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.

Baby, This Is NOT What I Came For

Baby, This Is NOT What I Came For

I feel duped.

I went on Spotify to check out the US Top 50.  I knew the song we heard in our Uber the other night would be in the playlist, but I couldn’t find it.

I had a feeling the song’s title would be obvious, and that it wouldn’t be by an artist I’ve heard of before.  Turns out I would be spot-on with my first feeling, dead wrong with the second, but I wouldn’t find that out just yet…

I glazed over all of the names in the list: Drake, Rihanna, Adele, et al.  None of those could possibly be the artist whose song I’m thinking of.

You’ve probably heard it.  Because it’s everywhere.  Pop dominates right now, and nothing will change that overnight.

“Baby, this is what you came for

Lightning strikes every time she moves

And everybody’s watching her

But she’s looking at

You-ou—you-ou—ou-ou”

It’s catchy as hell!  But I didn’t see it in the list, or at least, I didn’t think I saw it.

So I clicked instead over to the Discover Weekly playlist, and after 30 seconds or so of the first track, I skipped to the next…

“She’s Looking at You” by Everything But You.

There it was!  The song I was looking for!

But…not exactly.  The words were the same, as was the tempo.  But it was in a different key, and the “you-ou—you-ou—ou-ou” wasn’t as chopped up as what I had heard over and over again.

So I Googled the song and what came up??

“This Is What You Came For” by Calvin Harris, featuring Rihanna.

And that’s when my adrenaline spiked.

I first heard this song in May, once I had finished reading The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory by John Seabrook, and the day after I saw Drake host and perform on Saturday Night Live.  I spent that Sunday listening to all 50 songs in the US Top 50 in order to immerse myself in what the current mainstream culture is listening to these days on the most widely-used streaming site.

I navigated back to the list and sure enough, there it was, sitting at #4 with 852,388 daily plays.

Understand: there are no bands in the US Top 50 on Spotify.

Playing the song got me even more upset.  Because even though the original song by Everything But You employs the use of AutoTune (most professional productions these days do) at least the singer is close.  And the Rihanna version is positively dripping with AT.

Because she can’t sing.  At least not like Whitney Houston, or Mariah Carey, or Adele, or even Maya Rudolph.  Rihanna’s talent is looking good, playing the part of pop queen, being an identity for a global brand, and recording songs crafted for her by others.  And she knows it.

According to Seabrook, at an impromptu audition in front of a major label songwriter vacationing in Barbados, a young girl named Robyn Fenty arrived wicked late, and her singing was very pitchy.  She was part of a three-girl group of wannabe pop stars, of which one had a mom who was friends with the songwriter’s wife.

But she was late because she was taking time to perfect her outfit and her makeup.  And it paid off, when the songwriter offered her an opportunity to come live with him in New York and make a demo record.  He didn’t care for the group, but thought, with the right polishing, he could make Robyn a star.

Fenty was desperate to escape an abusive father in her home in Barbados, and essentially said “I’ll do anything you want, I’ll sign anything, just get me out of here.”

Fast-forward to today, and she’s one of the biggest pop stars in the world, going by her middle name: Rihanna.

So when I found out that the song which is permeating the airwaves of radio, streaming, and TV (I distinctly remember hearing the song at a commercial cutaway during the NBA Finals) is, in fact, a complete sampling and remix of another song, performed by a fabricated pop star, I got pissed off.

You see, unless you are already commanding a great deal of attention, it’s incredibly difficult to break into today’s mainstream consciousness.

Music is not the only industry for which this is true: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have both been in the public eye for around thirty years, and Bernie Sanders was a relatively unknown senator less than a year ago.  Now, at the last minute, we’re being introduced to Gary Johnson and Jill Stein as viable options.

Too little, too late — the public is going to vote for who they know, and they don’t know these third-party candidates the way (they think) they know Trump and Clinton.

And the public is going to listen to Rihanna, not Everything But You.

Because it’s much easier for a record label to take a good song from a new or up-and-coming artist and repurpose it for one of their already-successful stars, than it is to spend time and money nurturing and growing that up-and-comer’s budding career.  Labels want sure things, not what-ifs.

