Reaching A Higher Level: Understand That Life Has “Layers” And “Seasons”

In order to reach a higher level at any Art, skill, Craft, Vision, stage of life, or Way of Being than one is currently at, one must have the discipline to “chunk away” at it, every day, until that higher level is reached.

I have a theory that this discipline doesn’t originate in a vacuum. I believe that it comes from a burning or insatiable desire to continue this process even through times of seeing few to no results. There must be a Light At The End Of The Tunnel, a strong feeling of what it would be like to get there, accompanied by a sense that one must Get There at all costs.

This feeling must be strong enough to last through disappointments, plateaus, and any forms of Resistance. It must represent a pull towards the Higher Level, one that overrides what Stephen Pressfield calls “lower natures”.

Whoever is on this path understands that, to go from the current level to the Higher Level could take an uncomfortably long amount of time. Furthermore, they would have to have the mentality of “chunking away” every single day. This part is especially important – the best way to build momentum when working towards a Higher Level is to take no days off.

None of this is overwhelming to the person truly on the path. He or she knows what she wants, and he or she is okay with never stopping.

Now here comes the “Big But”: but what if this feeling isn’t present? But what if the direction is unclear? But what if the desire is not so fiery?

Well, then, maybe the context needs to be re-examined. If that fire in the belly just isn’t there, if no path is visible, then maybe it makes sense to not be so concerned about that Higher Level.

Yes, human beings are built to evolve, to reach fuller and fuller versions of our potential. But what if this process was not always an active one? What if it unfolded in seasons, and there were seasons when specific action should be taken, and seasons when less action is better?

For anyone thinking about Visions and Higher Levels and evolution, it might seem counterintuitive to consider that to not have a plan could be a feasible way of doing things. But Life, like an onion, is a many-layered thing. Just because action is not being taken within one’s idea of the Art, skill, Craft, or Vision, does not mean action can’t be taken in other areas. There is a time to take action in non-Craft related areas, just as there is a time to focus on the Craft and let everything else fall by the wayside.

Maybe the best time to get down to the nitty gritty stuff that all Artists hate but that we must all face and do at some point is when we are not really feeling the grind. What if the Craft were just one layer in the onion, rather than the onion itself?

Yes, discipline is essential. Yes, it’s important to not skip a day. But what may be even more important is understanding that Life is Life. Sometimes it does make sense to stop, and trust that something will rush in to fill the void – for a season.

How To Engage

A couple of blog posts ago, I defined the Impresario as someone who engages with life. It can really be anyone, regardless of whether that person identifies with herself as an “Artist” or not. If she is truly engaging, she is an Impresario.

OK, what does it mean to “engage with life”?

Everyone is at whatever stage they’re at. Built into our human neurology is a drive to become better – to get from where we’re at to another, higher level. I touched a bit on this on the last post with the idea of evolution.

I suppose to “engage with life” would mean to consciously be doing the actions needed to get to this next level of consciousness. This could be interpreted in a variety of different ways, but I think generally could boil down to the following:

1) Noticing.

2) Acting.

3) Sharing.

The Impresario knows where she’s at. She knows where she’s ahead of the game, and which areas could stand a little more attention. She then decides to Act – to design her life in such a way that allows for her personal and creative growth, whatever that looks like to her. Finally, she shares this with the outside world.

It’s this last bit that I am most interested in, because it’s how an Impresario shares her work that truly defines her. The true Impresario takes advantage of every outlet possible, from physical venues to social media networks. This means that there are now hundreds, or thousands, of ways to Share.

It makes sense to the Impresario that to have the greatest effect on the world, she should reach as many people as possible. And all Impresarios want to have a big effect on the world. We’ve all heard pocketbook sayings like “A journey starts with a single step,” or “Change yourself, change your world”. But these sentiments aren’t enough anymore. Not for the Impresario.

The Impresario of course wants to change herself. She wants to change the world. But, above all, she wants to share this change with others. She wants to give, she wants to inspire, she wants to tell her story. And when she does this, when she engages with the people in her world, that’s when she can truly change everything.


Proof of God

Sometimes I have to remind myself how little my thoughts have to do with reality. And, of course, when I’m tired, my thoughts have even less to do with reality than usual.

It can be odd to disassociate oneself from such a seemingly real experience. But really, once self-awareness comes up, that’s exactly what we start doing, isn’t it? We are forced to start peeling off our thoughts, which have somehow stuck themselves onto the way things are. And through the tinted glasses of Thought, the way things are often show up distorted.

