Daily Posts #2 – What Age Is Old?

A friend posted this video and I wanted to share it. Watch it.

It was troubling that Millennials considered ages 40 to 50 old. By that ridiculous standard I’m old. Then the same Millennials acted out how a 40 or 50 year old person would walk across the street, or do a pushup. Watch the video to see that.

This is a “gotcha video” where AARP pulled the ‘ol switcheroo. So you know the twist was coming, but it was great. I loved seeing the 50 to 70 year old folks in this video. They have taken care of themselves. They are examples of aging with strength and discipline. Take that you ageist Millennials!

Taking care of your body and mind now is as important as saving money for the future. Not doing it is selfish. If you don’t take care of yourself now then who will take care of you in the future? You’re placing that burden on your children or society?

I whole-heartedly agree with the message of this video. You’ve got to stay active and keep on learning. To quote 311, “If you like learning life is large.” Old is when you stop learning.

10 Messages Which Gave Me Courage To Change

The boxes are packed. The car is loaded. There’s no turning back. I’m leaving Georgia for California!

Leading up to this decision I did a lot of soul-searching, prayer, and meditation. I had many conversations. I journaled. I listened to what others told me.

Here are 10 messages which helped me make the decision to do it.

1. Time is not a renewable resource, but money is.

These first 3 messages I got from Tim Ferriss’ podcast. In Tim’s 2015 recap he gave out so much great advice. This came from that episode. I was out for a walk and listening when he said this. I stopped walking and replayed the point. I’d been living as if I had unlimited time. Tim’s point was that you can make more money, but you can’t make more time. So do the things you want to do.

2. If you find yourself saying, “but I’m making good money.” That is a warning sign that you’re not in the right place or should leave.

In that same episode Tim mentions this thought from B.J. Novak. I was doing better than I’ve ever done in my career, but this idea of living in California was too big to fight. I had to do it, I felt compelled. It was so hard to leave my amazing job but this thought, coupled with the one above, convicted me immensely.

3. What’s on the other side of fear? Nothing.

Tim’s podcast with Jamie Foxx is one of the best podcasts I’ve ever heard. There is so much inspiration in that one interview. At one point they discuss fear and Jamie says he learned early on that there’s nothing on the other side of fear. It’s all in our minds. All we have to do is move through the fear, then we see that there is nothing there.

4. If you wait for everything to line up the way you want, you’ll be 70 by the time it happens.

My great friend and mentor Spencer sent this message. Spencer has been a huge influence in my life. This message made me realize the clock is ticking and that now is the time to move.

5. What is failure? What’s the worst that can happen?

Many folks asked me these questions when we talked about moving. It’s a question worth asking since it reveals your fears. Once you know what your fears are, then you get to work and do everything you can to avoid those outcomes.

6. Can you live with yourself not knowing or doing this thing?

I asked this question a lot. The answer was clearly no. If the answer was yes I would’ve been content to continue living in Atlanta. The call was so strong that I could not deny it.

7. No risk, no reward

My friend Jason casually said this one evening. Unless I was willing to take the risk and go for it, I’d never know the reward of following through on my heart’s desires.

8. Sometimes you have to make a bet on yourself.

My friend Simon gave me this word. Entrepreneurs, athletes, investors, and artists all know this. We celebrate the folks who believe in themselves, who have the faith to do something big. Sure, moving cross-country is not like Steve Jobs starting Apple, or Felix Baumgartner jumping from space to earth. However, I am saying that, “Yes I can do this and I know I will succeed.”

9. You have no idea what you’re capable of until you put yourself out there.

My friend Laurie sent me this. A few years ago she left her longtime job and went back to school to get her business degree. One day when I was in a lot of fear I asked her what she’d learned from leaving her comfort zone. While it’s extremely uncomfortable, getting outside of our safe routines gives us the opportunity to grow.

10. What would you tell your children? “I was too scared to pack my suitcase and physically move.”

My friend Kelly sent me this question. While I don’t have children I thought about the example I’d be setting. Wouldn’t I want children who believed in themselves? Who took risks? Of course!

That’s it. We’re off to New Orleans today!

HUGE ANNOUNCEMENT! I’M MOVING TO CALIFORNIA!

tl;dr: I’m moving to Los Angeles, California in March. One of the reasons I started this blog was to document the cross-country drive to California, as well as the new chapter of my life.

Ever had a dream, something you’ve wanted to do for years, something that has gnawed at you and never let go? For me that dream has been to live in Los Angeles. Since my first visit in 2000, the city put its hooks in me and never let go.

I’ve gone back and forth on going for years, made up excuses for why it wasn’t the right time. Then, I went to work on removing those excuses.

