Different Drummers | Margaret Moschak

by | Jun 21, 2019 | Featured Article | 1 comment

Do you often find yourself at odds with the important people in your life? Much as you respect and care for them, does there seem to be a touch of irritation in your daily life with them? Could it be one wants to do it NOW while the other wonders “what is the hurry?” Suddenly you are fighting again. What is the matter?Margaret Moschak author

Have you often wondered why some people are so slow doing a job? Why don’t they just get at it, do it and move on? Or maybe you feel just the opposite. Do you feel you are always being pushed to hurry by those around you? What is their everlasting hurry? Why do they want everything done yesterday? If these questions ring a bell, you might find some answers in the book Different Drummers.

Whether you have ever asked yourself any of these questions, you might be interested to learn how these two distinctive groups of people cook in opposing ways, choose their clothes each day with a different approach, approach sex with a diverse flair and even enjoy and succeed in jobs with such opposing demands as a news reporter or a gardener.

It does seem there are two major groups of people in the world; those who want to do everything now that I call INSTANTS and those who wonder what is the hurry that I call CONSTANTS.

Interestingly they almost always marry one another.


Working for the most part in a noncompetitive world, I never felt I was a slow thinker or actor. However at our teachers’ meetings where questions of how to solve a problem were presented to the staff, I found myself with nary a solution in my head while others around me offered one suggestion after another. Of course, I did have ideas later that night or the next day. Of course, now the meeting was over and it was much too late. The solutions had been presented. I did wonder what was wrong with me. Busy with life, I pushed the problem aside.

In the early years of my marriage as we tried to understand and adjust to one another, once again I ran into the expectation for the quick answer plus his almost constant coming and going. Once more I found myself behind the eight ball when it came to rapid decisions. I came to see him as a profound instant and my only solution was to step aside and let him spin and retreated behind an open book to escape his questions that always demanded an instant answer.

An answer came in an article about a successful manager who worked with his staff in a truly unique manner. He didn’t have just one staff meeting; he had two. Calling his entire staff together he presented projects and problems and let his staff go at it. Many came up with ideas that he filed away. Nothing new here. What was unique was on the second day, he called the same staff together and discussed the same problems. He said he had discovered while some people were very good at coming up with on-the-spot solutions, others seemed to need extra time-an extra day. That was it. That was me. I cried in sheer and wonderful relief.

I knew I couldn’t be the only one so I began to look around to see how this idea worked in the entire world. My husband and several of my friends seemed to be those who could literally turn on a dime. Slowly I came to realize those who come up with instant ideas and analysis also seem to want to put their ideas into action immediately. I contrasted these observations with my own actions. Slowly I come up with ideas; slowly | put them into action.

As I stepped back to take stock of my family situation, I realized my instant sister and I saw our mother quite differently. Barely a year apart in age and discussing life with our mother, I complained that our mother was forever ramming somewhere and dragging me along when I would so much rather have stayed home. At this point, my incredulous sister spit out, “But we never went anywhere.”

Elated with my insight, I started to think about these two different types of people and started to apply my new discovery to my everyday life-my husband and children. It worked! I now knew each of us walked to a different drummer and with this understanding I could more easily accept the wishes and desires of those who wanted everything now and those who preferred to sit on an idea on and on and on. The tension in our home lessened

During these years, I watched and listened to many people with this same problem as they tried to work together, whether this was between husband and wife, parents and children, other relatives, friends or in the workplace. Discussing this difference did seem to help them in their everyday life.



One of the interesting criteria as to where you might find yourself in these two categories of instant and constant is the question of answering email messages. Do you answer your email messages instantly or would you rather wait for an hour of two or perhaps a day or two or more?

If I discuss a question with my instant daughter, I know she will have worked out a solution almost before I finish my email. For her I simply get out of the way. Conversely if I discuss a question with my constant son, assume it may be days before the problem is worked out by him, if then. With him I do not anticipate an immediately solution and wait patiently for his analysis and ideas that will come in time; his time.


Instants rarely if ever use a recipe and if they do there is a continual shifting of the formula. Contrast this with constants, who will work for the perfect recipe and once satisfied will never change a single ingredient for the rest of their lives. Constants make recipe books; instants can’t be bothered.

My brother with an instant wife never knew what was coming out of the kitchen no matter what she said she was preparing for dinner.


