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My friend and frequent collaborator, Whitney Bishop, was recently telling me about a weekend trip she was planning with her husband. It involved driving to a remote location in Kentucky and attending a concert in the middle of nowhere. She also promised her husband she would be leaving her laptop and iPad at home. The phrase she used to sum up her plans really jumped out at me:

“Every once in awhile you just have to go acoustic.”

When a musician goes acoustic, she/he has set aside all the newfangled electronic instruments and plays instead with the non-electrified version. They trade their electric guitar for an acoustic guitar. Or they swap their electric keyboard for a “real” piano.

I’m a big believer in unplugging on a regular basis (I’m the guy who bought a cabin in the woods last year, after all).  I’ve always thought being connected was an all-or-nothing choice. Either you’re on-the-grid or you’re off-the-grid, there’s really no middle choice. You either live the the Amish or you live like the city folk.


Going Acoustic Might Be The Middle Ground We’re All Looking For

Then I heard that phrase, “go acoustic,” and it made me think maybe there is a middle ground after all. Maybe there HAS to be a middle ground right now. Maybe the idea of going acoustic could help relieve the stress that being so connected all the time can cause and simultaneously help relieve the stress I sometimes feel by NOT being connected.  What if I just went acoustic more often, both at work and at home?

What if I stop bringing my iPad to meetings?

What if I spend just 30 minutes every day thinking or brainstorming with only a pen and paper as my tool?

What if I leave my laptop in my briefcase on the weekends, or even one day on the weekend?

What if I only use my phone as a phone (and not as a distraction device) when I am with family and friends.

What if I check Facebook twice a day instead of twice a minute?

What if one night a week I pick up a book instead of the remote control?

Any one of these ideas would give my brain the rest it needs from the noise of my electrified world without completely disconnected. I can still carry my smart phone with me, but I could be smarter about the way I use it. I don’t have to leave my laptop at work, but I don’t need to leave it open twenty four hours a day, either. I don’t have to cancel my Facebook account, just curb how often I look at it.

I have actually made a lot of these moves in the past year and it has helped free up a lot of time and brainpower, and has definitely lowered the stress in my life. I can now see that I have been going acoustic quite a bit more than I used to. The big difference today, though, is that I’m starting to look at going acoustic as a worthy goal in itself instead of thinking it’s only a baby step to getting completely off-the-grid.

Funny how a single word can sometimes make such a huge difference in the way you think, huh?

Anyway, I wonder if you have something to add to this idea. Does going acoustic work for you or do you have to completely unplug? What’s your favorite way to go acoustic? Did this idea shake up your thinking at all like it did for me? Leave a reply below. I’d love to hear from you on this one.


About mark henson

Mark is the founder of sparkspace…the most inspirational business retreat center on the planet. His blog is read by thousands worldwide each week. Mark’s passion is sharing ideas that help people live and lead a rockstar life.

  • Jeff Pelletier

    Mark and Whitney-
    I love this concept, and have been trying to put it into practice before I even knew what to call it!
    Your post has renewed my desire to try harder, rather than just giving up when I give in to the technology.
    I also see an analogy in how we give presentations to audiences. I’ve said for a while there is still merit in the “low-tech” presentation.
    In fact I’m giving two at a conference next week, one with PowerPoint accompaniment, one without. I think I’ll tip my cap to you both and call the latter my “acoustic set!”

    • That is awesome. You know, my favorite presentations to give are actually panel discussions. I never thought about the fact that they are the ultimate “acoustic set”. I’m stealing that right back from you! Good luck on your presentations.

      • Jeff Pelletier

        It’s like a presentation jam session!

  • Jon Petz

    I go in spurts in seems. Right now I probably look at Facebook twice a week. I’m not missing it really, although some might say a bad business move. But oh well.

    One way of going acoustic I’ve recently began to enjoy more. Fishing in the backyard pond – in the middle of the day and leaving the phone in the office back at the house. What’s cool, the girls have started fishing as well – that is perfectly acoustic when hanging out with them fishing in the back yard. Look forward to spring/summer so we can do it again soon.

    What’s next? Hmmm – a cabin in the hills would be nice 🙂

    (sidenote – it logged me in with Disqus social media something. Don’t even know what that is – and that is probably good.)

    • Fishing has been used as an unplugging activity for thousands of years for good reason.

  • Love the sentiment. I call it going ANALOG when I bring my paper pad instead of my ipad.

    We’re losing that lull time we used to have waiting in line at the grocery store… or for our meal to be delivered to our table. That used to be when we’d process stuff and have “A HA!” moments. We’re filling that good lull with information.

    We’re also losing “serendipity.” (I think I heard this idea on TED). The looking around while waiting in line at Starbucks we would spark a conversation with someone or notice something we normally wouldn’t. Those interactions are fewer because we’re buried in our devices.

    One could say SMART phones are making us less smart if they get in the way of a-ha! ideas that lead to innovation…

    • Paul, I couldn’t agree more. Those moments with friends, family, and even strangers are what makes life interesting.

  • PJ

    Thank you for the article. My acoustic efforts: I’ve gone back to buying books. I missed the feel of the pages when reading online. I also have gone old schedule by going back to the paper calendar. It helps me plan ahead and leave notes for myself. I also leave my phone in my office at night. It keeps me from hearing texts in the night and minimizes the electromagnetic waves near my brain.

    • Paper = awesome. Curling up with a good iPad just doesn’t cut it, does it?

  • Daphne Smith

    This reminds me of a quote my grandmother used to say, “Moderation in all things.” Unplugging on occasion is doable and I believe healthy. Thank you for your perspective. Up until now, my life has been lived on the extreme edges. I hear the middle ground is not so bad. I’ll test it beginning today.

    • I’m learning my way around the middle ground, too. I think we may have had the same grandmother. 🙂