Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Note To Myself After Quitting My Job

Congratulations! You did it. You quit your job. You've wanted to for a long time and you finally made the leap.

It's likely that at some point in the future, you will doubt this decision. Just remember, you've done a lot of soul searching, and working for yourself is more important to you than almost anything else.

The biggest reason you'll doubt your decision is because you won't have as much money, at least to begin with. While the goal is not to lose any of your current possessions, if you do, it’s not the end of the world. If you have to sell the car or get rid of the iPhone, that’s not a failure. The real failure is working for no other reason than to pay for a car and an iPhone. Remember, some of the happiest times in your life where when you didn't have a lot of money, and some of the most difficult times where when you did. Happiness is not relative to your bank account balance.

Some people won’t understand why you're doing this. They think that if you have the opportunity to make 10x money and you choose to make 5x money, you must be lazy. You know this isn't the case. You’re not lazy. You like to work really hard, especially if its the kind of work that makes you want to stay up late and wake up early. This is the kind of work you're moving on to, and while the transition period may be difficult, ultimately, this is the kind of work where the opportunity to make 100x money exists.

Here's the thing though. You've made a lot of excuses for your past failures and blamed your job for holding you back. You can't do that anymore. There's no more job to blame. If you fail, you're the only one who can be held responsible.

But I'm not telling you anything you don't already know. We've gone over all of this at least a thousand times. So go out there, be smart, work hard, and have fun, and this might just work out for you.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

My Three Minds

Back before Mindy and I got married, we had a couple pre-marital counseling sessions. At one point, the counselor asked me a question (I don’t remember what it was) and my response was “Sometimes I feel kind of schizophrenic.” He actually snapped at me angrily saying “Have you ever known someone with schizophrenia? It’s a horrible disease and you have no idea what it could possibly be like.” Needless to say, we never talked about why I feel “kind of schizophrenic,” so I've taken the last seven or eight years to figure it out for myself.

First off, I’m not claiming to have schizophrenia. The counselor was right in that it’s a horrible disease and most people don’t understand it. On the other hand, the general idea of someone with schizophrenia is that they have “multiple personalities,” and I do in fact feel that I've got three separate personalities that dictate what I care about.

1. Artistic/Entrepreneurial – Where I’m practicing guitar for hours, exploding with song ideas, and thinking up business ideas.
2. Testosterone Driven – Where I’m lifting weights and training for hours on end.
3. Educational/Strategic - Where I’m reading 20 books, inventing my own games, and making step by step plans for the next five years of my life.

These personalities don’t get along with each other. When one is present, the others go away. When I’m feeling artistic/entrepreneurial, lifting weights or reading a book is a begrudging chore. When I’m feeling testosterone driven I’ll spend hours and hours at the gym and forget I even own a guitar. When I’m feeling educational/strategic, I’ll stick my nose in a book and get annoyed if I have to do anything else. The problem is that progress requires consistency, and it’s very difficult to be consistent when you switch between loving and hating the same things several times a year.

Keep in mind, I didn't understand any of this about myself for a long time and as a result I found myself moving from one thing to the next and never finishing anything. One month I would want to start a band, the next month I'd want to go back to college, the next month I'd want to compete in ten Jiu Jitsu tournaments. It caused me to lose confidence in myself and my ability to follow through on anything. It left me wandering aimlessly.

But then something occurred to me. I realized that sometimes I hated certain music one month and loved it the next. Soon it became evident that there was a distinct correlation between the type of music I listened to and my current interests. I realized that my taste in music tended to predict when I would switch from one interest to another. Once I’d figured this out, I started tracking the changes, and soon I’d categorized my “personalities.” When I’m feeling artistic/entrepreneurial, I listen to blues, country, and indie rock. When I’m feeling testosterone driven it’s all heavy metal. When I’m feeling educational/strategic, I listen to podcasts and audio books.

The benefit to understanding this about myself is that I’m able to trick myself into consistency. If I've been listening to country, I know I’m feeling artistic/entrepreneurial and it’s going to be difficult to be consistent in the weight room. I trick myself into lifting by reminding myself that I’ll be more successful as a performer and personal trainer if I’m in shape and look good. If I’m listening to podcasts, I know I’m feeling educational/strategic so I’ll make sure to read books that will benefit my art, business, and fitness goals, in addition to putting the books down and going to the gym a couple times a week. If I’m listening to metal, I know I’m feeling testosterone driven, and I try to take an hour or two away from the gym to work on other things that are important to me. In the end it helps me stay relatively consist with all the things I care about, even if I feel like I don’t care about them at the moment. 