It seems to me that if there is any proof of God, self-awareness must be it. Once we become aware that we are, in fact, human – that, for example, humans have a tendency to make predictions based on past events – we are distancing ourselves from ourselves. This is how the Universe evolves, or becomes more conscious. And if that’s not God, I don’t know what is.

The trouble is, we’re not always in this miraculous state of consciousness-evolution. Most of the time, we’re caught up in Thoughts. And as I’ve already pointed out, Thoughts make it quite difficult to see the forest for the trees.

Our brain is inestimably powerful. Just pick up any book on neuroscience or psychology and you’ll see the countless scientific and practical cases of just how much in our lives and our world is affected by this piece of flesh in our heads. Our brain can serve us, or it can sabotage us. It can help us to see reality, or it can drive us into the Ditch of Distortion.

I really don’t know where Thoughts come from any more than I understand how the human brain works. But the best part of all of this is that we have a built-in system that allows us to acknowledge when we’re being tricked. And sometimes all it takes is noticing.

Why My Kickstarter Failed: Thoughts on Transparency, D.I.Y., and Evolution, pt. 1 [subtext: You Don’t Have To Read All This Nonsense, But You Totally Should :)]

Well, here we go. Another blog entry… this one will be kind of stream of consciousness, so I hope you don’t mind!

Where do I start? Well, as some of you already know, I am in the midst of moving to Nashville. Yes, this is exciting! Yes, I am not finished moving out of my Old Louisville apartment (still a few boxes full of random items and food that I may or may not keep…anyone want a decent-sized TV? A decorative tree? A nifty lamp?). Yes, my financial assets are…limited (that’s putting it lightly). But I am doing it, I am taking the step, and you know what, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little scared…but courage is feeling the fear and doing it anyway!

As I take a brief repose from the mind-scrambling chaos of moving, I thought I would take a moment to reflect, in a public blog, my thoughts on a few topics having to do with Music and Life In General, given recent events of my career and the direction I see the music industry going. I am, as are all my fellow indie musician friends, an entrepreneur. Being an entrepreneur means so many things in today’s…market, industry, whatever you choose to call it. It’s a rush. I mean, a real trip. The ultimate freakout. An amazing miracle, but also a hair-tearing plague of blogs, vlogs, tweets, feeds, syncs, apps, and iEverything.

What exactly am I talking about here? Well, if you are reading this, you already have the first part of the answer. This blog is itself part of My Musical Image. And, by God, we all have an Image to uphold! Not just musicians. Butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers. We’re all part of the same playing field now…it’s called the Internet. Forget about playing for a crowd of living, breathing people who could, through a thing called word of mouth, spread word of your name to other living, breathing people . Those things are so forty years ago. Now everyone’s measured by the same criteria: how well can you manage your online profile? How often do you update that blog? How many videos you got on your YouTube channel? What’s your Facebook? What’s your Twitter? Are you LinkedIn? Google+? Tumblr?  Oh, don’t worry, they have an app for all those that you can download on your iPhone (OK, OK, some people still use Droids…). And yes, you need to be updating all those CONSTANTLY. That’s called an INTERNET PRESENCE. If you don’t have it, you ain’t doin’ nothin’.

Am I ranting? Perhaps. Nonetheless, this has been on my mind. There’s no denying that the music business has mutated so insanely that if anything in the biological world were to resemble it, it would be some sort of life form that would suck all other life forms into its ever-expanding…too weird? Yeah, I’ll leave that one alone.

The bottom line is that if you are one of those courageous, insane souls who want to support themselves with an independent, autonomous business, one that you create yourself, if you are of the league of superhumans called Entrepreneurs, well, you are not a normal person. You have chosen a path of infinite discipline, samurai-like dedication, and newsfeed updating. And, ON TOP OF THAT, you must be creative.

Now, if you’re still reading–which I doubt, and if you gave up at the second paragraph I don’t blame you–if you’ve made it this far, please allow me to beseech you to hear me out and not dismiss this entry as overly cynical or negative! I’m sure I’m echoing the frustrations of countless other young, ambitious entrepreneurs who are indignantly sitting on their blogs and social networks, wondering what their next move should be, their next clever Facebook quip or funny Tweet, their next career-launching blog or vlog post. And I’m here to tell them, if God willing you should be one of them, I’M ONE OF YOU! I too am frustrated, I too am stressed, I too am wondering what the hell will become of me and my art, which I don’t even understand anymore. BUT, lest that last bit carried an undercurrent of hopelessness, I am NOT GIVING UP! Which brings me to the topic of Transparency.