Instants will rarely if ever wear the same outfit twice. Each and every day, if they must wear the same skirt or jacket, they feel impelled to add a scarf or shirt or blouse. Constants pay very little attention to the whole realm of what they wear or for that matter what anyone else wears leading to some interesting family spats. The constant will wear the same outfit for several days in row without giving it a thought. If it is clean, why not wear it again and again?

My son forced by his job to vary his outfit, solved the problem with buying about twenty different ties, hanging them in a row and choosing a different once each day no matter what suit he wore and while startling his co-workers, felt it was the best he could or would do.

Whether true or not, the story among envious constants is that Albert Einstein had a closet full of clothes that were all the same: several white shirts, several brown suit jackets, several pairs of brown trousers all the same style, several pairs of identical brown shoes and of course several ties all exactly the same. He never had to make a choice each morning. To a constant this seems like heaven.


Often times the very trait that attracts us to someone in the beginning of a relationship becomes an exposed nerve as time passes. Here the everyday living together between an instant and a constant can lead to irritation and on to madness. “Why can’t they do it my way-the right way?” However, neither way is right or wrong; each is different but that doesn’t make the other wrong. The problem arises when sarcasm and ridicule start to fly from one to the other whether from the instant or from the constant.

Looking for a new home, Laura, the instant wife, excited over the house she and her husband had inspected that afternoon zoomed in on what he thought about making a purchase offer tomorrow. Charles, her constant husband, mumbled along the lines of he didn’t really know. Irritated at his lack of decision, she pointed out that it was important that they move on the purchase offer. “What is the matter with you anyway?” She snapped. “Can’t you ever make up your mind?” Provoked at this sharp remark he jumped of bed, pulled on his clothes and slammed out of the house. For the first time, Laura newly introduced to the instant-constant theory realized maybe he just couldn’t make a decision, maybe he just needed more time.

Awake when he finally arrived home, she was ready to make amends and more important ready to give him more time. She went on with the point that he didn’t have to make the decision tonight. She then discussed several options and for the first time in their married life, did not demand an instant decision.

The relief in his voice and body startled her. She had no idea how painful it had been for him to keep up with her time schedule.


Bringing the instant-constant understanding into the classroom could make the learning experience a more joyful encounter for both teacher and student.

Comparing how instants and constants react in the a classroom, an instant friend of mine told me while constants seem to gladly accept the structure of the others presented to them, this is not for the instant. Once the instant knows where he is to go, he will form his own structure in his head and feels the structure of others only gets in his way. Instants want to choose their own road and how to get there. “Let me give it a go and see where it heads.”

The instant who delights in hit and run, especially finds long introductions mind bogglingly dull and cannot help but interrupt when a presentation is made to introduce a subject. Blocking out any external supervision, the instant is able to see all sorts of connections unmentioned or not even thought of before. This is one way new ideas come into the world. To an instant, introductions only gum up the works, forcing you to follow along in the same old tired ways. To them, “Just tell what you want and get out of my way.” For instants there seems to be an inner panoramic display and fusion of many ideas and examples juggling and dancing with one another, each vying for new and different connections. Startling links often come out of this.

I later talked with an instant still puzzled over what went on in his high school classroom and with an intensity that had carried over all these years. “I don’t want anyone telling me what to think, where to look or why I should do it some certain way. When someone does that I feel robbed. I feel as if someone has crippled me. My resentment is total.” The teacher’s systematic approach seemed too confining, a mental straitjacket, that following someone else’s rhythm was working on a leash.

My brother, a teacher for forty years, upon understanding this theory decided to bring this idea to his teaching methods. Up to this time, when he introduced a new project, he would list the sources available here in the school as well in the community and the world and was continually frustrated and irritated with the action of about half of the students.

They interrupted his presentation and seemed angry. Now he decided to let them go, allow them to get muddled or successful, then step in to smooth the bumps. “They loved the freedom and affirmation.” As an afterthought he mentioned these were the students most teachers refer to as troublesome.

But then most teachers seem to be constants.


As you might well suspect the difficulties of being either an instant or a constant follows into the workplace with all its misunderstandings and irritations.

