10 Reasons Your Uber or Lyft Driver Hates You (and 10 Pro Tips to Fix It)

10 Reasons Your Uber or Lyft Driver Hates You (and 10 Pro Tips to Fix It)

Ridesharing has become the preferred method of transportation for many people living in and around major cities, which has created the opportunity for others to become their own boss and earn a modest living by transporting those folks.

I’m proof: I’ve been driving for Uber (and Lyft) since December 2015, and have given over 2,200 rides in the metro Detroit area. Doing so has allowed me pay all of my household expenses, so that the money I earn with my musical endeavors can be used to further those efforts.

Because of ridesharing, I have total agency and autonomy over my time and energy, and in our current economy, I wouldn’t ask for anything more.

Overall, most of my riders are polite, grateful, and socially aware. And many of those same riders are knowledgable about how drivers earn, and what the pros and cons are when it comes to the gig.

But too many are not. This list is for them.

When it comes to fixing a problem, the first step is to become aware that a problem exists. By being aware of the key habits and behaviors that Uber and Lyft drivers loathe, and consciously avoiding them, anyone can be a 5-Star Rider.

Based on my personal experience of giving over 2,200 rides in the last two years, here are the top ten things riders are doing wrong which either annoys drivers or screws them out of our earning potential.


1. You make us wait. 

Uber and Lyft drivers are technically supposed to wait up to five minutes after arriving at the pickup destination. Riders and drivers are both aware of this.

But unless we arrive less than five minutes from the time you request the ride, why are we waiting?? I’ve had someone make me wait seven minutes for them to get into the car, after it took me 12 minutes to come pick them up. Their ride was three minutes long, and I made $2.88 for 22 minutes worth of my time.

You know the car is coming. You asked for it. You were told how long it would take to get there. There is a clock on your phone, and you are notified as soon as the vehicle arrives. Why aren’t you ready?

And if you have multiple stops, that’s fine, but we are only supposed to wait up to five minutes. Taking you to a restaurant to pick up your carry-out order? No problem. Taking you to a restaurant so you can place an order and wait for it to be prepared? Big problem.

Please be aware, we earn five times less for every minute of the trip than we do for every mile we drive. What do you think we’d rather be doing, driving or waiting??

PRO TIP: Don’t request a ride until five minutes before you are ready to walk out the door, and don’t make us wait more than five minutes anywhere.


2. You touch our radio/temperature controls. 

Part of the joy of driving for Uber/Lyft is having your own traveling office in which to work, and be able to listen to anything or nothing as you wish. I prefer to learn while I earn, so I listen to podcasts and take notes in between riders. It’s my way of maximizing my time.

So when you touch my cockpit controls without permission, it infuriates me.

How dare you?? You’re not in your car — you’re in MY car. And just because Lyft encourages riders to sit in the front doesn’t mean you have the right to fiddle with anything in the cockpit. It’s rude, and reeks of entitlement.

If the radio is too loud or you want to listen to something different, ask your driver to change it. If it’s too hot, or cold, or breezy…again, ask your driver to change it.

PRO TIP: Don’t touch the cockpit controls without permission. 


3. You cancel the trip when we are already on our way to pick you up, and then request again (sometimes via the other app). 

This is incredibly frustrating.

Many times this happens when we are on a freeway heading in one direction, and receive a request which causes us to take the next exit and turn around — riders assume that we’re going the wrong way and cancel after we’ve already exited the freeway and turned around. This is annoying.

OR, you’re simply seeing what the rates are, and you cancel the trip once you find out what it’s going to cost on one app, and then request a ride on the other app.

We know what you’re doing — you’re hedging your bets. Stop it.

Instead, make it easy on yourself and just stick with one app. I recommend Lyft because it is a much more altruistic rideshare platform; it’s better for riders and drivers, hands-down; and over time, even after tipping, using Lyft exclusively will save you money.

PRO TIP: Don’t hedge your bets — pick an app, request a ride, and stick with it. 


