Passion Play

W-h-y. Why.

Such a simple word, but when it comes to creative entrepreneurs, it’s a word we hear a lot.

Why did/don’t you do it that way? Why do you work such crazy hours? Why do you waste your time on something that doesn’t make “real” money? Why don’t you get a “real” job?

The answer is another simple but powerful word: passion.

Passion provides motivation when the going gets tough, when the days are long, and makes obstacles seem smaller and more manageable. It creates focus and determination.

When engaged in an act of passion, one’s spirit is awakened. Nonsense becomes discarded for truth, and new abilities rise to the surface. (Increased self-esteem is a common side effect.)

So when someone asks a creative why they do what they do, it’s because passion is a crucial component of a rich and fulfilling life, and the bedrock of numerous great achievements and works of art throughout history.

Without passion, no one would have seen the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, or Starry Night, or The Thinker, or The Godfather, or Star Wars, or Reservoir Dogs, or the Milwaukee Art Museum.

Without passion, no one would have heard The Four Seasons*, or Canon in D, or Blowin’ In the Wind, or Let’s Stay Together, or Bohemian Rhapsody, or Purple Rain, or Born to Run, or Everybody Hurts, or Rolling In the Deep, or i.

Without passion, the world would never have known of Michelangelo, or Mozart and Beethoven, or Nikola Tesla and Albert Einstein, or Lucille Ball, or Annie Leibovitz, or Temple Grandin, or Daniel Day-Lewis, or Gordon Ramsay, or Kumi Yamashita, or Leon Bridges, or Tom Brady, or Bernie Sanders.

Without passion, the world would be boring. So…what are you passionate about?

*Antonio Vivaldi, not Frankie Valli.

P.S. If you send your email address to blog@therealjohnkay, I’ll give you my upcoming full-length solo album for free.  🙂

John Kay
blog@therealjohnkay.com

Music: http://johnkay.bandcamp.com
Twitter: @therealjohnkay
InstaGram: @therealjohnkay
Facebook: /therealjohnkay

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Burning the Midnight Oil, or Why SUV Sales Actually Spiked in 2015

Burning the Midnight Oil, or Why SUV Sales Actually Spiked in 2015

As of midnight last night, the transmission in my car is done like dinner. And I had just filled the tank up, too.

I’ve been driving for Uber for the past month in an effort to earn some extra cash, and the workload proved to be too much for my 2001 Ford Focus.  What’s funny is that I was looking online for a new car just before heading out to clock in and drive.

I say “new car” but what I really mean is a used car that is under 5 years old and has less than 100,000 miles on it. No one I know can afford a new car.

Sure, we may be able to afford a monthly payment, but most of us can’t afford to actually buy a new car, at least not the one we really want. Those of us who regard ourselves as practical are forced to settle for two-year low mileage lease specials with few additional options, while the short-sighted and pompous choose to squander resources and make life more difficult as they chase The New.

During Sunday night’s Democratic Candidates Debate, moderator Lester Holt asked Bernie Sanders, “Senator Sanders, Americans love their SUVs, which spiked in sales last year as gas prices plummeted. How do you convince Americans that the problem of climate change is so urgent that they need to change their behavior?”

My immediate thought was “Wait. We need to change our behavior?”

Holt’s question implies that SUV sales being high in 2015 means Americans aren’t currently concerned about climate change, and are demonstrating that lack of concern by purchasing environmentally-unfriendly vehicles.

I don’t know about you, but I’m very concerned about the environment. (I’m the guy you see at parties taking the plastic 6-pack ring from the trash and using my Leatherman to slice and remove every hole in that thing.) When it comes to buying an environmentally-friendly vehicle, my ideal new car on the market today is the Tesla Model S.

The Model S is great for the environment because it’s a battery-powered 100% electric vehicle. You can drive up to 270 miles before having to recharge, and Tesla is building free supercharging stations across the country, strategically positioned between major cities; drivers can fully charge their batteries in around 20 minutes, making it perfect for a short break to stretch out and grab a bite to eat. The car is also a blast to drive, and loaded with luxury options.

