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Archive of ‘Personal development’ category

Musician 2.0 – Redefining Your Self-Identity

This is a rambling account of how I came to redefine what it means to me to be a musician and so become Musician 2.0. To do this I had to redefine what success means to me. I spent many years fluffing about in the “wilderness” instead of getting on with it and that’s ok, it all added plenty of character! Regardless here some suggestions for how you can avoid the same “mistakes” (if that’s what they are).

When I started out in music I had some pretty simple goals, make awesome music, get wildly popular, have a blast. That was about it and pretty soon I had accomplished this to a big enough extent that I suddenly found myself feeling empty inside and aimless. I then succumbed fast to all of the usual cliches of the young popular rock musician: drugs, booze, cheap sex.

Which was fun to an extent but was also dissatisfying.

Well fast forward 15 years and it seems I have really only now, as a musician, finally found my way out of the darkness and back into the light (to put it in a cheesy way).

I don’t mean I haven’t made any great music or enjoyed playing any great gigs, but I certainly do mean that my non-career as a musician since my early successes has been a direct result of first a misguided sense of entitlement, then a despondency that waking up to the falsehood of the former brought about.

By the time I was in my late 20s I started to believe that I was too old and had missed the boat. I felt bad inside about my self-worth and my music career chances in general.

It was a weird thing, because inside my heart I have never stopped being a musician (and have always continued to compulsively write songs and play gigs). And neither have I ever stopped (privately) nurturing the dream of becoming a professional working muso, but this dream has for years been held at bay by other factors, namely:

  • lack of focus and work ethic
  • lack of self-worth (due to a faulty self-identity model)

Lack of Focus

When I publicly started out in music, at the tender age of 18, I was very focused and there was little to distract me. I barely drank at all, I didn’t smoke weed, didn’t do harder drugs at all, and I was content with my steady girlfriend. I could also live off a very low income quite easily, due to life being cheaper then plus just being young and easy to please (i.e. wasn’t as soft as I am now, could sleep on a filthy old mattress on the floor in a damp and drafty old house and eat beans on toast and not mind a bit).

This keen focus brought me a lot of initial success but then as I said above, the lack of a deeper meaning in my life left me with an empty feeling that I tried to fill with drugs, drink and one night stands. Predictably the band and my relationship with my girlfriend fell apart and my life descended into a very feral stage. I was having lots of fun and adventure on the surface but underneath it lay a shallow sense of despondency.

Yet despite this lack of focus on the work I should have been doing, being a musician (who was focused) I still thought that my early success was all the proof I needed that all I had to do was get up on stage and sing here and there and I would eventually “be discovered” and rocket to true success and glory.

Sounds naive now … and indeed, it was.

Eventually, around the age of 27, I found a deeper meaning in my life. At this point I might have gotten things back on track, but no sooner had I pulled my head out of one pit did I promptly plunge into a different hole in the ground.

Lack of Self-Worth

I used to have a very strong sense of self-worth, but then as I pushed thirty and still hadn’t “made it” as a musician (read: Rock Star) my sense of self-worth as a musician deteriorated rapidly.

Why? Well, because my paradigm was all wrong. The model I had based my self-worth on (sad as it may sound) was the young-rock-star-in-the-making model.

I have always enjoyed the first part of the rock star (movie star, entrepreneur, etc) biography where the young star-to-be had to struggle and fight and hope and pray that one day their talent would get noticed and they would make it to Easy Street. And this is how I saw myself, as the young star in the making, who could happily look forward to hitting thirty as a well known and wealthy musician. Sounds stupid I know, but this fantasy kept me going and made me feel secure. It was in fact my whole self-identity.

So when I left my twenties behind and this fantasy hadn’t materialized (due to point above about lack of focus and work ethic, duh) I found myself at the wrong end of a defunct self-identity model and I quietly stopped telling everybody that I was destined for musical greatness. Even though a little voice inside me still claimed it was possible if I would just readjust my parameters, a louder voice inside me pointed out the fact that I had missed the rock n’ roll boat. This fearful voice said I should shut up about it and try to find other ways to make some good money.

Then five years went by very quickly. Fine years, happy years on many levels, but not on a career level.