A very astute conservative business manager hired and supported a fast flying instant very different from most of his employees. He saw the significance and need for diversity that she would bring, and she did try to do that very thing. However, she was stymied at almost every turn. All her ideas seemed to come up against a wall of “We never did that before.” Talking to me she confessed, “I feel my ideas have been spun around over one thousand times. My fellow workers do not think what I do is great and I feel stifled.” As far as she was concerned no one moved quickly enough; no one answered quickly enough. She continued with, “To me emails demand an immediate answer, while those constants will wait two or three days and then send out the answer.” Her confusion and irritation were overwhelming.

One evening I was introduced to a fast flying instant to explain my theory of instant and constant workers or should I have said I was to try to tell her. Asking how working with the slow thinkers affected her, she immediately burst out, “Oh yes, I am usually hired to facilitate, get things done as I try to work with people who can’t seem to move.” With these last few words, she immediately spun on her heel and stomped away dismissing me as of no importance. Watching her disappear, I painfully thought how complete was her disdain and disregard for the abilities of those she worked with. To her they were worthless. This woman also believed no meeting should last more than fifty minuets. She, of course, makes her immediate assessment and is gone while the constants are just beginning to process the information. By this time she is out the door and gone. Meeting over. Why should she not think those slow moving ones have no value in the working world? To her they are useless. They never seem to have any ideas about how to solve problems. They most certainly can come off as a “know it all.”

It is very easy to overlook the consistency, the regular work habits of a constant. To start with, their work is not flashy. It is definitely not exciting. It can best be described as downright boring to the instant. Their persistent attention to details and day-to-day actions are not easy to evaluate. Unless, of course, you are dependent on what they do and where do you get the information to pay your taxes.

Valuing the talents of others can lead to a successful team. I once found myself working with a talented and instant supervisor. She often came to our office to work alone on weekends to grind through problems or to search out needed information. As she worked files were opened, papers pulled out throughout the several office rooms, desk drawers pulled open and left that way, books piled askew on table tops, the floor and the windowsills.

Arriving on a Monday morning, I often felt a tornado had attacked the office, but of course knew it was only Marion at work. She often remarked when she did come in after her weekend sally of how much she had accomplished, how good it felt and now she had a good idea where she was going, all the time seemingly quite oblivious to the mayhem she had made. I did marvel at her selective view point as she stood triumphant among the debris. Slowly and carefully I would put the office back together so we could work there, but also so the next time she attacked, she would be able to find the needed files. The two of us made the perfect team. She never criticized me as I plodded silently, slowly and systematically along and I never criticized the chaos she created.

As an interesting aside, I discovered her husband played the same role in their marriage. She was a brilliant and inventive cook. As she cooked, she turned their kitchen and adjoining rooms into a chaotic war zone of utensils, cooking supplies and food and in the process turned out the most extravagant meals. Unobtrusively her husband slowly, systematically and quietly restored order.

Think about the chaos two instants could create running a business together as they shoot off with each new idea thinking this new one better, not keeping track of what had been done, or what more is needed. The challenge of new ideas seems to nearly overwhelm them. These are the ones who seldom come to a productive conclusion unless the pressure of making a living pushes them. Instants may make amazing innovative breakthroughs that challenge old ideas. However, innovations by instants at the very beginning of the project can be spontaneous and not be fully thought out or maybe too soon tossed aside in the excitement and abundance of ideas.

Pairing two constants can also lead to little happening. Unless pushed for survival or at least supporting themselves, constants can sit and study an idea to death trying to make sure they have thought of every angle. Constants may appear to be overly influenced by old ideas and come up the same old ideas bogged down in the habitual way of thinking. Constants can get bogged down in these details.

Instants want to start the job at once rejecting preparation, feeling that inhibits their innovative ways. They feel that as they innovate they will stumble onto the information needed. Instants sort as they go along but they must start NOW.

Constants want preparation before they start any project, no matter how big or small from building a house to baking a cake. Once they are in the midst of the project they may innovate.

Instants hate preparation. It only gets in the way.

Constants love preparation. They stand on the shoulders of others. It gives them reassurance.


Is it possible the work of politics mirrors the worship of the instant reaction? Are most highly visible politicians instants? When an emergency situation arises in the world, could the media rushing to fill the six o’clock news slot wait until later for a comment from the person in charge? No, they want a reaction and they want it now. Most wise instant politicians have a staff behind them of information digging constants filling them in on the background of the crisis.