Schizophrenia? No. Crazy? Maybe. But I make it work the best I can.

Friday, November 7, 2014

What makes your music valuable?

I need to make a confession. I’m a musician, and I LOVE streaming music services. As a fan of music, having millions of albums at my fingertips is a dream come true. I love hearing a song that captures my attention and then immediately downloading the album. Albums that I missed out on years ago because I was too poor to buy now sit in the album collection on my phone. Streaming music has allowed me to vastly expand my musical landscape and now bands like The Weeks are in my regular rotation. If they ever come through Omaha, I'll be sure to make their show*. Before Spotify came to the US, I was an avid Rhapsody user. But even before Rhapsody, when I was trying to make a living as a recording artist, I was actively giving my music away. In doing so, I learned a very valuable lesson.

Back when I was really focused on getting signed by a record label, I was having a talk with our producer. My band had been touring nearly non-stop for months and had made a song from our EP available free for download to help generate interest. At the time only 400 people had downloaded it, and the producer had some tough words for me. “You can’t even give away 1000 downloads, why would a label ever be interested in you?”

Taylor Swift made headlines this week not only for having the best first-week album sales in twelve years and becoming the only artist in 2014 to go platinum, but also for pulling her entire catalog off of Spotify. I really respect Taylor. She seems to write honest music that’s insanely catchy. I also have no problem with her pulling her music off of Spotify. (On a side note, I currently use Rdio, and all of her albums except for “1989” are still available there).

Taylor wrote an op ed in the Wall Street Journal a while back that said "Music is art, and art is important and rare. Important, rare things are valuable. Valuable things should be paid for.”

Unfortunately, not all art is important and rare. There are plenty of paintings in the thrift store bins that can be purchased for pennies. For better or worse, most musicians these days are as valuable to consumers as these thrift store paintings. There are more musicians now that at any other time in history. The band supply outweighs the listener demand which reduces most music's value. This is not Spotify’s fault.

On the other hand, there is a lot of art that is important and rare, even musical art. Taylor Swift seems to be a perfect, modern example. There’s something about her music that makes consumers drop what they’re doing to buy her album the instant it's released. She would have sold a million copies even if she didn’t pull her music off Spotify.

Many musicians seem to be more concerned with trying to educate the consumer on how valuable their art is rather than creating art that is actually valuable to the consumer. Recording songs and playing shows does not entitle you to the dollars in their wallet. They work hard for their money so you're going to have to work even harder for it. You've got to find a way to capture the listeners' attention and make their life better, or you don't stand a chance. (Hint: You can't say "Here you go, I made your life better." They have to say "Holy crap, this made my life better.")

Taylor Swift for one reason or another has captured her listeners' attention, made their lives better, and therefore earned their dollars. What have you done to capture your listeners' attention or make their life better? What have you done to earn their dollars? Could you even give away 1000 free downloads? If not, Spotify is not your problem, your value proposition is. 

*Some would argue that by not purchasing The Weeks album, I'm hindering their ability to come to Omaha in the first place. The truth of the matter is I never would have bought their album anyway. I never would have heard of them.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Caught in the Crossfire

I was on vacation in Nashville all of last week and it was wonderful; like no other vacation I've taken before. I've been to Nashville at least a half dozen times in the past, so the location wasn't really that big of a factor, but the thing that made it great is a decision I made before we left. I decided I wasn't going to be hurried for the entire week.

Most people who know me wouldn't consider me a hurried person, but I HATE being delayed, and if I start to feel delayed, I can turn into a real A-hole. The only person who really sees this is my wife, and it happens a lot when we're traveling. I get annoyed if we leave later than I planned on leaving, if we have to make bathroom stops (even though I'm usually the one that needs them), if it takes more than two minutes to find a parking spot, and/or if there's traffic that gets in my way. When these things happen, I tend to get really on edge and grumpy, and it's no fun for anyone. I'm much more prone to being nasty to my wife and to others if I'm in this mood.  

