Coming Soon… Live Q&As on Zoom

Coming Soon… Live Q&As on Zoom

As an entrepreneur and artist, I find sharing about everything to be a bit of a dilemma. How much do I share about what I’m up to and what’s coming next? Goals publicly stated and not fulfilled on can erode your confidence. CD Baby founder Derek Sivers even suggests keeping your goals to yourself.

But here’s something I felt to share:

Over the last week and a half or so, I either kept to a streamlined schedule, went to class (on the weekend), or did nothing. And I have always found these downtimes to be excellent for thinking and reflection.

One thing I realized in my reflections is the importance of creating a connection with my audience. Blog posts are fine. I like writing them. Some people like to read them. But with the sheer amount of blogging, I do; I know that even my most avid followers don’t get around to reading everything I produce.

And, even with podcasts and videos, the connection created can vary a lot depending on audience and engagement.

More to the point, though, I’ve realized that getting related is the foundation of all relationships. I’ve decided to create more opportunities for me to connect with you and for you to connect with me.

So, keep an eye open for additional updates regarding my live Q&As on Zoom. These will be free events, but the content will be exclusive to those who attend and members of Elite Players: All Access Pass. I can’t wait to be in the same virtual room with you.

Breaking the Toxic Patterns of Trying to be “Better” in Your Music Career

Breaking the Toxic Patterns of Trying to be “Better” in Your Music Career

This might fly in the face of a lot of things you’ve heard before. But you’re a creative mastermind, and a brilliant abstract thinker, so I trust you as a keeper of this knowledge.

What I learned from author Mark Manson (you might have heard of a little book called The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck), is that there’s a toxic pattern hidden in many personal development methodologies. And I can honestly say I’ve sometimes been caught in that toxic pattern!

Again, I know this is paradoxical because what are we talking about here if not self-betterment – strategies and tactics for a better music career? What does it mean to be a musician if improvement is subtracted from the equation? Nothing, really, because it’s our job to show up better than we did last time! And make no mistake – practicing your instrument or voice every day is a form of personal development!

What I got from Manson is that trying to be better all the time can be a depressing way to live. And even beyond the hype-based, rah-rah weekend conferences that light you up for a mere week before you crash and go back to “normal” life, there is something about being in constant pursuit of more that disagrees with one’s identity, spiritual path, and desire to be happy (which many have entirely written off).

One of the reasons for that is because it’s human nature to play the comparison game. “Look how much better they’re doing,” you say, recognizing just how far you must go to be at their level, whoever they are, and whatever they’ve accomplished. And I do mean to say you don’t have the context to even understand how or what they’ve accomplished, because you are not them.

Either way, the question is, can you be content with where you’re at? Can you enjoy the journey of kaizen, of being a little bit better today than you were yesterday, and staying in that process over the long haul?

Because the thing about every destination is, the journey is the longest part. If you don’t enjoy the journey, you’re not going to be much happier at the destination. You might experience a fleeting sense of relief or joy, maybe even victory or celebration, but it will be so brief compared to the long, hard road it took to get there, it will hardly feel worth it.

The thing about every destination is, the journey is the longest part. Click To Tweet

As hard as it might be to believe, every day can be a holiday. It takes some deep, intellectual work for this to sink in, but if you’re up for the challenge, have a read through Reality Transfuring, Steps I-V by Vadim Zeland and Joana Dobson. I don’t know what they were smoking or what planet they were sent from to write this work, but it can really open your eyes to the possibility of going through life with a carefree sense of joy and excitement.

Now, Bruce Lee said:

Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.

And his point is well-taken. Diamonds are forged under pressure. We all transform under pressure.

But I think what Zeland was saying is that even in challenge and difficulty, the events themselves are neutral, and we can make them mean whatever we want them to mean. You can go through any event in life with a sense of discovery.

What I learned from Manson is, instead of trying to be better, be curios. At some point, we all start to feel like we’ve seen it all, heard it all, or tried it all. But that can’t possibly be true when our lives don’t seem to be working at the level, we see others working. There’s always more to discover, more to learn. And sometimes it’s the simplest things.

In an interview with author Tim Ferriss, former CD Baby founder Derek Sivers said it was a profound discovery for him that women like sex. Like I said, the simplest realizations can sometimes alter your course for good.

Being curious is still personal development, but it’s a different approach. It’s coming from a place of humble discovery versus all-knowing arrogance.

How to Filter Out Distractions

How to Filter Out Distractions

Ambitious creatives and creators must learn to filter out distractions. It’s a survival skill.

Whenever you say “yes” to something, you’re saying “no” to something else. And vice versa.

The more yesses you give, the more commitments you will have to fulfill on.

And the more times you say “no,” the more you will leave space for what matters to you.

