11 Things I Learned In 2015

2015 was a great year for me! Don’t worry, this post is not one long humblebrag. After about 3 years of being stagnant, I kept on going and finally had breakthrough year.

Here are 11 lessons I wanted to share:

1. If you can do it, do it now

My uncle has lived in France for 10 years. 5 years ago I told him I was going to visit. I’d never been to Europe and going was on my bucket list. However, another year would pass, growing my procrastination and excuse making skills, but not growing my life experience.

“Hey I’m going to visit this year. Just getting it all together. I’ll keep you posted.”

Then, another year would go by.

During a conversation with my dad, he encouraged me to skip the beach vacation I was considering, and to go see my uncle. I listened.

My trip to Paris in August of last year was life-changing. All these years I could have gone but I always had an excuse: it wasn’t the right time, it’s too expensive, I’m too busy, it’s too late now,  I missed the window of opportunity. All of these statements were fear based and ultimately preventing me from having amazing experiences.

If you have the means to do something you’ve always wanted to do, do it and do it now! If you have the vacation time, take it! Buy the ticket and pull the trigger. It doesn’t have to be a vacation, it can be anything you’ve always wanted to do: take piano lessons, study acting, or driving cross-country. Do it now while you have the chance!

2. Travel by yourself

Don’t let the excuse of traveling alone dissuade you from taking a trip. I’ve taken many excursions by myself and there are many benefits. You can do whatever you want and change in the moment. You can move at your own pace. Traveling alone also makes you accountable for your trip. With no one else to lean on you’re responsible for the plan and making your trip a success. I covered so much ground in Paris by myself.

3. Experiences count more than things

Paris is one of the most amazing cities in the world. The things you can buy will not replace the unforgettable meals at places like La Relais de Venise or Chez Gladines. The perfumes and miniature Eiffel Towers could never replace the thrill of walking through the world’s finest museums. This applies to life in general. The live shows we see, the historical landmarks we visit, and the friends we make always hold more value than cars, clothes, computers, or tchotchkes. Speaking of friends…

4. Making new friends is thrilling

In 2015 I became friends with 2 women who greatly enriched my life. One woman I dated briefly, but we both agreed we were better as friends. Another woman I met through some mutual friends. She invited me to see Brandi Carlile and we’ve been having fun ever since. I love the excitement and newness of an emerging friendship. When there’s an instant, kindred connection of shared interests with someone new, it brings a spark into your life.

5. Biking is the best way to commute

In September I began biking to work. Our office ran out of parking spaces and offered some compensation to those who’d either walk or bike to work. Fortunately, I live close to the office and have a short commute, so it was an easy decision. I love biking into the office, most of the time. On cold or rainy days, I often question (and curse) what I’m doing, but I use the opportunity to practice mind control and stay in the present moment. I also saved a lot of money on gas. Through September until the end of the year, I only filled up my car 3 times.

6. Review your life

Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” In 2015 I began using the Passion Planner. This outstanding planner got me into the habit of reviewing each day, week, and month, making sure I stayed on point. Last week I did a year-end review. I can clearly see where I succeeded and where I needed to improve. Consistently reviewing your life is like referring to a map. It helps you stay on track.

7. Take personality tests

Our company uses the Birkman Method extensively. The information this test yields is revelatory and indispensable in relating to my co-workers. It gives helpful insights into why they act the way they do, and how I can best approach them. Birkman also shares insights into my strengths and helps me understand my tendencies. I’m a big fan of any personality test that gives valuable info about myself and others, and helps us all better interact with and serve each other.

8. Yoga is amazing

You can read my post about yoga here.

9. One measure at a time

At the beginning of the year my piano teacher gave me the challenge of learning a Bach two-part invention. It is the hardest piece of music I’ve ever played or learned as an adult thus far. Going measure by measure is the only way I could accomplish this goal. Every day during practice I worked and persevered until finally, I was able to put the entire piece under my fingers. It’s been so rewarding. I still have a lot of work on this piece but the knowledge, skill, and ear-training I’ve achieved going measure by measure were musical and personal highlights of this year.

10. Establish a solid morning routine

I’m a goober so morning routines fascinate me. Setting up my day correctly and methodically is important. There are creative, physical, and spiritual tasks that, if I complete before getting out the door, allow me to move through life with greater ease, and grace. Without a good morning routine, I can become “Hulkish.”

