Sunday, March 21, 2010

Time as An Asset

What is the one thing all people claim to not have enough of? Would you say time? Some would say money, but that's a whole other discussion for another time and place.

I often wonder why it sometimes takes us most of or 75% of our lifetime to figure out what we love to do and have the time to do that. Why not choose to do that now and make the time to do the thing (s) you love? Why do we Americans wait until retirement to pursue our passions?

My life pursuit is to make the time to do the things that I'm passionate about. My job is a day job, and nothing more. That doesn't mean that I don't give it my all for that time being, but it also means that's not where my passion lies. I play music, I write, and I create. Those are my passions. I have ways of tying those obsessions in to my job as well. Remember, I'm creative and get creative where need be. :-)

I made a commitment to myself early on that I would never look back on my life and say I wish I had done this or that. I am traveling the world, I'm playing music almost full time, I'm writing and getting paid for it, and have a great group of friends and family. All big goals in my life that I'm attaining or exceeding in my wildest dreams. Life is good.

That doesn't mean that there isn't room for improvement. I would love to play music full time and make a living completely from doing it and it alone, but we'll see what the future has in store for me. I am working very hard to attain that goal. I love the challenge of continually creating, challenging my norm, learning, growing, and progressing as a human being. I'm continually inspired by some incredible people and one lately that got my creative juices going and got me off my duff was the book, "The War of Art." It asks the reader the question, "Why are you not doing what you love?" To paraphrase one of the most powerful lines in the whole book, "If you're not doing what your most passionate about and were born to do, you're not being fair to yourself or anyone else." Imagine if we all created and were doing what we were born to do...Powerful stuff. How many artists are out there that have never fully developed their craft? How many composers exist that work 60 hours at a factory and can't perform? How many wonderful cooks spend time in their family kitchen and wow everyone that comes in contact with their creations? I ask this stuff of myself constantly and like to challenge the status quo with regard to standards, norms, and societal barriers.

What inspires you and why aren't you doing it (unless you are, in which case, keep on keepin' on brother or sister!)?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Art and It's Place in Our Culture

I'm going to wax philosophical today; simply because I feel like life is making me really contemplate this stuff. I just finished reading the wonderful book entitled "The War of Art," written by Steven Pressfield. It's a great way to self reflect and begin to understand the creative individual, whether that be yourself or someone else. Essentially, it's a great book to get you off your butt and in to action. To stop procrastinating and do what you were meant to do.

I have to admit that I inherently like books like this because I, for some reason, I occasionally need self validation with my endeavors in the arts. Anymore, it's so uncommon to meet other individuals that are completely consumed with their artistic work. To find a full time musician/artist/writer that isn't living in New York, Nashville, or LA is uncommon, if not challenging to find. Most musicians and artists that I know have to supplement their artistic side with a day job or side gigs that help pay the bills. I'm this way as well. It doesn't mean that I lose focus or put music/writing/art on the back burner, it just means that I have health benefits and a pay check that affords food on the table and a roof over my head.

Getting back to the topic at hand: finding our true calling is what I'm encouraging all of us humans to do. What if everyone that we encountered in our life was doing what they were meant to do? Would people be happier? Would we all get along? Would the world be a better place? Would we have wars? Tough questions to answer, but I think overall, people would be happier and more fulfilled. I don't think we would have a culture that values monetary things, material wants, and plastic surgery. We would value things like: how great our meal was, or how wonderful an art show happened to be, or how we can't wait to play music with our friends, etc. Not saying that we can't value that stuff now and really make them priorities, but somehow it's easy to lose sight of that stuff when we have other distractions.

Looking within ourselves and being completely honest with ourselves about what our strengths are and our true God-given talents can be an awakening. You may already know what yours is, but if not, I highly recommend and encourage you to do so. It's not always easy to take this path, but it's extremely rewarding. Finding a way to make a living doing what you love will bring you so much fullfilment in the long run, and life is all about the long run. Who wants to be happy when they are 62 and can finally enjoy life after putting the good years behind them? Do it now!

