What Would it Look Like to Follow Your Heart?

What Would it Look Like to Follow Your Heart?

“In the last few years, I have often done what made sense logically and pragmatically. But in the past, I mostly just followed my impulses and things that excited me. What would it look like to go back to doing things that excited me? What would it look like to follow my heart, and build a heart-based business? Would it offer more fulfillment, even if the money weren’t there?”

I posed this thought to a friend, who honestly admitted she didn’t have an answer. Which is okay.

We were talking about the fact that, if you aren’t logic-minded, whether male or female, entrepreneurship can be a tough slog. And yet…

What if we were leaving the best opportunities on the table because we weren’t following our hearts?

What if our hearts would lead us more rapidly towards our goals, while offering greater fulfillment in the process?

What if our hearts led us to bigger, more rewarding ideas than our logical minds ever could?

What if we could have fun on our journey towards achieving our goals, instead of showing up out of duty and obligation? What if the journey didn’t need to be a grind?

“I do it because I have always done it” seems sensible, and yet is completely illogical when it’s robbing your vitality and joy. Is the hustle really building your business? Or is it just making you tired?

While in reflection, another question that came to me was, “what if there was nothing to prove?”

If there was nothing to prove, maybe you would stop wearing your long hours like a badge of honor. Maybe you would stop virtue signaling and bragging about your barely-there freelancing revenue.

Maybe I wouldn’t try to be so perfect. Maybe I would collaborate and delegate more. Maybe I would take a day off when I needed it. Maybe I would pursue what excited me in the moment without worrying about the consequences.

If happiness is the goal, then following your impulses and what excites you is the right move. Pursuing money somehow always produces the opposite result.

Following your heart brings joy into your life, and as result, all other things tend to follow.

Following your heart brings joy into your life, and as result, all other things tend to follow. Click To Tweet

Maybe your heart knows what’s up.

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When Specific Doesn’t Work, Go General

When Specific Doesn’t Work, Go General

Everyone in marketing and entrepreneurship says to go niche. Drill down until you can drill no more.

Let me offer a bit of a different perspective.

Towards the end of 2020, I started broadening my audience. Instead of creating content and products exclusively for musicians, I began extending my reach into the much broader, more competitive, and now trendy world of creatives and creators.

People have always told me that my books and products could be just as applicable to freelancers, entrepreneurs, and other creatives as they are to musicians. So, however illogical in the minds of the so-called “experts,” it made sense to me to pivot and try something new. What would be the harm? I was feeling stuck doing what I was doing.

Again, this isn’t supposed to work. You aren’t supposed to go general or broad.

But I did. And I was surprised by the results. My Twitter engagement started going through the roof, I’ve been added to numerous Medium publications, and my content is now being syndicated more widely. People have expressed gratitude for my emails and newsletters as well.

I would not say that I’ve arrived, and I haven’t found the exact breakthrough I’ve been seeking. I have big goals and expectations for myself. That said, this stands as a small victory. An experiment worth the trouble.

So, what about you? Are you feeling stuck?

Is it time for you to pivot or reconsider your direction? Is it possible you’ve been holding yourself back from becoming a thought leader, building a personal brand, or getting in to a “competitive niche” simply because someone told you not to go in that direction?

Everyone’s path is going to be a little different, so even the gurus can’t necessarily tell you which way to go. Chances are, you will get to where you want to go faster, or learn the lessons you need to learn on the way to getting to where you want to go, if you stop doubting yourself and start following your intuition more.

Try following your instincts, even if it’s just for 100 days. Think of it like an experiment and see where it takes you. The results might just surprise you.

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Everyone’s Medium Journey is Different

Everyone’s Medium Journey is Different

If you’re asking the question, “can I make money on Medium?” Well, the answer is “yes.”

I have made some money on my journey, and March 2021 ended up being my most profitable month so far.

I first started taking Medium a little more seriously in 2018, when I learned about their partner program. And, as I kept writing, sure enough, one of my pieces was curated (the one and only piece I’ve ever had curated). That helped me generate a little bit of Starbucks money.

Unfortunately, that’s when I took my eyes off Medium for a while. I honestly couldn’t tell what the fuss was about. My stories didn’t get that much traffic, and the money I made never amounted to more than a fancy fruity iced tea.

I made my return last year in July and have been publishing daily ever since, sometimes multiple times per day. I went from a little over 100 stories to over 400 stories.

And now, instead of one fancy fruity iced tea, I can buy three with the money I make! Wow!

