At heart I've wanted to be a 90's R&B singer since I was 8 years old discovering Boyz II Men, Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson, D'Angelo and more on my clock radio. With "Miss The Thought (Of Missing You)" I finally feel like I've pulled it off. In my own weird way of course. Life complete.
My band The Belief Cycle is launching a new weekly single series starting right now! Every Tuesday this Summer we will be releasing a new single. Our first offering is "Pressure Drop." This song represents a solid snapshot of what the TBC sound is about - an energetic celebration of overcoming life's struggles and having fun. We will explore other themes throughout this weekly series and our albums to follow but want to launch on this message.
I hope you'll take this ride with us. My usual blog posts will be moved to Thursdays now to make room for a weekly #TBCTuesdays announcement.
I’m feeling pretty great about life these days. Not for the stereotypical reasons our culture tells us we should be happy. I’m not currently what society would call living a “stable” or “successful” life. I’ve actually been much more those things in the past with lower results in happiness.
Why do I feel so good? I was thinking about it today. I decided it’s a balance of two ingredients: peace and discomfort. They seem mutually exclusive but in what I’m experiencing, they feed each other. I’ve spent a lot of the past too far in either direction. Too much discomfort, is a life of pain. Too much peace is also dangerous as it creates a (temporary) contentment that has made me lazy before.
The balance comes from learning that discomfort is the spark of growth. Growing brings me peace, even if the catalyst of that growth is painful. I also have daily practices in place (see this previous post) that keep me peaceful and stress-free despite spending plenty of time outside of my comfort zone. I’m working to spend more time uncomfortable. That’s where the growth is. Therefore, that’s where the peace is. Peace in doing a good job, peace in progress. Peace in process (see my post "Love The Process" ).
I call it "The Recoil." It's a form of self-doubt. Instead of the crippling doubt that keeps you from starting, it's the doubt that shows up to mess with you when you've been doing the thing. You've been putting in the work, pushing through fear and discomfort, staying consistent and believing in the mission for weeks without incident.
But one day you question yourself. Sometimes so severely that it threatens to halt everything you've been working towards. You want to quit. Last week I recoiled over my social media presence. In a commitment to put myself out there I've been ramping up my amount of daily social content. It's been going well. But last week the doubt hit me hard. I scaled back to bare minimum content. Last Tuesday's blog post was short, I didn't want to do it. My new vlog series which started out at an every other day frequency came to an almost complete halt last week. I haven't committed to a release schedule yet for my vlogs like I have for this blog, so I copped out since I haven't obligated myself.
It's a new week and I'm back. I let doubt get the best of me, BUT I did one thing that was the saving grace during this slip up - I didn't stop creating the content. I did slow my role on releasing it, but I still shot vlog footage. I still wrote songs daily. Now that I've recovered from vulnerability overload, I've got the content ready to resume at full tilt. This is my suggestion to you when you experience The Recoil (which I think we all will when putting ourselves out there) - keep doing the work. Give yourself a few days to recover from the wear and tear of building an audience but keep the work coming.
May your next recoil be brief!
As we grow in experience and skill, being a novice becomes a distant memory. We've been doing what we do so long we don't even remember what life was like before.
Recent experience suggests - relearn what it is to be a beginner. Try new things, gain new experiences from the perspective of the struggling learner. Even more importantly, reinvent your core strengths by adding new dimensions to them. It all starts with the uncomfortable.
I'm not everyone's type of person. Not most people's type maybe. That outsider feeling has been the biggest source of deep pain in my life and I've felt it for the majority of my time here. Not anymore. I've been free of it for about a year and I'll never go back. For the first time in my life everything I do with my time is 100% authentic to me.
That means for you that I might ask you to listen to my new music and come to my shows. That ask might annoy you. You may prefer rap music that I produce or music that I've made in the past over the The Belief Cycle, my new band. I may use curse words online or in situations you're not comfortable with. I may wear shirts less often than you're comfortable with. Maybe you think the inspirational memes and blogs I post are lame.
If these types of things offend you, you can leave. My online presence and/or my actual life. It doesn't matter if we're blood, old friends, colleagues, whatever. I'm not going to be anything but me and if me doesn't work for you, bye and thanks for the time we spent together in any capacity. And if someday you decide maybe I'm not so bad, I welcome you back into my life without judgement or resentment. I've got plenty of love surrounding me and my capacity to give love is growing everyday. Take part in that when you feel like it, leave when you don't and return with no shame if you change your mind.
