“Listen with the will to learn.”
Unarine Ramaru

The Idea:  Steve Jobs had Jony Ive, Apple’s SVP of Design – the creative mind behind most of the beautiful Apple designs that decorate our homes and offices. U2’s Bono was silently and subtly inspired by the words of producer Daniel Lanois and engineer Mark Ellis, better known as “Flood”, in the creation of many of their early albums. Most notably, Jay-Z has the legendary Young Guru.

Young Guru is a sound engineer, record producer, disc jockey, and record executive who has worked with Eminem, Beyoncé, Rihanna, and Jay-Z on some of their most distinguished work. Guru is known for his broad understanding of sounds and precision in building the songs that we know today. He is Jay-Z’s personal sound engineer and has been praised by some of the most famous artists around. “He truly is a scientist, a musician, a visionary,” says Grammy award-winning artist Common.

How could Young Guru receive such high praise when most people have never heard of him?  Consider this, the emotional responses we have to our favorite songs are because of the tiny details that engineers like Young Guru are creating. To the untrained ear, they are unidentifiable. But the effects on the listener are inspirational, and potentially the reason you fall in love with a song.

Who is your Young Guru and who do you go to for inspiration?

Journalist Neal Pollack explains his influence terrifically: “While artists and producers tend to think about the creation of a song on a macro level, engineers operate on a micro-scale, using precise metrics to smooth out or blow up any sonic detail within the overall sweep of a song, much as a baker deploys exact pinches of spices and ingredients to achieve a desired taste.”

Often, the things we never see have the most important effect on our results. Young Guru isn’t a household name, and most people will never appreciate the role of a sound engineer in the music they love.  But Young Guru’s work has quietly revolutionized music in pop culture and the key influencers in the music industry.  He brings a unique voice, insight, and trusted relationship to his musical partners.

Three questions to consider as we enter 2022:

  • Do you have a trusted advisor who helps you anticipate your team’s future needs, discusses internal friction, and assists you in elevating the inspiration and MOJO of your team? Who is your inspirational truthteller?

  • Self-awareness is the ability to regulate your own emotions and the flexibility to meet others where they are at.  Do you truly understand how others experience you? How do you know, without a shadow of a doubt, that you are assessing yourself accurately?

  • Our most dangerous blind spots are that we see what we expect to see, and we see what we want to see.  Executive Coach Marshall Goldsmith reminds us, “We gather info (selectively), interpret it (prejudicially) and recall it (unreliably).” Who helps you see clearly?

We can all learn valuable lessons from the creative, hyper-competitive entertainment industry. They are not afraid of bringing in outsiders to reinvigorate, transform, and honestly assess a team’s culture.

Who do you go to for fresh thinking and leadership inspiration?  Who is your Young Guru?

“We all need a little disruption to unlearn limiting beliefs or challenge norms
that have held us all back.”