How To Be A Rockstar – Part Three: Identifying Desire

Today I’m going to get into the subject of identifying what you want. To me being a Rockstar means trusting your own desire, and being willing to go where it takes you. But what does that end up looking like in practical, everyday terms?

First off, let’s be clear that desire is dangerous. We’re inculcated from a very young age with the idea that we need to subvert our desires in order to find security, and this can actually be pretty true. The world would probably fall apart tomorrow if everyone quit their office jobs and moved to the beach to write a book about whales. Following your desire can often look like trading your cow for a handful of magic beans, but then again… If you’re lactose intolerant and sick of cleaning up cow shit, a handful of magic beans may look pretty appealing.

For me it was sheer dumb luck, I’ve known I wanted to make Music since I was about five years old. I remember my older brother putting on a live AC/DC album and I heard Bon Scott’s on-stage banter. What went through my five year old head? “Oh man, how am I going to know what to say between songs?”. It took a loooonnnnggg time for me to truly admit to myself that this is what I wanted to do with my Life, but that nagging desire really never left me.

Other people aren’t always so lucky. We’re so bombarded with influences; parents, school, friends, social status, etc. etc. etc. that it’s very easy for that little voice whispering from our heart to get cluttered away. Many people reach adulthood with no clue as to what they actually want. 

So what do you do in that situation?

First off I think it can be a good idea to start small. If you don’t know what you want to do with your Life on a grand scale, start with what you want for breakfast. Instead of getting up in the morning and fixing the same old peanut butter on toast with half a grapefruit, take a minute to check in with yourself. What do I really want right now? It may turn out that you want French toast with a side of bacon. It may turn out that you want a kale smoothy. Or it may turn out that peanut butter on toast will really hit the spot. Either way you listened to yourself, and gave approval to what you heard. I believe that starting small and checking in with your desire in the moment is a recipe to revolutionize your whole Life. Or at least what you eat for breakfast.

The second thing you can do is this: Try to remember the last time you were really happy doing something. Think of the last time you were so absorbed in what you were doing that any thought about the bills or the squeaky brakes or the last episode of the O.C. just melted away, and you could have kept doing what you were doing in that moment forever. Maybe you were kneading dough on your kitchen counter on a Saturday afternoon with the sun streaming through your window. Maybe you were hiking up a mountain with the crisp air biting into your lungs. The last time I felt this way I was hitting a floor tom along to some Music that a friend and I had just made up on my laptop. Whatever it is, that is what you were meant to be doing with your Life (or at least, that’s what I think). So now, you can start taking little steps (tiny, tiny, baby steps are OK!) to do more of that.

“But,” your analytical mind is going to chime in immediately, “You can’t make money doing that.” And to that I say, don’t worry about making money just yet. Just listen to your desire and do more of it. Make French toast for breakfast, and set aside time to make bread on Saturday afternoon (or climb mountains, or hit floor toms, or whatever). Your head will come up with a million reasons not to do what you want, that’s your head’s job. It will come up with every possible thing that could ever go wrong, and even some things that couldn’t possibly go wrong in a million years. That’s just your head doing it’s thing. Heads don’t make decisions (at least not the big ones), hearts do. It won’t seem practical, it won’t seem socially acceptable, and it definitely won’t seem easy. But if you keep doing whatever that thing is, and keep paring away the things in your Life that keep you from doing that, eventually you’ll see that it worked.

The more you feel your desire – feel it as a physical sensation in your body, give it room in your Life, approve of it and act on it – the more of it there will be to feel. It’s a skill that you can get better and better at, until eventually your desire grows and grows into this unstoppable emotional freight train that drives you exactly where you didn’t know you should be until you got there.

How To Be A Rockstar – Part Two: Mastering Your Craft

Continuing in the vein of How To Be A Rockstar… Today I want to talk about mastering your craft, and I’m going come right out with the seemingly paradoxical statement that you don’t need to master your craft before you can achieve Rockstardom.

Allow me to explain.

Becoming a Rockstar is not a step-by-step paint-by-number event. You don’t start at the beginning of the road and take a pre-determined sequence of actions and end up at your final goal of Rockstarhood. It’s a process. It’s fluid and dynamic. Each of the aspects that I’m addressing is not a discreet step in a specific plan (although making specific plans is necessary, of course), they are a set of interlocking attitudes that all work in harmony with eachother.

You don’t first master your craft, then gain confidence… You don’t confront your fear of failure, then surround yourself with the right people. You do them all to the best of your ability, all the time. And yes, sometimes the best of your ability is pretty bad… but it gets better with consistent practice.

It’s a trap to think that you have to put in 10,000 hours of practice before you can start getting your work out there. It’s a trap to think that you need to be able to read/write standard Music notation before you can compose a song. It’s a trap to think that “talent” belongs to the chosen few, and that the rest of us are left out in the cold. All you have to do is do it. You’ll likely do it really badly at first, but if you keep doing it (and hopefully take some constructive criticism along the way) eventually you’ll get good.