I've already had and lost everything I'd ever wanted (I had small aspirations). When I faced the empty space that was my life, for once I saw the potential. The emptiness was limitless but that meant there was limitless room to occupy it with whatever I liked. I began to see my life up to that point had been assembled through happenstance, not design.
Tim Ferriss coined the term "lifestyle design" in his best-selling book "The 4-Hour Workweek." Such a simple idea, yet a life-changing concept. We live in such freedom and abundance that it's a shame many of us don't use it to design our own lives. Yes we may get the job, house, spouse of our dreams but how many of us are spending the majority of our time exactly how we'd like? We should decide how we want to spend our days and build a life around that. How many of us get a job that wasn't even our first choice then build our life around that?
For the past year I've been discovering my design for the perfect day. In 2017, I'm restructuring my life around that. I've got nothing to lose. I understand if the stakes are dug in deeper in your life. Whoever you are and what your situation is, I hope you'll take some time to at least fantasize about how you would design your life if you could do whatever you wanted with it. You may find some of your ideas are more achievable than you'd expect.
Design your life! I'll keep you updated on how my design is playing out.
I've always been obsessed with being an original. That obsession often leaves one too far on the fringes. We can only deviate from the norm so far before we're out of touch. Originality is great. Originality is rewarded. What I've found in my pursuit of it is that, like many things, the more you chase it the further from it you tend to get. I've come to find the most direct path towards originality is to take another path altogether.
Authenticity. Forget the pursuit of originality altogether and embrace what's true to yourself. This may be the ultimate shortcut to originality. Even the world's biggest conformist is a one-off. None of us are the same, even those of us that try to hide their uniqueness in exchange for a warm spot around the campfire in society's comfort zone. If you explore what is authentic to you and express it vulnerably, you automatically set yourself apart and do so naturally.
The sequel to my previous post The Third Day
In the past couple weeks I've messed up with my productivity level and my diet. I've still accomplished a lot but not to my typical level and not on par with the size of my goals. I've still worked out everyday but my diet has been a shit show.
I fell off.
We all do sometimes. And it's time for me to get back on.
Maybe there are some super humans and robots out there, but I think most of us slip up. On our diets, our work, our addictions. . . How do we get back with the program? I've fallen off the wagon plenty of times, but I never make a life out of it, I always come back. Here are some ideas on getting back on when you've messed up your goals.
-Don't mess up more than 2 days in a row. Day One is mistake, Day Two is a problem, Day Three is a lifestyle.
-Don't beat yourself up. You don't want to be so soft on yourself that you have no self discipline, but you also don't want to be so hard on yourself that you're mentally tortured. Be tough on yourself but acknowledge that you're human and have compassion for inevitable mistakes.
-Have a buddy that can encourage you to do better. Possibly also someone that can administer a healthy level of tough love.
-Remember why you started pursuing your goal in the first place. Visualize what got you started and visualize what it will be like to achieve your goal.
-Recognize the cravings that try to pull you further and further from your goal. They get intensified when you slip up, remind yourself of that and prepare to face their heightened levels.
-If you're trying to stop a bad habit, replace it with a better one. You can redirect that habit into something more aligned with your goals.
Don't let weeks, months or years pass not going for the goal because you've made a mistake. Hopefully you've found something here that will help you get back up faster next time you fall.
Author Seth Godin is one of my favorite sources of inspiration. I highly recommend any of his books. Seth's book on my mind currently is "The Dip." This is one of his shortest and simplest offerings, but the concept is essential.
As illustrated, the dip the part of any journey when you've lost the initial traction of being a beginner and your efforts are stretched thinner. Another great author, Brene Brown, calls this "the dark middle" and adds that the middle or the dip is the point of no return. The point where you can quit but you can never go back to who and where you were before you stepped into the darkness. It's a scary place to be.
What is Seth Godin's advice on the dip? First he recommends being aware enough to recognize if you're in a dip or a culdesac. A culdesac doesn't have the rise at the end, it's a perpetual state of rising effort with diminishing returns. If you can identify that you're in a culdesac, Seth recommends quitting that course of action no matter how much you've previously invested in it.
If you are certain that you are in fact facing a dip, Seth suggests two paths.
Why could quitting be the right answer? Overcoming the dip is such a difficult period of undetermined length that you must have true desire for what lies on the other side.