With a few exceptions now and then, most Presidents of our USA are instants and I list a few: Franklin Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and of course Donald Trump. Here we have the exciting leader as he gestures and waves and excites us about what he plans to do to make our country and the world better. If he is a well thought out instant, he does have a full staff of constants. Now and then we get a constant President especially after we have gone through an especially difficult time in the country and need relief. Then we get Harry Truman (after the turmoil of WWII) , Jimmie Carter (after Watergate), and Barack Obama (after the crash decisions of George Bush). These constant leaders move slowly and deliberately but seemingly are not that exciting to the general public.


You should not be surprised to find the instant-constant predicament follows us into and though the dating days directly into the bedroom. As we have seen instants and constants seem to be powerfully drawn to one another.

The male instant lover is that romantic hero you see in the movies and TV and read about in novels. He often has such charm with his passionate delight in life and especially his fascination with those elusive others, checking out the latest dance place or craze, whirling into action for

it’s “at” no matter where and what “at” is. He can be an exciting man who enchants both the instant and the constant. He sparkles, he captivates, he bewitches. Is it any wonder he is the hero of so many songs and stories? He sees the catch across the room and moves there directly and immediately throwing caution to the wind.

The male constant lover is often that quiet one just seeming to sit there doing little as he observes the world around him. Can you picture a Jimmie Stewart? Of course, once he does set his eyes on a desired one, you can expect a determined persistence not easily resisted or tossed away. Often attracted to a dazzling instant who whirls before him, he is not easily discouraged by disinterest or competition. Often the bewildered instant finds here the comfort and protection needed in a chaotic life.

The female instant lover is usually the provocative one who entices and provokes. Does the constant move in at such an invitation or can the constant be pushed aside by the onrushing instant? Could it be the constant who brings relief to an overly hectic life?

The female constant lover can be a hidden surprise. Many are taken a back when they finally get in bed with her. Who would guess this quiet woman had such qualities about her? Who would venture there is such passion hiding behind a serene and controlled exterior. Fascinated by her beauty, her sprightly ideas and wonderful sense of fun, a lover can be completely surprised once they make it to the bed.

Marriages are usually made up of an instant and a constant fascinated with one another and at the same time driven to distraction by that other one. Listen to a group of men or women complaining about their spouses and so often it is the instant-constant quality that plagues them.

It is usually after a couple lives together or perhaps wed and spend the greater part of their lives together that the fun begins. Delighted to have found someone, each continues their way of life never dreaming of the discomfort of their loved one. Too soon the questions begin to arise.

“What is the hurry now? Must you always be in such a hurry?” “Are you going out again? You just got back” or

“What is taking you so long? I just want a simple answer to shall we go to the movies tonight or not?” or

“Must we always have the same breakfast each morning?”

“What is wrong with that? I have had the same thing for breakfast for over ten years.”

With time the whole relationship can get quarrelsome or downright nasty and each wonders, “What is the matter? What happened to my loved one?”

Actually nothing is wrong. Each reacts to life experiences in a different way. With time perhaps each can love and treasure the other. Too often this does not happen.

In truth neither is right or wrong. Each is different and that is all right. It could expand and bring a richness to them is they don’t always think their way is the right way and the only way


  1. There is absolutely no connection between being male or female to whether you are instant or constant. It seems to be evenly divided.
  2. For the most part, both instants and constant become less extreme with the passing of the years.
  3. Accepting and incorporating the instant-constant theory brought a certain serenity to me. If I am with an instant and an emergency arises, generally step aside and let them run the operation.
  4. Instants for the most part usually fight me when I introduce this idea. Can it be their tremendous desire to figure things out for themselves? Constant usually latch onto the idea as it seems to answer recurring puzzles in their lives.
  5. Whether a person is an instant or a constant can usually be identified early on in their life. You cannot make them change any more than you can make them change the color of their eyes.


Can you by accepting these ideas have a more enjoyable life as well as the people around you? They are not acting to irritate and frustrate you. They simply march to a different drumbeat. Neither your way nor their way is right or wrong. It is just different and that is all right.

The saddest observation is hearing and seeing the baggage so many of us carry from out earlier experiences of being put down, ridiculed and held up to contempt because we did not measures up to someone else’s definition of what is RIGHT.

Can we possible stop visiting such cruelties on one another?

1 Comment

  1. Zoe

    I’ve learned to be kinder to myself and to others ever since I read this book.


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