Category Archives: Music

Focus

Focus on less.

More.

pencils focus

Block out the noise and focus on one thing at a time. Educate yourself and gain understanding. Become sharp. Become better than others at that one thing.

Then do it again.

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Breathe…Easily or Not

Breathing is so easy you can do it in your sleep…what’s interesting is that it’s much more difficult when you’re actually awake and aware of it. The importance of simply interrupting your crazy life from time to time to focus on your breathing recently hit me, at the most unexpected time.

baby

Fatherhood is relatively new to me. I have a two year old little boy as well as a 3 month old baby girl, both of whom are the most beautiful things on this planet, next to my lovely wife. During the first month of her life, my daughter had it pretty rough. She had been experiencing a lot of belly pain and reflux that led to her crying pretty much anytime she wasn’t eating or sleeping. As you would imagine, that led to some pretty exhausting nights after also working a full-time job during the day – props to my wife for dealing with it all day long.

One night while trying to calm her down around 2-3am (I think, although everything at those hours is a bit blurry), I held her and found myself getting more and more anxious the more she kept crying. Nothing I did helped – feeding, changing, rocking…nothing. I felt my breathing getting a bit more intense and started to lose my cool, which certainly wasn’t helping matters. As I became more aware of my breathing, I started counting to myself and my brain jumped to one of my favorite tracks by the great Jay-Z, Lyrical Exercise.

1 – 2 – 3 – 4 … breathe easy

The song never jumped out to me as providing a larger lesson for life and showing the importance of controlling your breathing to calm yourself down and gain control of a situation. Maybe Jay had that in mind, or maybe he was just talking about his delivery when rapping, but either way it was speaking to me in the wee hours of that morning.

Regulating my breathing helped me control the situation and soon, I found that my daughter followed suit. As I caught my breathe, she began to do the same and soon we were both calm and able to get some rest.

Control your breathing, control the situation, achieve the desired outcome.

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Image from: https://www.pinterest.com/marilusa/o/


Rewind

Nas’s “Rewind” is genius. The whole jam is a story told in reverse, which I’ve never heard done on another track. It can be a little hard to follow at first, which really makes you listen to get the story. As I was listening, I realized an important lesson.

As Nas does in this track, take a “rewind” approach to your life. No, don’t focus on the past and what might have been had you made a few different choices. Instead, focus on the present and future, looking to the past as a lesson.

Study the choices you’ve made and the results that came of them. If you’re happy with where your choices have led, then continue doing what you’re doing. If you’re not happy, look back and see where you might have gone wrong. Rewind the story, figure out how you should have dealt with a certain situation and take this approach when presented with a similar situation now.

As your tracks play out, find time to rewind and evaluate how things have worked. It’s never too late to make some positive changes in your life.

Nas – Rewind


Trophies

“Society today won’t do anything unless there is an award involved or some kind of reward. They don’t want to make music unless they are going to get a million dollars or they are going to get a bunch of girls or gold chain or car…something that basically tells other people that they did something. People don’t just do it because they love it.”

– Apollo Brown via kevinnottingham.com

Live your life for you.

Not for others.

Trophies.

trophies

O.C. & Apollo Brown.


Provoke Thought

Sometimes, your thoughts and emotions are going to flow naturally. If you’re a creative type, you’ll be able to write a story, take a picture or compose a song with little effort. Other times, it’s going to feel like it’s impossible and you’ll never be able to successfully create something full of emotion again. From what I’ve experienced, this unfortunately happens all too frequently.

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This is something that happens not only when you’re creating art but also in many other aspects of your life, whether it’s performing well at your job, maintaining your health or loving someone special. Some days are naturally going to be easier than others. You’ll wake up ready to go and everything will seem to go your way. On these days you’ll wonder why you ever struggle…and then it happens again.

On the tough days it’s important to remind yourself that struggling is a natural part of life. It’s those that are able to make a conscious decision to work through this struggle that are ultimately able to find success. If your spouse is just getting under your skin, start by taking a deep breath and realizing you’re in control. Realize how important this person is to you and make a conscious decision to love. Be open and honest about what may be bothering you and simply say “I love you.”

If you’re having a tough day at work, start by taking a deep breath and realizing you’re in control. You may not be in control of everything at work, in fact there may be very few things you are in control of. But most importantly, one thing you are in control of is yourself and your reactions to the things happening around. Don’t let something out of your control get under your skin. Focus on what you can control and do that the best you possibly can. Soon, you’ll find that the other things that were bothering you naturally fade away and improve due to your positive actions.

thought-leadership-crap

Whatever the case may be, you’re going to have good days and bad days. On the bad days, take a step back and find something that helps you provoke thought, regain control and right the ship. One thing that works in my life is music. Music can alter feelings and emotions almost immediately. A few beats below are some of my favorites to throw on to just get me thinking. Thinking about what’s going wrong, thinking about what’s going right…just thinking. Find what works for you and use that to gain control of your life and your happiness, especially on those tough days we all have.

J Dilla – “Feel The Beat”

DJ Premier – “B-Line”


Always a Way

It is never a question of whether you can do something or not. The real question is how bad do you want it?

There are countless stories of people from every walk of life beating the odds and accomplishing something that no one, probably even themselves at times, thought they could accomplish. From cancer survivors to successful entrepreneurs to professional athletes, there are qualities that remain consistent.

Drive.

Determination.

A willingness to sacrifice.

A willingness to work hard.

These, of course, are only a few. A quick study or observance of anyone whom you find to be successful in life will easily reveal what’s necessary to become successful. Watch the actions of someone at work. Listen to a parent. Talk to a friend. Lessons can come from anywhere. Use these lessons to help you realize that anything is possible.

