What Bob Dylan Can Teach Us About The Future Of Media

My life as I know it will soon disappear. Everything I have created in the past 37 years will cease to exist in a few days.

And I couldn’t be happier about it.

This has me considering how media is changing, how businesses are being run, and how we see opportunities and threats. There is a phrase in business I have never been comfortable with: “disruption.” To me, it focuses too much on the negative, too much on what was, not what will be.

Sometime this month, my first child will be born. And when this happens, in many ways, my life begins on that day. For one, I will change. I had dinner last night with someone who mentioned that when you walk out of the hospital with a newborn, the air is different, the sky is different. Every priority changes.

And for my child, everything I have done prior to the day he or she is born is simply a preface – that part of the book you skip over while getting to the meat of the story. Like when you watch a documentary about The Beatles, and they first review the economic status of Liverpool, England in the years before John and Paul met. You are just waiting for them to meet.

For those of you in media, in publishing; for the content creators and writers; for the marketers and business strategists, I wonder:

Are we so busy looking backwards at where we’ve been, that we aren’t focused on what we are becoming? That we are hoping too much that where we are going is where we have been?

I’m re-watching a documentary on Bob Dylan, and pausing it on a photo from his elementary school years. Here is a kid – a normal ordinary kid in a normal ordinary town – named Robert Zimmerman. Even though he has an appreciation for what was, this kid makes a decision:

To BECOME Bob Dylan.

His reasoning for the name change itself: “I just didn’t feel like I had a past, and I couldn’t relate to anything other than what I was doing at the present time.”

So Bob lived fully in the present. And in doing so, reshaped our culture. Even if you weren’t a fan, even if his music coincided with larger changes going on in the world, his influence amplified messages that changed us whether we liked it or not.

Most of Bob’s adult life has been spent becoming – creating his story. I remember he played a show in New Jersey a few years back, and how upset the audience was. Why? He played familiar songs to different tunes, changed tone and timing. The songs were the same, but they were unrecognizable. Bob was living in the moment.

But the audience only wanted to look back. They wanted to recapture something they felt years ago. Bob would have none of that. Bob is still becoming.

Are you?

Are we holding on to what was? To business models that are known and comfortable, serving needs that have since changed? Are we making decisions based on sentimentality – the feeling of holding a newspaper on a Sunday morning – or are we making decisions based on how we live today, with an eye on how we will live tomorrow?

Today is a new day. This is not a threat. This is not without appreciation for the past. It is merely an opportunity to become.