Lynne d Johnson



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09.20.13 10:52 AM

What Happened To Knowing More About A Person By The Books And Vinyl On Their Shelves?

About a week or two ago, I was having a business meeting with a former business associate and friend who has always been an entrepreneur and consultant in some way. He was there with another friend who is an entrepreneur and consultant, who showed us a book that neither one of us had seen before. Immediately, I knew that if I were going to successfully do this consultant thing this time (or land the best FT job for me) that I was going to need this book.

This book, The Decision Book: 50 Models For Strategic Thinking, seemed like just the right book I needed to take things to the next level in both my personal and professional lives. It immediately signaled to me that it fit right in there with Edward de Bono's Lateral Thinking: Creativity Step by Step and/or Dan Roam's The Back of The Napkin. All three together, fully understood, it would seem, could make one seriously poised for better articulating and selling ideas. At least that's what I'm hoping.

But as much as I knew I needed this book. I waited. And I waited. And, oh, I waited. The wait was a process of debating whether to get it in print or as a Kindle version. It felt like I needed it in print, to carry it around, to feel it and turn its pages, to mark it up, and to reference it wherever and whenever I wanted to. But I wanted it fast, and now, and I had already killed nearly a week trying to decide whether I should get the print or Kindle edition. Some books just have to be in print, and this felt like one of them. But unfortunately, I had no more time to waste. I got the Kindle version. I didn't have to wait any longer for it. I didn't have to pay shipping fees. And yes, I could still mark it up and refer to it wherever and whenever. (To tell the truth, I still want it in print.)

And this experience made me think deeply about the question in my headline: What Happened To Knowing More About A Person By The Books And Vinyl On Their Shelves?

I remember back in the days, you'd go visit someone at their house, and you'd look at their bookshelf and/or vinyl collection and you'd pretty much know who you were dealing with and whether you'd be compatible as friends (and in some cases as lovers or partners). But today I wonder, now that so many people have digital collections of everything, how we'll any longer have this ability to know a person's character by the music they listen to or books they read. I doubt we'll become a generation of people who look into other people's phones, iPads, or Kindles just to figure this sort of stuff out.

So while everyone wonders how people become more social or connected in this age of digital selves, I guess owning digital property vs physical property gives us a little more to talk about. It gives us a little more to expose (to those we deem worthy I guess.) Nowadays, people will only know what we're listening to or what we're reading if we tell them. If we share it on social media, or write about it on our blog, or talk about it in conversations. Long gone are the days of sizing someone up by staring at their bookshelf or vinyl collection or stack of magazines on the floor for hours and hours and comparing what you know or own to what they know or own. While it's an activity surely and (sorely) to be missed, it also opens up opportunities for newer and different kinds of experiences and connections. Are these experiences richer? Well, it really depends on how we approach them.

I guess some of the newer questions to ask folks nowadays are questions like: what's the most played genre (artists, song, album, etc.) on your phone or iPod? What were the last three books or magazines you downloaded? Or we can follow them and look at their charts, or follow their profiles on Spotify or Rdio or Soundcloud, or any other music service that allows folks to have a profile and be followed. And we can learn more about what they read by following them on Amazon Kindle or Goodreads. These are the new ways of looking at someone's vinyl or book shelf. These are just new and different ways of sizing someone one up and getting to know more about them. Somewhat different, and just a little bit the same.

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