4. Your trip is less than a mile.

Understand: The base fare of your trip is mostly absorbed by the rideshare company — the driver makes around 51 cents per mile and 11 cents per minute (Uber), and does not get compensated for the drive to come pick you up.

So, if it takes us 10 minutes to get to you, and you make us wait 5 minutes for you to get in the vehicle, and your trip is less than a mile…we just made $2.88 (taxable) for close to 20 minutes of our time and gas and vehicle wear — a terrible return on investment for us in order to spare you a few extra minutes of exercise you’re probably not already getting.

Just because you can afford to take an Uber doesn’t always mean you should.

If you’re not disabled, why do you need me to drive you a half a mile? Did you forget your umbrella? Can your kids really not walk the short distance home from school? Is this a hey-look-at-me status thing, or a way you flex your dollar for yourself? Are you dying of exhaustion, or otherwise being set upon by the universe??

It’s not all about you — other people have much longer distances to travel, and you are making them late.

PRO TIP: If your trip is less than a mile…WALK. 


5. You eat in our vehicles. 

Yes, I know, people have been eating in cabs for forever.

But Uber and Lyft drivers don’t pick you up in a cab owned by some company who hoses them down every night after the proletariat abuses them. We pick you up in our everyday cars!

For those who pay their bills by driving their cars are their second home. I wouldn’t come into your home and open up whatever random food I brought with me and start eating it, not caring about crumbs getting on your floor, and leaving the wrapper under a chair. Don’t come into our cars and do the same.

I’m not saying don’t bring food into our vehicles. If you’re coming from the grocery store or a restaurant, and you’ve got your bags or leftovers, that’s fine. No sweat.

But to open your food and eat it in our car, especially without asking first?? What’s that about? You’re not going to die in our car from lack of food, so do you simply have no self-control or no respect for others? Either is gross.

PRO TIP: Eat your food at home. 


6. You don’t control your children.

Speaking of food being left in cars, part of the reason that happens is because parents are more involved with their mobile devices than they are their children. The kid is eating some snack or candy of some sort, and the parent is on social media, paying little to no attention to their child’s behavior.

I make a point to compliment my riders who are attentive, engaging parents with well-behaved kids, because I see it so rarely. And most of the time, if the kid is of speaking age, they will be attempting to engage the parent in conversation, but the parent only responds with a couple of words or a sentence, immersed in their technology.

Parents, I’m sure there are times when you just want your kid to be quiet so you can do your own thing. But I’ve seen this so often that I think it’s an epidemic that is happening across the country.

If I have to step in and tell a child to stop kicking my seat, or to not get their messy hands all over my car, then you are not fully present as a parent.

PRO TIP: Disengage with your mobile device and engage with your child; reign in their bad behavior — or we will.


7. You’re too drunk.

For the record, I love white women in their 20s — so much so that I’ve been living with one for the past two years!

But I’ve given over 2,200 rides to-date, and by a landslide, my most ungrateful, disrespectful, condescending, self-important, and socially unaware riders are white women in their 20s who are day drunk.

Ladies, I know you enjoy your Sunday Fundays. But please, don’t party so much that you don’t realize how drunk and annoying and rude you are.

The same goes for the guys and any other people who know they’re drunk but are still trying to play it cool. To borrow from the late George Carlin, “You’re not cool. You’re fuckin’ chilly.”

Please believe, I don’t mind picking up drunk people. I actually enjoy that part of the job; it makes me feel like a civil servant of sorts. And many of my riders have revoked or suspended licenses because of DUIs, so I appreciate the folks who decide to open their wallet instead of crashing their car. That’s a good look as a human being.

But if you’re so drunk that you’re experiencing short-term memory loss during our brief conversation, and acting like you’re on top of the world, it’s ugly.

I know you’re not that ugly when you’re sober. You’re better than that, people. have some respect for yourselves.

PRO TIP: Know — and mind — your alcohol limits, and above all, be respectful.


8. You have awful body odor.

One thing that separates Lyft from Uber is their stringent vetting process for their drivers.

