Fixations: Tariq Adi on the joys of making music and inspiring others through art and real estate

The CEO and co-founder of Adi Development Group Inc. says music turns on a different part of the brain and that helps him to be a better business executive

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Tariq Adi, CEO and co-founder of Burlington, Ont.-based Adi Development Group Inc., talks about the joys of making music and inspiring others through art and real estate in this interview from the October 2019 issue of FP Magazine.

FPM: How did you get into music?

TA: Before I got into real estate development in my early 20s, I was in the music space, doing production and actually engineering. I was an artist at one point in my much younger days, but I decided to pursue production and engineering at the time. It got to the point where I was running a $2-billion enterprise and sitting in a studio for 14 hours at a time mixing a song wasn’t making too much sense, but then it kind of stabilized and I’m back at it again.

FPM: What does mixing music entail?

TA: Everyone always asks what’s engineering? What does mixing music mean? Mixing music is an elusive dark art that very few know how to do and very few people know how to explain. It’s basically the concept of taking 100 or 200 tracks and using all kinds of effects to turn them into what you hear on the radio. Songs don’t just come out like that when you track them.


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FPM: Do you work with other people or just for your own enjoyment?

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TA: I’m working with a couple of up-and-coming artists in the Toronto area as well, including a great artist named Del Hartley, who is making big waves, soul, R&B. He was just on The Launch recently.

FPM: Does music help your business?

TA: Music is a great escape, but if you look at what happens in music, you can apply it to business. It turns on a different part of your brain, which I think you need when you’re a business executive. The engineering end of music production uses both your left and right brain — getting that alpha brain wave going. There is a process, there’s visual space and auditory space you have to work within, there are subtle moves you make. No one big move you make in a track is going to make it or break it. It’s a small series of moves that provide colour and interest into a song. In business, there’s no one Hail Mary or magic bullet that any company does that helps them break through to the next thing. It’s a series of concerted small moves over years and years and years that really brings the whole thing together.

FPM: Is it relaxing?

TA: Oh absolutely. You want to talk about a state of flow. Flow states are basically when you’re in the groove, when everything is so easy and effortless, things are happening. As an executive I want to harness that, not just for myself, but in my office and with my people. The concept of flow is you have just enough skill to deal with the challenge. Too much challenge, it’s difficult. Not enough challenge, it’s just boring. When I’m doing music, it absolutely puts me in a flow state and flow states perpetuate beyond the moment. I’m a big proponent of peak performance.


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FPM: I’ve heard you have a pretty regimental daily routine as well. How do you find the time?

TA: And I have a family and a little guy, too. It’s 20-hour days sometimes, but it’s passion. If you love to do something, it’s effortless and it feels good, you want to do it. It’s not like anybody is forcing me to go into a studio to mix or make a track, it’s just something you want to do. It’s no different than reading. I read five books at a time, probably get through 50 to 60 books a year. It’s just finding time for your passion. I don’t hang out at the bars, so maybe that saves some time.

FPM: Do you have a studio?

TA: I have a setup at the house, nothing extravagant, because most of it is in your computer now. I’ve definitely scaled it down since the technology has improved. Most of what you hear on the radio has literally been done on a laptop and mixed in very small spaces with very little analogue gear.

FPM: What’s your goal with music?

TA: As I get older, I get better, which is why you see the engineers who make the hits today are a bunch of 55-60-year-old dudes with long hair who probably had a band in the ’70s. It’s funny because I’m picking up even more connections in the music business, I’m getting closer to some people through being an executive. Who knows? Maybe I toss Drake a beat or something and it ends up on the radio. Who knows? I run into him all the time in certain circles.

FPM: What sets Adi Development apart from other developers?

TA: One of the things that got my brother and I into this business was really the architecture that we were so passionate about. We’re creating these things from our imagination. How do we translate that into what we’re doing now? We went from building a building to building a company. In a very simple form, it’s to deliver spaces that inspire people. On top of that, it’s to change the culture of real estate development when it comes to service. Developers have been shooting fish in a barrel for the last 20 years in the GTA.


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FPM: What’s your big goal in business?

TA: Our vision is a pretty grand vision: We want to be the most customer-centric, largest real estate developer and asset manager in the world, period. It’s a big goal and we’ve achieved a lot in the past seven years, literally going from zero to $2 billion under development today.

FPM: Is developing real estate an art, like music?

TA: Absolutely, 100%. It’s so similar to music. We’re modern-day Picassos or whatever. Just because you can walk into the painting, so to speak, or the piece of art, doesn’t mean it isn’t art. It’s the highest form of art. Art is emotion. Art is a feeling. It’s interpretation. It’s no different in our spaces.

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