Be Aware, Opportunity Knocks

Be Aware, Opportunity Knocks

https://youtu.be/sfmQvc6tB1o

I don’t cry often, but I have sensitive spots, and this commercial hits a spot.

A creature — an idea — is born, “scary and messy and fragile”.  It walks the streets, receiving looks of disgust from passersby, its fur and tail matted with filth.  An outcast everywhere it goes, it seems it doesn’t have a home.  The creature appears quite sad.

And then a person puts their arm around the creature and guides it into the GE building, smiling and talking and laughing, the creature’s fur and tail becoming cleaner and prettier with each passing moment.

In the final scene, the creature, now clean and colorful, walks alone onto a stage in front of a large audience — they are giving a standing ovation.  The scene fades out as the creature steps behind a microphone to address the audience.

The tagline is “Yes, ideas are scary, and messy, and fragile…but under the proper care, they become something beautiful.”

Gets me every time.

The point is, we’ve all got something to say, and even the scariest and messiest and most fragile of us need love in order to become our best, to bring our ideas to fruition.

Everything and everyone contains a unique opportunity.

Back in June 2016, I read my local paper and saw a bunch of errors, so I found out who the publisher was and scheduled a meeting to discuss how I could assist in making their paper better.  This meeting led to me being hired to do some editing and also to rewrite a political ad.

Rewriting that ad was the experience which led to working with a candidate for Wayne County Third Circuit Court Judge.  I crafted a 14,000-word story about her life and career, and used it as the centerpiece of a grassroots social media mobilization, which, according to her social media marketing manager, was the crucial ingredient in her being elected to a seat on the bench.

When the judge and I first met, she asked me how I came to write political ads for the Redford Connection.  I explained to her that I looked at the paper, saw the errors, and instead of seeing a problem, I saw…

She finished the sentence for me, “You saw opportunity.”

She nailed it.  I heard opportunity knocking, and I opened the door.

It was an opportunity to help my community by assisting the local newspaper, which is run by two gentlemen who place great value on engagement, growth, humility, integrity, and a servant mentality.  They love the community of Redford, and they love its citizens.  They want to be the best they can be.

But the opportunity to help these gentlemen would never have been discovered if I wasn’t already in the habit of cultivating awareness.  If I wasn’t so focused on details, the little things that most others dismiss as unimportant in the grand scheme of life, I wouldn’t have noticed any errors to begin with.

The judge’s social media marketing manager was impressed with my skill set, and has since introduced me to several business owners in the hopes of engaging my talents to help them write their stories and create content which will add value for their customers and (ultimately) profits to their business.

I had a meeting yesterday with one of these business owners.  We spoke for less than an hour, then he shook my hand and told me that, from here on out, I am his go-to premium content creator.  This was after he asked what he could do to help me get further along my path, how I preferred to work, what my schedule is like, and what my rates are.

After that meeting, I went to the office of the publisher of the newspaper which started this journey, and discussed working together to transition the paper into a formidable source of Redford news, information, journalism, and community outreach, with a strong online presence via a website and social media.  I’m now formulating an overall strategy, and coordinating the team which will implement it.

None of these things would be possible, I would not know any of these people, if when I picked up the paper from my porch seven months ago I didn’t notice any errors, or saw the errors and threw the paper away, dismissing it as an amateur rag.  None of these opportunities would have come to be if I didn’t recognize an opportunity in the first place.

Understand: a heightened sense of awareness helps in all areas of life.

You need to be aware of the opportunities around you, especially if you are already somehow at a disadvantage.  Take advantage of all opportunities that are available to you, and don’t let anyone make you feel bad for doing so.

There may already be an opportunity that you know is right for you, an opportunity that completely aligns with your value system and who you are, and what you really want to do.  But that opportunity may challenge the beliefs of people who are close to you, people who you love, or who you associate with regularly.  They may say it’s too risky, or too difficult, or too expensive, or too selfish, or too different, too radical, too scary.

I’m telling you now, go get that opportunity.  Go take that opportunity and make it the best opportunity for you.

Be warned, some opportunities will present themselves to you that may seem like good opportunities, but in fact are not, and rob you of precious time and resources which would otherwise be used for better opportunities.  The key is to be aware of the path that you’re on and what values you hold within yourself, and adhere to those values, letting them guide your decision-making.  Let your experience and your values be your map and compass.

Remember: you are where you are today because of the decisions you made yesterday.  Likewise, tomorrow is the result of the decisions you make today.  Hold yourself accountable to making better decisions today, and you’ll wake up with a better tomorrow.