If you for sure want what is on the other side of the dip, then Seth Godin's "The Dip" is a reminder to keep running even though you have no idea how far away the finish line is. Seth wants to remind you to "never quit something with long-term potential just because you can't deal with the stress of the moment."
If you're like me, riding the dip, I wish you the best of luck and hope Seth Godin's simple concept will help keep you on your path.
"What? You told me this was a positive blog." It is, stick with me. I want to share with you what I think may be a unique perspective on nihilism. Along with my many positive beliefs in life I also believe that life is meaningless. I actually consider that amongst my most positive beliefs.
We are each a grain of sand on an infinite beach. Probably more like a particle 1/1,000,000 of the size of a grain of sand on an infinite beach. Will history miss us? Even those of us that make a significant impact on human history will not be missed for human history has little place in the infinite timeline. We can try and imprint ourselves with Religious meaning or tell ourselves that fame makes us immortal but the truth remains - life is meaningless.
Feeling depressed? Please don't! Here's where I put the positive perspective on it. I do believe that life is meaningless. But here's where the beauty of humanity comes into play. Through some happenstance of the universe or maybe the benevolence of a god, we have reason. With that reason we can ascribe meaning to anything we want. Living an inherently meaningless life with our cognitive powers allows us to create whatever purpose for our lives that we want.
Why create purpose when life is meaningless? Because whether it's all bullshit or not, our consciousness is all we know. Our entire life experience is filtered through it and we walk amongst billions of other humans having the same experience. Regardless of the cosmic insignificance we face, we have each other to face it with. At least I choose to have connection to others as part of my purpose.
We each have our own unique consciousness that desires unique experiences from life. Let no Earthly consequences hold you back from creating and executing a purpose that brings your consciousness fulfillment. That's the great power each human holds.
I'm becoming more comfortable with dramatic change than I am upholding the status quo of my life.
Hindsight reveals the beauty and growth in my life are developments of big change (which involves temporary pain and stress) while constant pain and stress have been the result of fighting to hold onto a comfortable norm. We can commit to facing the temporary pains of change or we can commit to the constantly bubbling pain of avoiding change. We face pain either way, we may as well use pain as a vehicle to take us onto our next adventure.
The Change Manifesto by Adriane de Bonvosin
-change is a good thing
-change is a part of life and happens to everyone
-change is an opportunity for me to grow
-change always means that something good is around the corner
-change brings seeds of new beginnings and different ways of living life
-change brings new people, new opportunities, and new perspectives
-change reminds me that I am not in control of many things that happen and reminds me to let go and surrender a little more to life
-change helps me strengthen my change muscle- my self-reliance, inner fortitude, and inner faith that I can handle anything
-change allows me to learn and understand something new
-change reveals another aspect of my personality
-change is never a punishment; it is always an opportunity to connect with what's inside me
-change allows me to choose how I want to react to something that has happened - by accepting or resisting it
-change helps me find my higher self - the part of me that is always there, that doesn't change. Life's unpredictability becomes inifinitely easier when I connect with that part of myself
-change wants me to acknowledge it, understand it, embrace it, and then integrate it into my life and identity
-change is always on my side. It exists to serve me, teach lessons and help me embrace life's mysteries
I used to be self-absorbed. Now I'm self-centered. While neither one of those is a perfect state of being, to me one is far and above better than the other. To me they are not synonyms.
I was self-absorbed.
It's not that I didn't care about anyone. I was just of little help to them emotionally or otherwise. I was too absorbed in the amount of energy it took just to get out of bed, make it through the day. Surviving a day in the torture chamber of my own mind was too taxing, I had no currency left to give anyone else. I also had rock bottom levels of self-love. It's difficult to properly express your love to the outside world when there's none inside.
I'm now self-centered.
How is this a better way of life? The shift to self-centeredness fixed the most major flaw of my self-absorption. By focusing on bettering myself, I grew the resources to be of service to others. The more self-centered the more I become equipped to help others. The more I help others, the more I get in return. Serving others is serving yourself.
My self-centered living also grows my compassion more and more each day. Facing the darkest parts of myself and purposefully exposing myself to discomfort would be impossible without also growing my self-compassion and self-love. By extending myself kindness I become more focused on kindness and compassion for others. I'm trying to give everyone the most generous assumption about their behavior that I can these days. Trying to assume they're doing the best they can right now.