Have a great week!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Being Inspired With Creativity

I hope you're having as great a week as I am. I am traveling this week and am with my parents in Mesa, Arizona. I happen to love the weather in Arizona for obvious reasons, one: it's such a contrast from what we're used to in Indiana. It makes it much easier to be optimistic when the sun is shining every day.

Something occurred to me as well. I'm a creative person and while at home I am creative, however, my creative well is overflowing out here. Being in a different environment, especially one that is condusive to better moods really helps your creativity. I find myself wanting to play more music, writing, etc. It's great! As a result, I'm going to try to take advantage of as much of this spring of creative juice as I can.

I realize that it's not practical for everyone to be in another climate or environment to just be creative, but maybe consider just changing your surroundings in a small way to open up the creative floodgates, that is if you're feeling stifled. If not, keep doing what you're doing. I find myself getting in ruts occasionally and traveling/changing things up really gives me a different perspective from which to draw from.

Part of the excitement and inpiration is also the fact that I'm seeing people that I don't get to visit with all the time as well. My parents live in Mesa, AZ, so I don't see them as often as I'd like. They are great about living life to the fullest and experiencing everything they can. That has guided me throughout and life, and now is no exception.

I wish you the best in your week and your journeys in general. Mix it up this week and try something/somewhere new. Get inspired!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

When to Put Yourself In Time Out

Stress is an unbelievable thing when it bears down on us all. It can come in the form of work overload, home life financial issues, emotional scars and get opened up, or just plain exhaustion from all of life's challenges. Pressures from many different angles can bring the worst out in all of us, but there are healthy ways to deal with it and go on with life. We don't have to take this stress out on other people (easier said than done, I know).

Ev and I have a fun way of dealing with this. We put ourselves in a time out and take some time to reflect on why we're upset. We don't each go to our respect corners and put our noses in them, but we do remove ourselves from the room and just take a bit of downtime, then meet back up after we've calmed down. This seems to help both of our "bull headed" approaches that we sometimes take. If we take the time to think about where the other is coming from and how we can better deal with the other, it usually gets resolved in a peaceful manner.

As we get to know each other (this can apply to friends, partners, lovers, husband/wife,etc.), we understand why the other one gets upset as well and that usually makes each party more patient with specific situations. If you know what their anger triggers are and you consciously avoid them, it helps tremendously. How do you deal with anger and stress with your partner, friends, family members? I'd love to hear other angles.

On this similar topic, I read a great article entitled "How to Travel the World Together Without Killing Each Other" . I found this article very uplifting and inspiring. The reality of relationships is that no one is perfect and no relationship is perfect. It takes unwavering patience and love to keep it going. It can be done and all it takes is willingness and fortitude to keep it going.

Have a great week!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Taking on Challenges

This is a fun topic...right?

Sometimes in our lives, we hate challenges and just want to norm to come back. I know I sometimes feel that way. But the norm gets boring and we all like a bit of a road block to steer around from time to time, or a nice incline to get up so we can see the road ahead (a lot of alliteration, I know). Challenges keep us happy and healthy and make us grow. They force us to reconsider the mundane and trivial things in our life, and even the big picture as well.

My challenge right now is trying to balance a work life that I've enjoyed for a long time, with a company that I'm frustrated with. I've found that some of the ideals and morals that I believe in, aren't exactly the same within my corporation that I work for. This can be common when we're subjected to corporate America, but it gets very tiring when the company you work for puts themselves and their interest (monetarily and otherwise) above all of their most important asset: their employees. I see this time and time again with large corporations like Walmart, and other banks or large conglomerates, but haven't had to deal with it as much until now. My previous employer (prior to being bought out) was not as blatant about being in it for number one.

So, what I've done to vent and deal with my frustration is focus solely on my music. I've been composing and playing like crazy. I love it and am glad that it's become a huge focus again. I've never stopped playing music, it's just that sometimes I don't feel inspired to write and compose, but right now I do. I'll take it while it's here.

