3 Ways to Set Yourself Up for Success in 2021

3 Ways to Set Yourself Up for Success in 2021

For me, the last four months of 2020 were kind of tough. That said, I still learned a great deal that is now benefiting me in a significant way.

In this post, I wanted to share some of my discoveries with you. If you take these to heart and implement them in your creative workflow, you will set yourself up for more success in 2021.

1. Level Up Your Association

I’ve talked about how I accidentally weaned myself off social media before.

But now when I go on social media, I see it as an opportunity to hang out with my Dream 100 and learn from them.

For example:

On Twitter, Ty Frankel (you can find my podcast interview with Ty here) is always dropping value bombs on how to build a six-figure agency. And I’m learning lots from the way Ralph Smart shares and promotes his content.

On Medium, I’ve picked up quite a bit from Tom Kuegler and his Medium strategies (and yes, they are working!). I learn from his headlines and content ideas as well.

The point is that, while social media can be a blackhole of stupidity, if you follow and model the right people, and interact with them, you can learn plenty and create valuable connections.

It takes some work to curate your feed (that’s something I should write a post on as well), but if you do this, you will think bigger, set bigger goals, and accomplish more. That’s the power of leveling up your association.

2. Publish Daily

For me, publishing daily is not a decision. I wake up every day knowing that I will publish. This is in service of my future self, as I know I will look back on it later glad I made the decision.

This isn’t to suggest that you must publish long-form, definitive, comprehensive, skyscraper guides all the time. To me, their conversion rates are a little suspect anyway.

My average post is somewhere in the 900- to 1,300-word range, but I’m not saying you’ve got to go to those lengths, either. By the way, I also publish my share of 100- to 500-word posts.

Your posts can be long and detailed, if need be, or they can also be short and pithy. It’s a matter of how many words you need to get your point across – not how much you can pad your content.

It’s a matter of how many words you need to get your point across – not how much you can pad your content. Click To Tweet

Derek Sivers and Seth Godin publish their share of short form content, and you will find that this is the exact approach they use – they focus on the message, not on the word count!

You can take a cue from Sivers or Godin, or even Austin Kleon, who tends to share more visual content with some commentary wrapped around it.

But what is the benefit of publishing daily?

My friend Chris Naish started publishing comics on January 1, 2020. On December 15, he announced that he’d drawn 200+ comics and gained 18,000 followers on Instagram (congrats, man)!

Chris Naish comics

I’m not going to make any promises regarding what publishing daily will do for you, as I don’t have any standout results to report on after 161 days of consecutive publishing.

Then again, I am still refining, and I was able to 5x my Medium income, even though it’s still small.

The point is that if you are a creative or creator, you will always have something to promote or share with the world. And publishing daily can help you build a following and get your projects in front of more people.

Publishing daily can help you build a following and get your projects in front of more people. Click To Tweet

3. Plan Your Weeks

I’ve been doing #StrategySunday planning sessions for a little over a month now. I’ve even shared about how these sessions can improve your life.

Although I’m a big believer in following my heart, using my intuition, and even leaving large unplanned gaps in my schedule, there’s simply no denying that planning has made me more productive overall.

Again, I’m not suggesting that you follow my example to a tee and plan on a Sunday. You can do what works for you.

Sunday works for me because of my publishing schedule, which I’ve detailed on my about page.

Although I believe in being in action, it’s also good to take a step back and think. When you do, you can:

  • Determine how to structure your week for productivity
  • Achieve more clarity on your goals
  • Brainstorm tactics and ideas
  • Eliminate tasks from your to-do list that aren’t high priority
  • Attain a big picture view of everything you need to do and what matters to you most
  • Create a routine that serves you
  • Cut unneeded expenses and increase your spend on winning tactics
  • And more

Just don’t force yourself to do something out of obligation. You probably won’t follow through on it.

Do everything (or as much as you can) on your own terms. That way, all your efforts will be in service of you and not the other way around.

Do everything on your own terms. That way, all your efforts will be in service of you and not the other way around. Click To Tweet

Final Thoughts

As you look to create new habits in 2021, keep it simple, and don’t bite off more than you can chew. In most cases, working on one high level habit (until it is fully integrated), is of greater benefit to you than trying to work on 10 habits at once, because there’s a good chance you will give up.

Find what works for you and keep doing it, because at the end of the day, what works for another may not work for you.

What are you doing to set yourself up for success in 2021?

Let me know in the comments below.

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Enjoy the Game of Survival

Enjoy the Game of Survival

What game do you want to play as a creative?

That might seem like an odd question, but the reality is that life itself is a game with rules and boundaries.

