Why

I believe Why is one of the most powerful questions you can ask.

I believe all humans try to answer the question of why they are here.

Some humans get answers. I feel a fair few answer with ‘to make the world a better place than it was when I got here’. Definitions of better can be very broad. Some people’s idea of better is another’s idea of hell. That’s a separate issue.

I definitely want to leave the world a better place than it was when I came into it.

‘Why?’

It’s my moral duty as a human to continue the species, but not just continue it, but do what I can so the species thrives and reaches its full potential, in balance with the environment it exists in.

For me, that involves creating and facilitating change. Creating meaningful change occurs when I can help change the way people feel. For me, I am best at doing this through music and education.

‘Why do I believe that?’

Musicians and music related services are in the feelings industry. Music changes the way people feel and changing how people feel has a ripple effect.

‘But why…?’

The question sometimes remains unanswered in its full capacity, even when it feels like it’s been answered.

Here’s why I keep asking why…

The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman talks about a concept called ‘five fold Why’. It’s about testing assumptions, beliefs and values by asking ‘why’ five times to a belief or value you hold. Like a curious child, Kaufman urges his readers to go deep into the core of a value.

“Why do you want to start a business?”

“To make money?”

“Why do you want to make money?”

“To earn enough not have a job”

“Why don’t you want a job?”

“I want to feel more secure and a job doesn’t provide me with security?”

“Why do you want security?”

“To feel free”

“Why do you want to feel free?”

“Because it feels good”

The five fold Why helps get to the core. As humans we like to live on the surface of ourselves. It’s safer, we are less vulnerable to others that way. Which can be a great safety mechanism for self preservation. It doesn’t mean you stay on the surface with yourself. The five fold Why should help provide clarity to the biggest asset within your music career and business…yourself. So start asking why more.

Here are some prompts for a five fold Why you can adopt to understand why you do what you do…

“Why do you make music?”

“Why do you play live shows?”

“Why do you need more fans?”

“Why do you sing about those lyrical topics?”

“Why is it hard?”

“Why is it easy?”

Why…why…why… it’s one of the most powerful questions around, no wonder children ask it so often.

Mineral Coffee; Fuel for Creatives.

I’m always experimenting with ways to make my hit of caffeine have a bigger bang for its buck. I love coffee, I want it to go for longer, or be better than it already is. I’m a bit of a fiend for caffeine…a caffeind…oh boy.

Let me keep this short and sweet, like a short black with two sugars.

Get a double espresso (in a tall cup), and slowly add mineral some water. Enjoy.

Double espresso + Mineral water = Heavenly golden brown joy.

Be careful of the froth overflowing.

That’s all there is.


This is part of a series of posts and ideas I am creating called Tools for Success. If this is something you’d like to read more of, leave a comment.

3 Productivity Hacks for Musicians/Producers using a Home Studio

 

At the time of writing this, I am currently on day 6 of a week off from work. Before I finished up at work, I made a plan to do some music-related activities at home that I didn’t have ‘time’ to do when I was working. I made a plan to write songs, mix a few songs, write a few posts, research music supervisors in Australia, go to the gym, have a few jam sessions…It’s day 6, how much have I done?

 

Precisely…None of it!

 

What did I do instead?

 

I watched a lot of television, drank beers, walked around the house aimlessly and checked the fridge every five minutes to see if any of the food inside the fridge had moved since I last checked it. These items weren’t on my to-do list when I finished work. Why didn’t I do the things I WANTED to get done? After walking around the house a few more times and sitting on the couch, I asked myself a question…

 

“What was it about ‘work’ that made me so much more productive than I am now?”

 

An abundance of free time is not the answer.

 

I believe there are a few things that a day job offers that make us very productive. These things are remarkably simple and easy to implement into your life, outside of work, so you can become a productivity ninja.

 

I’ve given these principles a super cheesy easy -to -remember name. I call it, ‘The SAD Principles for Productivity’. I call them SAD because of how sad it is that I haven’t implemented these principles before now. Let the SAD principles get you off the couch and doing the things you want to do in your music practice.

 

S is for Structure

 

Structure can be broken down into a couple of elements. Space and Schedule are the elements that structure is built upon. Here’s how I’ve implemented them to be more productive.