So then it becomes a question of logistics. How do you find time in the constant flow of Life to dedicate yourself to your craft? How do you motivate yourself to put in the 90% perspiration once the 10% inspiration has ebbed away? These are big questions, and I’m not sure that I have any simple answer to them. I think what it really comes down to is how badly you want it (another aspect that I’ll talk about soon), and how that wanting plays itself out in your Life.

If you really want it, then you’ll organize your self around it. Where you live, where you work, who you hang out with, etc. will all be expressions of your dedication to your passion. It’s a matter of making it convenient for yourself. If you Love playing guitar then don’t pack your guitar away in the bassment. Leave it sitting out on your couch, that way when you get home from working at the music store that gave you a discount on a really nice guitar that you couldn’t otherwise afford, you’ll be a lot more likely to pick it up and play for five hours rather than watching TV.

 

How To Be A Rockstar – Part One: What Exactly Is a Rockstar?

Now we all know how slippery words are, but as long as we’re going to have a conversation about how to be a Rockstar, we’d better have a common definition in mind. So for the purpose of this series, I’m going to go ahead and define what being a Rockstar means to me. Some people may differ on the finer points of my definition but hey, they’re not writing this blog now are they? (Although I would advise you to keep in mind that pretty much everything I’ve ever espoused to believe I’ve later realized was completely misguided. I really wouldn’t trust me if I were you).

That being said, to me a Rockstar is a man* who is dedicated to his passion. This means that he allows his passion to guide him wherever it may lead. He believes that what he truly wants in his gut is right and good, and that pursuing it is a worthy goal in and of itself. In fact, by virtue of pursuing what he wants in his heart – one might even say his Soul – he acts as an agent of the Great Cosmic Order that permeates the Universe (because hey, where else could that desire come from?). All of the outer trappings of Rockstardom, notoriety, wealth, etc. spring from this inner dedication.

<<< As a quick side-note, let’s clarify that one can be a Rockstar in any field, not just in Music. Let’s call Jamie Oliver a Rockstar of cooking, and George St. Pierre a rockstar of mixed martial arts. >>>

AND… Not only do all of the outer trappings of Rockstardom spring from this dedication, but all of the other topics that I plan to touch on arise from it as well. A man who is truly dedicated to his passion will master his craft, confront his fear of failure, surround himself with the right people, figure out how to stay motivated, etc. etc. etc.

One thing that a Rockstar doesn’t do is “have it all figured out”. From the outside it may appear that he takes decisive action towards a goal, and finds success where others fail. In Reality however, I believe he is muddling through the best he can just like anyone else. He screws up, goes down blind alleys, gets lost, back-tracks, questions himself, fails repeatedly, tries again, fails some more, stops doing some things that don’t work, starts doing other things that don’t work, stops doing those but forgets to keep doing the things that were working in the first place… Ultimately, his passion is an elusive beast that can be very difficult to track. But he keeps going, and somehow things end up working out.

Here’s the thing. I believe that we all have a purpose… That we were all put here to be Rockstars in one way or another. Some people’s Rockstardom will likely look a lot different from other’s, and most people’s Rockstardom will look very different from what we usually think of as a rockstar. But everyone’s heart is there speaking to them, if they’re willing to listen.

*Yes, of course there are women Rockstars (for example, Roberta Bondar, Nicole Daedone,  and Amanda Palmer). However, while men and women do face some similar challenges in the achieving of Rockstardom, there are enough major differences that I only feel qualified to speak about the journey as taken by a man.

How To Be A Rockstar… Introduction

I think I’m going to start a series on this blog called “How To Be A Rockstar”. I was considering the topic the other day (at my lame-ass day job), and I’m pretty sure that I’ve got it mostly figured out. Is that ironic? Pretty sure that’s ironic…

Anyway… It’s a very big subject with a huge number of interlocking facets that I’m sure could keep me in blog-fodder for some time. So today I’m just going to brainstorm a bunch of topics which I will explore in more depth as time goes on. If all goes according to plan, this brainstorm may end up taking the form of a table of contents.

*** How To Be A Rockstar ***
- The straight dope on smashing the limits of ordinary and creating an exceptional Life.

What exactly is a Rockstar?
Getting Good at Music.
Identifying What You WANT.
Keeping the fun parts FUN!
Sex, Drugs, and Money.
Cultivating Confidence – The Art of the Calculated Bluff
Confronting Your Fear Of Failure.
Surrounding Yourself With The Right People.
Staying Motivated – Balancing Ambition and Satisfaction.
Burning The Ships.
Suggested Reading.