Sooner or later, as you continue to grow, opportunities are going to start showing up at your doorstep, wanted or not.

If you don’t learn how to control the flow of opportunity, and if you don’t have filters for sorting them out, you’re going to be swamped.

In a broader sense, Derek Sivers’ Hell Yeah or No filter works perfectly. Basically, it’s about only saying “yes” to things that excite you and bring you joy and saying “no” to all else.

Marie Kondo’s Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up is a similar philosophy as applied to decluttering and organizing your home, but it’s just as applicable to opportunity.

But on a more granular level, it can be challenging to separate the wheat from the chaff.

So, here’s an example of how I control the flow of opportunity, especially as applied to email:

  • I welcome emails. That said, I set the expectation upfront that I may not answer for a week or two (which is generally the case).
  • If the sender doesn’t mention my name, I delete the message.
  • If the sender hasn’t demonstrated a clear understanding of who I am or what I do, I delete the message.
  • If the sender hasn’t identified the mutual benefit of the communication, I delete the message.
  • If the email is about guest posting or buying links and it’s coming from an SEO agency, I delete the message.
  • I actively unsubscribe from newsletters I never read.

Some of this may seem kind of harsh. But if I didn’t have these filters, guaranteed I would get swallowed up in tasks that neither excite me nor bring me joy.

It’s your time. You’ve got to guard it with your life because it is your life.

Create filters. Document them. Follow them. And put more stringent rules in place as necessary.

Create filters. Document them. Follow them. And put more stringent rules in place as necessary. Click To Tweet

For more inspiration, be sure to sign up for my email list.

Master This & You Will be a Productivity God

Master This & You Will be a Productivity God

Productivity tricks and hacks are of little worth if you don’t have one thing figured out already – your routine.

Your routine is bar none the best productivity tool at your disposal. If you have yet to recognize it as such, it’s time for closer examination.

Christian singer-songwriter Mike Murdock said:

The secret of your future is hidden in your daily routine.

The things you do, as well as the things you don’t do, speak volumes of what you will ultimately accomplish in this lifetime.

The things you do, as well as the things you don’t do, speak volumes of what you will ultimately accomplish in this lifetime. Click To Tweet

What to Include in Your Daily Routine

When it comes to forming an effective daily routine, you must triage mercilessly.

No matter who you are, and no matter what level you operate at, 20% of your effort creates 80% of your results.

This isn’t to say the other 80% is wasted effort, but it certainly pales in comparison to the 20% that’s creating all the results.

What this suggests is that you can assign a value to everything you do. If you aren’t sure what’s driving results, the Effectiveness Diagnostic is a tool worth utilizing, and one you should return to periodically too.

Now, our tendency will always be to think in terms of work and work only.

But who’s to say Thursday night Netflix binges aren’t fueling you up, giving you the energy and inspiration, you need to engage in Friday meetings?

See, productivity isn’t just about getting more done. At least not at a high level. It’s also about optimal performance – being able to bring your best self to everything you do.

Productivity is about optimal performance – bringing your best self to everything you do. Click To Tweet

If a specific activity gives you energy, and it contributes to all other areas of life – physical, relational, spiritual, and so on – then it’s worth keeping in your routine.

Keeping Accountable to Your Routine

If you scheduled in three workouts last week, and you followed through on all of them, then we know you’re making positive progress with regards to your health.

Three workouts aren’t going to change your life. But the results stack over time, and that’s the secret of all daily habits.

For instance, one daily blog post turns into 365 over the course of a year if you’re publishing daily. And that’s 365 new opportunities to connect with your audience you didn’t have before.

Once you have a routine in place, you need to follow through on it. And oftentimes, that is the hardest part.

But you’ve also got to keep in mind that you’re the one making the rules. If your routine isn’t serving you, you’re serving it, and that’s the opposite of what systems are for.

Whenever something doesn’t work, instead of beating yourself up, simply acknowledge what didn’t work and put a new structure in place.

Whenever something doesn’t work, instead of beating yourself up, simply acknowledge what didn’t work and put a new structure in place. Click To Tweet

On some level, we tend to think beating ourselves up harder and better will make the difference this time, when that is – in my observation – never the case. There is no breakthrough in behavioral modification.

The only breakthrough is in discovering what you don’t see right now (your blind spots). And that often requires an outside perspective.

The only breakthrough is in discovering what you don’t see right now. And that often requires an outside perspective. Click To Tweet

Iterating on Your Routine

The best routine is one that’s sustainable for a virtual eternity.

The best routine is one that’s sustainable for a virtual eternity. Click To Tweet

Many people try to do too much, and don’t share in responsibilities or delegate enough.

As result, their schedule is overloaded from the moment they begin. If they were to take on one more project, their life would quickly turn to organized chaos.