The 1970s are gone.  And so is the record labels’ way of doing business back then, when artists would be signed to development deals, with the understanding that the first album may not reach the public consciousness, but over time, as their talent was honed and their fan base grew, their catalogue of work would create an impact, and therefore, sales.

Today, if an artist doesn’t sell right out of the gate, if they don’t make an immediate and measurable impact, they are cut.  Done-zo.  The bottom line is the most important priority in deciding what music to release, and labels can’t afford, in this freemium culture, to take a chance on an unknown.  There’s too much to lose.

More and more, even as the world becomes super-connected through the internet, we are identifying with individuals.  People to whom we can relate, who share the same struggles as we do.

And sadly, too many females can relate to getting the crap beat out of them by their boyfriend.  But most of them don’t end up getting their own line of perfume.

I’ll still listen to the song, but I hate that it’s Rihanna and not the original artist.

And I’ll still vote for the Democratic Party presidential nominee, but I hate that it’s Hillary and not Bernie.

Baby, this is NOT what I came for.

“She’s Looking at You”: https://open.spotify.com/track/6skvUcjOmyE5ADFDW7St6z

“This Is What You Came For”: https://open.spotify.com/track/0azC730Exh71aQlOt9Zj3y

P.S. My debut album has been streaming on Spotify for the last month, and can be purchased on my BandCamp page, which includes my cover of Rufus Wainwright’s “Jericho”.  Pick it up today for only $7.99 (you can pay more if you’re feeling generous), and add my songs to your Spotify playlists.  Independent artists need all the support we can get, and yours is immensely appreciated.  Thanks in advance!  🙂

John Kay
blog@therealjohnkay.com
TheRealJohnKay.com

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

What Do You Do When Your Lover Hates Your Art?

What Do You Do When Your Lover Hates Your Art?

So I have this problem.  Not really a problem, it’s just…I guess…a bummer.

My girlfriend doesn’t like the new song I’ve been working on.

This tune has been milling around in my head for the past few weeks.  I stumbled on a melody that I enjoyed, sang it all day in the car, and got the gumption to wrap a song around it and record it.

And now I can’t stop listening to it!  But there are a couple of things I need to address before actually releasing it, which include re-recording the lead vocal.

Many who have given me feedback on my music say “John, your stuff is really good, but sometimes your lead vocal seems forced,” or “it seems like you’re trying to hit all the notes,” or “it feels like you’re concerned with being perfect instead of just singing.”

Those are tough pills to swallow, because I don’t really know when my vocal is done until someone else tells me it is.  Being that I produce my work myself, I have no way of knowing if my work is truly done.

And how do I know when it’s actually good??

Yes, I want to hit all of the notes, but I also understand that feeling and emotion can sometimes get lost in the process of striving for perfection.

I’m at a point where I don’t know whether my vocal is good, or what I should even do with the tune — my queen doesn’t like the song, and her opinion matters to me.

According to her, I should not release the song under my own name, or I should try to sell it to another artist.  She says she hates my new song for the same reasons that I don’t like Sia’s music.  And a huge part of the reason I don’t like Sia’s music is because I have learned how today’s hit songs get made…

I just finished reading a book two weeks ago called The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory by John Seabrook.  The book explains that the majority of major label producers and writers today utilize a method Seabrook calls “track-and-hook” — a (hopefully) compelling music bed is created and vocal melodies and hooks are paired to match, or vice-versa.  There are teams of writers who work on songs together, trying to add the best beats, melodies, and “top lines” (the vocal hooks that are the most memorable).

The most successful top-liners generally sing the lead vocal on the demo versions of the songs they are attempting to sell to a recording artist.  In many cases, their performance is, in fact, better than that of the artist who ultimately records and releases the song.  But, these top-liners are kept in their place by the powers that be in the music industry (not pretty enough, skinny enough, buff enough, young enough, and on and on and on).

And then all of a sudden, came Sia, swinging from her chandelier.

