Mark Thomas Miller

Multiplication through meditation

Rick Rubin, the co-founder of Def Jam Records, is known for being able to work with artists across genres (Linkin Park to Adele to Kanye West to Lana Del Rey). As one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People, his net worth is approximately $400 million.

But he’s not a stuffy businessman. He seems to be the exact opposite. I found his “management” style fascinating:

According to Eminem […] Rubin has an uncanny ability “to dip in and out of different genres of music and master all of them.” […] But what’s really impressive is how he gets people’s best work out of them. […] How does Rubin do this so consistently and with such diverse people? By applying his experience as a lifelong practitioner of meditation.

“Many people don’t listen,” Rubin told me. “If you listen carefully, people explain to you what it is that they need.” Rubin gets artists to open up about their deeper motives. “I’ll spend time with an artist and listen very carefully to what they tell me and get them to talk about their true goals, their highest, highest goals,” he said. “We’ll go back to the heart of why they started doing what they are doing in the first place.”

[…] “One of the main things I always try to do is to create an environment where the artist feels pretty comfortable being naked,” he said. “That kind of a safety zone where their guard is completely let down and they can truly be themselves and feel open to exposing themselves. It’s very powerful when people do that, when people really open up.”

Based on his conversations with each artist, Rubin figures out how to support their strengths and downplay their weaknesses. Which is how he can work with such a wide spectrum of artists. For example, he encourages some artists to write while they are driving because that the attention they devote to driving prevents them from second-guessing themselves. For one artist who was struggling with lyrics, he invented a game with magnetic poetry to help him access his intuition about what the songs meant to him.

Sometimes just changing the context of the work—for example, by recording in a house rather than a recording studio, as the Red Hot Chili Peppers did while recording Blood Sugar Sex Magik—helps break artists out of their automatic habits and allows something new to happen. “Sometimes it’s about making it more comfortable. The distraction of less comfort can bring about a really good idea,” he said. One thing he likes to do is to have walking meetings on the beach. “It’s a remarkably different meeting,” he said. “The walking meetings tend to be much, much more productive than meetings sitting in an office.”

“The more time you spend being quiet and looking in, your intuition grows and you trust it more,” he said. “Messages come if you’re looking for them. Through meditation I developed the skill to know what to ask for. It’s like a knowing.”

He helps artists create platinum-selling and Grammy-winning albums because he helps create a more meditative state in others even if they don’t practice meditation themselves, a process Hankin refers to as dyadic meditation. “There’s nothing better than someone really and truly being with and present with you in a dyadic kind of meditative state,” she said. When you’re with someone who is paying attention with intention, who is grounded and aware, then you become more grounded and aware. Research shows that we pick up on the mental state of the people we are close to. Even if they cannot verbalize it, artists probably pick up on Rubin’s focus and openness. The meditative state of “awakeness,” as it is often described, is contagious.

Read the full article by Ruth Blatt.

Rubin’s techniques are that of multiplication: he brings out comfort and talent in those around him through a contagious state of being. It reminds me of a video game where one of the characters receives a power boost by standing in the vicinity of another character: Rubin’s abilities empower everyone else.

By guiding others into a present state of awareness, Rubin is able to connect them with who they are, and in turn, bring out their true creative abilities. I imagine we’ll be seeing more of this, especially from startup culture, in the future.