Then one and a half years ago almost to the day, I was holding my brand new baby daughter in my arms, marveling at the miracle of Life, when a voice – a higher aspect of my own voice – spoke to me quietly (in my mind).

“What are you going to teach her? That it’s ok to just give up? Or that dreams can come true for those who persist?”

Well, I knew the answer straight away and recommitted myself to achieving success. BUT I had to go back and construct an entirely new model of success because the old one (young David Bowie style rock star) was completely out of date.

So I was thinking about this, soon after the baby holding incident, and was thinking about the age thing and suddenly, sitting in the sun one day eating my lunch, I suddenly thought “What if my goals took me another fifteen years to materialize? What if it took me another 30 years? Would this be so bad?” and the answer was “No – not as long as I enjoy the process.

And I do enjoy the process, and you are never too old to be a successful musician, and success is something that you get to define your own way anyway.

Analyze what’s going on inside your mind and see if you are holding yourself back with your own lack of focus or with limiting self beliefs.

And here I am one and half years later, well into a protracted, inspiring process that has brought me nothing but deep satisfaction. I am not the musician I once was, I am a new model, Musician 2.0!

Hope this helps somebody out there!



Not a Huge Success Yet? Bummer Dude!

My Do One Thing report for today is that I am sitting at home cutting out my CD covers. Yes I could do it with a guillotine, but hmmmm, can’t seem to see one lying around here right now. Anyway, makes me feel constructive while we do the usual Friday night DVD thang.

Hey I can’t be arsed writing much tonight except to say that if you are trying to get your music shit – or any kind of shit really – together, then you oughtta take this advice:

“What do you do when you take a shit?
You just shit. That’s what you need to do with your music.”

And then you need to read this post here about getting off your lazy, unfocused arse and just doing it.

Gee lots of rude bum type words in this post. Meh!

Hey here’s one I wrote that can help you get it together too. See ya.

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There’s Plenty of Time

Sometimes when I am looking at a massive To Do List I get overwhelmed, especially when most of it is about everything BUT making music.

But it’s ok. I have a special place that I go to that helps me to deal. A happy place in my mind 🙂

In my mind, I go back to a Saturday about 6 months ago when I was in at the LivingNow office in the city (LivingNow is the magazine that I work for). I was doing some extra work, nobody else was there. The sun was shining and I decided to go eat a sandwich on the little balcony off the second floor. The sun was hitting it nicely and by the time I finished eating I was as warm as toast.

You know how sunshine makes you fell happy? Well I was soon feeling very contented indeed. I got to thinking about making music and about how I had wasted so much time in my life so far; how I should have done One Thing Every Day instead of nothing much most days. But, for once, I didn’t think about it in a disappointed-with-myself-way but rather, in a “Hey! Whatever! A) it doesn’t matter and B) I’ve still got plenty of time!” kind of way.

I thought to myself: “I am 34. If it takes me 15 years from today to reach a level with my music making that satisfies me, then that’s fine! That’s 15 years spent having fun doing what I love!”

So that’s my goal since that day, to be a successful musician by the time I turn 50. Thankfully, the cantankerous, grizzly old zen-bear music I write and play these days will only get better and suit me more the older I get, like Johnny Cash or Nick Cave or something, so that helps!

And whenever I get impatient or overwhelmed, I just remember that day in the sun and that I still have 15 years (and more!) … and that it doesn’t really matter anyway.

Because it doesn’t matter, you know. Not that much anyway …

Sometimes the Biggest Rock is actually tiny …

… Like yesterday for example, I identified the One Thing I could do which would move me closest to my goal. In this case it turned out to be calling up a friend to ask how the hell to get my tunes that I recorded in my iMac out of my iMac and onto a disc with out the sound quality turning to poo.

Well it turned out to be relatively simple, but I had been stuck on that point for MONTHS! I was intending to release these tunes properly LAST FEBRUARY! But I couldn’t get them onto a disc without the sound going all muddy and I spent hours looking for what the problem was, and hours searching through forum posts on the web and had let the whole project slide out of frustration and then …

… one tiny, five minute phone conversation was all it took.