For this trip though, I decided to ignore what normally annoys me. Instead of making one big long trip, we only drove a little bit each day.We stopped in Kansas City for a day, then St. Louis for a day, then on to Nashville for several days, then to Kentucky for a day, then back to Kansas City for a day, then home. We took bathroom breaks whenever we (I) needed them. Parking and traffic in Nashville sucks, but I tried not to let it get to me (it still did a bit). There were several major cities we passed through with even worse traffic than Nashville but I tried to keep a cool head about it. While in Nashville we made an effort not to plan a lot for each day, instead focusing on one or two things we wanted to do and then just took our time doing those things. In the end, the efforts paid off. We got to spend quality time with several of our good friends and the vacation was fun, relaxing, and mostly tension free.

While there are definitely more responsibilities and time frames I have to adhere too in real life as compared to when I'm vacation, I want to carry this unhurried mindset forward into day to day living. I want to make my days less "full" when possible, and not get on edge if circumstances leave me running five minutes behind. It feels a bit lazy and irresponsible to say since "slowing down" is completely counter cultural and not very "productive," but I think I need to do it regardless. If for no other reason than it makes me less of a jerk.

I read a psychological study on being hurried a while back and it ultimately led me to make this decision. Give it a read and then ask yourself if slowing down might be a good thing to consider for yourself...

Copied and paraphrased from 

A Good Samaritan

In their classic study, prominent social psychologists Darley and Batson recruited 67 students from the Princeton Theological Seminary and told them it was a study about religious education and vocations. They were asked to fill in some personality questionnaires and told they were going to give a brief talk in a nearby room. Some were asked to give a short talk about the types of jobs that seminary graduates would be suited for, while the others were asked to talk about the parable of the ‘Good Samaritan’.

Unknown to the study’s participants, they were to experience their very own ‘Good Samaritan’ test. After filling out their questionnaires and while making their way to the other office to give their talk, they would encounter a man lying in a doorway, doubled over, eyes closed and coughing. Participants would have to pass the apparently highly distressed man, but would they stop to help?

The experimenters thought it would depend on how much participants were hurried, so they manipulated this by giving them a map and one of the following three instructions:

1. “Oh, you’re late. They were expecting you a few minutes ago. We’d better get moving…”
2. “The assistant is ready for you, so please go right over.”
3. “…It’ll be a few minutes before they’re ready for you, but you might as well head on over…”

This created three conditions: high, medium and low hurry. So some students left the office thinking they needed to go quickly, others less so, while some were relaxed. Each of these conditions was also split into two: half about to deliver a talk on the Good Samaritan, the other half on job prospects for seminary graduates. This meant that the experimenters could assess both the effect of hurry as well as the talk they were giving on the students’ helping behaviours. Would having a relevant parable uppermost in their minds nudge participants into helping?

Here’s what happened. On average just 40% of the seminary students offered help (with a few stepping over the apparently injured man) but crucially the amount of hurry they were in had a large influence on behaviour. Here is the percentage of participants who offered help by condition:
  • Low hurry: 63%
  • Medium hurry: 45%
  • High hurry: 10%

The type of talk they were giving also had an effect on whether they offered help. Of those asked to talk about careers for seminarians, just 29% offered help, while of those asked to talk about the parable of the Good Samaritan, fully 53% gave assistance.

What these figures show is the large effect that subtle aspects of the situation have on the way people behave. Recall that the experimenters also measured personality variables, specifically the ‘religiosity’ of the seminarians. When the effect of personality was compared with situation, i.e. how much of a hurry they happened to be in or whether they were thinking about a relevant parable, the effect of religiosity was almost insignificant. In this context, then, situation is easily trumping personality.

"Crossfire" by Stevie Ray Vaughan

Day by day, night after night
Blinded by the neon light
Hurry here, hustling there
No one's got the time to spare
Money's tight, nothing free
Won't somebody come and rescue me

I am stranded, caught in the crossfire
Stranded, caught in the crossfire

Tooth for tooth, eye for an eye
Sell your soul just to bop on by
Beggin' for a dollar, stealin' a dime
Come on can't you see that I'm

Stranded, caught in the crossfire
I am stranded, caught in the crossfire

I need some, kind of kindness
Some kind of sympathy, oh no

Save the strong, lose the weak
Never turning the other cheek
Trust nobody, don't be no fool
Whatever happened to the golden rule

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Best Investment I Ever Made

For those who may not know, I’m a licensed stock broker and investment advisor, so legally, I can’t make any investment recommendations on a public platform. Thankfully the best investment I ever made has nothing to do with the stock market.