 

Space

To be productive at work, you need to have structure. Structure starts with having space. The majority of people go to work. It’s a physical space removed from all other spaces in our lives. Unless you’ve got ninja-like discipline, I think its best to set up a space that is removed from life’s other activities. The kitchen table may not be the best option for working, nor the bedroom (albeit the term bedroom musician).

 

A lot of successful people who ‘work from home’ go to a café to work. Most of us are noisy though, and an abundance of space is a rare thing. So here are some possible spaces to take advantage of, some that I may or may not have used for more productive periods of my life.

 

When I lived on campus during university, I lived in a 6-bedroom apartment with 5 other noise sensitive human beings. They didn’t like the late night scales; the repetitive nature was like a form of aural torture. So instead of not practising, I, like a truly weird 17-year-old musician in the making, went into my cupboard to practice. Lucky, my cupboard was sizeable enough to fit a sitting human, and I had a chest of drawers that stood at the perfect height to fit my computer. The best part of the closet is that it doubled as a great guitar/vocal booth. The only problem with the cupboard, it was not very comfortable over the long term.

 

I upgraded from the cupboard though. Another bedroom related space trick that allowed me to be productive in my early days was dedicating a whole corner of my room to my “office/studio.” I didn’t go into that corner of my room unless I was studying or making music. Space also means you are free from distraction, there is no point setting up a practice space if you go on social media every other minute you are practising. The idea is that space is dedicated to the single activity and nothing else.

 

Schedule

The second thing to help form structure is Schedule. A schedule at work helps quantify your productivity. Lets say you are at work for 8 hours and need to complete task A, B, C, D. If you get to work at 9, by 11 you should have completed task A and be moving on to task B. This is an example of how a timeline and deadline allows you to be productive at work.

 

Nothing motivates me more than my boss telling me I got to get that thing in by the end of the week. I’m a productivity machine knowing that I have a deadline. A timeline also lets me measure my progress of that project against time. For example, if a project goes for 10 weeks, that’s a 10-week deadline to get the job done. That also means I can break down the timeline into 10 weeks. In 5 weeks I’ll be halfway to the goal, if the project is not half done, I have to hurry up.

 

If you want to achieve anything in your music business, I advise setting a due date for your projects and keeping track of the timeline to make sure your project is on track. But as you’ll see next, a deadline is not enough.

 

A is for Accountability

 

As humans, we’re geared towards survival. We have an amazing ability to survive and adapt to the world. One particularly interesting way in which we’ve done this is by having an aversion to loss. We’ll spend MORE energy trying to hold on to the $100 dollars we have in our wallet than we would to get another $100. This is great because we can use this behaviour to our advantage to be productive.

 

The reason I’m so good at getting things done at work is that I’m afraid I’ll lose my job if I didn’t my job if I didn’t. I wouldn’t do nearly half the things I currently do, and to certain deadlines, if I knew that I could keep my job if I didn’t do them. This is why deadlines alone are not enough for productivity. You need to have something on the line, something worth losing at stake if you don’t complete what you want to do in your music practice. To be productive, you need to set up a system where you are motivated towards action, this means not losing something you care about. StickK.com is a great tool to use to help you increase your productivity.

 

Being accountable isn’t a solitary activity; you need allies to help you. Having an accountability partner (ally) keeps you honest. You can lie to yourself and extend project deadlines to adjust for unexpected Netflix binges. But if you say to an ally, I am doing this by this date; you need to show the goods come deadline time. Allies also help take out the loneliness of work if you do it by yourself.

 

My boss at work is my accountability partner, my boss holds me accountable for the things that I need to get done at work. An ally could also be a mentor or a friend to help you reach your deadlines for your goals. Social media groups can useful communities for accountability. Coach.me facilitates a community of accountability and habit formation.

 

A gig can also be a resource for accountability. When you book a gig, you are making yourself accountable to show up and play a show. Booking a gig is the best way to ensure you practice and get things done.

 

I hope to find and/or create, a social media for independent musicians and producers to find an accountability ally/peer mentor to mutually check in and hold each other accountable to their goals. Kind of like an AA mentor would do, except both parties are checking in with each other. If you’re reading this article, and know of a group that already exists or would be interested in joining a group like this, please leave a comment at the bottom of this article.

