Music has always been a big part of my life.  It provides a source of inspiration, and at times, even “meditation” for me.  A couple of years ago, I was introduced by a friend to a song called “Take a Picture.”  My friend also just happened to know the band’s promoter from back in the day.  The song by Richard Patrick of Filter was written and released in the late 90’s, but somehow, it was my first time hearing it.  I was instantly hooked…both to the music and the lyrics.

For me, the song’s lyrics represented a desire for change and rebirth, at a time when I needed it the most.  I played the song over and over again in the car and while running.  I even engaged others in a discussion of the song’s lyrics.  This included my own kids, who were not so enthused about the idea, during a scenic car ride one day down Highway 1 from San Francisco to Santa Cruz.  Eventually, my friend and I even made a phone call to the Filter ex-promoter to better understand Richard Patrick’s own personal inspiration.

Through all of this, what I learned is that each person interpreted the song differently depending on their own filter (yes, I went there.) For me, I took the song and symbolically applied it to my own situation and mindset at the time.  My kids’ analysis was that the songwriter was expressing his frustration with the music industry and the people who were in control.  The ex-promoter friend simply relayed the literal interpretation, given that she personally knew what inspired the song…apparently, after a bit of partying, Richard Patrick did actually wake up on a plane one time naked and proceeded to ask someone to take his picture. Other friends had other interpretations, including the song being an expression of a strained relationship with a father.  None of them were wrong, because they were all personal interpretations related to their own stories and understanding.

But, how does that correlate to this new business of impact investing that I find myself immersed in?  As I vet different opportunities for investment and get involved in some of the businesses, I have become keenly aware of how information and the story about the opportunities is presented and discussed.  Entrepreneurs, by nature, tend to be eternally optimistic believers and promoters of their ideas.  They have to be, or they wouldn’t succeed.  I, for one, can easily get caught up in this enthusiasm and excitement.  But, I recognized early that it is crucial to not only see the vision and potential for success through their eyes, but through others as well.  I must do my due diligence and make my own personal assessment based on the varied impressions and interpretations.

Not only that, I need to make sure that the idea generator and executor is also capable of seeing his idea through the eyes of others.  Ultimately, a strong conviction for a vision is key and should not suffer for the opinions of many.  However, successful execution of that vision into a business requires the ability to see through the many different filters out there and to reconcile the idea’s direction and implementation when needed.

I personally may never know what Richard Patrick’s true meaning of “Take A Picture” was in his mind.  But, it may not really matter.  What does matter, like any good business success, is how much people relate to the idea in a specific and meaningful way.  But, I guess it doesn’t hurt that the music is pretty damn good too!

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