I was approved to drive for Uber in less than 48 hours by submitting my picture, driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance; it took Lyft almost a month to approve me to drive, during which time they sent a seasoned Lyft driver out to have me drive them around.

Lyft guarantees that your driver is friendly; speaks English; doesn’t drive like a jackass; and more than likely has a newer and/or nicer vehicle — with Uber, you never know who or what you’re going to get.

Another thing that Lyft guarantees riders is that their drivers do not have awful body odor. Unfortunately, the same guarantee doesn’t apply to riders.

I know, you can’t smell yourself. I get it. But before you request a ride, ask yourself, “When was the last time I bathed??” you may be surprised.

PRO TIP: Bathe regularly! (This should be obvious.)


9. You’re ungrateful. 

One benefit of using Lyft as a driver is that when we rate our riders, if we choose to give someone three stars or less, Lyft guarantees that we will never see that rider again. This comes in handy after an ungrateful — or smelly —rider exits our vehicles.

Most of my riders thank me at the end of their trip. The ones who don’t, I never care to see again.

Even if we didn’t have a conversation, a simple thank-you goes a long way. It means you are aware that you are a member of a civilized society which values being polite to one another and showing gratitude for services rendered.

Sure, you’re technically paying us, so you are technically the customer. I respect that.

But before you’re a customer, you’re a human being, just as I am, and as we all are. You should make your mother proud and act like one.

And if you’re not going to be nice in the way our culture and society has collectively agreed, then I choose to interpret your behavior as being self-important, self-absorbed, and therefore, false — you are lost inside yourself, and I am sorry for you.

PRO TIP: Even if it’s the only interaction you have with your driver, thank them at the end of the trip.


10. You don’t tip.

I saved the best for last…

During my first four months driving for Uber and Lyft, I rarely received a tip.

That may not shock you, but I couldn’t believe it, because for the most part, ridesharing has effectively replaced cabs.

Cabs take longer to come pick you up, they drive under the speed limit to exhaust as much money out of the fare as possible, you feel like you’re in a cop car, the driver isn’t always friendly, the car isn’t always clean…

But when you pay the cab driver, you tip them! Why not us??

I understand that part of the convenience of using a rideshare app is that you don’t have to carry cash on you, and that we are moving toward a cashless society. These are facts.

But here are two more facts: you are saving money and time by using ridesharing instead of a cab (or your own vehicle), and, generally, having a much better overall experience; and, Lyft allows you to tip in the app immediately following the trip (Uber will have this feature as of August).

The biggest reason that tips are so appreciated by drivers is that 10% of every dollar we earn goes toward vehicle maintenance and repairs. That doesn’t even include gasoline or oil changes, which — for whatever reason — many riders believe Uber or Lyft pays for. HAHA! (Yes, we can write these things off on our taxes, but that’s not the point here.)

Most puzzling to me is that I’ve had this exact conversation with riders, who agree with me in lock-step…and then don’t tip!! People are complicated.

Not having cash isn’t the issue. Tipping your driver is easy. You’re being cheap.

Don’t be cheap. You’re better than that.

PRO TIP: TIP YOUR DRIVER!!!


Bonus: The 5-Star Rider Cheat Sheet

Self-driving Uber and Lyft vehicles will be here before we know it. But until then, you have to rely on us.

Use the cheat sheet below to be a 5-Star Rider, and feel free to forward this to your friends and family because…someone you know probably does one or more of these things!


5-Star Rider Cheat Sheet

  1. Don’t request a ride until five minutes before you are ready to walk out the door, and don’t make us wait more than five minutes anywhere.
  2. Don’t touch the cockpit controls without permission.
  3. Don’t hedge your bets — pick an app, request a ride, and stick with it.
  4. If your trip is less than a mile…WALK.
  5. Eat your food at home.
  6. Disengage with your mobile device and engage with your child; reign in their bad behavior — or we will.
  7. Know — and mind — your alcohol limits, and above all, be respectful.
  8. Bathe regularly! (This should be obvious.)
  9. Even if it’s the only interaction you have with your driver, thank them at the end of the trip.
  10. TIP YOUR DRIVER!!!