11. Keep going

Winston Churchill said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” While I wasn’t necessarily in a bad place,  I’d been stuck for a while. I’d fallen into a rut of doing the same things, going to the same places, and thinking the same thoughts. In April I moved near Cabbagetown. That move helped me change up my routine significantly. In January of last year I was promoted to a Senior position on my team.

Even though it didn’t feel like anything was happening all those years, I kept on working and improving. Eventually something happened. My situation, outlook, and routines changed for the better. I just had to keep moving to get there.

What did you learn in 2015? Share the wisdom please!

20 Songs I Loved In 2015

I started with 10 songs but I had to share more. There was so much great music in 2015.

There’s a lot of Top 40 mainstream pop music here. I unabashedly love pop music and don’t believe in “music shaming” or having to qualify the music I enjoy as a “guilty pleasure.” I wholeheartedly agree with Dave Grohl on this matter.

This list also features a lot of songs Max Martin worked on, five to be exact. I’m a huge Max Martin fan.

I prefer sharing songs rather than whole albums. The days of records with numerous hits  and substantial overall quality are over, and yes, there are exceptions. Recommending an entire album feels heavy and burdensome. That said, I must recommend The Bird and The Bee’s Recreational Love and Susanne Sundfør’s Ten Love Songs.

Now let’s get to it! Here are 20 songs I had on repeat in 2015:

1. The Bird and the Bee – Will You Dance?

My favorite record of 2015. Greg Kurstin and Inara George are immensely talented musical geniuses.

2. Susanne Sundør – Fade Away

If I was ranking records, Ten Love Songs would be in the number two spot. Amazing record from this brilliant Norwegian artist.

3. Major Lazer & DJ Snake – Lean On (feat. MØ)

This song will soon have 1 billion plays on YouTube for good reason, it’s amazing! This tune forged a magical amalgamation of EDM and trap, while using modern production and unique sounds. The solo section using vocal samples makes this song so special.

4. The Weeknd – Can’t Feel My Face

The one standout track from an otherwise lackluster record. Oh yeh, Max Martin strikes again.

5. Death Cab For Cutie – The Ghosts Of Beverly Drive

The first half of Kintsugi starts strong but loses steam and focus at the halfway mark. This song though, so good.

6. Jason Derulo – Want To Want Me

This was the song of the summer, for me.

7. Demi Lovato – Cool For The Summer

Another Max Martin hit.

8. Father John Misty – Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)

I Love You, Honeybear was not as strong as Fear Fun. While still a good record, the slow spots made Honeybear a duller and less remarkable experience.

9. Disclosure – Jaded

The vocals and keys on this tune from the British brothers kept me coming back.

10. Craig Wedren – Higher and Higher from Wet Hot American Summer

Craig Wedren flexes his musical genius on this soundtrack.

11. Lana Del Rey – Terrence Loves You

She’s brilliant. Honeymoon, while strong, didn’t pack the same punch that Ultraviolence did. Honeymoon was a more relaxed excursion into experimentation, depth, and space. The production on LDR’s records continues getting wider and deeper, with a remarkable and tasteful use of reverb and delay on her vocals.

12. Ariana Grande – Focus

Feels like Max Martin doing Prince.

13. Dawes – Things Happen

Dawes is truly a live band. Their studio recordings don’t always convey the excitement and energy they generate playing live.

14. Ryan Adams – Bad Blood

I liked this version more than the original. Another gem from Max Martin.

15. Ellie Goulding – On My Mind

One of my favorite songs of the year. Another Max Martin hit nodding to The Police.

16. Chilly Gonzales & The Kaiser Quartett – Advantage Points

This year Chilly dropped “the musical genius” moniker and told us why. He also dropped two full-length records, one with the Kaiser Quartett and one with Boys Noize. This song was my favorite from Chambers.

17. Vulfpeck – 1612

I’ve been following this inspiring band since their Sleepify debacle. This song, and particularly this performance, got many repeats in 2015.

18. White Reaper – Sheila

Spotify’s New Music Friday playlist can help break a band nowadays. That’s how I found this fun band from Kentucky.

19. Brandi Carlile – The Eye

The harmonies. Brilliant.

20. Peaches – Close Up

Peaches is not for the faint of heart. After watching this informative and inspiring interview with Dave Pensado and Peaches, I had a lot of anticipation for this record. I was not disappointed.

Have you heard all of these? What were some of your favorite songs from 2015?