Never grow accustomed to losing and remember that if you “want something bad enough [you’ll] always find a way to get through.” – The Stones

Also check out Tim Ferriss’s blog. I recently found Tim’s blog and podcast and discovered that his approach is similar to the thoughts presented in this post. In his book, Tools of Titans, he discusses the different traits that have led to success in a wide array of industries and professions.

Never stop looking for the next lesson and those that have found success in life are a great source for it.


Comfort Zone

 

Chess Life

One of the hardest things to do in life is to step outside your comfort zone. We all like to be around people that we know well and do things that we’re very comfortable with. Being comfortable is a great feeling and one that you should be sure to enjoy when you have it. If we never stray from always seeking comfort, however, our growth will stagnate and over time, you will be less likely to accept new challenges. You will find yourself being comfortable, but never reaching your true potential. For some that is OK…for others, that is not an easy truth to accept. I tend to fall in the latter group.

Take time to reflect on your life and what you’ve accomplished to this point. Is that enough for you? Do you think you can achieve more? If you think you can, then you can. One way to start down the path of continued growth is to find ways of taking yourself out of your comfort zone. Seek new challenges at work and in your personal life. Doing new things will surely bring about fear, anxiety and a general feeling of being uncomfortable. As you learn more about these new experiences, however ,you will find that there is nothing to be afraid of. Knowledge overcomes fear and will lead to strength. In time, you will look back and be grateful that you accepted new challenges. You will realize that stepping out of your comfort zone has made you a stronger person, one that has overcome fear and replaced it with an excitement for becoming a better person in life.

“By deliberately putting yourself in situations where you have to face fear, you familiarize yourself with it and your anxiety grows less acute. The sensation of overcoming a deep-rooted fear in turn gives you confidence and presence of mind. The more conflicts and difficult situations you put yourself through, the more battle-tested your mind will be.” (Robert Greene, The 33 Strategies of War)

Ain’t nobody been where I’ve been…

They’re at a standstill…

I know that I ain’t got much time here…

Nas – “Let There Be Light”

 


Between the Pages

At one time or another, we have all felt lost.

The origins of stress in this world are countless. Personal struggles, tough relationships, career paths, illness…these only begin the list. We sometimes feel that we have to take on the world alone. In a sense, this is true. With everyone in this world dealing with their own set of problems, it is on you to deal with yours. To do this, attempt to reflect on your own life. Identify and break down each of the origins of stress to gain a better understanding of them. Continue what has worked in the past and change what has not. There is a reason some things do not work out in your life and it’s important to accept them and move on with your life. 

You cannot remain dwelling on endless games.

As you begin to understand more, unanswered and sometimes daunting questions will soon be answered. The lesson will be learned and over time, the student will become the teacher. Stress will begin to wane as you discover the true meaning behind the happenings in your life. This sometimes takes looking at your life from another perspective. Ask questions. Look beyond the things you see everyday.

You can find the world written between the pages.

Soon, you will realize that all along it was you that was able to break down your life into manageable pieces, understand the origins of your stress, become hungry for more wisdom and live a positive life. 

Ryan Egan – “Between the Pages”


Break The Law

It’s so easy to get used to what we do everyday, to get used to a routine.

Wake up.

Get ready. Commute. Work. Commute. Eat. Relax.

Go to sleep.

Repeat.

Sometimes we need to push ourselves to do something out of the norm, something that’s out of our daily routine. After you wake up, go out for a run before you get ready for work. Write down some thoughts that come to you while you’re working out. What I’ve found is that this is usually when I do my best thinking. The mind is fresh and it hasn’t yet been polluted with the stresses of the day. It may lead you to thinking more about your life and the lives of the people you love.

Are you really treating yourself and others the way you want to? 

It’s doing different things, maybe things that are typically out of your comfort zone, that start to provoke thinking differently. Maybe the situation I mentioned above is something you do everyday anyway, maybe it’s something you never do. What you should really start to think about is how you approach life and the things you find yourself doing all the time. Growth comes from doing something new and different, and that can only start with you. Know that it’s OK to do something out of the norm and “break the law” every now and then. Not in a literal sense, of course, but you probably wouldn’t have kept reading this blog if you thought of everything in a literal sense anyway…

Mac Miller – “Break The Law”


Things Happen

As much as we’d like it to, life is never going to slow down. It seems as though life even tends to speed up the older we get. When we’re children, responsibilities are typically limited. Of course, this can be drastically different for some, but the only real worry for a lot of children is finding the next game to play and having fun. I can remember the school days and years moving by a bit slower then than they do now.

As we grow older, the responsibilities start to pile up. We go to school and take jobs to better ourselves and provide for our families. We enter new relationships and start families of our own. We exercise and have hobbies to express our creative side and help us relax. We have good days and bad. Sometimes the stress starts to creep in and an overwhelming feeling of pressure develops, affecting not only us but our loved ones around us. We regret things and tell ourselves we will change. Whether we actually do or not depends on how dedicated we are to really changing our lives and the ways we react to the things that happen to us.

At the end of the day, this is life. Life is made up of these “things,” with our reactions to these “things” determining how successful we will be. You’re not alone because plenty of people out there are going through something very similar, although that seems hard to imagine sometimes. Someone out there is going through something similar and is struggling with it, just as you may be. Someone out there is also going through something similar, but has accepted and made their peace with it, and is moving on with a positive attitude to the next “thing” in their life. It’s important to remember that the stress we feel every so often, or even everyday, is something that everyone else in the world is feeling as well. In order to succeed and live a happy life, being able to accept our “things” and find peace is essential.

Clearly, this blog is a vessel used to do just this. For you, it may be going for a walk with your dog. It may be reading or writing. It can be anything, but it must be something you find yourself. Thinking about the “things” going on in  your life and how you’ve dealt with them is step one on a long journey.

Dawes – “Things Happen”