If someone whose values align with yours is willing to offer their help, take it.  If there’s a tool that will help you become more effective at your job, get it and use it.  If there’s a person who supports your endeavors, love that person and champion them.

A lot of people don’t answer when opportunity knocks.  A lot of people can’t recognize when opportunity knocks, or they’re not prepared when it does.  A lot of people are unaware of all of the opportunities available to them.  Knowing all of this puts you at an advantage.

So be prepared and be aware, because opportunity is always knocking.  You just have to know how to listen.

John Kay
blog@therealjohnkay.com

Music: johnkay.bandcamp.com
Twitter: @therealjohnkay
Instagram: @therealjohnkay
Facebook: /TheRealJohnKay

P.S. Episode 003 of my podcast Get After It!, with my guest Jim Doyon, is now live!  Jim is the founder and co-owner of InkAddict, a tattoo lifestyle apparel company, and he hates doing interviews, so I’m grateful to have the opportunity to share with you his insight and wisdom on life and business.  Click the link and get after it!  http://getafterit.libsyn.com/get-after-it-w-john-kay-003-jim-doyon

P.P.S.  I’m working on a new song, and plan to have the recording process wrapped up this week.  😀

P.P.P.S.  If you haven’t given me your feedback on my newest song, I’d love to hear it.  Feedback is the breakfast of champions, and based on what I’m being told, this may be my best song yet.  What do YOU think?  Check it out here, then let me know: https://johnkay.bandcamp.com/track/we-know-were-gonna-die

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Meryl Streep and Undeniable Authenticity

Meryl Streep and Undeniable Authenticity

As an actress, Meryl Streep is undeniable.  As a human being, so was her speech.

And yet, less than eight hours after delivering that powerful and empathic speech straight from her heart, it was denied, on Twitter, by the man who will be leading our country for the next four years…or more.

According to him, she’s ‘overrated’.

Has he ever seen one of her movies??

What kind of country are we living in, where facts are deniable?  Where what we see with our own eyes is inadmissible?  Where truth depends on beliefs and biases, not reality and rationality?

Where the vast majority of Americans want to say YES! to progressive change, but religious fundamentalists shout so loud and the one-percent spend so much, that they get to tell us no, we’re going backward instead?

For the record, I’m not against religious people.  My mom is an ordained minister, and her wedding ceremonies bring everyone in the congregation to tears.  She is an authentic Christian.

So on a random Saturday, when I get a knock on my door from folks who have come to spread the good word, I tell them “Thanks, but I already have a private relationship with God, and I prefer to keep it that way.”

And I’m not against wealthy people, either.  I think it would be disingenuous to say I don’t want to someday be wealthy.  It’s the ‘American Dream’.

But that dream is evaporating before our eyes.

Today, a college degree is as good as a high school diploma, and decreasing in value semester after semester.  No longer can the proverbial college carrot be dangled in front of a high school graduate, the path to a job and steady income all but guaranteed.

Because the educational system put in place by the Greatest and Silent Generations — the system which set the Baby Boomers up for nearly-sure success — has been bogged in bureaucracy, monetized, and privatized to the detriment of generations afterward.  Sold out for football TV revenue.

(Don’t believe me???  Listen to this three-part series from Malcolm Gladwell’s fantastic podcast Revisionist Historyhttp://revisionisthistory.com/episodes/04-carlos-doesnt-remember.  It will blow you away.)

Let’s also not forget about technology and its ability to disrupt entire industries, ending careers and ruining lives, creating economic chaos.

To that point, self-driving vehicles will be ubiquitous before we know it, and once ‘selfies’ are legislated to be on the roads, our country’s truckers had better have a skill set which offers value beyond the capabilities of a robot.

Understand: Most businesses’ biggest expense is payroll, and payroll is the first line item companies tend to look at when it comes to cutting costs.  Is your job in jeopardy due to technology?  If you don’t know the answer to that question, do your research.  If your answer is no, I hope you’ve done your research!

Technological progress and industry upheaval are undeniable.  The ‘American Dream’ of the Boomer Generation is dying.  Even if you’re comfortable today, chances are something’s going to happen that will make you uncomfortable in the future.

This is a good thing.  It means we have entered the Age of Authenticity.

The internet’s level playing field allows anyone with a connection to participate, but that means there’s a lot of noise out there, everyone competing for the same thing — our attention.  What grabs our attention is something undeniable, something real, visceral.  Something authentic.

If the past year has taught me anything, it’s that people will respond to authenticity.  What is authentic wins.

Our future president won the election because of his authenticity.