“I’m not leaving until I sell this house,” I said over and over. I sold my house in East Atlanta in 2014. The next excuse was, “I won’t leave until I get a job there first.” I had interviews at a few places, but being out of state made it nearly impossible to get a job there.

In January, the owner of the condo I’m leasing gave me notice, letting me know I needed to be out by March. She was selling it. I took that as a sign and as the time to go.

With a deadline of March in mind, I asked my amazing employer about possibly working in LA, but we couldn’t make it work. So I’m making a bet on myself, my skills, experience, talents, perseverance and connections. I’m leaving my secure, extraordinary job of 5.5 years.

I don’t have a job lined up. If you want to help me and have connections in Los Angeles, I would love to hear from you. Email me.

It’s scary. I’ve lived in Georgia my whole life. My roots are deep. But I am not the type of man who can live with myself asking, “What if?” and, “Should I have done it?” I could keep waiting, trying to get everything lined up perfectly before leaving. The next I thing I know I’d be 70. So I’m doing it now.

One of the main reasons I started blogging again was so I could document my drive cross-country, as well as this new chapter of my life. I am so excited to share this adventure.

I will hit the road at the beginning of March. I’m going to stop in New Orleans, Dallas, Austin, Las Cruces, the Grand Canyon, and Joshua Tree. I found out yesterday one of my best friends is able to join me on the drive.

I will miss my friends in Atlanta. I’m truly blessed to have so many great friends here. You’re welcome to come visit!

It’s bittersweet to say goodbye, but I’m grateful for this opportunity and thrilled for what’s ahead.

So goodbye ATLiens. So long Dirty South. Farewell Atlanta.

CALIFORNIA HERE I COME!

Time For FAWM

Every year since 2013, I’ve signed up, and completed, the February Album Writing Month (FAWM) challenge. FAWM is a global songwriting challenge to write 14 songs in 28 days during the month of February. Nothing is written before February 1st.

In 2008 I did the NaNoWriMo challenge to write a novel of 50,000 words during November. I previously wrote about the early bird yoga challenge. I love creative challenges. They give me accountability, a deadline, and a real impetus to follow through.

Through FAWM I’ve learned so much about mixing, recording, production, and editing on the fly. However, the biggest lessons I’ve learned are in songwriting. The challenge forces me to move fast and make quick decisions. There’s no time to debate and question. I have to turn off the inner editor and critic, or else I’ll lose valuable time. I have to go with what I’ve written and figure out some way to make it work.

Sure, I end up writing some real stinkers, but I always get a few gems too. It’s all about the process, and ultimately, it’s about finishing. When it’s over I can go back and polish the good songs and make them better.

FAWM also gives me insight into how I live my life. Each year I see how much time I waste on social media, watching movies and shows, and thinking about myself. It shows me how much I accomplish when I’m focused and determined.

Even with all those worthwhile benefits I’ve mentioned, my favorite thing about FAWM is the global community. Everyone is positive and encouraging. Folks take the time to listen to your songs and give constructive feedback. I’ve had several great collaborations with a lyricist (Hey Kim!) and a rapper (Whassup GSlade?!), which I’ve never met in person. I’ve connected with songwriters all over the world. I’ve made a friend in North Carolina, the UK, and one in South Africa. It’s inspiring to hear all the songs being written during this time and it’s fulfilling to encourage all the creative energy. FAWM is a wonderful celebration of creativity and music.

Next Monday it begins. I’m eager to get started and I’m excited to see what happens.

You can follow my progress on my FAWM profile:
http://fawm.org/fawmers/jamesstaubes/

11 Dating Best Practices For Men

I’m not a dating coach but I probably could be. I wish I’d kept track of all the dates I’ve had. This is not a brag, it feels more humiliating and sad, but I’ve probably dated over 250 women.

I can feel your judgmental questions. What is every woman not good enough for you? Are you being too picky? Are you only looking at flaws and focusing on those? Did you give it enough time? Are you looking in the right places? Are you waiting for the perfect woman? And my personal favorite, what’s wrong with you? Shut up and save your judgements. I’m not being defensive. I’m confident I’ve done my best and the truth is, I haven’t met the right woman yet.

With all this experience, I’ve developed some dating best practices. These have made dating easier and more tolerable for me.

1. Rip off the band-aid

Both sides know quickly if it’s a match. Yes, it takes time to get to know someone, but usually you know right away if there’s any chemistry. Go with your gut and don’t waste her time, or yours. If your gut tells you it’s not a match then trust it and follow through like a gentleman. Within a few hours after the date is over, send her text letting her know how you feel and…

2. Be honest but not hurtful

Practice truth with grace. There’s no reason to be blunt, rude, or mean to a woman you’re dating. By going on a date with you she’s made herself vulnerable to you. She may have been rude, uninterested, or using you for a Tinder dinner. Let all that go. It’s not your place to reveal her ostensible flaws. Keep your communication honest, direct, and kind. If you’re not sure about your message, run it by a trusted female friend before sending.

