As we hustled through LaGuardia Airport, the unmistakable sounds of Bob Marley wafted from a store. Heading to the car, my visceral reaction lit up into a huge smile. I couldn’t curb my enthusiasm. Nodding my head, I turned to my colleague, Anthony.
“I love Bob Marley!”
“Who?” he replied.
“Marley. I listened to his entire catalog on repeat for a whole year back in the day.”
Anthony’s face registered only bemusement as he shrugged his shoulders.
“Never heard of him …”
It was bananas that a difference in one generation could erect a creative language barrier that was so ripe for me and so devoid for him.
On the flipside, if I am open to learning, then there must be plenty of artists I’ve never heard that Anthony loved (and my streaming algorithm would never suggest). It got me thinking: What if building a sort of time capsule mixtape could give me more insights into a teammate? Would it benefit our work relationship and build connective tissue? Would it create a depth and appreciation that would help us trust, celebrate one another, and take risks together? Or would it be a cringy disaster? I decided to put this into practice, and here’s how I did it.
Every few months, a small group of us would gather off-site, one as curator of music, one as mixologist, and the rest amused participants. And we had a rotation. When it was your turn, the responsibility was to share 12 to 15 songs with significance to you, describing a time and place. We had mixtapes of blues, rap, folk rock, alternative, country, and jazz, with themes of discontent, resistance, love and uprising.
You had to come up with artwork, too. And, since many grown-ups had long forsaken the practice of creating art, the covers were hilarious and always hotly anticipated.
So, what happened? Something powerfully unnerving and amazing. Frequently, we were more jittery explaining the reason why a certain song had meaning in our lives than we ever were for an investor discussion. Why?
Come As You Are
We learned that a little authentic vulnerability goes a long way. It wasn’t business and it wasn’t fully personal. It was some other slightly magical moment of becoming better known, understood, and appreciated by one another.
The mixtape experience took me back to a simpler time. When I was younger, if you really liked someone, you might make them a mixtape — that was a big deal. You spent hours agonizing over which songs to pick, songs that often spoke what your heart couldn’t say out loud, letting someone see a bit into your soul and your world.
So, if you are working to solve really hard problems, you’ll need all the help you can get. Music bridges the gap, opens us up, and lets us, as a famous group of lads once said, come together. And you probably guessed it, Anthony schooled us about The Beatles. ●
Patrick Colletti is Co-founder of Net Health