He resonated with so many Americans because he’s been the same person since they first saw him thirty years ago or more.  He’s remained in the media spotlight, a familiar face, a celebrity.

The same could be said of Hillary Clinton.  She’s been involved in our government for almost as long as I’ve been alive.

Yet her inability to exude authenticity was her undoing.  I mean, how many different versions of her have we seen over the last thirty years?  Nine?  Ten??  She navigates the political jungle as if a chameleon, blending into whatever environment necessary, concentrating on survival above all, living to fight another day.

After she lost the election, she went for a long walk in the woods, disappeared.  (Funny that she ventured into the woods, because during the months leading up to the election, it seemed she and her team couldn’t see the forest for the trees…)

The case I’m making for the president-elect’s authenticity can also be made for Bernie Sanders.  Though not in the limelight for three decades, he has been working behind the scenes just as long, in the trenches with real warriors, people who roll up their sleeves and get things done.  People who sometimes have to decide between going without water or electricity for a month because they can only pay for one, people who are facing real hardship and struggle, unlike those in power.

And even though Bernie lost the primary — which we now know that (thanks to Russian hackers) the Democratic National Committee colluded with the Clinton campaign to undermine Sanders’s — he never abandoned his people, he didn’t retreat to the woods.  He stills campaigns for progressive reform across the country, addressing his supporters in live streams and via email and Twitter and more.

Make no mistake, Bernie is still in the game.  He’s authentic in his passion for our country, and in his efforts to enact real progressive policy.

That’s what connected with so many Americans, the idea of positive and transformative change, not just “free shit”!

But here we are today, and our country’s future leader tweets — tweets! — that the incomparable Meryl Streep is ‘one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood…a Hillary flunky who lost big…’

Well, sir, here are examples of where she won big over the last four decades: Kramer vs. Kramer, The French Lieutenant, Sophie’s Choice, Adaptation, Angels In America, The Devil Wears Prada, Julie & Julia, The Iron Lady…

And last night, the Cecil B. DeMille Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Much like Bernie and the soon-to-be commander-in-chief, Meryl Streep resonates because of her undeniable authenticity.

When the president-elect makes comments such as he does, whether about Streep, or a disabled person, or a protestor at one of his rallies, or a member of the press, or to Billy Bush about what he does to women, or about Carly Fiorina, or former Miss Universe Alicia Machado…

Those types of comments attempt to deny others of their authenticity, one of the worst things to do to another human being.  It evidences a fragile ego, a lack of empathy.

“Wrong…”

“Dishonest media…”

“[They] attacked me…”

“Get him out of here…”

“Loser…”

“I have all the best words…”

“Grab ‘em by the pussy…”

I’ve never heard this man say “I’m sorry.”  I’ve never heard him say “I made a mistake,” or “I was wrong.”

From what I can see, it appears he’s never sorry.  And from what I can I tell, as far as he’s concerned, he’s never wrong.

That’s unbelievable.  His supporters could tell him that even Jesus got things wrong from time to time…

Jesus lived a life that was full of joy and contradictions and fights, you know?  If they were to paint a picture of Jesus without contradictions, the gospels would be fake, but the contradictions are a sign of authenticity. – Paulo Coelho

What we see from our future leader is what we get.  Yet there’s a growing chasm between what this man told us we were going to see, and what we’re actually witnessing in these transition weeks before he assumes the Oval Office.

But I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised.  It’s been reported that he’s done the same thing to the people he’s hired to build his buildings over the past thirty years.

In his own way, he’s undeniably authentic.  We’ll see what he does after Inauguration Day.  The suspense is killing me.

Steel your resolve, folks.  And please, make more art.

On a brighter note…it’s Monday, which means it’s time for the next episode of my new podcast, Get After It!.  This week I talk with Mike Gamble, the director of US business development and marketing for Media Science International, a company which handles digital watermarking for major label recordings and releases.

Mike cut his teeth in punk and hardcore bands as a teenager, and has since produced several albums, started his own record label, thrown big warehouse parties at which he DJed, and designed and built his own recording studio, where he worked with Eminem, Dr. Dre, Jadakiss, and many others…including a convicted murderer named Slim the Mobster.

You can download and listen to my conversation with Mike here: http://getafterit.libsyn.com/get-after-it-w-john-kay-002-mike-gamble

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this blog post, whether you agree with my thoughts or otherwise.  It’s time for people to start talking TO each other one-on-one, instead of AT each other on social media.

