corner that features our woodwind instruments. We added valuable display space and the flow and organization of the store is better for it.
This lesson is even more relevant today that it was then. Over the past two years we have had to adjust and rethink how we do many things. Whether it is working from home, wearing masks in band class, or having groceries delivered, every one of us has adjusted to the real choices we face and made things work well, and in some cases better.
As we all know, school music programs have seen declining numbers across the board. Many of the marching bands at schools I visit every week have less than a third of their members with any marching experience prior to this season, which has been a tremendous challenge as a lack of institutional knowledge can be a hindrance. However, this is also an opportunity for those programs. Instead of fixating on what they do not have, teachers are using the situation to their advantage and instilling new traditions and new ways of doing things that would not have been possible without the creative destruction the pandemic forced upon us.
Would we like to have everything as neat and convenient as it was back in 2019? Of course! But these are the cards we are holding. We have many new and exciting technologies, processes, and ideas that have come about in response to the COVID crisis. Rather than getting stuck in the quagmire of wishing for things we cannot have, we have retooled and readjusted to better utilize the things we do have. This crisis has been an opportunity to do away with old methods that were ineffective and come up with entirely new ones that work.
We all have overcome so much. We all have been forced to do so much more with so much less. In the end though, even a pair of deuces can be winning hand.