“There are no two words in the English language more harmful than ‘good job’.”

In Whiplash, the character of Terence Fletcher demands the absolute best from his young and talented jazz students. Throughout the film, Fletcher is seen constantly berating and even physically assaulting his students in his demand for perfection. The above quote reflects how Fletcher’s own mentality and his quest to find the next outstanding musician; he does not seek someone who is “good”, he seeks someone who wants to be the absolute best and will settle for nothing less than that.

In the performance realm, practice and rehearsal is strongly encouraged as the primary method for performers to better their skills. One of Fletcher’s students, Andrew Neiman, takes this message to heart and practices feverishly to become the number one drummer in Fletcher’s top ensemble. Neiman’s drive to become the best continues to take over and dominate his life; his ultimate goal being that he seeks Fletcher’s approval and recognition. As a consultant, how can we approach and handle the situations that our clients are in?

Throughout Whiplash, it is clear that Neiman is highly externally motivated; he seeks the approval and nod of respect that Fletcher rarely rewards to his students. In an environment such as a highly competitive jazz program, Neiman faces constant usurpation from other drummers, thus motivating his rigorous practice. Instead of denying this motivation displayed by a client, a consultant may offer steps to manage this fierce drive by allowing the client to establish various goals particularly relating to the process of rehearsal and more importantly, internal motivation. Neiman’s love for drumming and playing in jazz ensembles is clearly evident, but overlooked due to his drive for approval.

As a consultant, we have the opportunity to broaden a client’s thought process, allowing them to rediscover and rekindle their internal passion for their craft. An internally motivated performer may find their craft to be more rewarding and beneficial versus a performer constantly seeking approval. We need to ensure that we respect the aspirations of our clients, but ensure their success in the long-term.

-Rahul Ramesh