The Day I Took The Headphones Off

As long as I can remember I have had headphones on my head. I think it started in middle school. Growing up in a house of 4 boys I would break out my “anti-skip” CD player almost every night to put on music while I did my homework. I would use music to drown out any loud noises or TV shows going on around me in the house. Listening to music has always allowed me to focus on what I was working on and what I needed to get done.

Once I got to college, now armed with a green iPod Nano, I still listened to music while doing work and while walking around campus sometimes. Then I discovered something else while on campus: Podcasts. I started listening to @Jason “This Week In Startups” almost every week along with other podcasts. This was a game changer for me. Now I wasn’t just learning from homework while listening to music, but I could learn while simply walking around campus or driving in my car.

Fast forward a few years and after college I moved to New York City. I had replaced my Honda Civic & iPod auxiliary cord for a metal subway train with a nice pair of earbuds. It seemed that almost everybody in New York City on their daily commute had headphones in their ears and a phone in their face. I felt right a home.

Around this time I started to look for more ways to optimize consuming information though sound. I realized I was really behind on all the books that were sitting on my shelf at home. This is when I found Audible. Depending on the book, normal commutes are usually long enough to get through most of a chapter on my way to work. In the first few months I finished “Hatching Twitter” by @nickbilton, “Physics of the Future” by@michiokaku, “David and Goliath” by Malcolm Gladwell, and many more. Right now I am in the middle of “How Google Works” by @ericschmidt and “The Innovators” by @WalterIsaacson. All great reads (or should I say listens) that I highly recommend.

So here we are after almost an entire lifetime of having a soundtrack or dialogue running during my life. Steve Jobs would have been proud. I grew up using music to block out world distractions in order to focus on what needed to at that time. It was and still is really effective for me. I used podcasts and audio books for years to ensure I was learning while doing even the simplest day to day tasks. Recently though I am starting to crave something different.

I find myself wanting Seinfeld era New York City conversations.

I find myself wanting Seinfeld era New York City conversations. I want mundane bus announcements. Listen to the street drummer as I walk by. Hear the Times Square hecklers calling out as I walk down the street. (Ok I’m just kidding about that last one. No one living in New York City wants to have to deal with walking through Times Square). The point is I love music, podcasts and books, but I want to learn from the world for a bit. I want to fully experience what the world and life in New York City has to offer me.

So today I took the headphones out. And look what happened. I created something. I created this. Yes, it’s not much, but it’s only day 1 with this revelation and it is some thing. Anytime you create anything at all in this world rather than simply consume it is a big deal.

Will I probably still use my headphones and music to focus and get things done when I need to? I think so, but moving forward I am definitely going to reconsider how and when I use my headphones while the world is happening around me.