I’m sure more topics will come to me, but that seems like a pretty good list to start off with. Some of you might be saying “Wait a minute, Jesse. You’re not a Rockstar. How can you be so bold as to claim to know how to become one?”, and to those people I say… Just watch. I definitely don’t have it all figured out, and I definitely don’t practice what I intend to preach perfectly. But I’ve been thinking about this for a pretty long time, and I’m reasonably certain that I’ve got my bases covered.

So stay tuned! It’s gonna be a fun one!

Sometimes it really is as simple as just doing it…

I spent a lot of time when I was younger trying to deduce how I could arrange my Life in a way which allowed me to focus on making music (maybe I still do, in fact). I spent most of my twenties performing various lifestyle contortions that sometimes paid off and sometimes didn’t. I’d spend months at a time collecting Employment Insurance and working on music for like 30 hours a week. I bought and renovated a house in a small town with the plan of living on the cheap to make touring an option. I planted trees with the hopes of supporting my music habit in the off-season. I was always always always trying to figure out what to do to make Music on a full-time sort of basis.

Eventually, I had a wise man tell me “You don’t do one thing in order to allow yourself to do another. You have to just do the thing you wanted to in the first place.”

That stuck with me.

The other day, I had the offer of some paid work on a Monday and I had to make the hard decision to decline. I have yet to nail down a super steady job out here in the Big City and with the end of the month fast approaching… Well, you get the picture. But Monday is the day I make Music. It’s the only day I have in the studio to get actual work done, and if I don’t do that then what the hell am I really doing?

So, I guess the difference is this. When I was younger I thought I had to bend over backwards in order to make Music the centre of my Life. Now I realize that it already is, (and sometimes I end up bending over backwards to fit other things in alongside it).

New Music Coming Soon!

As you may know, this summer I banged out a bunch of new material to play at a couple of big shows that I was offered (Ness Creek Festival and an underwater themed all-nighter called Poseidon). I didn’t have any upbeat party banging music, so I figured what the hell I’ll just write some. I spent about a month hammering together an hour of sound that ended up being some of the coolest work I’ve done, and needless to say I was super excited about it.

Then I promptly uprooted my Life, moved to the West Coast, and was completely without a space to work on Music for about two months. I swear my brain just about leaked out of my ears, at one point I was trying to work on a track by bouncing back and forth between a set of ear buds and my brother’s car stereo. Not an effective monitoring system.

But now I’ve finally gotten myself lined up with a rehearsal space, and have been forging ahead on getting some of this material that I sketched out over the summer into a more complete and release worthy state. I have the space every Monday, which means that my whole week is spent planning and preparing so that I can be extremely productive when I have the chance. These last couple of Mondays I’ve hammered out 12 hour days, and today I sent the mixdown of the newest Sleepwreck track to be mastered. It is hands down the best dance music I’ve ever made, and I’m extremely excited to get it out into the world. There’s a label here in Vancouver that I’m going to approach about releasing it (with no fear and no expectations), and I’ll probably do some more research online as well.

It is a long game I’m playing. Today I’m happy to be on the step that I’m on and doing it to the best of my ability.

Stay tuned for new sounds!!

Midnight Download #37-B

Sometimes when I’m laying awake at five o’clock in the morning I get a download of really good ideas. It’s almost like they just float around my unconscious and that time on either side of sleep tends to be when they like to bubble up. I keep a journal next to my bed just for such occasions.

So the other day I got a really good one that was this: Nurture your core relationships so that your core relationships can nurture you.

Let me explain.

I think the biggest thing that always scared me about “moving to the big city to make it” has been the idea of having to make all new friends. I’m freaking terrified of being lonely, and it’s this wicked self-defeating cycle. When I’m “on” meeting people is easy… all my jokes are funny, I can always think of something intelligent to add to the conversation, women find me attractive, etc. etc. When I’m “off” (for example when I’ve just spent a week straight hammering out Music and related promotional activities and I realize I’ve neglected my need for human contact and if I don’t have a good hang out with someone that I like, my brain might explode), it’s impossible. Conversations wither and die when I walk into a room. It sucks. So the idea of moving to a new city and being lonely, and needing to build a new social network has always been daunting.

So here’s the download. I have all these levels of relationships, from deeply bonded relationships (with my family, close friends, etc.) to more loosely tied bridging relationships (with the people that I work with, people that I see at events… filtering all the way down to the people that I follow on Twitter). Re-inventing my social network means forming a lot of new bridges, and turning the best bridges into bonds. Now, there are a lot of ways that I’ve thought about how to go about doing that, but that’s for a different post. The download is that I need to put more effort into my existing bonds, so that I’m coming from a place of fullness and nourishment when seeking to form new bridges. That way it’s a lot easier to be “on”, and not come off as some random weirdo asking you to be my friend.

Or I guess… I’m still going to be a random weirdo asking you to be my friend. But hopefully I’ll come off as a random weirdo that you really want to be friends with.