Because I make mistakes. Because I try things that don't work. Because I used to behave in ways I never would now because I was pain. Sadly I believe a lot of us are in pain and that's now often the most generous assumption I can give - "that person much be in a lot of pain to be behaving that way."
I think the message here need not be long to get across. I believe the message is this - Focus more on truly bettering yourself from the inside out and you'll see you have more to give this world than you ever thought you could.
In Steven Pressfield's legendary work, "The War of Art," he introduced the concept of "The Resistance." As simply defined as possible, The Resistance is self-sabotage, that inner voice that tells you all the reasons why you shouldn't. The Resistance is the part in all of our minds that hates change. We fool ourselves, by living in a technological global society into thinking that we've evolved. We forget we live with a brain that predates the world we live in by thousands of years. Our brains weren't designed for our comfortable modern lifestyle. Our brains were designed to survive and procreate. While you know that a decision will change your life for the better, you fear making the decision because your brain can't stand the idea of your circumstances changing. Your brain doesn't care if you're happy, fulfilled and creative, it cares if what you're doing hasn't killed you yet. If you're reading this blog, you've made choices that have kept you alive this long. Unless you're a ghost with internet access. If you're the latter, please email me - I have questions.
Changing the behavioral patterns your brain has come to accept as your life forces your brain to face the unknown. To your primal brain, that may as well be a death threat. This is why your brain will fight you every step of the way even as you change for the better. Don't let the term "art" throw you off about this war. The Resistance battles all forms of change, creativity, accomplishment and enlightenment.
I'm not here to explain Pressfield's whole book to you, though I'd like to. You should read it, even if you don't consider what you do with your time "art." What I intend to share today is my recent experience with The Resistance and the reminder it gave me. I face each new day with The Resistance on my mind and have several daily practices (see previous post) in place to keep me out in front of it. Being alert to your enemy's presence doesn't prevent attack it turns out.
The Resistance came for me hard this weekend. I knew instantly it's presence, yet I lost the battle for two full days of junk food (drugs), TV (drugs), drugs (drugs) and work scheduled too tightly (drugs). I gave in Saturday and despite having no intention to veer off course on Sunday, The Superbowl was a wonderful distraction. Even on this Monday as I write, everything in me says "STOP!" It feels as though there are brake pads grinding against my joints, attempting to halt all forward momentum. But to digress for a third day is absolutely out of the question. This is the reminder the weekend's defeat illustrates - one day is a slip up, two days is a problem, three days becomes a lifestyle.
Whatever your pursuit, falling off the wagon happens. You must be skilled in hopping back on. Sometimes you give yourself a day. Sometimes things get ugly for two. Never let that third day happen. New Year's resolutions die on that third day (approximately January 18th). Lifelong habits start on that third day. In my story, there came a third day when I stopped booking shows for my last band, now six years later I use my brand new band The Belief Cycle to fight The Resistance. Day after day, until the end of my time. Good luck in your fight, hope this helps.
The following is a list of things I've done everyday thus far in 2017 to reach a lifetime peak of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. Hopefully you don't need as wide a set of rituals to stay centered as I do and any of these practices alone or in combination will improve your life - IF you commit to doing it/them everyday without fail. I can't stress enough that the daily commitment offers at least 10X the results that dabbling will. Some of these have almost zero effectiveness if done without daily commitment. Here we go, in no particular order.
1. Exercise - There are so many ways to do this and as little as 15 minutes a day can make a huge difference. If you're not sure what to do, YouTube is your friend. You can find guided workouts of any length with or without weights for free on YouTube. I recommend kettlebells to anyone, from someone looking for basic fitness to someone with intention to get pumped. If you're a beginner, grab a 20 pound kettlebell from Target or order online and search "10 minute kettlebell workout" on YouTube to start your daily journey.
2. Walk - This could be your form of exercise or in addition to other training. I give it a list item of its own because it transcends exercise purposes. Getting fresh air, being amongst nature or your neighbors should be a part of anyone's day. If only for 10 minutes. To extend the length of my walks I spend part of the time taking in the environment and the rest as some combination of listening to music, phone calls, text messages, emails and reading. Yes, I've developed a strange practice of reading while walking. BE CAREFUL. I can't recommend the read/walk unless you can simultaneously stay aware of your surroundings and do it in a familiar, low traffic area. I walk rain or shine, any season for as long as 3 hours.