But no one can tell you when you’ve won. No one can make a scorecard for you. You’ve got to tailor it to your passions and desires.

There are different paths leading to different destinations. There, too, choice must be exercised.

The Game of Survival

Creativity is like a game of survival. And that’s what makes it fun.

Creativity is like a game of survival. And that’s what makes it fun. Click To Tweet

Perhaps you’ve never thought of it that way before. But the same could certainly be said of freelancing, business, or any other endeavor that involves risk.

Former CD Baby founder Derek Sivers was the first to inspire me to think of things this way. He talks about it quite eloquently in his book, Your Music And People.

School is fine and all. But most of what you learn there is theory. And when you consider how much of it, you’re going to forget anyway, it’s kind of crazy how much time and effort we put into education.

In the real world, you make real connections, spend real money, and take real chances and risks.

Yes, it can be scary. But this is also what makes it fun.

Because when you’re faced with losing it all, you’ve got to roll up your sleeves, figure out how to make a real go of this creativity thing, and take actions that are aligned with your goals.

The Power of Choice

In life, there are choices aligned with comfort, and choices aligned with risk.

One is not better than the other.

Choices aligned with comfort offer some certainty and stability. They are not guaranteed, and they can even be expensive, but most people will support you in your decision to be comfortable and you will find them doing the same things right alongside you.

Choices aligned with risk offer more excitement and upside opportunity. Again, they are not guaranteed, but they don’t necessarily need to cost more (just that you will inevitably win some and lose some). You probably won’t find much support on this side of the fence, and people will call you “lucky” if you succeed.

(I don’t know anyone on this side of the fence that doesn’t work their butt off.)

At different times, we will all make choices on either side. But choices aligned with comfort are always easier, and choices aligned with risk are always scarier.

The Playground of Adulthood

Entrepreneurship is like the playground of adulthood (again, that’s something I picked up from Derek Sivers).

So, the question is whether you want to play in the sand, or work in a cube.

“Oh, it’s just that simple?”

Well… maybe not.

Because you’ve got to know what you want in life. What you enjoy. What you could see yourself doing for 12, 14, or even 16 hours per day.

I’m not advising anyone spend that much time at work. I’m just asking if you could see yourself doing that if need be.

Many people can’t see themselves working for longer than eight hours per day. And if they were honest with themselves, they’d see that between bathroom breaks, lunch, idle chit chat, social media, and email, they are only productive for two hours and 53 minutes per day. That’s based on research.

It’s not the eight hours per day that’s making you tired. It’s the constant task switching that’s killing your productivity.

Of course, you will have many added responsibilities on the playground, with the most important being having a product and a way to sell it. Money is required in the game of survival.

Enter the Jungle

So, the question is:

Do you want to go out into the jungle, risk danger and failure, and enjoy the fulfillment and satisfaction of figuring it all out for yourself?

Or…

Would you prefer to stay in the city, where the well-worn path is laid out before you, and help is always available?

Creativity is closer to trail blazing than following a clearly defined path. That’s what makes it difficult, but that’s also what makes it rewarding.

There’s a limit to how much you can learn about creativity or entrepreneurship in school. It’s all just hypothetical until you’ve got real skin in the game.

There’s a limit to how much you can learn about creativity or entrepreneurship in school. Click To Tweet

The jungle is where the rubber meets the road. It’s where all the real learning happens.

It won’t necessarily be easy. And there will be risk involved. But the skills are learnable. With enough determination and perseverance, you can learn to survive, and eventually, thrive.

Game of Survival, Final Thoughts

While there are many unknowns in the jungle, if you choose it, you will probably find that you are scrappier and more adaptive than you ever thought you were.

And instead of wading through theory, you will be forced to figure out what works, fast.

Again, not all risk is good risk. And the riskier choice isn’t always the right one.

But an entrepreneur is “one who takes risks.” So, in the jungle, you will always be risking to a lesser or greater degree.

Are you enjoying the game of survival?

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Living Consciously

Living Consciously

Part 1: Surprise, Uplift
Part 2: Art
Part 3: Sports
Part 4: Writing
Part 5: Music

I was rushed to the hospital.

I chewed on two tablets of aspirin, believing that I must be having a heart attack. My anxiety shot through the roof.

I told my roommates what was going on, and we all piled in a car and started heading to emergency.

On the way there, my heart started beating out of its chest. “This must be it,” I thought. Eventually, the beating stopped, and I started calming down.

When I finally made it to emergency, hospital care wasn’t eager to take me in for examination or anything. Which I thought odd. And they just kept asking me if I had taken any drugs.