My 33rd birthday will be here in a couple months which means I've been playing guitar for 20 years. To give you an idea of how long that really is, consider the pouch that I keep my guitar tools in…

This is the pouch from the “Pepsi Stuff” sunglasses I saved points for in 1996… 
This was a couple years after I started playing guitar. 

I consider buying my first guitar the best investment I ever made. Here's why.

1. It’s given me hours of mental stimulation, relaxation, and entertainment.
When I’m playing guitar, time disappears. I used to practice for hours and hours every single day. These days I only get an hour here of there, but the more I can get, the better.

2. It’s a perfect outlet for frustration.
You can play angry songs on the guitar. You can play sad songs on the guitar. You can write nasty songs about your job on guitar. Learning how to play Stevie Ray Vaughn’s “Texas Flood” helped me get over a breakup. Writing “10 o’clock Tuesday” helped me get through a bad day at work. I have no doubt that there are difficult times ahead of me and I'll pick up guitar to help get through them.

3. Guitar rarely causes me to lose sleep at night.
Have you ever talked with someone who’s made a bad investment? I do every day. They're not pleasant. Bad investments are stressful and can keep you up at night. The only time I ever lose sleep over guitar is when I have a good song in my head and I want to get it on paper before I forget it.

4. It’s allowed me to travel the country.
I remember standing and looking at the Statue of Liberty and asking the other guitarist in my band "Did you ever think learning to play guitar would bring you this far?" It was a surreal moment. Playing guitar has taken me through Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan (by mistake), Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

5. It’s allowed me to make a lot of great friends.
Some of the best friends I have are a direct result of playing the guitar. My former band mates and the friends we made on the road all hold a special place in my heart. This alone makes the time I've spent playing a worthwhile investment.

6. I met my wife thanks to guitar.
We started hanging out after we met at one of my shows.

 Seriously, why would a babe like this ever give a nerd like me a second glance? Guitar. Nuff said.

7. Guitar taught me the growth mindset
There are two types of mindsets. A fixed mindset and a growth mindset. A person with a fixed mindset believes that they’re either good at something or they’re not. I used to fall into this category. Then I started playing guitar. I was terrible. I remember thinking I’d never be able to play a Power Chord, but I worked at it, and eventually I could. Then I remember thinking it would be impossible to play an E-Form Bar Chord. How on earth was I going to hold down 6 strings with only 4 fingers? But I worked at it, and eventually I could. A person with a growth mindset believes they can be good at anything if they work hard at it. Developing a growth mindset has opened the door to countless opportunities for me and I've got guitar to thank for that.

I guess you could say guitar has helped me make money, and I suppose that adds to its value, but most of the money I've made playing guitar has been spent buying more guitar gear, so it hasn't exactly been profitable. In reality, I could probably buy a new car with all I've spent on guitar gear... but money isn't everything. Right?

Monday, September 29, 2014


There used to be a woman who went to my church that I couldn't stand. I'd never met her, never talked to her, and I don't think I'd ever even heard her voice, but week after week I could see her from where I sat and when I was on stage playing in the band, and she annoyed the crap out of me. I won't get into specifics, but there were certain things that she did that drove me nuts. I'm ashamed to say it, but by all accounts I hated her.

One day I was shopping for some jeans. I was in the Junior's section because girl jeans were in fashion for rock and rollers back then. From behind me I hear "Oh my gosh! You're the guitar guy!" Even though I'd been in a band for a while, being recognized in public was not a normal occurrence. I turned around to find the woman from church that I hated, and she was really excited to talk to me. She continued to tell me how much she loved my playing and always looked forward to when I was on stage. I smiled and thanked her and we had a nice conversation. She was really cool. She even helped me choose between two different pairs of girl jeans. When we finally said goodbye, I walked away feeling like the most terrible human being on the face of the earth for the way I'd judged her. Even thinking about it now makes me queasy.

I believe racism, misogyny, homophobia, and the rest of the extreme hatred in the world begins in a similar manner as my distaste for this woman: Snap judgments, assumptions, and escalating disdain based on little or no evidence, which is then projected upon everyone that fits a similar description and handed down from generation to generation. 

