iPods and Ownership

I wrote this several months ago and decided to pull it from the archives today.


Last week I was on a plane traveling to a wedding. Since I wasn’t allowed to utilize any cellular devices for the duration of my flight, I went with plan B and dug out my trusty iPod to listen to music.

Back before the days of Spotify, I had that thing with me literally 24/7. Whether in the car, at the gym, or just about anywhere else, I was always prepared to whip out some 90s Michael W. Smith on a dime.

As attached as I used to be, I don’t use my iPod very much anymore. Since I usually stream music online now, I hadn’t uploaded new tracks in a long time. As I scrolled and shuffled through several tracks, I rediscovered old favorites I hadn’t listened to in years. As I listened back to albums from high school, a strange thought struck me; this was my music. I bought the actual CDs and played them in my car. I compiled the songs on mix tapes and carefully-crafted playlists. I manually ripped the tracks into iTunes and dragged them over to the iPod I carried in the case I picked out.

Those songs were mine.

Those old tracks I had fun reminiscing about are always available to me. I have access to essentially any album in the earth’s published catalogue any time I have wifi or cell connection. The difference is that the songs on my iPod were hand-selected and purchased to fit one person’s tastes, compared to a virtually unending database that millions of people can access anytime. Something about that individualized ownership made those tracks special.

I felt the same way the first few nights I slept in the first house I bought. I had rented houses and apartments before, but this was the first space that I owned. Mowing my parents’ lawn was a chore; mowing my lawn is (usually) a joy and brings a sense of pride.

With media, space, or even ideas, ownership is powerful. It has the ability to shift our perspectives and priorities, and therefore affect our thoughts and our actions.

Recently my home church went through some re-branding where we announced a new vision and tagline for our ministries. The senior pastor and leadership team could have just called together a meeting where they pulled back a curtain and unveiled their brilliant ideas and plans. It’s a good vision that I think most people would have endorsed.

But, that would have been sort of like Spotify. Everyone would have had equal access. Nothing was hand-selected, personalized, or even paid for. It would have been harder to rally the troops and garner enthusiasm because the ideas weren’t theirs. Years down the road, there likely wouldn’t be fond reminiscing about the curtain unveiling.

Instead, the lead and executive pastors called several small meetings with every ministry in the church. Each leader was asked to invite a handful of their most influential and involved volunteers to offer their input and advice as they crafted the new vision statements.

All of a sudden, nearly everyone had an “in.” There was a reason to care and attend meetings and verbally give approval in front of their peers. They were invested because the ideas—at least in part—were their own. Now hundreds of people are excited and invested instead of just the few that were privileged enough to be in the staff meetings.

Don’t get me wrong; Spotify is great. I love the ability to quickly track down any song I want to listen to. We obviously can’t own everything, so there are products, services, and ideas that save us time and money—I get that. Especially when it comes to media, I expect we’ll continue to see services like Netflix and Amazon Prime flourish (even though in the back of our minds we may be terrified by the thought that they completely have the right to suddenly and unexplainably yank free access to “Parks and Recreation”).

However, as our culture and society continue to change, we also need to remember the importance and benefits of ownership. Whether it’s with your family, your church, or your business, take the extra time and effort to make others around you see the value in your ideas before freely broadcasting for the world to see.

Not only that, but take advantage of a varied audience and find ways to incorporate others’ ideas. It will be easier for your team to follow you, and it’s always wise to seek advice and counsel before launching any new idea or plan—no matter how big or small. You’re not the only one with good ideas.

After all of those meetings, go track down your old iPod. There’s probably some good stuff on there.

Published by mattehresman

Crafting and spreading messages that matter.

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