 

#Uber #Lyft #rideshare

 

———
Visit the archive: https://therealjohnkay.wordpress.com

Website: https://therealjohnkay.com
Music: https://johnkay.bandcamp.com
Podcast: Get After It w/ John Kay on iTunes
Twitter: @TheRealJohnKay
Instagram: @therealjohnkay
Facebook: /TheRealJohnKay

Let he who would move the world first move himself. — Socrates

Copyright © 2017 John Kay, All rights reserved.

Nelsan Ellis Is Dead…Am I Next?

Nelsan Ellis Is Dead…Am I Next?

True Blood fans are mourning right now, and I’m worried about my heart.

My total True Blood viewing experience amounts to less than 10 minutes. It was too campy for me.

But I know who Nelsan Ellis is…er, was.

At least, by face. I don’t know of his work. He was always featured in the promos for the show, and I watch HBO for a few of its other original series. (No, not Game Of Thrones.)

So when I learned that he had died today from “complications with heart failure,” at 39 years old, I was taken aback.

Thirty-nine! For me, that’s less than three years away!

And I’ve been having these things recently, where my heart feels as though it beats a little faster for no reason at all, or a brief moment of lightness in my chest that I’ve never felt before.

It scares the hell out of me. This is the first I’ve mentioned it publicly to anyone.

We can’t see inside our bodies, and our inner workings and machinations are mostly on autopilot. (Imagine if you had to concentrate on breathing or digesting food.)

And to get a view of what’s really going on, our only recourse is to go to our doctor and tell them what’s troubling us, and they put us through the system. “Try these pills for 30 days and report back to me,” “Still the same? Let’s up your dosage,” “Not helping? Maybe we should try this medication instead,” and so on.

Why can’t we just get in the damn MRI or CAT machine from the get-go???

I want to get scanned for EVERYTHING.

I want a brain scan, so I can see for myself what’s happening to it and correct any issues before they become truly problematic.

I want an MRI exam to find out what, if anything, is deteriorating in my body, whether bones or tendons, ligaments, organs…anything.

But I can’t. It doesn’t work like that.

Well, then again, maybe if you’re rich.

The rich can afford a la carte medical services. The poor have to jump through all of the hoops — and if the GOP has their way, 22 million of us won’t have any hoops to jump through.

To that point, have you ever seen the movie As Good As It Gets?? It’s one of my favorites. Since it came out twenty years ago, I’m not worried about spoiling it if you haven’t seen it…

Helen Hunt plays a waitressing single mom, Carol, with a son who has a unique medical condition which her “fucking HMO bastard pieces of shit” doctors can’t pin down.

Jack Nicholson is Melvin, a rich, ornery, anti-social, best-selling author who frequents Carol’s restaurant daily for breakfast, and will only sit in her section — Melvin has a debilitating case of OCD, and everything has to be exactly as he expects it.

When he arrives at the restaurant one day and discovers Carol isn’t at work because she has to take care of her kid, he panics, and pays a busboy $20 to give him her address.

The next day, Carol arrives at home to find a doctor there, played by the late Harold Ramis. Ramis tells her that his wife is Melvin’s publisher, and that he was told to take great care of Carol’s son because Carol is urgently needed back at work.

Ramis hands his assistant a blood vial, telling her he wants the results back today (TODAY!), and then asks Carol if her son’s doctors have performed certain standard tests. She says she asked them to, but was told “it’s not covered under my plan and it’s not necessary,” which amazes Ramis, and causes Carol to spew the above quote regarding her HMO.

Carol asks if there is someone she can reach in Ramis’s office once the test results come back, to which he responds, “Me. My home number is on this card.”

His home number! When’s the last time you called YOUR doctor at home??

Finally, Ramis assures Carol that her son is going to be feeling much better very soon. When she asks about the additional costs, Ramis replies that they’ll be considerable, but that Melvin wants to be billed.

The bottom line: All it took for a poor, single mother’s son to get well was a rich guy’s daily routine being disrupted, and his subsequent (selfish) generosity.