I also believe that if people took some time to get to know those they hated, they might just change their mind about them.

These were the girl jeans.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

My opinion on opinions

I have a strategy for when it comes to sharing opinions. It's simple. I pretend that Mike Tyson is standing in front of me and holds the opposite opinion.

For example: "The iPhone is the best phone in the world and anyone who uses Android is an idiot" (when Mike Tyson absolutely loves his Android)...

My stated opinion quickly changes to "I like the iPhone."

Let's say Mike Tyson posts a video of his new puppy and I think it's ugly. In the comments I post 

"j***s f**k! that is one ugly a** dog" (This is an actual comment I copied off of youtube after pulling up the first "cute puppy" video I could find).

I very quickly do not post a comment (and somehow the world keeps turning).

I absolutely hold opinions that I'm willing to take a Mike Tyson punch for, but not many, and if an opinion isn't worth taking a punch for, I'm not doing the world a disservice by keeping it to myself. 

*If you (I'm hoping you're not Mike Tyson) would like to punch me for the opinion I have just shared, feel free to come to Mick Doyle's Gym in Omaha, NE to do so. But be forewarned, I punch back (unless you're Mike Tyson).

Monday, September 1, 2014


I woke up early this Labor Day morning to do yoga with my team, only to find that my car wouldn't start. Add this to the long list of annoyances that have occurred recently and it's easy to get frustrated. 

I feel like a car that's been driven a little too hard. A curb check here, a pothole there, another speed bump taken too quickly, and now my wheels no longer work together cooperatively. My steering wheel is shuddering, it's difficult to drive in a straight line, and the rubber on the tires is starting to wear thin. In times like these it's tempting to get down on myself. "You should be stronger than this," I think, but then I remember that life is like a car. Sometimes I've got to take it to the shop to get it realigned.

For me, realignment means getting consistent with my workouts, getting my diet back on track, reducing TV time, writing more, playing more music, getting back to church, and tackling some projects I've been procrastinating. I wish I was 100% consistent with these things, but in the same way there will never be a maintenance-free car, there will certainly never be a maintenance-free life.

Not my car.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Now or Never

"Most of our obstacles would melt away if instead of cowering before them, we make up our minds and walk boldly through them." - Orison Swett Marden

I have a confession to make...

I care what people think about me. 

I don't like admitting it. I prefer to think of myself as immune to peer pressure, but I am not, and I've had a strong reminder of this recently.

I've been out of the music scene for several years now. I needed to put the guitar away for a while and take care of some business, but now that I have, I'm ready to get back to playing. This is exciting, but also a little scary. I want to follow my dream of fronting a blues band, but I have my reservations.

I'm afraid people will think I'm not a good enough singer.
I'm afraid people will think I'm not a good enough guitar player.
I'm afraid people will think I'm not a good enough song writer.
I'm afraid people will think I'm not a good enough front man.
I'm afraid people will think I'm not good enough at jamming and improvisation.
I'm afraid people will think I'm irresponsible for starting a band in my thirties.
I'm afraid musicians will think I'm not good enough to start a band with.
I'm afraid the blues scene will think I'm a fake.

I had an elderly client end our phone call last week by saying "Have a good day and remember this isn't a trial run. You only get one try at life, so do it right." His words really impacted me. These fears have caused me to delay following this dream for several years, but I'm not going to let them any longer.

If you've got a similar set of fears floating through your head, causing you not to act on something you'd like to accomplish in life, I'd encourage you to put them aside and follow your dream. I believe that even if you fail, it will have been worth the effort. 

It really Really REALLY is now or never.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Two Cat Ladies

There once were two women who loved cats.

Mary worked very hard, and when she was paid at the end of the month, she bought a cat.

Martha also worked very hard and at the end of the month, she bought a cat too.

Mary loved her cat so much that when she was paid at the end of the next month, she bought another cat.

Martha love her cat very much but when she was paid at the end of the next month, she bought a chicken.

Each month for many months, Mary bought more cats until her house was filled with them.

Each month for many months Martha bought more chickens, and soon Martha and her cat had more eggs than they could eat.

Mary had so many cats, she spent her entire paycheck buying cat food. 

