You Can’t Be In Two Places at Once; Lessons from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Not So Different

In this special, seven-part series, we are working through the Harry Potter series, book by book, to discuss the lessons each book can teach a cappella groups. If you haven’t read the books before, beware—this series does include spoilers.

Overachievers of the world unite, and bask in the audacity of Hermione Granger, Harry’s plucky friend who dares to use magic to travel through time so she can double up on her course load at Hogwarts. Indeed, Hermione’s ability to seemingly be in two places at once ultimately unlocks the happy ending of the third volume of the Harry Potter series as our heroes time travel to save the day for Harry’s misunderstood godfather, as well as Hagrid’s misunderstood pet, narrowly evading the injustices the book promises will come to fruition leading up to that point.

Unlike Ms. Granger, the rest of us need to make choices. We can’t be in two places at once, and we can’t go back in time to fix grave mistakes. Unlike other lessons we can derive from the Harry Potter collection, this one is not so much about showing us what we can do, as what we can’t.

It’s tempting for an a cappella group to book itself up, singing at campus events, competing, touring, and recording, besides maintaining a full college course load. The reality of the matter is that very few groups are able to excel at so many endeavors. Most of the elite groups, by any measure, are specialists first and foremost, who pick a time and method for success.

But how should a group decide what to focus on? It’s a tricky question, but the best starting places are seeing where the group’s talents are, and what the group members most enjoy. Does your sound really only jive when you’re feeding off a live audience? Then don’t waste time couped up in the studio. Do you have a bunch of technological wizards who can piece together a perfect video for YouTube consumption? Maybe that’s the more beneficial route than killing yourself refining a competition set that isn’t ever going to be perfect.

This post shouldn’t be misconstrued as a suggestion groups should sell themselves short, or limit themselves, but should rather be taken as encouragement to specialize, focus, and really excel in selected areas, as opposed being jacks of all trades and masters of none. Think it over. Even Hermione quit time traveling after this book.