Sia cut her teeth in Australia, but her bands failed to break through to the mainstream.  So she moved to NYC and became a top-liner, crafting hits for today’s biggest stars before creating her worldwide solo success.  Her writing credits include “Pretty Hurts” for Beyoncé, “Perfume” for Britney Spears, “Boy Problems” for Carly Rae Jepsen, and “Double Rainbow” for Katy Perry.  She’s fantastically talented, has a gift with words, and her voice is powerful.

I hear potential in Sia’s work in the same fashion as I did Lady Gaga’s music when I first heard it.  I thought, “Okay, you’re obviously talented.  And now that you’ve hooked everyone with your catchy pop stuff, the next album had better be the real deal.”

The issue I have with Sia is that, to me, her music sounds like a bunch of top-lined demos, waiting to find an artist to re-record them.  Much of the time it sounds like she’s mumbling words so the artist can put their own inflection on them later, or pretending to sound like Rihanna…which is incredibly ironic, since Rihanna probably had to figure out how to sound like Sia when she recorded “Diamonds”, since Sia wrote it!

One successful top-liner has a particular way of working: she goes into a recording studio and listens to several beats and music beds pre-produced for the session by the rest of the writing and production team; once she hears something that moves her, she enter the vocal booth and makes noises along with the music, trying to find the right emotional impact; then, after the basic pattern and melody are established, she improvises different lyrics on the spot, or reads from her notes of one-liners and couplets, trying to find The One.

This top-liner’s name is Ester Dean.  You may have heard of some of her songs: Ciara’s “Drop It Low”; Rihanna’s “Rude Boy”, “Only Girl (In the World)”, “What’s My Name”, and “S&M”; Nicki Minaj’s “Super Bass” and “Turn Me On”; and “Firework” for Katy Perry.

They figured out the formula.  They figured out how to craft a song in such a way that after repeat listens, you actually like it.  At first you may hate it, but after you hear it a bunch of times, you may like it.

Then again, the opposite is true in the case of my queen and my newest song.

When the person who loves you the most and supports you in your endeavors doesn’t like the work you’re doing, does that mean you shouldn’t share it with the rest of the world??

Frankly, I feel as though I need to release it, simply because she hates it.  I’m not sure about you, but I hate most pop music that comes out.

But they keep playing it, and people keep streaming it.  Some people — not nearly as many as who stream it, but some people — keep buying it.  And both go to the concerts.

So if I hate most of the songs on the radio, but they’re incredibly popular with millions of others…and if there are many unsung heroes behind the scenes, writing songs, and creating today’s hits…why can’t I follow my muse from time to time and create a pure pop song for the sheer enjoyment of it??

No, this particular tune doesn’t have a whole lot of substance to it.  It doesn’t have a whole lot of depth and meaning.  But why is that a problem, considering that most of the songs I’ve written throughout my 20+ years of songwriting do have depth and meaning?  Why is it a problem for me to make one pure pop song?

Hell, maybe I’ll make ten more!  Do ten pure pop songs outweigh the value (or take away from the value) of the hundreds of other songs in my songwriting catalog which have depth and meaning, and interesting chord changes, and intricate melodies, and multiple vocal harmonies, and an orchestra’s worth of tracks and instruments??

Sometimes it’s okay to just like a pure and simple pop song.

Unless of course, you’re a rock and roller, in which case you may be called a faggot or a sellout for liking something that doesn’t fit the mold of what’s “acceptable” in the rock scene.  A scene which rails against the use of computers and digital technology in the creation of music.

Maybe the reason I’m so fearful to create and release a pure pop song is…I fear that it will alienate people who enjoy my other music.  I don’t want that to happen.  I want to be able to create music whenever I want, based on the inspiration I get from my muse.

And my muse speaks to me randomly.  It happens all the time.  It doesn’t even have to relate to music.  It could be an interaction with a person, a news article I read online, a book I am reading or have read, a movie; it could be anything.