3. Read - As mentioned above, reading is essential to me. At least an hour per day. I'm almost exclusively nonfiction but I think any type of reading will do as it challenges you in some way, making your mind work. Bundle this with walking, train rides, treadmills, flights, whenever and wherever you can. I also read daily a growing document where I have collected important quotes, sayings, ideas and memories that I want to be reminded of daily. I have typed out in detail memories that make me feel how I want to feel everyday and I take a few minutes while reading my document to read them and (3b.) Visualize them in my head. I recall the moment as vividly as possible with as many of my senses as possible, more than just sight. I've shared a draft of this in an earlier blog post with my personal information taken out. I will eventually create a template for you to create your own, but you should check out this early version.
4. Meditate - If you get stuck on the airy fairy term that is "meditation," let me put it for you in more relatable terms. When you take time to be quiet and alone with your thoughts, you're exercising your calm muscles. As your calm muscles become stronger, you become less reactive in potentially stressful situations. The deeper your practice grows the less often you'll feel the rising of your heartbeat, the heat in your face, the tension in your neck when unfavorable moments meet your day and you'll be able to take some extra moments to react in a more favorable manner. If you have no idea where to start, check out Headspace app on your phone to get started with 10 minutes a day.
5. Write - I freewrite in a journal at the start of each day and also answer some prompts such as "What are 3 things to be grateful for today?" There are so many ways to go about this. My freewriting portion is simply jotting whatever is on my mind for a page or so and the prompts I answer are from The Five Minute Journal.
6. Practice - This slot varies by whatever your passion or field of expertise is. I'm committed to growth as a songwriter, so I find it imperative that I write a song idea everyday. A basic instrumental with a verse or hook worth of vocals, sometimes something that I must take the time to flesh out into a full song right away. Some days the ideas are garbage, most days they're whatever, and somedays they're my best work and something I will record and perform on stage. Take time daily to hone your craft and remove results-based thinking and judgement. Create whatever is on your mind and if it sucks, you don't have to release it. You're just one repetition closer to your next great creation you want to share with the world.
7. Sleep - If these were in order of importance, this would be the undisputed #1 slot. 7-10 hours of sleep is hands down the biggest factor I've found in my life for wellness and there's science to back it up. It's so important that I've scheduled my days so I can wake up without an alarm. I allow my body as much sleep as it likes. The effects on mood, clarity, fitness, appearance, productivity and more are dramatic.
Whole wellness is my #1 focus in life currently, nothing outranks this to-do list. I don't think I'll always be able to allot so much time to these (they currently take 60% of my time, including sleep) but doing the full-length versions for awhile is essential. Just as I learned to control my weight by obsessively counting calories, taking measurements and weighing myself for a period of months to grow an internalized knowledge. Now I do none of those things, maintaining my weight is second nature and leaning out or bulking up are easy adjustments if I want to make a visual change. This is the status I hope to achieve in time with my wellness rituals.
I hope you can adopt something from this list to make your days better.
Accept that by disconnecting from that which doesn’t inspire you will make room for that which does.
It’s easy to fall into scarcity. Our culture promotes it. Our friends and families reenforce it. The idea that we should be thankful for what we have (we should) and hold onto all of it (maybe we shouldn’t). Whether it be physical belongings, relationships, or habits, we must clear space from the unimportant to make more room for the important. Even when the important isn’t currently clear. Knowing what belongings, relationships and habits aren’t important puts us further on the path to opening up what is important.
This process can be liberating. It can be painful. It can be clumsy.
It can be all of the above.
Leave behind scarcity thinking and embrace abundance. There’s enough to go around. You’re not in this life fighting for your finite love and resources. The opportunities for more, for new are abundant. Make room for them, become the you that already has them and prepare for them to enter your life.
Our first 2,000 plays on our first song release! We've got further to go, I know it. Let's take it to the millions. I'm overjoyed with the number of people that have reached out to let me know the message was received and meant something to them.
From these humble beginnings we're going to build a network of the like-minded and show people that power isn't in what our culture promotes - status, money, consumption, politics, emotionless grind. True power is accepting the vulnerability of sharing all of your authentic self- your joy, your pain and your love with the world. Power to the people. True power.
“Celebrate” is a solid synopsis of The Belief Cycle sound and specifically celebrates the return to my most authentic musical roots and my triumph over the anxiety, depression and distractions that had led to me putting down my singer songwriter ambitions for years. I hope The Belief Cycle can spread good vibes into the world and inspire listeners to break through their own personal roadblocks to pursue their dreams.