Now I can go ahead and get a CD made, and distribute the songs digitally over the web, and all the rest.

One Thing Everyday, it makes all the difference.

Now, what will I do today? What will YOU do?

The Only Thing That Stops Us From Doing It Is – Ourselves

Crusty 35 year old rockers with family responsibilities and a real job are supposed to give up – right? … Yeah, right … as if …

When the music is in your blood it’s in your blood and no matter what your age you should never let it slide because you KNOW what happens then right?

You start to slowly, bit-by-bit, go completely fucking insane!

I know this, but like a lot of musos, I haven’t always been focussed enough to practice this. It’s like, one day I was always rockin’ out, or crooning a sweet ballad or whatever in front of crowds of either the proverbial man and his dog or (I kid you not) crowds as big as 5000 people, and then I wake up and although I have NOTHING to complain about (beautiful partner, baby daughter, home) BUT I only ever seem to pick up my guitar and give it a bash out in the shed late on a Friday night when I’m half pissed. Or, let’s be honest, totally pissed.

Well, fuck it, this has to change and right now.

So I will be documenting my efforts to get back on the old rock n’ roll horse right here so why don’t you get with this whole RSS thing and subscribe and follow me as I have another crack at it.

And look, don’t get me wrong, I am not an idiot, well not totally anyway, I KNOW I am too old to be some kind of teeny heart throb or whatever – but who the fuck wants that anyway? And it’s not that important to me to become some hugely famous rich dude, either (although I could try it on for size, just to see how it fits, you understand!) – I just want to play some music again man; solo, with others, in dive bars or (even better) on professional stages in front of decent, music lovin’ crowds again.

Let’s face it – what muso doesn’t want that?

The only thing that stops us is OURSELVES, man!

Time to stop making excuses and start making music again! is go!

Me and my mate Steve have started a new blog call Rebel Zen.

You can see by the categories I have chosen for this here post what the theme of Rebel Zen will be about (and hopefully in a refreshing and dynamic way). I guess in some ways it will pick up from where The Contemporary Taoist left off but this time it’s a dynamic duo rather than just me, and also it will be more focussed and *cough* mature 😉

Actually Rebel Zen is going to be more than a blog, but one thing at a time.

We will be posting a fair bit over the next week. Mostly reworked old posts or articles that fit the theme, and then new stuff will begin to go online soon.

Anyway head on over and witness the birthing pains of our new child 🙂

This blog will continue but will probably focus more on music. Not sure yet but probably.

The Five Minute Method to get You Massively, Totally Inspired right now …


I love our new Mac and I spent all day mucking about getting an iBook G3 (tangerine clamshell) (like these in the pictures) running properly as well.

It was tiring grinding through Google search after Google search trying to make heads or tails out of obscure geek-speak in forums and what-not. I am NOT a geek. I HATE fiddling around with software trying to make it work (why do you think I love Macs so much?) And at the end of the day, I felt a bit flat. I wondered if I had wasted the day just getting this one computer to work. It most totally had not been my intention that it take, like, so freakin’ long.

Then I started on another task that I had been putting off for a while, clearing up all my old boxes of papers and junk in my new bungalow workspace that I am setting up*. Next thing you know I am confronted with photos and objects and posters and general miscellany that reminded me of my entire life so far. My childhood. My teenage years. My Twenties and the first half of my Thirties.

A fun life so far, if not always noble. A brave life so far, if not always sensible.

And it occurred to me how different I have become in the way that as a teenager and throughout my early-mid Twenties, I was highly driven by pursuing my dreams. Driven to the point where I was generally agitated and/or depressed if I was not either smashed or stoned or actively chasing my fantasies (which were mostly about becoming the next David Bowie or something like that).

I am not really like that anymore because I know that I am already here, and that was all I ever needed all along.

BUT I am still motivated to chase my dreams, just because chasing dreams is work and we all have to work so it might as well be at being a Dream Chaser. And despite my “whole zen trip” it seems my dreams are in some ways more complicated now than they were, deeper rather than just outrageous for the sake it.