 

D is for Discipline

 

Discipline is broken down into definition and deconstruction.

 

Definition

Having a clear understanding and definition of the trajectory of the work that needs to be completed, gives me the discipline to undertake it. It creates a stronger reason to take action than the excuses for not taking action. Defining why and creating a vision allows for the discipline to be productive at home instead of goofing off and watching family guy. Begin with the end in mind and you will gain the discipline to get there.

 

Deconstruction

The last action that helps me stay productive at home is deconstructing projects into smaller tasks. Using the timelines from the schedule section, a big project over 10 weeks becomes 10 smaller segments of the project. The separation of the project into smaller chunks is the deconstruction. An album may consist of 10 songs and each song consists of an intro, verse, chorus and outro. A musician won’t sit down to write an album, but instead, write the parts that contribute to the album. Deconstruction is about taking bite-sized chunks instead of trying to eat the entire buffet at once.

 

Taking on board the SAD principles has stopped me from walking around the house and instead take action towards the goals I want to achieve. I hope it helps you achieve what you have been putting off.

What Daydreaming and the Past can Teach us

What Daydreaming and the Past can Teach us

I recently stumbled upon a poem I wrote in 2012. I was about 20-21 when I wrote it. I was in my last semester of university, studying a music degree. I was also ‘experimenting’ with a series of substances at the time and felt really creative at the time. I had so much free time to ‘study’ during this semester of university. Instead of studying though, I conducted ‘experiments’. This poem resulted during a day of experiments, sitting outside in the grass, staring up at the clouds contemplating the world. I’m very aware how cliché it all sounds.

There are two reasons why I want to share this old piece of writing. The first reason is, reviewing old work can teach us about our current creative practice. Even if the work is cringeworthy in places, you learn that creative output is a snapshot of your soul from a certain time in your life. Looking back on old work gives you an opportunity to view the disparity between now and then. Like an old photograph that shows you how much you’ve aged. On a day-to-day basis, growth is so incremental that we don’t recognise it. Looking back on old work, we can see how much growth has occurred between then and now. If you’re feeling stuck and a bit disappointed about not being where you want to be in your career/life, then take a look at something you created a long time ago and see how far you’ve come. If you can go from there to here, you go from here to anywhere.

The second reason I want to show you this piece is to underline the importance of leaving space for daydreaming in your life. Daydreaming and boredom create space in our lives for ideas to bubble to the surface. Although you may be inspired by inputs, to execute a creative output you can’t be receiving input. In an age of mobile technology, we’ve lost the inherent freedom from input that boredom and daydreaming create. Now you can go to the toilet and be on your phone. There’s not a moment when where one is stuck without some type of incoming information. This is detrimental to creativity. Creativity needs space.

An acute remedy could be to take a technology sabbatical. Step heart first into the void and explore the outer regions of your psyche. You’d be surprised, what you find and record along the way. It may even turn into a blog post one day. Your creativity depends on it.

Until then, here’s a poem (input) about daydreaming. It is a personal reminder of how far I’ve come along my journey, and a reminder to all that creativity grows in the spaces in between life’s inputs.

Lucid Reveries Becoming Memories

It’s such a notion to have one’s head in the clouds.

To be so deeply passionate that the mind creates illusions – delusions – intrusions from reality,

A place free from riddles and riddled with the free.

A world of ideas instead of ideals…

Sometimes it’s a place to hide when you’re running from your shadow, even though it is not darkness, for the light casts it.

Music is the landscape here, it breathes movement into the fields of flowers that dance; entranced by the wind. Sound moves the air, a butterfly effect that creates momentum as powerful as a tempest.

Grab a kite and take flight, for gravity cannot hold you forever, but rather remind you that falling only brings your closer to the earth. The ground. But not ground zero. As much as the elevation can feel like evacuation, the tallest, densest clouds will become rain. But if you bring an umbrella you’ll never ever truly endeavor on life’s greatest adventure.

Lay down,

Escape,

Name a shape.

“I can’t see it.”

“It’s over there, its face is on the top.”

“Nope can’t see it.”

“That bit there is its leg.”

“Oh, yep, got it.”

But you never truly will get it. That’s the beauty of it. That’s why you stare for so long in awe. Caught in a lucid reverie that is creating a memory.