Everything I have just issued forth onto this public display is my honest thoughts and feelings on a matter I consider to be very important in this day and age. True, there are streaks of frustration and cynicism, but that is because, truthfully, I am a little frustrated and cynical! I’m not going to pretend that I like everything about what the music business demands today from us “indie artists.” Truthfully, I think it’s obnoxious–to be on a constant Internet vigil when our first concern should be making the best music we can. HOWEVER, I also recognize the necessity of this change. The music industry is “not what it used to be” because, well, “things ain’t what they used to be.” But I’m allowed to complain about it, aren’t I? And let’s face it: I’m complaining about it because I’m not very good at it!

This is what I’m talking about with Transparency…the idea that you can tell the world (and when you post something online you effectively are telling the world), that you suck at something…and have that be OK. And the more research I do into this whole entrepreneurship thing, the more I realize that part of it is being transparent, being honest and forthright about your strengths and weaknesses.

As you call can see from the previous blog entry, I recently launched a Kickstarter to raise money for my debut album. You can check it out here:  I did it with the attitude of, “OK, let’s see what happens.” I did all the necessary arrangements: made a video, wrote up a Story, prepared awards according to the various pledge amounts, and posted some YouTube videos encouraging people to check out the Campaign. I even spent a whole day learning how to organize a “Facebook Contest” in order to spread the word. Things were off to a good start, I got some generous donations from the get-go…but then I got busy with other things, I went up to Hershey Pennsylvania the second week of April for an APCA conference, and, well, I kind of got lazy. The YouTube videos started to get fewer and further between. My blog started to collect dust. I stopped sending out mass emails to the Mailing List I had spent hours putting together. And, of course, my project was not funded.

Lots of factors could have gone into the Campaign falling short of its goal: asking for a bit too much money given my current fan base, not consistent enough reminders through social networks, blogs, and YouTube, and a general lack of communication on my part. I can even recall some specific examples where some folks had intended to donate money, but did not do so immediately and when they checked back the Campaign was already over (I only gave 30 days for the Campaign). Another thing was that I probably did not put forth sufficient effort in the month leading up to the Kickstarter launch…the preparation was most likely not thorough, and I had even read that it’s the most important part of the entire process.

I recognize all these things, but I think the MAIN ISSUE (I don’t like that word, but whatever) was simply that I SUCK AT SOCIAL MEDIA. I really am not very good at these things, and I believe that is because I don’t really like them all that much. Or at least, didn’t. I felt myself growing frustrated, even dreading putting up another video, writing another blog, sending another email, always reminding, reminding, reminding. I lost the WILLINGNESS because of the way I felt about the whole concept.

Looking back, I know that I was really shying away from my responsibilities, and I hope that anybody reading this who has a similar dream (other frustrated entrepreneurs) can learn from my mistakes. As a solo artist in today’s “dog-eat-dog” music world, you HAVE to follow through with your intentions with the utmost…well, intent. Whether we like it or not, we have an image to uphold. We have a pic to upload (and it had better be high-definition, formatted correctly for whatever uploader the site provides…most vectorized images can be resized with no decrease in image quality). We have blogs to write, videos to make, and Tweets to Tweet. Like it or not, this is what is going on–this is what the business has become. And so now, more than ever, we are mercilessly scrutinized for our accountability, our consistency, and our transparency…because such things are a mere click away!

What is happening here is actually quite a bit more than updating some cyber space. Because of all we entrepreneurs are expected to do, we are actually forced to redesign our lives: to learn time management, how to manage our personal and business finances, how to be somebody that people like (sorry, but in the words of my good friend and fellow musician Zach Longoria, “half of this business is getting people to like you”), how to create our very own brand, and how to organize a devoted team of people who believe in you enough to gather the resources to make your inconvenient dream happen. So, we literally have to change the way we live our lives. We can’t just sit around and write music and hope that some major record label discovers us anymore. We are the label. And so along with the music business, we are evolving. What is happening here is evolution in action. As we develop the new skills and habits needed to navigate this ever-changing industry and so survive, our neural pathways in our brains are forming new connections and yeah, all that stuff you read about in the Talent Code. Which, to me, is no less than evolution. We as human beings have the unique ability to consciously evolve simply by making decisions in our lives. The more decisions we make, the more failures and successes (mostly failures), the more we change as people, the more we evolve.

So that’s why I think this whole big ridiculous thing that’s happening right now is just part of a massive shift in consciousness. Because in order to survive as artists (which is what we all essentially are if we want to live our own lives), we simply MUST evolve. And we must do it together. That’s called Interdependence. And I’m sure I’ll talk about that in the next installment, along with elaborations on the above ideas. This is after all, a pretty big…something.

Whew! That was long. That’s all for now. Happy Evolving!