Since Martha had extra eggs, she let some hatch, and the rest she sold at the market.

As the years passed, Mary grew old and weary, but she could not stop working or her cats would starve.

As the years passed, Martha made enough money selling eggs that she was able to buy a goat to milk.

Since her chickens kept laying eggs, Mary kept selling them, and eventually, she earned enough money to buy more goats.

The goats had kids which produced more milk and soon the woman had more milk than she and her cat could drink.

With the money she made selling eggs and milk, Martha started buying cows.

The cows gave milk and had calves and soon Martha had plenty of each, so she started selling those as well.

As the years passed, Martha grew old, but with the money she earned from her farm, she stopped working and spent the rest of her years buying a house full of cats.

Since there were plenty of eggs and milk and cheese and meat to eat and sell, they all feasted happily for the rest of their lives.

Monday, August 11, 2014

The nicest thing anyone has ever done for me.

Back in the summer of 2001 I was working for a repair shop. I don't fully remember the circumstances surrounding my situation but I remember I didn't have any money. My bank account was empty and there was nothing in my wallet. I'd even searched the couch cushions and there was nothing there either. I was flat broke.

Part of my job consisted of driving around town and delivering repair work to different stores. I drove my own car, and was paid for mileage, but it was Wednesday and I didn't get paid until Friday. I had enough gas to make the deliveries that day, but I knew I wouldn't have enough gas to get to work and make my deliveries for the rest of the week. I really didn't know what I was going to do. It sounds silly but it was one of the more desperate experiences in my life.

I was fairly new to the job so I didn't want to mention it to my boss. I'm sure my parents would have helped, but this was before the time of easy money transfers, and I wasn't in the habit of asking them for money anyway. Thinking about it now, I'm sure there were plenty of solutions, but nineteen year old me was pretty stuck and more than a little worried.

The worry must have shown on my face because my coworker, Jenna, asked what was up. I was hesitant but eventually I told her I was broke and wasn't sure how I was going to make it to Friday. She said something to the affect of "I hear you, I've been there myself," and then grabbed her purse and handed me a ten dollar bill. We hadn't worked together all that long and I barely knew her, so the gesture was completely unexpected.

I've been given a lot of nice things over the years and owe a lot of appreciation to a lot of people in my life, but that ten dollar bill, as meager as it may have been, was probably the most significant gift I have ever been given. It's hard to describe how big of a relief it was. It was a life line. No amount of money, before or since, has ever been as valuable to me. I put ten dollars worth of gas in my Ford Tempo that night and had plenty to get me around town the rest of the week. That Friday I got paid, and I've never allowed myself to get that broke again.

I doubt Jenna even remembers giving me the money, and I'm sure she never expected me to write about it thirteen years later. I haven't even seen her for eight or nine years but I doubt I'll ever forget what she did for me. If I ever do see her again, I'll make sure to thank her again.

I think it goes to show that even the smallest of actions can have a huge impact.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014


Derek Sivers wrote the following blog post in 2009 on I can't remember when I first read it, but I can tell you it changed my life profoundly. I still re-read it from time to time when I need a pick me up or a slap in the face. Enjoy...

When you hear someone complaining, here's what it means:

1. They know what's wrong, but don't realize they can change it. (They think they're powerless.)

2. They know what's wrong, but are too lazy to change it. (They'd rather sit and complain.)

On the personal side, being a friend, I hate this. Because it's a lot of work to make complainers realize they can change things. They always push back with all the reasons they can't, which just reinforces the two points above.

On the business side, being an entrepreneur, I love this. Because I know I'm powerful and can change anything. Because every complaint is an opportunity. It's fun to invent solutions to problems, turn ideas to reality, and watch my creations make the world a little better.

Then afterwards, on a personal note, I can say, “There! See? Told you it could change.”

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Marcus Aurelias

as translated by Gregory Hays:

At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: "I have to go to work — as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I'm going to do what I was born for — the things I was brought into the world to do? Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?"
— But it's nicer in here...
So you were born to feel "nice"? Instead of doing things and experiencing them? Don't you see the plants, the birds, the ants and spiders and bees going about their individual tasks, putting the world in order, as best they can? And you're not willing to do your job as a human being? Why aren't you running to do what your nature demands?
— But we have to sleep sometime...
Agreed. But nature set a limit on that — as it did on eating and drinking. And you're over the limit. You've had more than enough of that. But not of working. There you're still below your quota.
You don't love yourself enough. Or you'd love your nature too, and what it demands of you. People who love what they do wear themselves down doing it, they even forget to wash or eat. Do you have less respect for your own nature than the engraver does for engraving, the dancer for the dance, the miser for money or the social climber for status? When they're really possessed by what they do, they'd rather stop eating and sleeping than give up practicing their arts.
Is helping others less valuable to you? Not worth your effort?