Thankfully I am more patient now. Even though I find it easier to remember the rock-out-on-stage-in-front-of-3000-people days than the twiddle-with-the-fucking-computer-until-it-bloody-well-gives-in-and-works-already days, and even though I wonder where the hell those grandiose days went, the truth is these were just a handful of (incredible) moments, the rest of the time was either hard work, or tedious, or both.

There always were twiddle-with-the-computer-days, and there always will be. They are necessary.

Like I said, the trick is to remember that you are already here, and otherwise to keep this nugget by Steve Jobs (the Apple computer guy) in mind:

“I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

You see, dude, it’s a balancing act.

The small tedious parts have to be worth it because of the greater, wonderful whole. I wouldn’t ever have wanted to get bogged down in details all day for nothing, but in the context of achieving my dreams, of living life in a way that makes me and others happy, then I couldn’t have thought of a better thing to do with my time (than fiddle with the fucking computer).

So anyway the five minute method is this:

1) ask yourself if this blog post has you feeling massively, totally inspired right now. If so, get on with it.

2) if not, read the Steve Jobs Commencement address. It’s not breaking news, but if you haven’t read it, then you should. It’s pure gold…

*Finally, The Office of Imagination and Procedure becomes reality 🙂 more on that soon, oh breathless masses!

The Power of Monomaniacal Obsession

Fagan was standing at a bus stop after school one day when he first saw the vision.

In his minds eye he saw every detail. The stage he would stand on. The hot lights on his face. The massive crowd stretching out before him. The three or four front rows of faces that he could clearly see: pretty young girls making eyes at him, impressed young lads watching his hands like hawks as his fingers danced across the fret-board of his shiny electric guitar. He saw himself shimmy across the stage: young, excited, totally self-assured, radiating the X-factor.

In his mind’s ear he heard the music: raw, powerful, epic, his voice soaring great heights. He heard the crowd roar after each song finished. The applause, the whistles and stomping feet.

In Fagan’s heart he felt the thrill of success, the glory of the spotlight and he knew that, for him, nothing else mattered. This was what he was born to do and that, simply, was that. He kept this vision at the forefront of his consciousness every day for the next ten years. He spent hours obsessively daydreaming the vision over and over again. He immersed himself in rock and roll culture, moving from band to band, studying the every nuance of the greats of popular music: Bowie’s different vocal palates, Kurt Cobain’s songwriting structures, what Robert Smith ate for breakfast.

When Fagan’s mother caught him in his room doing air guitar solos, he wasn’t embarrassed. Instead he proudly stated: ‘I’m going to be a rock star!’

‘But you can’t even play guitar!’ she squawked. Thirteen year old Fagan just rolled his eyes and began to teach himself to play on an old nylon string acoustic guitar that he found on top of a cupboard in the hallway. It had been left behind by somebody years ago and only had one string, but Fagan didn’t let that stop him. He made do with what he had and then when he had some pocket money saved up he bought some new strings and slowly but surely learned some chords. Straight away he began to write songs. He suspected they weren’t much good yet but it felt so good anyway that he just wrote and wrote and wrote. His mother didn’t like much noise so he had to sing the songs in his head, imaging a voice powerful and high.

Five years later when he got his first gig at the university bar, he opened his mouth to sing and realised that he didn’t sound anything like he thought he did. His voice wasn’t smooth and high, it was gruff and deep. But Fagan didn’t let that stop him. Nor did he let the too-cool drinkers in the bar deter him when they completely ignored him as he poured his heart out all over the stage.

Fagan saw no way to get what he wanted without hustling, so without a second thought he begged, pleaded and schmoozed his way into bars to play gigs. But he wanted a band. So he would go to record shops and check out the ‘singers wanted’ signs and try out for all kinds of bands. Mostly they didn’t work out, but sometimes he would meet someone who he half-clicked with so they would razzle together a band and hire a studio and record a demo. Then the band would break up, but he would use the demo to go get a gig, pretending the band still existed, then he would find a new band to play the gig.