John Kay
Email: blog@therealjohnkay.com
Music: johnkay.bandcamp.com
Twitter: @therealjohnkay
Instagram: @therealjohnkay

 

P.S. Thanks to everyone who has downloaded and listened to the first episode of my new podcast with Emily Schaller, and those who emailed me with their thoughts and stories.  I appreciate hearing from each and every one of you, and I’m glad you learned something from her experience.  If you haven’t downloaded my conversation with Emily, please do so ASAP because the episode will be deleted to make room for next week’s interview.  File space is limited, and I don’t want to compromise on quality in order to fit more quantity.  😉

P.P.S. I got a bunch of emails from people asking if they can subscribe to Get After It! via iTunes — it’s being worked on as of now, and I will let you know once it goes live!

New Year, New Song, New Podcast

New Year, New Song, New Podcast

2016 is finally over.

For many, it was a particularly brutal year.  For me, it was one of the best years of my life.

Mind you, it still had its challenges, from being laid up with injuries to having my car in the shop nine times, and my laptop — the heart of my business! — dying in the summer.

But mostly, it was a great year.

I bought a nice house less than three miles from my mom and dad, got my hands dirty and did some pre-move construction and finishing with my best friend, and moved myself and my queen in in February.  We took out the above-ground pool, and installed a fire pit, around which we hosted two fun parties with many of the awesome people in our life.

I bought a great car and use it to drive for Uber and Lyft, which has proven to be both a viable source of income to cover my household overhead and a way to retain my agency as an entrepreneur.  I get to listen to podcasts — I like to learn while I earn — and meet cool people, some of whom have become fans of my music.  (Remember: Tip your Uber or Lyft driver!)

I’ve been reading anywhere from 20-80 pages of a book every day, and will include my recommended reading list below.

I got hired as a freelance writer and editor by my local newspaper, and conducted a 3-hour strategy session with them to help determine their core values as a business.

Because of the experience with my local paper, along with my blog, I ended up being hired by a candidate for Wayne County Circuit Court Judge to write a 14,000-word story of her life and career, which became the centerpiece for the grassroots social media movement I coordinated to maximize its impact.  She ultimately won the election, and the votes needed in order to secure her seat on the bench were a direct result of my efforts, according to her social media manager.

I also began training in Wing Chun Do, a self-defense-focused martial art developed by Grandmaster (“Sijo”, see-jo) James DeMile based on his years of practicing and learning with Bruce Lee in the late 1950s and early 1960s.  I had the opportunity to meet and learn directly from Sijo this past August, when he travelled from his home in Hawaii to bequeath the Wing Chun Do system and Grandmaster title to my personal instructor, Rocco Ambrose.  I’m excited and fortunate to be learning from the Grandmaster of a martial art!

There wasn’t really a single thing that I would consider to be the best thing that happened to or for me in 2016, but I think overall, I’d have to say that I learned a lot about myself and my capacity to get things done, to become my best self.  And I learned a lot about others, too.

Every day, I effort to learn something new.  Whether it’s through reading a book, or listening to a podcast, or talking with a rider when I’m out driving, I’m constantly learning and applying the knowledge gained.

I think that having a student-like mindset is a great way to approach life, and I encourage others to ask tough questions, to seek deeper knowledge in all things.

But I always keep in mind something Sijo said during his visit: “If it doesn’t work for you, it’s pure entertainment.”

So this year, I encourage you to find what works for you, and use it to help you become better at whatever you’re doing and get closer to whatever it is you’re working toward.  (I’d love to hear your story!)

What works for me is operating from a place of authenticity, and creating the best content I can.

I’m happy to announce that starting in 2017, I am now delivering content in three forms:

My blog, which, now that I have a new laptop (yay!), I will endeavor to publish on a weekly basis…

My music, of which a new song was released yesterday (the general consensus among the feedback I’m getting is that it may be my best song to date)…

Finally, my new podcastGet After It! w/ John Kay, the first installment of which was published today at 5:00 AM!  I’ve already interviewed five guests for Get After It!, respectable mavericks each of them, and plan to release a new installment on Monday of each week.

The first installment features my interview with Emily Schaller, the CEO of a Detroit-based non-profit organization called RockCF, which raises funds and awareness for the fight against cystic fibrosis.  Emily’s story and life are inspiring, and every time I talk to her I feel the need to kick my butt a little more in my own efforts.  She truly is a ray of brilliant light, and everyone can learn something from listening to her.

I’m grateful to anyone reading this right now, and to anyone who listens to my music and my podcast.  If you like my music, please buy it.  If you like what you hear on my podcast, please subscribe to it.

