How Rock Music Shaped my Mind

“…If there is something to be changed in this world, then it can only happen through music.”  Jimi Hendrix

I remember back in 1977, I was nine years old swimming at the YMCA with my friend Brad. The lifeguard had a radio in the pool area and the song “Come Sail Away” by Styx came on the radio.  It soon became my favorite song that year.  I gathered up $10, got my Mom to take me to Musicland at the Muscatine Mall and bought my first album of my life. That day set the course for the next 15 years. Musicland went out of business years later, but I assure you it wasn’t my fault.

By the time I was in my late teens I had 300 albums or tapes of so many Rock bands.  I spent most of my money on Rock music.  I was  young, impressionable, and adventurous. Music made the perfect conduit for learning about the world. Somehow, in my mind the Rock stars were the real leaders of the free world.  They had it all figured out.

Back in the 80’s there was a radio program on Monday nights at 10:30 called Rock Line with a guy named Bob Coburn.  Bob would have rock bands live in the studio for interviews, album previews, and live acoustic performances. I never missed it. Their lives seemed so interesting to me.  They were so free and uninhibited.  They appeared to have life by the tail.

I began learning so many great lessons from these guys and gals. Sammy Hagar taught me the importance of responsible driving. David Lee Roth showed me how to treat women and Pat Benatar taught me what she will do if anyone treats her like that. It was enlightening (sarcasm implied).

“Music is the universal language of mankind.”
― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Over the years I listened to so much rock music that I began absorbing the values and worldview of that culture.  I soon became a follower of this worldview.  The lyrics on the inside of all the collective albums became my scripture. My Sony Walkman became my sanctuary and the concert stage became my place of worship.

I used to spend many hours listening to my tunes with my headphones.  Every individual note from each instrument came alive. When I was in High School I bought a kickin’ car stereo with quadrophonics (early surround sound).  I would listen to the beat and patterns and notice how they all worked together to create one unified vibe. Live albums were especially mesmerizing because the sound was so rich and full.  It makes you feel like you were there sitting in the middle of the stage with musicians all around you. There is a reason vinyl is making a come back.

When we zone into a source of influence like music, we can get engulfed in our own imagination.  Music taps into a universal emotional need.  You  begin to feel what they feel and relate to their story.  You can get lost in an alternate reality sometimes if you let your mind go. It became my drug.

“Music is the literature of the heart; it commences where speech ends.”
― Alphonse de Lamartine

In a time I was looking for answers, Rock music gave me guidance and direction.  Here are a few of the life principles I came to foolishly embrace when I was a teenager.

• Life is short so make sure you have fun while you can.

• Don’t let anyone tell you how to live your life.  Live life on your terms.

• When you are feeling down and depressed, sex can make it all better.

• If you let me down, I am outa here. Commitments aren’t necessary.

• If it feels right, it can’t be wrong. Live for the moment.

• Beauty and wealth determine your social value.

• Freedom is more important than responsibility.

• Love stinks, life sucks!

• It’s all about the thrill of the chase.

• I am invincible. Live free or die trying.

• When life gets hard, you can always take off and start over somewhere else.

• If we have love, that’s all we need.

Ideas have consequenses. Of course there is something fundamentally wrong with each of these ideas above.

When you are young and impressionable this worldview can be quite intoxicating. I believed these ideas because I wanted to.  I could have blamed my parents, or the culture, or the lack of a moral foundation in my life.  The truth is I embraced it because it met an immediate need. It gave me permission to think and behave how I want. It’s easy to buy into a Rock worldview. It lines up with most of the things you want to believe in anyway.

Music was my hiding place, but no matter how much music I would buy it was never enough to calm my restless soul.  There was definitely something missing. The more I looked to the culture for answers the more missing pieces within me I became aware of.

Everyone has a longing to make deep connections. I connected through music, or at least listening to it.  I never learned an instrument and lack talent for singing. I was a bit  reserved when I was young. It was easier to connect with famous musicians who could not see me, judge me, or needed to know anything about me.

In 1991, after years of making a mess of my life, I realized that there was something flawed with the way I saw the world. My music mentors led me down the wrong path time and time again and I had come to the end of myself.  My heart ached from disappointment and from the weight of my own foolishness. I had to finally face the truth about myself, and somehow, let go of my flawed worldview that deceived me for so long.  I surrendered my life to Christ and traded album lyrics with real scripture from the Bible. I took nearly all my albums and tossed them in a dumpster. My entire worldview changed. I had a new fresh start and I was finally free. I begun to see the world through a completely different set of lenses. I was born-again.