I have no idea if Nelsan Ellis was rich, and I don’t know if he was aware of any issues with his heart. I don’t know what his lifestyle was, whether he had a healthy diet or abused drugs or whatnot.

All I know is that I read the headline today, and knew he died too soon, from heart-related issues.

That is one of my biggest fears: dying sooner because I didn’t take care of myself.

I do my damnedest to eat healthy daily, exercise regularly, sleep the right amount, etc. Still, I know death will come at some point, as it will for all of us.

But I don’t want to die at 39, or even 69, as Harold Ramis did. I want to live forever, experiencing everything the universe has to offer.

Nelsan Ellis’s sudden death is a reminder that we never know when it will be our time, and that we need to take care of ourselves and each other, and make an impact in our short time.

May he rest in peace.

———
Visit the archive: https://therealjohnkay.wordpress.com

Website: https://therealjohnkay.com
Music: https://johnkay.bandcamp.com
Podcast: Get After It w/ John Kay on iTunes
Twitter: @TheRealJohnKay
Instagram: @therealjohnkay
Facebook: /TheRealJohnKay

Let he who would move the world first move himself. — Socrates

Copyright © 2017 John Kay, All rights reserved.

Take Out the Trash

Take Out the Trash

“Nothing’s changed.”

Those who are connected with me on Facebook see that phrase every day.

Each morning, I go to the On This Day app within Facebook (many others use the Timehop app) and look at my posts from previous years. I use it to assess my progress and foster a sense of gratitude first thing in the day.

When my old posts are still relevant, I comment with “Nothing’s changed.” Those types of posts are usually centered on my core values, my humor, the way I feel about my family, my ambitions and goals, my love for music — these have never changed.

But when my posts are irrelevant, I take out the trash.

I created my Facebook account in early 2009, and I’m the same person, but not the same personality I was eight — or even five — years ago. Plus, I’ve learned a lot about social media and privacy since first joining (God knows what’s still on my MySpace account).

For most of 2009-2012, I was drunk. Not just on alcohol, which I was, but also on my nascent audio engineering career and the success of my band at the time (Bat On Fire), along with the subsequent praise I was getting from my growing network of peers and colleagues at shows, on the radio, and especially on social media.

I got caught up in the idea of being a local celebrity: getting into all the good concerts for free, getting drinks bought for me, getting invited out to everything, being with women.

Because of my personal headtrash, my Facebook posts from 2009 to mid-2011 mostly revolved around my band; clients I was recording, mixing, or producing; partying; being an audio engineering blowhard; and “bad decisions” (getting laid).

The problem was I felt like I had power. It’s quite embarrassing to read some of the things I posted back then.

I was lost. That is not who I really am, or ever really was.

So, I get rid of it all. I delete the posts, or I remove myself from being tagged in them.

I don’t do this because I’m afraid a future employer will find it, or my girlfriend or family will think less of me if they see it (hell, they’ve known me this whole time).

I’m doing this because I don’t want to remember any of it. Certain episodes, events, and chapters in my past, in a way, disgust me. I want to forgive myself for being a douchebag, forget it, and move on.

It’s not that the past is burdening me, or that I have closure issues — I’m putting as much goodness out into the world as possible, which I hope outweighs my past transgressions; I’m at peace, and karma works in wondrous ways.

The issue is my photographic memory.

When I see these old posts, my mind catapults me back in time to the circumstances surrounding the post, how I felt at the time, what my diet was like, what my belief system was caught up in, how ego-driven I was. The trash posts drum up old feelings of guilt and shame.

But again, these posts are accompanied by many other posts which are positive in nature and timeless in their value. They remain relevant to me and my life, and remind me that even though I made some bad decisions or behaved like a jerk from time to time, I’m still walking a righteous path.

I want to focus on the good, not the bad. In order to improve that focus, I take out the trash. Not just on social media, but in real life, too. Anything that takes away my focus from the present and moves me further away from my goals, I eliminate it.

My mom taught my brother and I from a very young age to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative. Maybe it’s a testament to her that I do that exact thing every morning, first thing…

Nothing’s changed.