First, it’s important to recognize that unscheduled time isn’t a sin. Just as a blank canvas beckons, you can leave space in your life for spontaneity, and even have time available for a project you desire to take on.

Second, you need a mental model to determine what to say “yes” to and what to say “no” to. If you’re just getting started, then you will deal out your share of yesses, but as your project quiver grows, you’ll need to begin saying “no.”

And, to call it a mental model would be an exaggeration. What you need is a gut instinct. A primal response. “Hell yeah!” or “no.”

Stop saying “yes” to anything you’re less than stoked to take on.

More importantly, keep iterating on your routine. As noted, some routines may not be workable over the long haul. Closely examine whatever you’re giving your time to, and pay attention to whether it adds to your quality of life.

Closely examine whatever you’re giving your time to, and pay attention to whether it adds to your quality of life. Click To Tweet

Final Thoughts

Once you have your routine sorted out, you can begin implementing additional productivity hacks. Until then, it’s like trying to solve the entire puzzle when all you need to do is connect the first piece.

Self-mastery isn’t necessarily easy, and it does require discipline. But the benefits are enormous.

If you have a sustainable routine that you’ve been living by for more than a year, I can already guess with a fair bit of accuracy that you have a fulfilling, happy, enjoyable life.

Routine may seem boring at first. But when you experience just how powerful it is, you’ll internalize and appreciate its value as you never have before.

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

The Renegade Musician

How to Choose Which Project to Pursue Next & Avoid Idea Overwhelm

How to Choose Which Project to Pursue Next & Avoid Idea Overwhelm

Creatives and creators are constantly coming up with new ideas.

And this tendency is often heightened by input – the books we read, the podcasts we listen to, the videos we watch, and so on.

And, before long, you’re swimming in an endless sea of fun, shiny, alluring ideas that all appear to be of equal importance.

That’s a key point. They aren’t of equal importance. Ever. And I can show you why that’s the case.

Here are several mental models, frameworks, and questions that can help you determine what to work on next and avoid idea overload.

Put Some Urgency Between You & What You’d Like to Accomplish

This is something I learned from my friend Amos Bracewell.

It’s human to assume we’ll have unlimited time to accomplish everything we want and at some point we’ll get around to all the projects that matter to us.

What dawns on us, sometimes a little too late, is that if we aren’t selective with how we spend our time, we’re going to run out before we get anything done.

But our mortality isn’t exactly inspiring, and it’s a little abstract and vague for most.

So, instead of trying to induce a premature mid-age crisis, just ask yourself these questions:

  • If I were to die tomorrow, what would I regret not having accomplished?
  • If I only had a year to live, what would I go and do now?

These questions can help you cut to the core of what matters to you.

Your head will only get you so far. We tend to come up with small, limited, mediocre ideas when we rely too heavily on our head.

Listen to your heart. It tends to come up with big, scary but worthy ideas that make us come alive. And when we come alive, it gives others permission to come alive too.

Use the Effectiveness Diagnostic

Yesterday, I explained how the Effectiveness Diagnostic works.

The more things you’ve tried, and the more experience you have, the better the Effectiveness Diagnostic will work for you. It will prove much easier for you to determine what and what hasn’t worked if you have experiences to draw from.

That said, if you have a proven track record with certain types of projects and ideas, then you already know that whatever results you’ve achieved, you can amplify and exceed them by moving in a similar direction.

If certain ideas are unproven, untested, and uncertain, then you know that the results will also follow suit. You can take a big risk and see what happens, or you can set those ideas aside in favor of ones you know will have some traction.

It’s not a black or white, binary decision. At times you will want to take risks. At other times, you will want to lean on ideas that will create predictable results.

Embrace Minimum Viable

The idea that something needs to be perfect or that it needs to be fully developed before it can be shared with the world is dangerous.

“Perfect” is impossible to measure and is an abstract concept at best. It can also slow you down and waste a lot of precious time.

As I’ve shared before, as creatives we tend to fuss over the 20% of polish or icing, when 80% of the cake is already done and is ready for human consumption.

The extra 20% might make us feel better about the project but might not make much of a difference to our fans, followers, customers, and so on.

Some might say author Dan Kennedy’s No B.S. Marketing Letter looks old, dated, or ugly (see below). But note the date. That newsletter came out in January 2019.

Dan Kennedy’s No B.S. Marketing Letter

See, Kennedy is all about what works, not what looks pretty. There is a difference. Of course, there’s no denying that Kennedy is also prolific beyond comprehension (be inspired by the prolific).

Embracing minimum viable allows us to complete ideas, get them out in the world, gather feedback, make improvements, and even earn an independent income much faster than we’d otherwise be able to.

If you have many worthy ideas, then perhaps using a minimum viable framework would help you get to the point of “done” faster, which would free up more of your time for more of your ideas.

