Are you a fan? Or are you nostalgic?
Bob Lefsetz, acting in the role of music critic, asked El-P, who came up in the 90s NYC hip-hop scene, what he thought of rap in 2020. He said the question anyone has to ask themselves about something so close to their heart is, “Am I a fan or just nostalgic?”
Nostalgia reaches for the way things were. It holds the past on a pedestal, forever idealized above the present.
Fans reach for the new-new thing. They chase progress and the collective interest. They hold the new on a pedestal and will search for what’s moving over what’s idle.
The reason El-P is in his 40s and still making relevant music is because he’s stayed a fan. We don’t have to like everything new that comes along. We can still have values and even preferences. But the future belongs to the new. Things evolve. It’s how progress works.
Fighting new in the name of nostalgia eventually leads to bitterness and disappointment. Keeping the fan’s mindset leads to new ideas and growth. Being a fan doesn’t take away the past. Being stubbornly nostalgic does take away the future.
It’s true about our favorite music, it’s true at work, and it’s true in life. When we stop seeking the new, we get idle. Once we get idle, we slip from relevance. And once we lose relevance, it’s either time to remember how to be a fan again or time to hang it up.
*This was one of many great insights from the RTJ interview on The Bob Lefsetz Podcast.