Friday, July 25, 2014

Papa Joe

I've always wondered why I can't just be content with my job. By all standard measures I've got a great one. I make good pay, receive great benefits, and have a good boss. So why am I so unhappy with it? I used to think something was wrong with me and I should suck it up, but after last weekend, I finally understand my problem.

My grandpa was an Air Force pilot. 
This is the type of jet he flew.

Last weekend I had the opportunity to see it in action for the first time in my life.

I've always been proud that my grandpa was a pilot, but never knew much about the plane he flew. Witnessing his machine in action for the first time was eye opening to say the least. The F-80 ushered the Air Force into the jet age. It has a top speed of 600 miles per hour, a service ceiling of 41,000 feet, and a range of 1000 miles. Even cooler is that it looks like something out of Star Wars.


While not impressive compared to the super-sonic stealth jets of the modern day, for a short period of time, it was the cream of the crop, and it was my Grandpa's job to bring it back in one piece.

It takes a special type of person to fly a fighter jet. You've got to be quick, you've got to be smart, and you've got to be bold. In the early days, when the technology was new and unproven, you had to be especially bold. Flip through the pages of Grandpa's flight-school yearbook and you'll find notations next to the pilots who were killed in training accidents. There are close to a dozen. The dangers of the job were always present. In the end, it was a technological malfunction that ended Grandpa's flying days. While flying at a high altitude, his oxygen mask failed and rendered him hypoxic. Hypoxia is a condition where the brain is starved of oxygen and cannot function properly. To give you an idea of the effects of hypoxia, watch the following video.

I will admit it's pretty hilarious, but there's a reason pilots go through this training. Imagine trying to drive your car when you're too drunk to successfully identify a playing card. Now imagine trying to fly a jet in the same condition. As the effects took hold, Grandpa's plane began to fall out of the sky. His friend in another jet likely saved his life when he started yelling at him over the radio. It took a bit, but Grandpa regained consciousness, managed to control of his plane, and was able to land it safely. Unfortunately, the hypoxia was severe enough it had lasting effects and his flight career was cut short. Grandma said it was like they had taken away his child.

Last weekend, as I watched the F-80 pilot bank and curve his aircraft, the same kind of aircraft my Grandpa used to pilot when he was my age, I instantly understood my problem. I inherited the blood of a fighter pilot. 

I'll never be an actual fighter pilot. Poor vision nailed that coffin shut for me a long time ago. On the other hand, I know I wasn't made this way by mistake and I've got to do something to fulfill my nature. I'm tired of trying to squelch out things I feel are important in favor of things that are safer or more acceptable. I'm ready for a new challenge. I'm ready for a little danger. I'm ready to dive into something that requires me to be quick, smart, and bold, and I don't think I'll be content until I do so.

I only have a couple regrets in my life. One was that I didn't really get to know Papa Joe. He passed away from cancer when I was young. I remember his chuckle, I remember him grilling steaks, and I remember him taking us to the park in the Monte Carlo, but I don't remember any of his words. I don't remember talking to him. I would love to talk to him as an adult and hear his stories first hand.

I imagine he'd have a lot of good tips for living life as a fighter pilot without a fighter jet.

Thursday, July 17, 2014


Before you play the video below, take a look at the picture and try and guess what this musician sounds like.

Got it figured out? Good. Now play the video, even if only for 30 seconds .

If you're already familiar with Sam Smith, you probably weren't surprised by what you heard, but for those who were not, how did your expectations align with reality?

While he may have done nothing for you, I can honestly say it's been years since an artist has captivated my attention like Sam Smith has. When I first saw his picture on SNL, I assumed I was about to hear a Boy George clone. I had my hand on the track pad ready to skip to the next sketch... but then he opened his mouth and I got chills.