My challenge has been to grow as a musician and to deal with the challenges at work the best I can. I'm doing my part in the way I feel is right and that's all I can do. If I get to a point where I feel that I don't belong, I will leave. It's that simple. I'm not there yet, thankfully. I'm hoping that it's just temporary and will pass.

What are your challenges and how have you overcome them? How do you grow from them?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Planting Your Seeds

Hey all,

Another snow day today here in central Indiana. We've gotten a crazy amount of snow in the last month and today we got 3 more inches. Plenty of precipitation!

Evelyn has been planting her seeds for the vegetable garden already and the little seedlings are starting to sprout in the trays that she has designated for this. It's pretty cool and it's also cool to see her so excited about it. We're doing everything 100% organic this year and I love how enthusiastic she is about it all. She's really the gardener in the house any more. I love to garden but don't take the necessary time to do so. I usually get side tracked by music, running, kayaking, cycling, or something else.

This whole seed planting activity is a bit symbolic at the same time. When Evelyn starts doing all this in preparation for spring, it plants the enthusiasm and the energy that she needs to get through the season. She gets extremely excited and this creates momentum to get her through to the harvest of the vegetables. It's a great thing.

This whole concept can be looked at in a parallel way in many aspects or degrees of life. Essentially, any network that you create is done so by planting a seed with a person (s). This can be a simple as helping someone out, doing a good job at work, joining an organization, just making a new friend, socializing at a community event, etc. You "plant a seed" when you build that connection. This helps you out in so many ways that you maybe don't realize too. I'm sure there are many times in your life that people pull through that you would never have expected to need. People and relationships are great for that.

Here's to Spring and the hope that all the seeds in your garden or life will sprout and grow like crazy.


Monday, February 1, 2010

Do What Works (If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It Edition)

Happy Monday everyone!

I hope this post finds you well. My Monday was great and I've ended with a wonderful band practice.

So, I got to thinking today about how people can over think decisions like doing their taxes, and keeping their "books" in general. There is a lot of advice out there with regards to this stuff right now. It can be confusing and overwhelming quite frankly. The truth is that it's all up to you and what your comfort zone entails. I happen to like going to H and R Block to the tax guy that I've gone to for a few years because he knows my situation and the whole mess that is "my taxes." I have rental properties, self employed income, W2'd income, income from playing music, etc. It all gets convoluted and interesting, but having someone that has done this stuff for years makes it much easier and much less stressful for me.

What I'm getting at here is that do what works for you. Find your comfort zone with this stuff. If you have easy returns, just do them yourself if you know how. If you're not comfortable with that, do like I do and have someone do them for what you think is worth the price. For me, the $300-400 that I pay some to do my taxes is worth it because I usually get the money back in some kind of write off or depreciation that I would have never thought of.

This applies to all aspects of your book keeping too. If you have a system for balancing your checkbook that's outside of using the ledger in your checkbook, keep doing it. I find that an excel spreadsheet works for me and then I just balance it up with my online statements and online balances. That's what works for me. What works for you for your book keeping? I think of it this way: If it's too tedious and I'll never get back to doing the task, then it's not for me. The excel spreadsheet is laid out very simply and it works for me because it's easy. If it was time intensive and difficult, I frankly would not do it.

Good luck with this tax time and I wish you all the best!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Because You Never Know

I hope this Tuesday finds you well. Here in snowy, cold Indiana, life is good.

I was thinking in my sleep last night (I tend to get most of my deep thinking done then, Ha) and just reinforced my ideas that I've been having. I've had a sort of epiphany at the 30 year mile marker in my life. I realized that it's now or never on certain goals, not that I don't have time left in my life, because that's not the case at all. I just realized that if I want to make an impact or reach a certain level, I need to really focus now. I want to be the best that I can be at my goals. My caveat: I know that perfection is the enemy of good, so I am keeping that close at hand as well. I just want to attain the level that I know I'm capable of.

