The “Soundtrack of Your Life” Delusion

Ryan Holiday nails it:

Try spending the day listening to an iPod as you go about your business. How much more important it all seems. Put your hands in your pockets and start walking down the street. It's you, oh fearless warrior, and your battle against the world.

Welcome to the narrative fallacy.

God forbid you should ever have one with you when you're running and it begins to rain. If you don't have a shirt on, it's over. Out of the corner of your eye, you'll swear that trees are bowing as you pass.

Welcome to the "movie about your life."

Listening to an iPod while going about your business can also be a nice pick-me-up, I've found. And it does make you feel like you're in a movie.

8 comments on “The “Soundtrack of Your Life” Delusion
  • Great find Ben! The problem is if you’re listening to Eye of the Tiger 24/7/365. Your music can pump you up but leave you grounded.

  • Ask those in-the-trenches-not-yet-out types. They will swear by their sole sustenance – hanging by the strand of hair-by mumbling that oft-quoted, meaningfully boring metaphors of others’ successes. Denying them that narrative metaphor would mean choking them off their source of oxygen.

  • @Krishna: What on earth are you talking about?

    Ben, you might enjoy Daniel Boorstin’s The Image: A Guide to Pseudo Events in America. It’s about “unreality” which is really what pumping music through your system creates. When people use big words to lots of dashes-to-refer-to-vague-straw-men they’re sort of doing the same thing.

    Be honest, be direct. It’s not always as fun but you don’t have to worry about crashing.

  • I mostly listen to podcasts, so I don’t get this experience often. Though people probably look at me funny as I laugh out loud from something Dan Savage or Ira Glass says.

  • While I’m working, I like to listen to musical podcasts and streaming radio on my computer’s iTunes. But I don’t own an iPod. Why not? Because, for their price, they’re quite brittle.

    Besides, when I’m out and about, I’d rather be aware of my surroundings.

  • It depends on what I’m working on. If I’m working on something that involves reading or writing, I cannot listen to anything with words in it, or I’ll start getting diverted, even cheesy pop songs. I’ve found that a good solution to this is foreign music with words that I cannot understand. I love Bollywood soundtracks, the beat is great and I cannot understand the lyrics. Perfect.

    If I’m working on spreadsheets, I can listen to a book on tape. In fact, I almost have to do that to keep my mind from wandering and ending up on the interweb. I just shut it off occasionally when I have to think hard.

    sometimes, though, especially for writing, good ole silence is the best.

  • Ryan,

    Sorry for getting back late to clarify your comment. Here I go.

    I was referring to your sentence in that narrative fallacy link Ben had given in his post above “Resisting the urge to tell yourself stories is difficult. It’s depressing. You fuck up and do it all the time.”

    For those in-the-trenches-and-not-yet-out, leaning on others’ success is like oxygen, their sole sustenance.

    Hope I’ve made it clear. Sorry for the ambiguity.

  • I buy soundtracks of my favorite movies on iTunes which are generally just the scores. Lyrics are not good for me when I’m trying to concentrate, but play John Williams or David Arnold and I can put myself in the shoes of the gladiator or in the mysterious escapades of James Bond. At that point, I’m a man on a mission.

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