There are plenty of artists out there who sing better than Sam Smith and I could care less about them. Sam Smith is nowhere near my style of music. Why is he so captivating?

I think it's the same reason I'm captivated by Susan Boyle or Paddy & Nico on America's Got Talent. They're unexpected. 

If Usher or Justin Timberlake had been on SNL and sang the same song, I would have skipped ahead. R&B is not my style of music, but Sam Smith was so unexpected, I couldn't look away. Now I listen to his songs whenever they come on the radio. 

It's likely that this was all a well devised marketing scheme. Shock value is nothing new and probably overused to some extent. On the other hand, if a pleasant surprise was enough to get me, a guitarist and metal head of all people, to enjoy R&B, it's capable of anything, and I can use it to my advantage in building my business.

The concept is nothing new, I've just never looked at it this way before.

Thanks Sam.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Wrestling Gators

“I want to get more comfortable being uncomfortable. I want to get more confident being uncertain. I don’t want to shrink back just because something isn't easy. I want to push back, and make more room in the area between I can’t and I can.” - Kristin Armstrong

If you woke up one morning and there was an alligator at your front door, what would you do? 

You might try to shoo it away by yourself, or you might call the Gator Boys, but regardless of the method, priority number one is alligator removal.

I wake up with an alligator at my door every morning. I used to ignore him. I'd busy myself to take my mind off of him, but at the end of the day, there he was, right where I left him, waiting to bite me. 

One day I decided I'd had enough. It was a lot of work, but I wrestled the gator away from my door. The next morning when I woke up, he was there again, so I wrestled him away again. Day after day he showed up and day after day I wrestled him away. Eventually, after enough repetition, I had trained him not to come back. The alligator at my door was my own weight gain. Wrestling him meant eating better. Training him meant establishing good habits. Wrestling the alligator allowed me to lose 30 pounds and I've kept it off for more than 3 years now. 

These days I've got a lot of my alligators trained but new ones still show up every morning. They're the uncomfortable issues I need to address, the important tasks I need to accomplish, the actions that are uncomfortable but stimulate growth. Wrestling alligators is a lot of work, but ignoring them accomplishes nothing. 

Monday, July 7, 2014

Sometimes it doesn't work out.

I knew what I wanted to do with my life the day I wrapped my fingers around the neck of a guitar. I was 13, and from that point on, nothing else mattered. School, friends, sports; it all paled in comparison to the feeling I got from running pentatonic scales.

I practiced for 4 or 5 hours a day, sometimes longer. I started my first band when I was 17. We were pretty terrible but managed to get booked for a couple shows. I'll always remember the first time I got paid. We played a show on a farm for $60. I don't remember what I did with the money, but I'll never forget the check as it was placed in my hand. "You're a professional now," she said. 

I didn't put any thought into where I was going to college. All I wanted to do was start a band and tour, and I didn't need a degree to do that. I applied to one school and got accepted. Classes started but I barely paid attention. I was on the hunt for a band. The first group was promising and we won second place in a talent show, but split up after that. The next group was a lot more fun, and we played two gigs, but called it quits when summer break came. The third group was more of the real deal. We played about a dozen shows and even did a little traveling, but that band broke up as well. Then there was The Livingstons.

The idea for the band was sparked while trying to fix an antifreeze leak. Once we started practicing together, we didn't look back. Eventually we signed a management deal, changed our name to Fate of Angels, recorded an album with a Grammy winning producer, played hundreds of shows all over the country, opened for some big name acts, and then after seven years, we broke up. No record deal, no gold records, no money in our pockets.

That was five years ago and I've hardly played guitar since.

Sad story? Maybe. I was depressed for quite a while that it didn't work out the way I wanted. I believed with every fiber that it would, and I was wrong. On the other hand, I knew my chances of succeeding in the music business were slim but chose to go for it anyway, and I'm proud of that. I'm also proud of what we accomplished as a band even though the end results weren't what I hoped for. Those seven years were some of the best in my life.

The odds are always stacked against those who try to achieve greatness. Unfortunately, too many people fail at their first attempt and never try again. I fell into this camp for quite a while but I'm ready to give myself another shot. It's very possible I will fail, but I believe the bigger failure is not trying. 

Like Jared wrote in The Friction, "Throw-downs with this world are never easy to win. Nothing worthwhile in this life has ever been."