I got rid of my music. I wasn’t because this music was bad (some, actually much of it was).  It was because it held a place in my heart that meant to be occupied by my Creator.  Music was an idol.  I needed a new start with a renewed focus. I needed a much better worldview that didn’t leave me empty and confused without answers.

Music doesn’t shape my worldview anymore.  I find inspirational music (secular or Christian) encourages me. I helps to reinforce my new worldview, but it is no longer an idol. Any kind of music even worship or praise music can be an idol if you value it higher than your Creator.

You may still catch me singing to a classic hit from time to time, but there is something different now.  I feel like I am on the outside looking in. Like I am visiting an old friend that I still admire but whom no longer has any control over me. I am much more discerning now about what I listen to.  The void I used to have is no longer.

Has your culture shaped your worldview?  I would love to hear your story.

Influence from the Inside Out

You cannot change anyone. 

To grow, one must make an internal choice to become something you are not, or do something you have not done.  This requires letting go of what already is, in order to embrace something that could be.  It must be by choice and not by direction or force for real change to take place.

The Problem with Leadership Today

Most business managers, leaders and even parents tend to go about developing people all wrong.  Most people in positions of leadership struggle when it comes to reshaping how people do things to reach a desired outcome. It may be that we are looking through the wrong end of the leadership binoculars.

Reshaping Behavior

Our authoritative culture attempts to alter or reshape people’s behavior.  There are so many rules, and regulations that tell us what we are supposed to do, and what we are not supposed to do.  I think of the song from the 70’s by the Five Man Electrical Band that says,

“Sign, sign, everywhere a sign, blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind, do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?

More on this in another Blog.

Motivation in the Workplace

In the industrial age workplace, we essentially bribe people to do a specific task.  The motive for efforts is less often because of desire, or because they truly believe in the cause. It is because rent needs paid, and mouths need fed.  In most industries, we see this play out.  Upper management has one vision that motivates them to see the company succeed. Frontline workers are blind to Managments vision.  They put in their time with no purpose, other than to follow directions to make a buck.

A Disconnect of Values

People feel they have little to gain for their effort when they don’t value the task at hand.   People will not give their best effort unless they have a good reason to.  The old school reasoning of “..because it’s your job!” just doesn’t seem to fly anymore.  The sense of personal responsibility of our past generations has been replaced. People need to be personally vested in something before they give their best effort.  The old way of managing people with the expectations of responsibility is fading away.  A more personal, and missional approach is easing it’s way in on our job markets.

The Millennial Generation

Our younger generation  doesn’t have the same sense of corporate duty and responsibility as in the past.  They look at life as an individual journey. They have a more creative and personal approach toward impacting the world.  They need to be inspired to pour their efforts into something.  Technology has created a whole new way in which we communicate and interact with each other. It sparked a sense of creativity in young people that we have never seen before. Unfortunatly, however, creativity isn’t always what is needed in our workforce.

If the world around us is changing, we need to change with it.  We don’t need to compromise our principles and convictions. We need to learn better ways to connect with people if we intend to influence future generation.


We need to embrace a better way of leading and inspiring people to do something great!  People need to be inspired to believe they can become something they have not yet considered.  I have never met a person that has found their way to success without someone investing in their growth.  Our younger generation needs us to step up and help them, even if it seems like they not interested.

Connecting from the Inside Out

We need to connect with people from the inside out. Focusing on unfavorable behavior is an attempt to change people from the outside in.  If we learn to understand them and value them we can begin to inspire them toward being the best they can be.  When people grab a hold of a vision with purpose something in them gets stirred and a sense of mission takes over.  People are not that hard to keep interested and focused if we approach them with their best interest in mind.  When we try to change their external behaviors to meet our needs, words begin to fall on deaf ears.

Control Without Connection

No one likes to be pushed by someone that has not gained our trust or does not have our best interest in mind. No one likes to be ‘controlled’, no one likes for others to determine their steps for them.  We want to oversee our own life, make our own choices.  We are usually willing to follow someone who has a better vision than we do, providing it’s our own choice.

The Needs of the Millennial Generation

Young people need to be heard.  They need to know that their ideas and opinions matter and that someone is listening.  They want to be included in the plan, invited to the big kids table.  They want to use their creativity to help.  They want someone to get excited when they are excited and listen when they need to vent.  They don’t desire a list of do’s and don’t s, but they are willing to follow that list if they feel appreciated.

Millennials need challenged.  They need pushed to see just how far they can take their knowledge, skills and creativity.  When we are pushed we somehow get up the nerve to get past our fears. It ignites an excitement in our hearts that spur us on to something better.  We will never grow unless we are pushed by someone who we trust.  We need to be challenged by someone who we know has our best interest in mind, someone who isn’t going to leave us.

What kind of leader/parent are you going to be?