And the base model’s price starts at…$69,900!!

Now, one can argue that since you don’t ever have to pay for gas, the cost is recuperated over time. Makes sense.

However, for the base model with no additional options, and after making the required $2,500 down payment and paying the necessary fees, the monthly payment comes to…$816!

Never mind the fact that Tesla is actively being blocked by the automotive industry, and set aside the reality that I can’t get one in Michigan, who the hell can afford that in today’s economy??

You know the answer. We all do.

Last night my best friend suggested I go see her sales rep at one of our local Ford dealers, which happens to be the same dealer where my dad leases his vehicles. So, I went to their website to see what specials they are currently offering:

“NEW 2016 Ford Escape SE for $154 per month; NEW 2015 Ford Edge SE for $229 per month; NEW 2015 Ford F-150 XL Super Cab 4×4 for $242 per month.”

These two SUVs and a truck bottom out at 19-22 miles per gallon, and only the F-150 has Ford’s EcoBoost technology, which reduces greenhouse emissions by a mere 15%.

Contrast these with the 2016 Focus Electric which comes to $356 per month, even with no down payment. Compared to the F-150, that’s a difference of $127 per month, or $1,524 per year. If it costs $25 to fill up the truck’s gas tank and you fill up once a week, you’ll still have an extra $450 at the end of the 2-year lease. (That’s enough to take a family of four to see the most popular professional sport in our country…if your town has a losing team.)

Based on the current offers from Big Three auto companies, for a struggling middle class American living paycheck to paycheck, it makes more economical sense in the short term to lease the F-150, Escape, or Edge than it does the Focus Electric. It’s just too expensive right now, and would require making certain lifestyle sacrifices which our current culture values and thusly requires.

Truth is, it seems doing anything to live cleaner and “greener” costs more these days…

Do you prefer to eat organic food? Want your beef pasture-raised, grass-fed and finished, not factory farmed and pumped full of hormones? Organic beef at my local grocery store is $7.49 per pound, on sale. Pink slime is always $2.99 per pound.

Do you use cannabis rather than taking medication with potentially dangerous (or fatal) side effects, but don’t want the respiratory hazards of smoke? A quality portable convection vaporizer with a warranty is at least $300 to order online. ZigZag papers are $1.99 at the gas station.

And now, you want to buy a car that leaves as small a carbon footprint as possible? The deck is stacked, and it’s not in Mother Earth’s favor.

It makes me think of that hit song by Midnight Oil in the 90s…

“The time has come to say fair’s fair, to pay the rent, to pay our share. The time has come, a fact’s a fact. It belongs to them, let’s give it back. How do we dance when our earth is turning? How do we sleep while our beds are burning?”

We are in the midst of an ongoing technological and social revolution – nanotechnology knowledge is doubling every two years and clinical knowledge every 18 months. But on average, human knowledge is doubling every 13 months.

But revolutions upset the status quo, and right now the status quo of the auto industry is based on ideas and precepts of the Industrial Revolution. Gas-powered, oil-based.

Simply: making environmentally-friendly vehicles more affordable for America’s middle class will astronomically reduce Big Oil and Big Auto’s profits.

So, what do they do to maintain their hold on the automotive industry? They use their financial leverage and their connections in Congress to block the innovators (Tesla), and ensure that most “special offers” are only for the gas-guzzlers. More so, they lobby against the movement toward clean energy. It’s the same with organic food (Big Meat) and marijuana (Big Pharma and Big Alcohol).

These powerful special interest groups are composed of immensely wealthy corporations struggling to survive because the old ways of doing things are coming to an end. Rather than move forward with the rest of us who are surfing the waves of change, they choose to fight tooth and nail to preserve their soon-to-be-ancient models of doing business.

Even at the cost of the planet’s health.

But life is short anyway, right? And they say time is money. And we’re all so busy all the time already. And who doesn’t like getting a new car every two years? Let’s face it, a lot of us are going to lease the SUV, even if it means we get cold stares from anyone driving a Prius.