What do I want to attain? Well, in pretty much all aspects of my life I want to be the best that I can be. Music and writing being my main focus, but keeping my career at center as well is important. I want to continue to grow as a person and develop as a person. That will come as I throw myself in to new challenges and situations. I firmly believe that the only way anyone can grow is to meet adversity, or at least a challenge of some sort, and then overcome it. It's certainly not always easy, but the general stuff in life isn't always easy either. I like this quote from the singer Bono of the band U2, "I'm tired of dreaming. I'm into doing at the moment. It's, like, let's only have goals that we can go after."

Man, I can agree with that statement. It's so important to dream. It's important to have lofty goals that are hard to attain, because it stretches us as intellectual people. This is what makes us differ from all the other animals on the planet. We are intellectual and think deeply. We need to be stretched from time to time. That's the only way we change and grow. Have you ever met anyone that has the same, boring, non-fulfilling job and doesn't step outside of that life ever? How is their personality? Do they inspire you? Now, don't get me wrong, if this is you or someone you know, I'm not criticizing. I simply challenge you to rise above the status quo and find a line in the sand that is hard to cross. Then go after it! Find that long lost goal and make it a priority.

I've been to some motivational seminars in my life because of my sales background in the Real Estate business, and while sometimes very cheesy or sale-sy (not a word, but I'm making it one), there are some good points that I've picked up. The main one that really sticks with me is that in order for us to make a goal real, we need to write it down and make it real. Write down all that you want to accomplish in the next 12 months, in the next 2 years, in the next 5 years. Then, take a course of action to make those goals happen in that time. Put yourself in a position where it's practical for those goals to happen. They will if you apply your time and energy in earnest. That's not to say that goals are always easy, that's why they are goals. But, how do you feel when you meet large life goals? It's a great feeling!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

I'm Thankful

I've taken a bit of a break from posting lately, but wanted to share my thoughts on the situation in Haiti while I've got a sounding board.

First off, I'm very thankful that I am where I am right now. Don't get me wrong, I love Caribbean countries and I'm fascinated with Central America, The Caribbean, and South America, so Haiti would be some place that I would travel to, if I could do so safely. That's remains in question naturally, but right now especially, safety would be questionable.

I feel as if the country has big enough problems that this became a "straw that broke the camels back" sort of scenario. Haiti has really steered clear of UN help recently and is obviously in need of it. There are many reasons why Haiti is struggling economically as of late, but here's a bit of a window in to why and how Haiti got to be so poor. There seems to be a common them of imperialism that pops it head throughout Haiti's history, and then abandonment after. Those two things have worked in other countries, but there is a bad cocktail of combinations that occurred in Haiti.

Slave labor created a great productivity during the French Colonial period. This left a lasting population of freed slaves that were uneducated, unemployed, and socially inept after the French backed out of Haiti. That's a powerful combination when you consider the social and economic implications. Combine that with the incredible amount of debt that Haiti incurred with their desire to be recognized by Europe on an governmental level. This debt plagued the Haitian government for almost 100 years. Imagine the amount of interest that they payed the French government to do so.

Then you come upon the U.S occupation of Haiti, which adequately did it's part to create the downward spiral that we're now seeing in Haiti. Guilt may play a big part in our agenda with regards to aid relief and assistance during these major earthquakes that rocked Haiti as well.
The US Marines took over the banks, revenues, government servants, and created a new constitution for Haiti in 1915. The Haitians have never really recovered from the creation of aid relief and the governmental influence from US backed governments. This has been a pretty lethal cocktail.

Then we have something similar to what's going on in Jamaica. Exporting food crops instead of relying on their own resources and planting techniques. This has caused prices to increase as the fuel costs and transportation costs rise with importing/exporting. Couple that with low income wages and you get a pretty disastrous scenario as well.