For example, the sound of an ambulance siren in Budapest, Hungary that I heard as I was strolling through the city on a day off while on tour last year.  Noticing the rhythm and the melody, I immediately opened up my voice memo app and captured them, so that when I got somewhere I could create music again, I could take that sound I heard and put it in a song, or rearrange it.

Or whatever I want, because while there are some rules when it comes to making music, there really are no rules when it comes to making music.  No limits.

That’s how the world works for me: anything and everything can be an inspiration to create.  So I’m not making this pure pop song as a way of selling out (or buying in).  I’m not making it so that I can get clicks and likes and shares all that stuff.  Those things are nice, but I would like to believe that they are a byproduct of making quality art.

But “quality art” is subjective, and the subject of this particular song is about going out to the club with your friends, catching a stranger’s glance from across the dance floor, and falling in love at first sight.  Can’t get more cliché than that, can you??

(“You’re going to be 35 next week.  When have your friends ever picked you up to go to the club??” my lady says.)

AND, the song only has four chords — D, E, F# minor, and A; and they cycle over and over for the entire song.  The chord progression does not change, and yet the song builds and builds, as do most of my songs.

(“You say Sia’s songs are the same thing over and over, but so is this song.  Don’t be a hypocrite.” she elaborates.)

With my music, I try to take you somewhere.  I try to transport you through time, over the course of a few minutes, and escort you on a journey.  Music is the only art form that can do that.

Visual art, as stunning and amazing as it can be…once you’ve seen it, you’ve seen it.  You see a tattoo or you see a painting, and you’ve seen it.  It’s over.  But a piece of music, it takes time to unfold.  You have to sit there — have to pay attention — if you really want to get the depth and meaning.

Or don’t.  Either way’s fine.  Some music is just there for background noise.  Many artists even pride themselves on being essentially background noise for the party.

Most of my songs, I don’t want them to just be background noise.  I want them to be the songs that you spin when times are tough, to remind you to keep going, to persevere, to never give up, and to believe in yourself and believe in your dreams and achieve something.

But this particular song, the purest pop song I’ve ever written, is simply ear candy.  It may get stuck in your head, because the melody is memorable and you can sing it and sing it and sing it, and not get bored with it.

I speak from experience: though the song hasn’t yet spent a month in the universe, it’s one of those that I can’t stop singing.  It is physically gratifying to me to sing this melody and the words the way they are.  It feels good on my tongue, in my throat, in my chest, and in my stomach when I vocalize the sounds which make up the words and melody for this tune.

So I’m going to recut the vocal.  I’m going to mix this song, and I’m going to do it as quickly as possible and get it on Spotify.  Because I think that there are going to be a lot more people that simply enjoy the song for what it is, rather than hate it for what it is.

Because what is it at the end of the day?  It’s just a song.  Just another song out there in the ether.

But it could become a party anthem.  It may make you sing.  It could be a song that gets the club jumping.  It could be a song that makes two strangers fall in love and become best friends.  Who knows?  Maybe it’ll just lead to a couple of one-night stands or random hook-ups.

Understand: if it affects you — if it causes a reaction — it’s done its job.

This song moved my girlfriend to hate it and call me a hypocrite.  I wonder what everyone else is going to think of it…

But first I have to sing it again, better than last time.

P.S. My new album has finally been mastered, and is currently being prepared for release on Spotify, Amazon Music, Google Play, Tidal, BandCamp, and iTunes.  It’s all happening. 🙂

John Kay

blog@therealjohnkay.com
TheRealJohnKay.com

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

Kick in the Butt

artist

You know, the universe never ceases to amaze me….

I ordered some monitor stands for the studio in the new house so I can migrate my operations here.  Along with the stands, I bought a few books, which have all since arrived.  Steven Pressfield’s Do the Work was delivered this morning and I’ve just completed it.  At a mere 98 pages, it was easily the shortest book I ordered.

The main theme in Do the Work is getting out of your own way by overcoming Resistance (Pressfield purposely capitalizes this word), and allowing Assistance to aid you in your efforts.