2016 is over.  The best is yet to come!  🙂

New song, “We Know We’re Gonna Die”: https://johnkay.bandcamp.com/track/we-know-were-gonna-die

New podcast, interview with Emily Schaller: http://directory.libsyn.com/episode/index/id/4951467

John Kay
blog@therealjohnkay.com

My 2016 recommended reading list:

Paul McCartney: The Life by Philip Norman
I was raised on the Beatles, classical music, and country music.  Anyone who is a Beatles fan generally has a favorite Beatle, and mine was always Paul, although the songs that I loved the most and wanted to learn were usually George songs.  This 800+ page book, a birthday gift from my parents, grabbed me from page one and I read it voraciously, at one point over 125 pages in a day.  Paul was the meticulous one, the one who focused on the details, staying late into the night at the studio to get his bass parts just the way he wanted them, which is to say, perfect.  This book reached into my soul, and I found myself empathizing with Paul in a way I wouldn’t have thought possible if someone told me so.  The author had McCartney’s ‘tacit approval’ to interview anyone and everyone who knew Paul about anything and everything, so this truly is the definitive Paul McCartney biography.  A must-read for anyone interested in one of the biggest superstars in the world.

The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory by John Seabrook
I hear all the time about how new music is no good, the radio sucks these days, all the songs sound the same.  Well, this book explains why.  From ABBA to Ace of Base to Kelly Clarkson and Rhianna and more, the evolution of pop music’s dominance is thoroughly broken down.  You get the inside scoop on who really writes the music we hear everywhere — mostly white, middle-aged, Scandinavian men.  This book was fascinating from start to finish, and I recommend everyone reads it.  It’s full of delicious and salacious stories, from Ke$ha’s turbulent lawsuit against producer Dr. Luke, to the time Kelly Clarkson bawled her eyes out in Clive Davis’s office because he insisted on including “Since U Been Gone” on her sophomore record (it would go on to win the Grammy for Song Of The Year).  Treat yourself to this book.  You won’t regret it, even if it does disgust you.

Ego Is The Enemy by Ryan Holiday
I need to read this book again, this time with a highlighter.  That’s something I have been doing more of, highlighting books as I read them.  This year I’m going to transcribe the highlighted passages from my books onto index cards and create what’s known as a ‘commonplace book’ for myself.  A commonplace book is a central resource or depository for ideas, quotes, anecdotes, observations, and information you come across during your life and didactic pursuits.  The purpose of the book is to record and organize these gems for later use in your life, in your business, in your writing, speaking, or whatever it is that you do.  Some of the greatest men and women in history have kept these books.  Marcus Aurelius kept one, which more or less became the Meditations.  Petrarch kept one.  Montaigne, who invented the essay kept a handwritten compilation of sayings, maxims and quotations from literature and history that he felt were important.  Thomas Jefferson kept one.  Napoleon kept one.  Bill Gates keeps one.  I first heard of the idea of a commonplace book from Holiday’s blog, and liked the idea so much I decided to apply it.  This book will be one of the first to get transcribed.  It’s relatively short, and one can likely read it in a day or over a weekend.  Beneficial to anyone.

Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age by Sherry Turkle
This one hits you where it hurts: your smartphone.  Everywhere we turn, most people seem to be looking down at a device.  It’s the reality of the culture in which we live.  But there are devastating side effects to our new habits that are only now being discovered.  This book sheds light on those side effects.  There’s a group of friends going out to dinner and mandating the creation of a ‘cell phone tower’ in the middle of the table, where everyone stacks their device on top of the others, and the first person to grab for theirs when it rings has to pay for the entire meal.  Or consider that many young professionals fresh out of college and beginning their careers would rather talk to their colleagues, bosses, and employees through text, email, or Gchat, than have an actual one-on-one, face-to-face conversation.  We are connecting with our devices more than we are with each other.  According to Turkle, based on her research, this is a growing epidemic, the results of which are a general lack of empathy toward others and an inability to tolerate natural lulls and awkwardness in conversation.  Sound like the world we live in?  Ever since reading this book, I have effort to ‘elevate the conversation’ whenever possible.  Instead of emailing, I’ll text.  Instead of texting, I’ll call.  Instead of calling, I’ll drop by.  By elevating our conversations, we can reclaim our empathy and our connection to one another.

The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time by Arianna Huffington
Believe me, no one was as shocked as I that I purchased something from Arianna Huffington.  Regardless of any opinion one may have about her, the information in the book is immediately applicable.  Since reading it, I do my best to get at least 7 hours of sleep every single night.  You should, too.