***

Having released my first solo album, Shipwrecked… My Sentiments, I began looking for opportunities to promote my music. Even before releasing, I had some vague notions of submitting it to independent filmmakers and the like.

I would soon discover that while opportunities weren’t exactly rare, they also weren’t available in abundance. Having played in Lightly Toasted Touché for a year and a half, I was at least acquainted with a local venue or two, and I had a few connections. I would also scan the local classifieds in an entertainment magazine every week.

But one day, my roommate told me about CD Baby. I think I had heard about them at that point but had no idea what they did.

My roommate explained that they were a distribution service. They could get my music up for sale and streaming on all the popular online stores and streaming platforms, be it iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, or otherwise.

I got excited and promptly signed up with CD Baby, certain that this was the next step I needed to take on my musical journey.

At the time, former founder Derek Sivers was still working at CD Baby, and when I signed up with them, I received his emails, which detailed his best advice for musicians. I was blown away by what I was reading.

In that moment, I was introduced to something new. Something I had never encountered before.

It wasn’t just how-to advice or tactics and tips. I had already found plenty of that in video game and fishing guidebooks. It was something more. Kind of like a challenge. It made me present to opportunities I never knew existed.

What I discovered, for the first time in my life, was personal development.

***

I went to Video Games Live with some friends and came away inspired.

The music was great. I loved hearing many of my favorite video game themes being played by an orchestra, choir, and band.

But more than that, I felt led to interview Tommy Tallarico.

The moment he hit the stage, he struck me as familiar. Then I remembered that I had seen him on TV (Electric Playground).

Intuitively, I knew that there was more to him than met the eye. He wasn’t just a TV host or the creator of Video Games Live.

And I was right. I soon found out he was the most prolific video game music composer in North America. He had composed music for the likes of Prince of Persia, Batman: Revenge of The Joker, Earthworm Jim, and many others.

When I reached out to him, he was gracious enough to be interviewed for my small website. That was the second in a series of early interviews I got to do with many of my heroes.

***

One source of inspiration led to another.

Somewhere amid engaging in Derek Sivers’ advice and interviewing Tommy Tallarico, I discovered personal development god Steve Pavlina’s articles online. I think I may have originally found his site through Sivers, but I can’t confirm or deny that.

Having gone through everything that I had gone through, I honestly believed that life amounted to little more than what happened to you. You had no control over anything – especially over things you would consider important.

That’s the way I lived in my early 20s, and I didn’t even know it.

But here was Pavlina telling me that you could make conscious decisions in life. I spent a lot of time in his material, but my number one takeaway, to this day, is this idea of living consciously.

I began to understand that there were things I could control and things I couldn’t. But regarding anything I could control, I could become present to the decision being made. And by becoming present to it, I could choose the path I most wanted to go down.

When I learned that Pavlina got up at ungodly hours to engage in his passion of writing all day, I decided that I wanted to start doing the same.

So, at the dawn of 2008, I started getting up every day at 6 AM to read, write, and work on my music.

I had no idea that I was quickly burning myself out in the process.

***

I didn’t have a heart attack. I had an anxiety attack.

As others will testify, one can certainly mimic the other. But neither are pleasant, and both can have lasting consequences.

My wrestle with anxiety was just beginning, and over the course of the next five or six months, I had to spend time in recovery.

I could have given up on personal development. Blamed it for all my problems. Perhaps, by living consciously, I would only invite more harm upon myself.

But I didn’t.

And recovery was the opposite of sitting still and doing nothing. I got into a routine of learning about anxiety, watching inspiring TV, walking, meditating, and participating in weekly rehearsals and gigs with my band. This was just as much personal development as anything else.

Amid this, I met someone wonderful at a guitar workshop. I sometimes call her my “first girlfriend”, but really, she was just the first young woman I fell head over heels for.

She asked for a hug, and when I stood up to embrace her, I felt something I had never felt before. I had balked at the idea of marrying in college, but holding her in my arms changed my mind.

This relationship brought some healing into my life. Unfortunately, she stopped talking to me only three months later, and I’ve never heard from her since.

At the time, I’d been struggling to write material for my next album, but heartbreak brought all the inspiration I needed.

And I think it was somewhere amid writing a seemingly endless stream of songs that I found healing. Anxiety wouldn’t completely go away, but it would never hit me as hard as it had that one day as I was being rushed to the hospital.

The Music Entrepreneur Code paperback

Shh… Don’t tell anyone. Only the cool kids are talking about it.

The Music Entrepreneur Code is my latest best-selling book, and it’s available here as well as on Amazon.