I once had a teacher that used to give us kids a hard time because we all walked into his classroom with our Walkmans blaring the latest Van Halen, Quiet Riot or other relevant music of the time. When the bell would ring he would make some remark about us waisting our time on such trivial activities or how the music was going to eventually melt our brains. It got to the point that it became a game for everyone, regardless of who you were, to wear your headphones into class just to get a rise out of Mr. S.
Trying to do my absolute best impression of Marty McFly from Back to the Future (remember this was back in the 80's), I am certain I told him something like, "No way dude!" Mr. S was cool and I was one of his favorites so I could talk to him like that.
I still remember him smiling and telling me that music was all fine and good and he that he knew that the "look" was more to be cool than anything else. But then he said, "Just remember garbage in, garbage out. Just make sure you keep a balance." I can see him saying it to me like it was yesterday.
Though I am sure I blew his comments off at the time those words stuck with me. He was one of the smartest guys I knew and I wondered what he meant by that. The next day I got to class extra early, walking in to his empty room with my headphones off. He was back in his side office preparing for the day ahead so I went in and asked him what he meant by keeping a balance.
That was a defining day in my young life. Mr. S. showed me a collection of tapes he had that talked about all sorts of things, from motivational stuff to sales 101. He said he too had a Walkman but he choose to use his time filling his brain with more good stuff and would leave his jamming to Paul Simon and God knows what else to his weekend ventures out in the backyard. He impressed upon me the importance of putting good things into my brain and not just blasting my ear drums for the sake of looking cool.
It was the first time that I realized my little music player could be more than a tune master. It could be a learning device as well!
He let me borrow as many tape programs as I wanted and we often spent time after school discussing what I was listening to and what it might mean to my life, my future. I walked around like the other kids looking cool and pretending to jam to the latest beats but in reality I was learning from some of the leading motivational minds in America. I still looked cool but was putting good things in and getting good things out and no one but me was the wiser. Mr. S's advice forever led me down a path of self-education and discovery and I will always remember him for that.
Needless to say over the years I've collected my fair share of audio programs. In fact I listened to one on the way into my office this morning. Sure I love my music, as my iPod has nearly 120GB full of all kinds of great tunes, but there's also some great podcasts and audio programs on there too. I keep my balance...oh and still look as cool as Marty McFly doing it.