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  • Writer's picturePaul LaLonde

#HRMixedTape – 2020 #HRMetal Edition

“Music is medicine.” – Unknown

I lied in my last post. It was NOT my final blog spot for 2020.

As I’ve done numerous times in prior posts, I took Steve Browne’s call and made an #HRMixedTape. By this point it’s somewhat blasé to say 2020 was a horrid year. However, it was an amazing year for heavy metal music releases. Being well-documented that I am a metalhead, I couldn’t resist writing about how heavy metal helped give me strength and inspiration in an otherwise challenging year – and connect it to HR in a larger context!


The Narrative from Guardians by August Burns Red

Dig a little deeper

Change what we inherited

Power to the people, or power to the narrative?

This album is an absolute monster! It came out JUST as the world was entering lockdown. I was jamming it on my back porch with a cool beer thinking… “this will be over by end of summer.” Well, about that… anyways…

Like many things in life, the narrative – or how stories are shared or interpreted – rules the day! It’s so important as HR professionals to temper our perceptions, wrangle our unconscious (and conscious) biases, and ensure we do what is right at the end of the day. Right needs to rule in all instances. That seems rather lofty, no? But if we don’t shoot for the highest standards, we settle for less.

The Black Hand Reaches Out from Weapons of Tomorrow by Warbringer

The grasping black hand reaches out

Out for your mind

Out for your soul

Its icy talons close

Taking control

The black hand reaches

Out for blood

Out of time

And now it sunk its claws

Into your mind

Reaching out for you

Thrash! Fast, political, uncompromising. My favorite music! 😊

The Black Hand was a secret terrorist group aimed at political independence of Serbia from the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. Their actions lead to the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and the beginning of World War I.

While I don’t need to get into all that, the lyrics I quoted reminded me of the poisonous effects social media can have, and has had, on many who use it. The #HRCommunity is not immune. I’ve seen many interactions from people I respect devolve into toxicity. I wonder what purpose it serves to attack one another so viciously behind a blue screen. Differences of opinion, culture, perspective, should ALWAYS be respected. It’s one thing to speak out against pure wrong and evil, but it’s another to attack others for the way they see the world. The moment someone becomes a “stupid libtard” or “a Trumpster asshole,” we lose our humanity. The Black Hand of ego and internet persona takes control, and that trip is NEVER a good one.

Memento Mori from Lamb of God by Lamb of God

The hardest hour, the cruelest sign

I’m waking up from this wretched lie

I fight it the same, don’t waste this day

Wake up, wake up, wake up

Memento mori

Memento mori – the Latin phrase meaning “remember your mortality” – has been my theme for 2020. It’s not morbidity so much as a reminder, a call to meditate on life’s ephemeral nature. Life is short. It’s brutally short. How often do you hear someone say “in a blink of an eye” when referring to their children growing up, their lives moving forward, their memories? If 2020 has taught us ANYTHING, and it should have taught us a great many things, it is that life is precious. Don’t waste it thinking about things that don’t matter. A difficult coworker? So be it. A bad presentation? It’s over – get the next one. Easier said than done, but don’t waste this day…

On a side note, this album SLLLLAAAAAAAAAYYYYSSSS!!! Lamb of God are like fine wine. Just keep getting better as they age.

Don’t Do It from V by Havok

I feel all alone

An empty shell of what used to be

Feel like a ghost

Psyche imposed by a mental cacophony

Falling falling falling down

Stalling stalling the urge to just let myself drown

Let myself drown

Earlier this year, I wrote the most personal, raw blog post. It was therapeutic, but more importantly, it was meant to be a sign for others. If you are struggling with your mental health – regardless of the form it takes – you are NOT alone. Others are always there for you if you look.

This song is a thrash version with the same message. “Don’t do it!” is yelled with such veracity and passion. Mental health should be top among HR professionals’ minds, especially in 2020 and going into 2021. Find a great EAP and push it. Partner with them to make discussing mental health in the workplace common. Train managers in Mental Health First Aid, and try to build a culture where mental health is not something to be ostracized over.

Guardian from Redneck Vikings from Hell by Æther Realm

When the road is long

And the night has come

I will stay with you

We will see this through

When your flame burns low

That’s a place I know

Place your hand in mine

We all need some help sometimes

See: Don’t Do It from V by Havok. Same message, just presented in a less aggressive ballot kinda way! Beautiful song. Beautiful message.

House of the Rising Sun from Helping Hands: Live at Metallica HQ by Metallica

Oh mother, tell your children

Not to do what I have done

Spend your lives in sin and misery

In the House of the Rising Sun

Metallica is a nonnegotiable when I am creating an HR Mixed Tape! While the band didn’t put together any new music in 2020, they did perform a live (semi) acoustic set for their charity “All Within My Hands.” Of course, I ordered it and jammed out. The surprise of the night was their cover of the classic House of the Rising Sun. A great song played true by a great band!

The lyrics above remind me, again, that life is too short to not enjoy what you do! We spend so much of our lives working. Do you want to be miserable doing it? I am lucky. I am good at human resources, so I have developed a passion for it. Not everyone in the profession is that lucky. I recall a phrase I heard my friend and mentor Steve Browne say once. Effectively, if you don’t like HR, get out! It’s a tough gig, and we need people who can endure it, help change it for the better. If that’s not you, then go find yours.

A Stroke of Red from Weight of the False Self by Hatebreed

Now there’s no wrong done (Wrong done)

No wrong is done

Unless the wrong is done to me

There’s no wrong done (Wrong done)

If I’m in the wrong, then there was wrong done to me

Hatebreed is the ultimate in don’t judge a book by the cover. I’ve been a fan for 20 years, and they (like Lamb of God) get better with age. Hatebreed is all about positivity. Not toxic positivity where you ignore your troubles and just put on a fake smile. They are about facing what consumes you, because only through action can you free yourself of your burdens. Nothing goes away until it teaches you want you need to know.

This song, A Stroke of Red, is rather Stoic in its message. At first it seems that Jamey Jasta (vocalist) is singing about selfishness. No harm done until the harm is done to me? That’s pretty evil sounding! You can do whatever you want as long as it doesn’t hurt you! But, no, that’s not the point… Jamey finishes by saying that if one does wrong, then they, in essence, have done wrong to themselves. It’s a reminder that you are what you do. The sins return to the originator. So, always strive to be good – be better than you were yesterday in all facets of life.

Hidden Track:

Stop the Bleeding (Single) by Machine Head

The endless scroll of human tragedy

I swipe along as the days go by

Another brother murdered out in the streets

I connect to the shame, we don’t know what it’s like

Born lucky ’cause the color of skin

America, your heart is caving in

Somehow I thought this was the land of the free

Where is our humanity?

Our humanity

Other than “COVID-19,” no other phrase dominated America, and reminded us our true illness, more than “I can’t breathe.” George Floyd’s murder ushered in a cascade of relentless emotions – some healthy, some not, all of it revealing and necessary.

My most viewed and shared article of 2020 was a call to White HR professionals to stand up and recognize the Black experience in America. It was about how HR’s duty was to be an ACTIVE ally to Black family, friends, and coworkers. HR cannot be silent. It is our duty to do the right thing for our fellow men, women, children, and everyone!

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