The Soundtracks That Are Secretly Shaping Your Life
by Jon Acuff
If I hear “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses, I can smell the newsprint from the pages of Thrasher magazine.
If I hear “It Takes Two” by Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock, I am instantly transported to Dave Bruce’s basement.
If I hear “Mr. Jones” by Counting Crows, I can see myself in the Framingham Mall parking lot trying to get my date to listen to the lyrics.
Those songs are from bands that will probably never share a stage. But what they all have in common is that they each hit me at the sweet spot when soundtracks are formed.
The New York Times did a study to figure out when a song has the greatest shot at getting added to your permanent soundtrack, that list of songs that will always impact you. Using data from Spotify, economist Seth Stephens-Davidowitz found that “the most important period for men in forming their adult tastes were the ages 13 to 16.” For women, it skews a little earlier, with the ages 11 to 14 being most important.
The playlist you unknowingly curate during your life makes for an interesting dinner party conversation, but music is only one small part of a much bigger story. Your thoughts are the internal soundtracks you listen to even more than your favorite song.
Over the years, you’ve built a soundtrack about your career. You have a soundtrack for all your relationships. You have a soundtrack you believe about your hopes, dreams, goals, and every other aspect of your life.
If you listen to any thought long enough, it becomes a part of your personal playlist.
As retired Navy SEAL David Goggins says, “The most important conversations you’ll ever have are the ones you’ll have with yourself. You wake up with them, you walk around with them, you go to bed with them and eventually you learn to act on them. Whether they be good or bad.”
If the soundtracks you listen to are positive, your thoughts can be your best friend, propelling you on new adventures with creativity and hope. If your day is spent overthinking broken soundtracks, your thoughts can be your worst foe, holding you back from ever taking action on all the things you want in life.
When you don’t create, curate, and choose what soundtracks you’ll listen to, the music doesn’t stop. You just hear a bunch of songs you don’t like.
Where would successful people be if they hadn’t made a decision to choose new soundtracks to listen to? Think of all the opportunities and adventures you’ll miss out on if broken soundtracks are in charge of your actions.
Broken soundtracks are one of the most persuasive forms of fear because every time you listen to one it gets easier to believe it the next time. Have you ever told yourself the same story I do about why someone didn’t text back? That’s a broken soundtrack.
The good news is that you’re bigger than your brain. It’s just one part of you, and it’s under your control in the same way an arm or leg is. If you can worry, you can wonder. If you can doubt, you can dominate. If you can spin, you can soar.
The same brain that told you for years that you couldn’t write a book can be taught to tell you just the opposite. Your brain is waiting for you each day. It’s waiting to be told what to think. It’s waiting to see what kind of soundtracks you’ll choose.
It’s waiting to see if you really want to build a different life.
Jon Acuff, Soundtracks, Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2021, Used by permission. http://www.bakerpublishinggroup.com
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