Practice Ruthless Focus

I’ll be honest in sharing that I have three distinct focuses right now. They do complement each other, which is one of the reasons I’m able to make big progress in each area every week, but in an ideal world, you would not have more than one focus at a time.

When you’re working on multiple projects simultaneously, you will make less progress overall. Seems obvious, but it’s not simple math.

Stacey Lastoe says it takes 23 minutes (nearly 30 minutes) to refocus after you’ve been distracted.

So, in a day where you have three distractions, you would have lost about an hour and a half of productive time!

Task switching works the same way, by the way. So, if you switched tasks four times on the same day, you would have lost about three and a half hours of productive time.

As noted, I am not a master of single tasking. The best monomaniac I know is Derek Sivers. Turn to his example for inspiration (notice how he’s been pumping out books this year and last).

To summarize, spend more time doing less.

Spend more time doing less. Click To Tweet

Build Your Team

I recently hired a podcast editor as I knew it could free up several hours of my time weekly.

Truth be known, I’ve been putting this off for a couple of years. I was not confident in myself, and therefore I wasn’t confident in handing off this task to someone else.

But the measuring stick of business is independent income. Yes, making an impact is important. The people you interface with are important. Creating a legacy is important.

But if there’s no money, there’s no mission. You can’t make a bigger impact, create more lasting relationships, or build a legacy without generating more income.

My point is that when you free up more time by delegating tasks or hiring contractors, you think more strategically in terms of how to increase your creative income. And that can lead to clearer thinking in terms of choosing projects too.

I understand the struggle of hiring or delegating as much as anyone else. The following post was written with musicians in mind, but you will probably find that most of it applies to you too:

4 Myths That Stop Musicians from Building Their Team

There’s no virtue in being a lone wolf, especially when there are people around willing to help.

There's no virtue in being a lone wolf, especially when there are people around willing to help. Click To Tweet

Create a Parking Lot for Your Ideas

When I sit down to talk with creatives and creators, I am often surprised to find they have nothing written down – not their goals, not their brainstorms, and especially not their ideas.

But why are we talking about writing down ideas when we’re trying to focus more and minimize distraction?

First, if you do nothing with the ideas that come to you, they are as good as lost.

Second, it has been my experience that writing down your ideas tends to reduce emotional investment, thereby facilitating clearer thinking.

Third, we all have ideas. So, we’d be crazy to think all our ideas are good. I have already written down a couple of ideas this year that in hindsight were terrible. It would be much harder to tell without reduced emotional investment. Better to leave some space between idea and execution (which goes back to writing down your ideas).

So, create a parking lot for your ideas. As for me, I have a LifeSheet that acts as my capturing tool.

What is Resonating with Your Audience?

The previously mentioned Effectiveness Diagnostic can assist with identifying ideas and concepts that are resonating with your audience.

I tend to come up with new concepts weekly. Things like #StrategySunday, Weekflow, YearSheet, Effectiveness Diagnostic, Flashes of Elation (a book I’m putting the finishing touches on this year), and so on.

#StrategySunday has clearly resonated with an audience and is therefore worth holding onto. The same goes for Flashes of Elation. As for the others mentioned here, I have no idea.

But that’s why blogging is awesome. I get to put an idea out into the world and see whether it resonates. That saves me from getting too heavily invested in any one idea. If it does not resonate, it’s not worth holding onto.

You might benefit from a similar process. Before becoming too attached to any one idea, you can share it with an audience you think it would resonate with, and if it doesn’t, iterate or move onto the next idea.

What Does Your Heart Say?

As I said earlier, your heart is unlimited. It’s more likely to come up with paradigm-shifting, boundary-breaking, limitless ideas than your head is.

What would be bold? Scary? Unprecedented? Courageous? That’s where your heart tends to go, as suggested by Kyle Cease.

These ideas are worth more than any ideas your head could come up with.

So, if all else fails, listen to your heart. What is your heart telling you? What’s something that would make you come alive? What is something that would benefit your audience just as much as it benefits you?

Don’t try to figure it out. Listen to your heart.

Final Thoughts

Remember – you will come up with ideas that suck. And chances are you will come up with more terrible ideas than good ones.

So, write down all your ideas. Create some emotional distance. Come back to them after you’ve put a bit of time and space between you and the idea. It should become much clearer which are worth pursuing.

Did you find this helpful? How do you choose which project to pursue next?

Let me know in the comments.

P.S. I recently launched my new course, the Entrepreneurial Essentials for Musicians Masterclass.

This course equips you with practical and timeless mindset advice, along with the skills necessary to make your own way in the music business.

Click on the banner below to learn more NOW.

Entrepreneurial Essentials for Musicians Masterclass