I’m a massive music fan and recount my childhood and life through the classics that I grew up listening to during the seventies, eighties and beyond. I get energy from listening to music, and often escape there when I need to recharge.
I left my record collection behind in Ireland when I came to Australia in 1993. On a trip back a few years later, I found out that my best mate had sold my albums for beer money. Oh well, at least it was for a good cause. Since then I have rebuilt my collection, first on CD, but over the last few years using digital streaming. Then modern subscription services meant I could basically rent my music. This has been brilliant because I could download obscure albums just for one or two songs at minimal cost. As such, I have always been a strong advocate for digital music over old school records.
In fact, even though I grew up listening to records, I just didn’t get the vinyl revival that’s been occurring over the last few years. Then things changed when my friends bought me a high-quality turntable for my 50th birthday. Within days I was hooked. I got it. I understood the difference and can now appreciate both ways of consuming music.
What I realised is that while digital music is easy to access and play, the sound quality is just OK. Like having a quick after work beer with my mates. On the other hand, vinyl is harder to access but has a much higher sound quality. And it’s not just the quality, it’s much more of an experience. More like a fine whisky consumed while contemplating life.
I was reflecting on this recently as I listened to a new LP (U2, The Joshua Tree) and I realised that the analogy went further. The boys got me a quality turntable, but it’s not automatic. By that I mean that when the arm gets to the end of a side, it does not automatically go back to its resting place.
It dawned on me that this was all part of the experience. Because it did not automatically return, I had to stay present, to stay engaged with the music. I could not just put it on in the background and go off and do something else.
In a world full of instant gratification and constant activity, do we value our time less? Maybe. We are at risk of putting a premium on being busy, and not enough of a premium on being present and engaged. And too much urgency is one sign that this is the case. We are not making enough time to slow down and go deep on our work. Not taking enough time to plan and think. We have too many urgent things to attend to.
I’m not saying that we should slow down altogether. I still love my digital music and listen to that most of the time. But I also carve out time to put on a vinyl and listen. Likewise, we need to get lots of stuff done, and deal with the urgency, but we also need to make time for the slower, deeper work. We also need workplaces and leadership teams that will permit this.