Push “Random Play” On Your Career

I am a huge fan of music. Some of my earliest and fondest memories include my mom singing in the front seat of the car, as my brother and I sat in the back (without seatbelts, and yet we live). Journey, Fleetwood Mac, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road from Elton John and so much more… Great memories.

It is rare that a day passes where I am not listening to music while working in my office. The fact is I find that listening to music while working increases my productivity. Don’t really want to know the reason, I just accept it and enjoy. And I dare you to challenge me to music trivia!

It’s hard to explain the experience of hearing a song for the first time. It’s like a breath of fresh air. You don’t know the words, you don’t know where it will lead and how it will end, but it peaks your curiosity. So you listen, and you learn, and eventually you can sing along to every word.

I accidentally hit random play on my iTunes several months ago and something wonderful happened. I began to hear songs that for whatever reason I had ignored. I have loved those songs for years and enjoyed them many times. However, unknowingly I had fallen into a pattern and began listening to the same songs over and over. Hearing them again that afternoon was like hearing them for the first time. It felt fresh, and I was excited and eager to learn all over again.

As I recently discovered this pattern can significantly affect our professional career. We build a circle of influence based on our jobs and our skillset. Like a high school reunion, we tend to gravitate toward the familiar. We associate with the same people, attend the same events, think about the same things, and unknowingly we fall into a pattern.

I have built a very successful career over the past 20 years. I have met and been mentored by some of the smartest and most incredible people I have ever known. I have become a subject matter expert in many areas through experience and repetition and become a trusted resource in the industry.

But I was feeling restless and unfulfilled and I didn’t know why. It was nagging at me. Something wasn’t right.

After much reflection it finally dawned on me. I am by nature a person that needs to learn. My mind is constantly multi-tasking. I realized that I had fallen into a repetitive pattern in my professional life. It had become similar, safe and predictable. The fact is I wasn’t learning anymore. I was challenging myself. I was repeating the same song.

It became clear that I needed to widen my “circle of influence.” I needed to talk to new people, hear innovative ideas, experience new voices, step outside my comfort zone and challenge myself. You will never see anything new looking out the same window each day. It is only when we chose to push the random play button on our professional careers that we can truly learn and grow.

This process can be uncomfortable at first. It requires a huge leap of faith. We will be talking to people we don’t know, about things we likely don’t fully understand, and we could possibly embarrass ourselves. We can’t control the result or the narrative and that can be scary.

My realization was that not only did I need to do this, it was an absolute necessity if I was going to survive professionally. I needed to hear new “songs.”

Since that happy accident, I have met some amazing professionals who clearly know more than I do. I wake up every day hungry to learn, to understand and to apply these current ideas in my professional career. It has been daunting, and a bit scary. But I realize now that I want it that way. No, I need it that way.

The result has been a transformative, like a constant stream of fresh air into my professional life.  Like those songs I heard for the very first time many years ago, I love not knowing how this journey will end, but I am excited to learn.