Pressfield essentially says that in order to succeed at effecting a change in one’s life, one needs to:

1. Stay stupid

2. Trust the soup

3. Start before you are ready

When it comes to being creative, to “stay stupid” means to not over-think and just act — without simultaneous self-criticism.

Just begin.  Get after it.  Don’t worry about the results yet.  Just follow your muse and allow it to take you wherever it goes.  You can sand off the rough edges later, just get started and engage in the work.

To “trust the soup” is to let go of the need to control, and put your faith in something bigger than you.  Not necessarily God, but the “Big Mystery” or “The Source” or just the universe itself.

The goal is to remove any preconceptions or held-fast rules or judgement and simply allow ideas to come to you naturally, organically.  There are no right or wrong ideas, only ways of thinking which make them so.  Don’t think.  Just write your ideas down.  Record voice memos.  Capture your thoughts as swiftly as possible, or they may leave before you get a chance.

“Start before you are ready” is a theme I find common throughout my studies.  It’s good to be prepared, but if you prepare too much and your plan is too rigid, you leave no room for maneuvering should problems arise.  And problems will always arise!

If you begin before you are ready, you know you are unprepared, and therefore, you will have to be more focused and attentive to the matters at hand.

You are naked, you are alone, and you are scared.  You must do something.  So DO something.  Place yourself on what author Robert Greene calls “death ground” — if you are in a position in which you absolutely cannot fail, in which you either live or die, your focus and energy will rise to meet the challenge.

Pressfield’s advice in Do the Work is delivered pointedly and succinctly, with humor sprinkled throughout.  I recommend it to anyone who wants to make a fundamental change in their lifestyle or business.  It’s a good kick in the butt for those who need it.

Don’t we all need a good kick in the butt sometimes??

I got mine today, right after lunch…

My queen left for work, and I sat my happy butt down in my easy chair and settled in for some me time, playing Black Ops 3.  After a few rounds, I cooked a pork chop and warmed up some bacon jalapeño mac and cheese (yes, it’s as good as it sounds; feel free to email me for the recipe!).

As I was eating and playing, I thought of the book I had just read.  And I got upset with myself.

I thought, “Is this Resistance??  Right now?  Me, reclining in a comfortable chair, eating and playing video games instead of working on something?  Should I stop what I’m doing right now and start working?”

[It may seem weird, but I have conversations with myself often.  You see, entrepreneurs have no true barometer for how hard they supposed to be working, at any time.  “I’m my own boss” literally means that I am the one who has to boss me around and hold me accountable.  For each time I think I’m the hardest working person I know, there’s a time I believe I’m the world’s biggest slacker, that people think I’m lazy.  (This is actually very common among entrepreneurs, and can lead to serious bouts of depression.)]

Once I finished eating and cleaning the dishes, I looked outside to see if my monitor stands had arrived yet.  They hadn’t, but the regular mail was in the slot.

Along with the usual ads/junk/bills was a package for me.  Upon opening the mailer, I laughed.  I had received the kick in the butt I needed — The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Creative Battles, the other Steven Pressfield book I ordered.

Reading is very important to me.  It makes my brain tingle in a very positive and productive way.  When I read, I read with intent to learn.

There was a book I bought once for $70.  My friend laughed at me, thought I was crazy.  “You paid seventy dollars for some old book?!”  I told him that I didn’t just buy some old book, I bought the author’s thoughts.

When I opened The War of Art, I knew this was the universe saying “John, slow down.”  Because I haven’t really read any books since I last toured, which was November of last year.  I’ve been so busy with my fan club, buying and moving into the new house, producing and writing new songs, driving nice people (and a couple crazies) around metro Detroit, blogging, etc.  I haven’t taken time to sit and read, to soak up new insights.

So this weekend, in between moving the studio gear and furniture to the new house, getting everything in its proper place and setting it up, acoustically-treating the mix room, and approving the master of my new album (excitement!), I’m going to be doing as much reading as possible.

As soon as those monitor stands get here…it is ON!

But first a few more rounds of free-for-all in Black Ops 3.  😀

John Kay
blog@therealjohnkay.com
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