So, when I see others say you can make $50 in your first month, yeah, I suppose that’s true. But I haven’t seen it myself, and I’m not sure it would be wise to set your expectations that high either.

When I see the same people say you can earn $1,000 in six months… Uh, maybe let off the engines there, buddy. Unless your intention is to discourage new writers before they even get started.

Yes, of course it’s possible. You might get there. But you could also be setting yourself up for massive disappointment.

My Writing Journey

When I talk about this stuff, some people look at me like I’ve got three eyes, so let me share with you some of my journey. I didn’t start writing yesterday, and I don’t fancy myself an “instant writer,” just so we’re clear.

I’m not saying I’m the best writer in the world. But with thousands of articles online, dozens of eBooks, and five books, I didn’t just wake up one day and say, “I’m going to be a Medium Rockstar.”

I first started making content for the web in 1997. As I started branching out into music, I jumped on the blogging bandwagon. That was about 2005.  Even as my music career was progressing, I continued to write, and I started writing on a variety of topics, including blogging, personal development, video games, movies, music, and guitar.

2011 was the first year I started taking all this blogging business a little more seriously, as I invested in a startup, and worked as their blogger/digital marketer.

When the startup failed to launch, they put a halt on marketing efforts, but even while all that was going on, I was podcasting and blogging on my own platform. But I needed to start making more money, so I reached out to a friend of a friend who had a ghostwriting service. That’s when writing officially became a staple in my life.

Because of the contacts I made in the music industry, I ended up getting approached with contract writer gigs, and eventually, staff writing opportunities too.

Meanwhile, my ghostwriting efforts were also going well, and if they were ever approached with clients who wanted more than just blog posts (e.g., pre-interview writeups, audio interviews, lead magnets, etc.) I became their go-to guy.

Today, I have five books (three became best-sellers). I’ve honestly forgotten how many eBooks I’ve written and given away or sold.

People here sometimes talk about earning $4,000+ in writing. That’s honestly easy. It’s never been that hard for me. I’m looking to scale well beyond that. I don’t know whether Medium is going to be the answer though.

I’m Not Bitter

All this might sound bitter. But it’s not that. Slow your role! I showed up today, didn’t I? And I’ll show up again tomorrow. At the very, very least, you’ll see me keep showing up daily until August 2021. But I might keep adding stories long after that.

I’ve honestly stopped paying attention to my stats. The only numbers I look at now are the number of stories and responses I’ve posted, and I occasionally check in to see how much money I’ve earned.

I’m not discouraged or frustrated either. Sure, I’ve felt that at times, but I remain cautiously optimistic about the possibilities.

I just think we should be more mindful about setting expectations. Everyone’s Medium journey is going to be different. Some will exceed your wildest expectations. Others, like me, will earn just enough to buy a few fancy fruity iced teas per month after hundreds of stories published daily.

Someone new to Medium doesn’t have the knowledge of someone who’s been here for longer. They don’t have connections. They don’t know about publications. They don’t know how to keep growing their following. They don’t know what to write, or how to put together amazing headlines.

All you $150 a month people do. You have a strategy. You know how to execute it. You know how to get attention on your stories.

I’m not saying one can’t learn all that fast. But they’d need to know where to look to even find that information.

Final Thoughts

Again, I’m preaching at myself as much as anyone else.

I see the value in Medium, and that’s why I’m here. I see possibilities, and that’s why I keep going.

I’m a little puzzled by the $150 per month and $1,000 in six months people, but maybe I’ll start to figure that out. I can’t say I have yet.

I think for fresh meat, a more realistic trajectory is…

You will make no money in the first three to six months of publishing daily. Then you will start to grow your Starbucks fund in the next three to six months. And then, you might start to reach mid to high two figures in the next three to six months. After a full year, things could start to get a lot better.

You never know when you might explode, of course. But you can’t count on that.

Basically, enjoy the journey, and try not to get too caught up in the money milestones. Put the blinders on and do the work.

Put Your Blinders on and do the Work

Put Your Blinders on and do the Work

In a world obsessed with stats and results, it’s easy to get caught up in the wrong thing.

Though it’s worthwhile to evaluate results periodically, a fixation on outcomes can be unhealthy, and even detrimental to your progress as a creative or creator. Because process is the part you can control, outcomes are not.

As a creative or creator, filters are crucial to your survival. Without them, you will take on too much, burn out, and get caught up in an unhealthy game of comparison that steals your happiness.

