Reach Creative Nirvana With This Grunge Masterpiece

To commemorate the reissue of Nirvana's In Utero—and to amp up productivity—buckle up your rock belt, and prepare to bungee jump into a valley of power chords.

Welcome to another installment of Fast Company's Leadership Album of the Week, where we make a pathetic (but inspired!) attempt at misinterpreting famous song lyrics for the benefit of your productivity.

In Utero

We're still shaking off the hangover after our funk-filled ride with the Talking Heads's Speaking in Tongues, before learning to unplug on Sunday mornings with the Velvet Underground and Nico's debut album, The Velvet Underground & Nico. Today we bring you our most recent album to date, Nirvana's In Utero.

And for good reason. Earlier this month, a much-celebrated reissue of the album was released.

In Utero promised a more aggressively hands-on process of weeding out the mooks, a concerted effort to realign Nirvana with the artists they actually listened to and away from those they were credited with spawning. And where the album’s title would reflect [Kurt] Cobain’s lyrical yearning for a back-to-the-womb retreat from celebrity scrutiny.

Much like Cobain, we will use this album to incubate our (and your) best state of productivity—and creativity—to date.

That said, here are a few things to remember:

1. Play the video.
2. Understand that we take lyrics completely out of context the value of our insights.
3. Repeat.

"Heart-Shaped Box"

I've got a new complaint
Forever in debt to your priceless advice
Hey! Wait!
I've got a new complaint
Forever in debt to your priceless advice

Starting with In Utero's most recognizable track, we focus on advice and, well, complaints.

Advice is a tricky subject—if you're too eager to give it, you're probably not only giving bad advice but also being a bad listener.

If you already have advice to give, you’re not listening. If you already know how this story turns out, you’re not listening. . . . And if you already have your counterattack planned, you’re not listening. . . . Make sure that really listening is your only agenda item at that moment, if you want to build trust, develop relationships, solve problems, create collaboration, and demonstrate your leadership.

On the flip side of things, some business leaders argue that customer complaints should be seen as a gift rather than something to fear.

"Pennyroyal Tea"

I'm so tired I can't sleep
I'm a liar and a thief
I sit and drink Pennyroyal Tea

As we've told you before, the right amount of sleep is essential for a productive and healthy life—without it, you could end up stupid, fat, dead, or just really annoying to everyone around you.

But before you run to the tea cabinet to ensure those sleep cycles (make sure you go with chamomile, not Pennyroyal), make sure you know how much sleep you really need.

"Dumb"

I'm not like them
But I can pretend
The sun is gone
But I have a light
The day is done
But I'm having fun
I think I'm dumb

Like Kurt Cobain, you, too, can have fun when the day is done. How, you ask? Get away—far, far away—from everything and anything related to work. It's called unplugging.

Before you're ready to rid your life of an electronic haze for an entire week, we suggest starting off small: with your morning routine.

We can clutter our early hours with menial decisions: which cereal, which socks, which exercise to do. Cut those out by making a few decisions about how you make decisions—that will lend your mornings some much-needed spaciousness.

"Very Ape"

If you ever need anything please don't
Hesitate to ask someone else first
I'm too busy acting like I'm not naive
I've seen it all, I was here first

If you think you've seen it all and don't have time for anybody else's questions, you're not doing it right. Inspiration, creativity, and productivity thrive on open innovative minds.

So how do you get one of those?

Start by practicing empathy, among the most powerful leadership tools.

Become the other, and it opens up a world of understanding, in which communication becomes naturally influential, and influence becomes just another authentic dialogue. Influence is a two-way street, a give and take, a mutual learning. If I think influence is about getting another person to accept or act upon my idea, and that I will come away unchanged, I’ve mistaken it for control.

[Image: Flickr user Davide Costanzo]

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1 Comments

  • Anon

    You could almost, (read you haters, *almost*), compare Nirvana to any business by inspecting why Nirvana gained success when so many of Nirvana's competitors (i.e. grunge bands) fell into the whole-of-obscurity during the 90s grunge era.  Nirvana was one of the first, but they were not *the* first.  Nirvana was good, but they were not *the* best.  So why was Nirvana so commercially successful?  Because ... (1) they provided a product no one could duplicate ... Sure, stone temple pilots sounded like Nirvana and so did 50 other bands but they missed out on the "killer-app" which were Kurt's awful-ly poetic nonsense and Dave Grohl's drum beats.  (2) They 'got it'; while Kurt may not seem to be the brightest bulb, he understood the basics of what constitutes a good song (product); in the same way horowitz 'gets' rachmaninov or steve jobs 'gets' how to build a proper phone; it's a level of insight that experts obtain through years of experience and usually, but not necessarily, an affinity toward the subject.  (3) Nirvana had a crazy frontman.  Kurt was new, he was interesting, an he was unpredictable.  ... i.e.  Kurt was a leader, and not in the pedagogical sense; Kurt was a leader by default.  Kurt lead because he did not know how to follow.  An example of this was when Kurt was asked to double track vocals, but Kurt's own voice was not the best to double track nor was his guitar playing.  Even the drum beats in Nirvana songs were difficult to record for a traditional stereo CD album because of the dynamics.  The best companies are lead by leaders that can't follow; not because of their personal objections, but because of their nature: maybe their ideas are seen as crazy or their methods are not sound in the traditional business sense.  Anyway ... back to magnet tar pit traps.