Eventually he did find the right band: two other guys, one who was as obsessed as Fagan with rock stardom, the other who was just a walking success magnet, a good luck charm. Together they plotted and worked hard. They rehearsed every day of the week, often to the disappointment of their girlfriends and families. They hustled gigs and recorded and pushed and pushed and pushed and never took no for an answer. They weren’t cool like the inner-city kids from the private schools, with their just-so clothes and haircuts, but Fagan and his mates were hard working and above all, strategic. They went to see other bands and would stay up late discussing what was good about them and what didn’t work. They knew that above all they must be remarkable if they were to succeed. And that they must be obsessively singular in their focus. They must be monomaniacal.

At first they were nobodies on the local scene. The hipsters snubbed them. Three years later Fagan and his two friends were the biggest indie rock band in their city and Fagan saw his vision come true night after night. Huge crowds, often up to three thousand people strong. Screaming girls. Powerful music. The spotlight. Adrenalin filled nights. Autograph hunters waiting by the stage door and beautiful girls galore.

Fagan had never more than idly wanted financial riches, and this he did not get. He had daydreamed a little about traveling the world with his band, but he did not obsess about it, and thus his fame remained a local phenomenon. But he had a single, clear vision that he was not just passionate about – he was obsessively monomaniacal about it: Being on stage playing his own music in front of large, enthusiastic, receptive crowds. He focused on it day and night, at the expense of a balanced life or more sensible, security-minded activities. And thus he saw this this dream come true.

If you do the same, you can see your dream come true also – but take note – be sure that what you focus on is worth it. It took years for Fagan to get over the imbalance that his obsession caused in his life.

Actually, it’s doubtful that he’s gotten over it at all 😉

You Are Already Here

Well I have been busy busy finishing up work for the year and planning next year and so I have nothing much to say right now so I am going to post an excerpt from a free e-book that I was just flicking through that is in my opinion very much spot on.

Note: The following is NOT by me, It is by somebody called Jamie Smart, from an e-book called “The Top 10 Secrets of Unconditional Happiness”, which I downloaded free here.

(In my opinion) most of the book is pretty run-of-the-mill, recycled (but useful) stuff, but the following hit the spot for me in a BIG way:

“You are already here.

The place you thought you’d get to once you’d made the changes, achieved the
goals, completed the journey; you’re already here. In fact, you never left. The only
thing that has ever stopped you from experiencing the reality of being here is the
idea that you need to be somewhere else.

The only thing that is (or can) stop you from experiencing the peace and fulfillment
of now is the idea that peace and fulfillment is elsewhere, in something else, a
different experience, further on down the road.

But it isn’t. You’re here, and you always have been. You’re here, and you always will
be. So you can stop struggling, relax, and feel a sense of comfort in the knowledge
that you are already here.

Now you may protest “But I’m not peaceful, happy, fulfilled! I’ve been trying to
achieve peace for years and I’m not there yet!”

You cannot find something where it isn’t. Stop struggling. Stop searching. Accept
yourself exactly as you are. The search is over. Peace / love / fulfillment / joy; these
are at the core of who you are. When you stop trying to find them elsewhere, when
you give up the search, you will start to experience them.

Here’s the deal in a nutshell: When you are searching for peace, you presuppose that
you don‘t have it. What the thinker thinks the prover proves, so your neurology sorts
and filters all your perceptions to prove that you don’t have it. This becomes more
and more familiar over time, and the search continues. It is a search without an end.
Are you willing to give up the search?

You are already here. You never left. You only thought you did. You are whole and
complete. Relax. Let go. Allow yourself to discover who you really are.”

Look for the Gift

I was catching the train to work today when I got embroiled in one of those frustrating no-longer-public-but-rather-privatised transport situations that only the incredibly useless and incompetent Connex can provide 🙂

This meant it took about 45 minutes to get to work instead of fifteen.

At first I was a little annoyed; silently grumbling to myself and rolling my eyes as the circumstances and delays spiralled.

“Look for the Gift” I told myself, as per one of my favourite motivational writers, John McGrath author of the fantastic book, You Inc., but I couldn’t really see one.


… by the time I got to work I realised that I had relaxed and therefore allowed my mind to meander over some important stuff and that now I had some real clarity about the issue.

What that “stuff” was isn’t the point here, the point is that it is often easier to see the Gift inherent to every “bad” situation after the event.

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