We need to be able to put our blinders on, even if it’s only for a short duration, to focus long enough on the process that we see desired results flow in.

Every “Overnight Success” Was 10 Years in the Making

I find it easy to fixate on the results, even unprompted. Even when there’s virtually no reason to.

I needlessly check in on my Medium stats, even on days where I know I’m not going to get any love…

Even on days when my posts probably won’t be accepted into a publication, and despite the 700 some odd followers I have, all I can expect are a couple of claps on my stories…

Look, it’s not always like that. I have stories that have done well. Stories that continue to captivate and engage.

But I think this is perhaps one of the dark sides of publishing daily… That every day you publish, you almost expect your next big break to happen… When it has literally never worked that way.

The Six-Month Window

Everyone around me says “stick to it for six months – you will see results.”

Which has me looking at myself and wondering if I have done something wrong.

There are some things I have been doing for 10 or 20+ years that I can honestly say I haven’t really seen the ship come in on.

So, that’s where I find the “six months” idea thoroughly unhelpful. I’m not saying there’s no truth to it. You will see some results. But will they be the results you’ve been hoping and waiting for?

So far as Medium is concerned, I have been publishing for over 230 consecutive days. That’s over six months already. I have not achieved “success.”

I guess that means I should stop posting to Medium and try something else right? RIGHT!?

A Breakthrough for Everyone

Okay, so a lot of this sounds kind of whiny. Which isn’t really my intention.

But you can see the conversations that sometimes unfold in my head.

I just think that the “six months” idea isn’t going to resonate with those who’ve duplicated and modeled other successful people and have shown up faithfully to do it, only to find their spin on the same methodology hasn’t yielded the same results.

Some results, yes. Always. But not necessarily the same results.

There’s a breakthrough available to everyone, I suppose. But it might not come in the expected form. And that’s where some sensitivity is required.

The universe will sometimes make that subtle, quiet call towards an endeavor where you would do well. But you’re not going to notice if you stubbornly insist on your own way. Because it will probably mean adjusting.

Put Your Blinders on

So, is it worth worrying about the results?

Should you be checking in with your stats all the time?

Should you put a hard, six-month deadline on success?

Probably not.

Maybe it works for some, but I can’t recall anything I’ve done that gave me a huge ROI in six months.

I am going to argue that it’s best to put your blinders on and do the work.

You’ll want to make sure you have rails for the project, of course. You could end up resenting anything you keep grinding out, without any sense of when to stop, evaluate, and course correct.

But within those rails, only come up for air, as necessary.

The temporary discouragement you allow yourself to feel could hold you back from your eventual success. It’s a distraction.

It could have you doubting yourself and your project constantly, and that can’t possibly add any value to you or your project.

Comparison is unhelpful, since it puts the spotlight on someone you don’t know, whose results you haven’t verified, and who may have put more work and effort into their project than you’ll ever know.

And most importantly, it steals your happiness, which is worth protecting.

The only score to beat is your own, and even there, you must practice accurate thinking.

The only score to beat is your own, and even there, you must practice accurate thinking. Click To Tweet

Accurate thinking is not based on emotions or feelings. It’s based on quantifiable data.

Go hard within established rails. Then look up and see whether you’re further ahead than when you started. If yes, go to next square. If not, consider whether you want to continue. Yes, then keep going. No, then start playing a new game!

A Beginner’s Mentality

Personally, I seek to disappear any notion that I’m seasoned or experienced. At the very least, I don’t see it as an unfair advantage, because if it were, I would have figured out this “six-month” thing by now. Maybe I’d be able to do it in three months!

A beginner’s mentality is fresh. It’s open to learning. It remains curios. It doesn’t lose focus or interest.

Every day, we can start with a beginner’s mentality, or focus on a thousand yesterdays where we didn’t see the ship come in. We can maintain excitement for what we’re doing or make a meaning of our failures.

Although it’s good to acknowledge the ships that didn’t come to pick you up, focusing on them long-term is sure to be detrimental. You’ll just keep waiting at the docks and prove yourself right, even as ships come and go!

On the journey to success, you don’t want to keep proving that things don’t work for you. You want to begin finding proof that you’re going to make it, even if it’s small. And you want to do this daily.

Final Thoughts

In saying all this, I’m mostly preaching to myself.

I’m looking to get those blinders in place rather than evaluating my progress day to day, or moment by moment. There isn’t much positive that can come from being a dopamine junkie.