So, why am I thankful? I'm thankful because I've been fortunate to be born in to the US economy and be well educated. With that, I've not been stuck or without options in my life. For that, I'm very thankful. I do feel great empathy for the people of Haiti. I hope and pray that things stabilize and life gets back to some sort of normalcy for them. God willing, it will.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Finding Balance

What is it about the work/play struggle that seems to get us tangled up? It seems like I get on a roll where I have a good work/play balance and everything is right with the world. At other times, one side of the pendulum is weighed heavily (my play refers to all my hobbies and free time expressions). For example, I can get absorbed in work for a couple weeks at a time and somehow lose a bit of focus on the passions that are so important to me. I don't ever lose sight of the passions completely, it's just that sometimes I devote a lot of time and other times, it's average.

So, this leads me to my question. How do we find this delicate balance? At what point do we realize our sweet spot with these things? As humans, we are prone to error and mistakes happen. We learn from them and move on. It seems like balance is one of those things that seems to constantly challenge us though. I am happy with my life, don't get me wrong. I am extremely grateful for what I have and what I've been given. It's the fine tuning aspect of life that I'm after. I like to fine tune all things in my life and this is just another facet.

Learning: I'm beginning to understand some things about myself and ways to keep myself in check. If I write myself daily notes to remind myself what to do and how to allocate my time, it helps. I don't like daily planners (to each their own, if they work for you, great!) because I can't seem to force myself to write everything down. I like to keep some of it in my head, otherwise I drive myself crazy trying to accomplish absolutely everything that I write down. That's not good either. Perfection is the enemy of good. Although I always strive for very lofty goals, knowing that good is enough helps me.

What works for you? How do you find balance?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Snowed In

Happy Thursday to everyone!

Indiana is being blanketed by snow as we speak. To the tune of 4 or 5 inches and I can't help but think about warmer weather and beaches elsewhere. :-) The snow is beautiful and looks very nice outside, but the reality of it is that it's exceptionally cold.

So, with the abundance of snow, I've decided to work from home today to avoid the drivers in Indianapolis that don't necessarily practice rational driving methods when winter weather bears down. I have 4 wheel drive, but that doesn't save me from bad drivers. Ok, enough ranting.

What to do? Well, I'm working first and foremost, but in my free time I'm writing (i.e. here) and playing some music. I've mentioned in previous posts that I've been working on jazz guitar skills and I plan on doing some more of that today. I recently got Band in a Box so I can practice full band arrangements by myself with my laptop. It's wonderful and I can program exactly the way I want. Technology is wonderful!

So, while some of you are cozy and warm in your home, I'm right there with you. Some of you may live in warmer climates and for that, I'm a tad jealous. What do you do on snow days (or just off days if you live in a warm place)?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Challenging Status Quo

Ruts happen and life can sometimes get stagnant. It's easy to do and for a lot of people, it takes a New Years Resolution to break away from it. I have some resolutions that I've made for myself and I truly plan to meet or beat them. Mine aren't the lose weight or stop this or that resolutions. Well, not true. I want to try to work less hours, but that's an over time goal. Mine involves music and my goals with music.

For too long, I've been side lining my music aspirations and that's no more. I'm going full force with the blues band, continuing to learn jazz guitar and mandolin (I want to be very proficient with jazz guitar; to the point of playing some jazz gigs), and generally just making the move toward playing music as a part time job. Every inspirational book I read says that I should get paid to do what I love. That's music. I like to do other things as well (like write, paint, run, hike, kayak, cycle, travel), but my true love is music.

I feel that setting realistic, but challenging goals is a great way for me to feel like I'm progressing and meeting my expectations. I have loved jazz for a long time and have been playing it in some capacity for a while now. I really want to be a "pro" at it though. Being a hack is no longer acceptable to me. I'm tired of being at a level that I feel confined by. Learning many more scales and techniques will put me out of my comfort level and make me better. Period. I am still excited about this too, and I've been at it for a few weeks now.

What is it that you can do to challenge your status quo? How can you grow with your hobby or passion? Do it!!! You'll not regret it, I promise.