Listen to the Music

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I saw my friends’ band a few weeks ago at a small venue inside a record store in Long Beach. They played a great set. The band that played after them had a talented drummer. He played with a lot of technical skill, he created some interesting rhythms, and he was right on time with his bandmate. Only one problem.

It was deafening.

He played so loud. We stood in the back of the venue, even around the corner. It didn’t matter. He and his cymbals produced three and half minutes of sheer high frequency screams. Between songs we got a break for 30 seconds while the singer talked about the next song. And then it started all over again.

You could tell this drummer was the kind of guy who took lessons for years, who practiced and practiced, but never listened to the music.

I’m sure if he was in the crowd watching himself he would see the problem. I’m sure if he spent time mixing recorded tracks he could understand. I’m sure if he asked his bandmates what he could improve on, he would change.

But he wasn’t thinking about the crowd, the sound, or the band at all. He just had his head down and played his heart out. I almost can’t fault the guy. He played everything correctly, with passion to boot! It made me think about how I can become so focused on my work, on my job, on my skills that I don’t listen to the music. I’m not thinking about my customers’ experience, I forget about the bigger picture, I’m not asking my colleagues how I’m doing.

Even though I’m technically doing everything right (and doing it with passion) I still may be just making a racket.

I invite you to make a conscious effort alongside me to listen to the music of your field. Ask people what’s working, and what’s not. Step into others’ shoes and keep the main goal in mind.

It could keep us from making mistakes we never knew we were making at all.

Joshua Reese