Of course, there are workarounds: you can order a whole pasture-raised, grass-fed and finished cow to be processed directly, buy a used car, plant a vegetable garden in your yard, adjust your diet and exercise program to reduce health risks, make your own solar paneling for powering your home, etc.

To answer Holt’s question from above, sure, we can change our behavior and minimize our carbon footprint as much as possible. But until Big Auto and Big Oil change their behavior, and make environmentally-friendly vehicles more available and affordable for an eroding middle class, the least expensive option is generally going to win.

Me? I’m going to contact a few dealerships today to see about a good used hatchback for under $8,000.

Wish me luck.  🙂

P.S. Say “No More” to rich special interest groups.  Watch the lyric video for my new protest song here: https://youtu.be/2di4s_yrfLE.

P.P.S.  Send your email address to blog@therealjohnkay.com and get my full-length album for free before it is officially released.  😀

John Kay
blog@therealjohnkay.com
TheRealJohnKay.com

Music: http://johnkay.bandcamp.com
Twitter: @therealjohnkay
InstaGram: @therealjohnkay
Facebook: /therealjohnkay

My Three Favorite Books of 2015

I read a lot.  (Well, compared to the average American.)

Out of all the books I read last year, these three were the most impactful…

The 50th Law by 50 Cent and Robert Greene
The book centers on famous rapper and entrepreneur 50 Cent (Curtis Jackson) and his journey from ghetto drug dealer to hip-hop business mogul.

I’ve been a big fan of Robert Greene’s work since 2004.  He is essentially a sociopolitical archaeologist — he researches historical figures in order to uncover the keys and pathways to their successes, and distills the information into useful techniques you can actually use in today’s world.

This short book (one can read it in a day) helps unify the principles of his three previous books regarding social and political dynamics by recommending one overarching principle of conduct to govern them all: fearlessness.

By overcoming anxieties and forging a fearless attitude towards life, the margin of control over circumstances increases, to the ultimate point where we can even create the circumstances themselves.  Being supremely bold, unconventional, fluid, and acting with a sense of urgency allows one this unique ability.

Recommended to anyone feeling “limited”.


I Would Die 4 U: Why Prince Became An Icon 
by Touré
I never really got into Prince when I was younger.  By the time I was old enough to understand his lyrics, Nirvana had already kicked in the door.  But based on reading this book, it seems I wouldn’t have received the real message of his music anyway.

Beyond just being a book about Prince and what made him excel — his fanatical discipline, his wide-ranging influences, etc. —  the book sheds light on the cultural zeitgeist necessary for his music to flourish: divorce.

“When generation X was young, divorce became far more common than it had been for boomers or would be for millenials.  …  The cynicism, skepticism, sarcasm, and irony remains in gen X’s soul and is reflected in so many of the cultural products we love.”

Recommended to anyone feeling “alone”.


The Truth: An Uncomfortable Book About Relationships 
by Neil Strauss
True love.  We all want it.  But what actually is “true” love?

Neil Strauss goes on an intimately personal journey from engagement to sex addiction rehab to swingers parties to love communes to BDSM clubs — and almost gets killed by an axe-wielding maniac in the process — all in an effort to find out if monogamy is right for him.

But he discovers that what he really needed to figure out is why he isn’t right for monogamy.  Basically, you can’t truly love anyone until you love yourself, and you can’t love yourself if you are still clinging to the programming of your youth.

This is a book that will help individuals gain insight into their own behaviors within relationships, and help couples nurture and develop their relationship through honesty and understanding.

Recommended to anyone feeling “confined”.


What books have you read in the past year which you would recommend?