I do feel I could do a better job of setting rails, and to that extent, I am letting my self-esteem lead the way. And I find this helpful.

Do you feel you get caught up in the wrong things?

What are some things you could take your eyes off of to be more effective?

Let me know.

Pay what you want for the first issue of my digital magazine, The Renegade Musician.

The Renegade Musician

What is Your One Goal?

What is Your One Goal?

In talking with creatives and musicians, I’ve found focus to be one of the greatest challenges.

We know what it’s like to have inspiration hit out of nowhere. With enough practice, following inspiration becomes an automatic.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with following inspiration. At the very least, you should write down your ideas before they are gone.

But following every whim is sure to leave you unfocused – a scattered mess, even.

On July 28, 2020, I made the commitment to start publishing daily. Today is day 235 on that journey.

And when I first got started, I was excited. I was so excited, in fact, that I started a day early.

Here we are, seven months in, and it’s finally beginning to feel like a grind. And it took this long to get there.

I still have ideas worth writing about and I don’t have writer’s block. But the itch to start something new has been overwhelming.

The artist in me cries a little when I restrain myself. But if I added anything new to my schedule now, I would only be sentencing myself to another trip down burnout lane.

And, while I got started on the premise that publishing daily would solve all my business problems… I’m starting to grow skeptical of that idea too.

I have experienced growth, to be sure. Just not to the degree that I thought I might by now.

Which is okay. That’s just the emotions talking, and logically, I know there are greater rewards waiting on the other end of this experiment. There is more to come.

And again, while I’m tempted to start new things (and I will leave some space in my schedule for experimentation), I find myself returning to this question often:

What is my one goal?

In coaching creatives and musicians, I also ask them what their one goal is. The answer I often get is “Well, I have X, and I’m also working on Y, and Z…”

But that’s not the answer I’m looking for. Because there can only be one answer.

You get to decide what the answer is. But there can’t be more than one. Until you’ve met that goal, there should be no other goal.

You should be spending all your time, energy, and resources on reaching that one goal. That’s how you know you’ve given it the attention it deserves.

You should be spending all your time, energy, and resources on reaching one goal. That’s how you know you’ve given it the attention it deserves. Click To Tweet

Publishing daily is a goal. There are many other things I want to do, but until I’ve completed that goal, there are no others that should distract me from that goal. That’s how I know I’m giving it the attention it deserves.

What is your one goal?

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As the Spirit Moves You

As the Spirit Moves You

In general, you are more worried about doing things wrong than doing things right.

So, automatically, anything that’s not “right” suddenly becomes “wrong.”

With that kind of hard demarcation, it’s no wonder we’re so hard on ourselves. We rarely if ever give ourselves the opportunity to try new things!

We rarely if ever give ourselves the opportunity to try new things! Click To Tweet

But there can be great joy in experimentation. It can sometimes go against better judgment, but it has a way of producing breakthroughs for that very reason!

When we’re trying to figure out how to make progress in our projects, we tend to make small, incremental changes and rarely allow ourselves to make wild concoctions out of new ingredients.

This morning, instead of starting this blog post (because I didn’t even know what I was going to be writing about yet), I read an email. And then I felt compelled to make Instagram posts.

I have not been overly committed to growing my Instagram following lately, but I was beginning to see some fresh possibilities.

Instead of waiting around, I got into action. I was excited, and to my surprise, I was able to create and schedule 24 posts in under an hour. It was fast and easy.

Now, if I had doubted any part of this…

If I had thought to myself “I have better things to do…”

If I had allowed myself to become too regimented in my thinking and my routine

I would not have given myself the space to experiment. And that may have closed off any connection I had to spirit.

There are no promises, of course. I may not see my Instagram following grow as result of the actions I’ve taken.

But I had an auspicious feeling. And to not act on that feeling would be to doubt myself. And if I doubted myself, it would gradually erode my self-confidence. If my confidence were low, I would not take chances.

How many things are you not trying because you doubt yourself?

Maybe your intuition is trying to get your attention. Maybe the guidance system you’ve been looking for cannot be found externally. Just maybe, it was inside you all along.

You know what to do. But like a clogged drain, there’s debris that needs to be cleared out before you can tune into your intuition and hear clearly.

Pay attention to spirit. And act as the spirit moves you.

You may be prompted to act in ways you’d never thought of before. But that has a way of producing surprising breakthroughs.

Pay what you want for the first issue of my digital magazine, The Renegade Musician.

The Renegade Musician