The Path – Part 2: Shifting Gears and Finding the Groove
In Part 1, I touched on my recent existential revelation that journalism ain’t really my thing, and how narrowing my coverage to only the news I like will be much better for the business of bringing folks together. In this post, I’ll reveal my freshly devised plan of attack for taking on the never-ending path ahead.
Basically, the central theme of my epiphany has been positivity at all costs. This lead me to completely rewrite the About and Author pages, and I did go back and make a few edits to some previous posts.
It’s pretty simple really, I just cut out anything potentially divisive. This whole enterprise rests on cohesion, and that means avoiding any forces that repel. Music is the magnetism that allows opposites to attract. Any energy working against that pull only results in a weaker bond. The consonance of harmony can only be found by eliminating the dissonance of sour notes. Practice makes perfect.
This isn’t to say we should bury our heads in the sand and shield ourselves with unrealistic optimism. We need to remain aware of our problems, but recognize that solutions only arise out of the actions of reaction, not the awareness itself. Knowing only gets us half way. We need the doing to get it done.
As a general rule, complication is great for maintaining the status quo, while simplification works best for initiating new practices. The ideas pushed by this blog run contrary to societal norms, which means keeping the grand plans to a minimum. People are only interested in outcomes they can visualize.
Since the outset of this blog, the eventual endgame was to culminate in a staggeringly ambitious tour. 100 shows in 50 states over one year to be exact. How I thought this was an attainable goal, I can’t say. But apparently it seemed like a perfectly reasonable conquest in my mind for quite some time.
“The Plan,” as I referred to it, has now been replaced by “The Path,” which as it turns out, has no plan.
The Path is a way of being, rather than a way of doing. There is no pressure, no deadlines, no guilt.
I’ve gone further in one month walking the Path than I did in six months following the Plan.
The Plan was a prison I was chaining myself to, proclaiming the necessity for a solid routine and a fully loaded schedule. I proceeded along this line of thinking, and watched myself fail to take action again and again. Then it finally dawned on me: Maybe I’m just not built for rigid structure. Maybe I need to simplify my plans. So, I dropped the schedule and the tour, and watched myself go straight to work.
Everyone operates differently, and I’m still figuring out how I best function. Only recently have I come to see how much one’s productivity is determined by one’s mindset. I’ve always attempted to develop a week’s worth of habits by penciling them all in as appointments on a weekly calendar, then I usually wind up disappointed in myself for missing the majority of my self-induced imaginary obligations.
What’s the point of doing something that’s not on a time clock if you set a time clock for yourself? I’ve realized that I actually work better without a schedule. It may be some kind of ingrained rebelliousness picked up over 12 years of Catholic schooling, but I’m finding that when I’m told to do something, even by myself, it makes it harder to accomplish. But then if I allow myself to do whatever I please without pressure or guilt, I easily get right on the job, just because I want to.
If I’m meeting with others, I’ll be there right on time and ready to rock and roll. But If I’m setting a schedule for myself, attendance is optional.
While I don’t feel you need a strict routine to succeed, consistency is absolutely crucial. Only a deliberate repetitive action can form a habit. It’s just a matter of forming the right habits, then sharpening the saw.
Finding the Groove
Oh, habits. I’ve managed to shake some nasty ones. But breaking the bad and making the good are two different beasts. I’m at a point where I’ve shed most of what I shouldn’t be doing, and pivoted squarely to ramping up what I should be doing. I’ve diminished the destructive, now it’s all about augmenting the constructive. My habitual hurdles ahead mostly center on the reallocation of time and energy.
It says something about the nature of modern society when we have to deliberately carve out a space for doing things we love, lest the distractions devour our every waking moment. But at least for me, it has to be done. The merciless ease of the whole wide world in my hands has proven too tempting.
I find it helps when I think in terms of habit substitution. For example, I’ve pinpointed the three habits I most want to develop, and my three biggest time wasters. I’m currently in the process of replacing TED talks, VICE news and Facebook with music lessons, exercise and making contacts.
If I can turn most of my TED time into practice, my VICE articles into muscle, and my news feed scrolling into email sending, I’ll be a better sounding musician, a better looking performer, and a better connected blogger at the end of each week. And that’s really the key – just a little bit more every week.
The trick is to start small. “Make it so easy you can’t not do it,” they say. Commit to the most elemental activities first, and show up consistently until they’re automatic. Add no other activities until they are.
My hope is that the blog will naturally evolve as this transformation takes shape – a gradual conversion of content away from my thoughts and the actions of national players, more toward my actions and the thoughts of local players. Less talking, more doing. Less telling, more asking. Less consuming, more producing. Less me, more you. Less them, more us. Less bad, more good. Less words, more music.
Fortunately, I’m already positioned for success. In the time since my last post, I’ve settled into a new living situation far more conducive to building healthy productive habits. I have a decent home studio set up with room to roam, plenty of peace and quiet for recording, and my new gym is across the street.
And as it happens, our local paper the Journal & Courier published a great piece a couple weeks back covering the history of live music in Lafayette, and a lot of the movers and shakers that make it happen. It’s practically a guidebook for the initial contacts I need to make, so a big thank you to J&C for that.
I finally have a clear message that I am comfortable pushing wholeheartedly and without reservation.
I’ve got what I do down to six words: Help communities help themselves through music.
There are tons of ways that communities can help themselves. But the only real way to explain how is to write about the folks already making these types of things happen. I look forward to contacting and introducing these innovative people and projects. And whatever it is they’re doing, I hope to help them make it musical.
It blows my mind to think that everything up to this juncture was merely preparation, but the truth is this project has only just begun. The lessons I’ve learned have finally sunk in, the psychological battles and strategic dead ends are all behind me, and here I stand at the starting line.