———

Visit the archive: https://therealjohnkay.wordpress.com
Email: blog@therealjohnkay.com

Music: https://johnkay.bandcamp.com
Podcast: Get After It w/ John Kay on iTunes
Twitter: @TheRealJohnKay
Instagram: @therealjohnkay
Facebook: /TheRealJohnKay

Let he who would move the world first move himself. — Socrates

Copyright © 2017 John Kay, all rights reserved.

I Can’t Make This Up

I Can’t Make This Up

http://a.co/7oX2pXb

I didn’t just read this book. I devoured it.

As a person with a certain level of ambition, I seek out the stories of those who “made it,” the ones who have gone on to become the best, or one of the best, in their field. The undeniable ones.

Kevin Hart is undeniable.

The man has sold out an NFL stadium, and his entire show is just him alone on stage with a single microphone, talking about his life. And people love it because he is hilarious.

Sure, he has a gift for being funny, but to be able to entertain over 50,000 people at once and succeed at it goes far beyond natural talent. It takes a team of people working together for the greater good, and it requires a certain set of core values to guide the team to make the right decisions along the way.

Persistence, patience, class, commitment, learning, passion-centered competitiveness, positivity, and discomfort; these are the eight qualities that Kevin Hart singles out as being the ingredients for his particular success recipe.

With any book I read, I have a highlighter in my hand. As I read, if something is relatable to my life or adds value to it, I highlight it. Once I finish the book, I type all of the highlighted passages into my computer and organize them to work for me. I do this to maintain a personal “commonplace book.”

From Ryan Holiday’s How and Why to Keep a Commonplace Book:

“Some of the greatest men and women in history have kept these books. Marcus Aurelius kept one — which more or less became the Meditations. 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.

“And if you still need a why, I’ll let this quote from Seneca answer it: ‘We should hunt out the helpful pieces of teaching and the spirited and noble-minded sayings which are capable of immediate practical application — not far-fetched or archaic expressions or extravagant metaphors and figures of speech — and learn them so well that words become works.”

After reading Kevin Hart’s words in his new book I Can’t Make This Up, co-written with one of my favorite authors — Neil Strauss — I got right to work.

The reason his story is so powerful is because it is happening right now.

This isn’t someone who waited until the end of their career to distill the secrets of their success and share their life lessons with the world. By the time most of the undeniable ones tell their stories, so many years have passed that the tools and techniques they used to succeed are no longer relevant to the era in which we live. They aren’t practical, but nostalgia.

The tools Kevin Hart used to build the foundation of his superstar career are available to most people today: our brains, our bodies, and the Internet, specifically social media.

I’m persistent — I’ve been in the game for over 25 years.

I practice patience — this one is the most difficult of all, but becoming easier.

I have class — ‘ello, Guv-nah!

I am committed to my goals.

I love to learn every day.

My competitiveness is passion-centered.

I accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative.

And I have become most adept at tolerating discomfort.

More than ever before in my life, I am ready to floor it down the highway of my dreams. I’ve spent the better part of the last two years learning how to live, how to build a foundation for a career as a creative artist, how to put a team together with the right people in the right seats, and how to execute and manage the process.

The wheels are in motion: I’ve got three podcasts in the hopper ready to be finalized for release, one song almost complete and two more coming thereafter, and my excitement is boiling over into my blog.

Plus, if you recall the judge I worked for as a journalist on her winning campaign, she reached out to me about co-authoring a book. Nothing is set in stone yet, but the opportunity is there.

And after a couple of minor setbacks, the band is rehearsing and moving forward together as a unit.

We’re putting our brains, our bodies, and the Internet to work.

The future looks bright!
———
Visit the archive: https://therealjohnkay.wordpress.com

Music: https://johnkay.bandcamp.com
Podcast: Get After It w/ John Kay on iTunes
Twitter: @TheRealJohnKay
Instagram: @therealjohnkay
Facebook: /TheRealJohnKay

Let he who would move the world first move himself. — Socrates

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

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.

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