Other books read in 2015:

How Music Works by David Byrne
The Other Hollywood by Legs McNeil and Jennifer Osborne
Sick In The Head by Judd Apatow
Crazy Is A Compliment: The Power Of Zigging When Everyone Else Zags by Linda Rottenberg
Shame & Grace by Lewis B. Smedes
The Road To Character by David Brooks
The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss
The Bulletproof Diet by Tim Asprey
Fitness Confidential by Vinnie Tortorich


P.S. I’ve been getting a tremendous amount of positive responses regarding my solo album over the past two months.  If you want to hear it for yourself, send your email address to blog@therealjohnkay.com and I’ll give you all ten songs for free.  🙂

 

John Kay
blog@therealjohnkay.com
TheRealJohnKay.com

Music: http://johnkay.bandcamp.com
Twitter: @therealjohnkay
InstaGram: @therealjohnkay
Facebook: /therealjohnkay

My First Negative Review

I woke up sick as a dog this morning, and had the following message waiting for me in my inbox…

“so, here I go finally…

“I’ll be honest with you: I didn’t like your solo material and I believe it has nothing to do with me being narrow-minded (at least I wouldn’t describe myself like this)…

“what I hear is a professionally recorded and produced material without soul. please don’t get me wrong (I might be wrong and this won’t be the first time) but I got the impression that you wanted to please everyone… the sound is right, the words are right, but the magic is just not happening…

“one expression comes to my mind: comfort zone

“hope you don’t get this wrong! (and who am I to judge anyway?) talk later, take care…”

 

To which I responded…

THANK YOU.

You are literally the only person who has told me that they didn’t like *any* of my solo material out of the nearly 300 people with whom I’ve been corresponding over the past two months.

I’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting for someone to get back to me with a negative review. My thought is that others may feel the same as you, but are too “nice” and don’t want to hurt my feelings or something.

Do I think you’re wrong?? Hell no. The truth about my music is that whatever it is to you, it is to YOU. I tell people all the time: music is like wine — if you like it, it’s good. You just don’t prefer this bottle of wine, and that’s cool.

As far as the material being professionally recorded and produced, you’re damn right: I performed 99% of the parts, and engineered and recorded the album myself. I paid thousands of dollars for a major-label mixer to mix the tunes, and they’ll be mastered by the guy who did Nirvana’s “Nevermind”. So, yeah, it’s gonna be professionally produced, as will any music I release publicly.

Pleasing everyone? You’re right again. I’m a people-pleaser, but I’ve been training myself to follow my instincts more and not worry as much about what others think.

Regarding soul, I have to agree with you, in part; I believe my vocal performances could have been better in many respects. I’ve been getting lots of great feedback about my voice, but there have been some folks who like the music and say that they felt my vocal was a little hesitant.

Plus, the songs aren’t mastered yet, so it’s tough to assess their overall impact. I’m confident that some additional mojo will rise out of the work once it is truly finished.

“Comfort zone”? That one perplexes me because, frankly, these were some of the most uncomfortable songs I’ve ever recorded…

My experiences making music up until recently were completely informed by rock and roll of some type (punk, metal, etc.). The thing is, I’m interested in, and informed and shaped by, many many different genres. My songwriting is all over the place. Rather than viewing my album as simply a collection of different songs that say “Look what I can do!”, I see it as a representation of my musical diversity. I have a large palette of colors, and I enjoy painting with all of them.

And lyrically speaking, these songs have some of the most honest, deep, and personal content I’ve ever written. It’s about my life and the people I’ve known and been connected to. Just putting the words on paper took a certain amount of courage; to sing them into a microphone, more; and to give them away in an unfinished state for people to criticize, the most.

I really appreciate you getting back to me with a negative review. I know that everyone isn’t going to like my music, and I’m fine with that. I just want to know why.

Thanks again!

If you’re interested in hearing my album to judge for yourself, send your email address to [blog] [at] [therealjohnkay] [dot][com] and I will hook you up.

P.S. These songs were all recorded in 2012, and since then I have made a point to really focus on my vocal performance and let my “true voice” come through.  A better example of where I’m at now is my most recent song, “No More”.

John Kay
TheRealJohnKay.com

Music: http://johnkay.bandcamp.com
Twitter: @therealjohnkay
InstaGram: @therealjohnkay
Facebook: /therealjohnkay