3. Don’t put all your cards on the table at once

We all have a past, but you’re not obligated to share it on a first date. Do you have a kid? Multiple divorces? Your innermost desires in a relationship? They don’t have to be revealed right from the start. This information is important, but sharing it early on could derail things and it’s not appropriate. It’s not that a woman can’t handle your past, of course she can. Trust me, if you like each other and there’s real chemistry, the right time will emerge for this. Wait for it.

4. Be yourself

Everyone says to be yourself on dates. What does that even mean? Don’t create a character based on what you think she wants. Don’t be something you’re not in order to gain her approval. Share your real opinions, ideas, and thoughts. If you’re into working on your Raspberry Pi talk about it. If your thing is Giallo films, talk about it. If you love obstacle racing on the weekends tell her.

When you talk about the things you care about and are passionate about your real personality is revealed. This is attractive. These are things that make you unique and interesting. Some of these may turn her off. She may have zero interest in what you love, but when she sees you come alive when you talk about your passions, it’s good. Which leads to one of my favorite things…

5. You can’t say the wrong thing to the right woman

This philosophy was liberating for me. I think this is one of the most important ideas in dating. A lot of guys worry about what to say and how to act. If I’m being my authentic self (as described above) then she’s going to recoil, or be attracted. This is all out of my control. This approach removes the expectations, worries, questions, doubts, and fears in dating communication.

I’ve said some truly dumb things to a woman before. Guess what? She shrugged it off because she liked me. If she’s into you she’ll look past your stupid remark. Hopefully she’ll even give you a hard time about it. That’s when you know it’s on!

6. Always pick up the tab

Guys should always pick up the tab. When the date is winding down and you’ve asked for the check, have your card or cash ready. As soon as the bill lands on the table do not hesitate. Pick it up immediately and pay for it. This removes an awkward conversation of who is paying and how to pay, and honestly, it’s a slick move. I guarantee, if you continue seeing the same woman, she will eventually beat you to the check and pay. I once had a woman say, “Do not argue with me, I’m paying for this one.” If that happens thank her and let her pay. Until then, it’s all on you.

7. Learn some chivalry basics

They say chivalry is dead but I disagree. Start with a few simple things.

Walk on the outside on the street. This means you should always be closest to the curb. If she is on the outside then gracefully position yourself so you are on the outside. For women that know this rule, they love it.

Open doors. Open her car door. Open entrance doors. A bonus move is making sure her seat belt is securely fastened.

Assuming you picked her up at her house, at the end of the date, get out of your car and walk her to her door. If she met you out somewhere, walk her to her car and make sure she leaves safely.

If you want to go super old school pull out her chair as she sits down, and stand if she gets up from the table. Watch Mad Men to see what I mean.

I know a lot of feminists will scoff at these ideas and maybe even argue with me, but here’s my attitude. When I’m dating a woman, it’s my job to make her feel safe and secure in my presence. This is someone’s daughter or sister, or maybe someone’s mother. I’d want her parents to appreciate how I treat her. For me these actions are signs of respect to a woman, not that she’s weak and can’t take care of herself.

8. Communicate when you want to communicate

If you want to call, call. If you want to text, then text. Do not fall into the trap of communication rules. She’s an adult and can decide for herself what to do. However, once you’ve sent the message, that’s it! Do not follow up. No matter how much you want to hear from her, no matter how much you like her, do not send a second message. If she wants to talk to you, she’ll respond. If she doesn’t then move on. Which leads me to…

9. Express interest but don’t be needy

So many times when I was interested in a woman I’d obsess over a reply. This is senseless. You’ve got to let it go. Remember you cannot say the wrong thing if she’s right for you. Women are intuitive and usually know if you like them. This is where your confidence is key. Know that you are a good guy with a lot to offer the right woman. (If you don’t feel that way work on figuring out why.) If she wants you in her life she will let you know and will make room for you.

This is a broader topic but remember a relationship will not make you happy. Your happiness comes from within, not from her approval of you. Always in life remember, anything outside of yourself does not determine your happiness or worth. This is especially true in dating.

10. Make the first move

If things have progressed well and there’s mutual attraction, congrats! It’s a rare thing to find. You’re a guy so if you like her, she probably already knows.

Again, I’m sure my feminist friends might argue, but I believe the man should make the first move in escalating to a physical level. It’s like picking up the check. Remove the guesswork. Take the lead and kiss her. As soon as you start the move you’ll know where you stand. She’ll leave zero room for doubt here.

My personal thought is don’t go for the kiss on the first date. That is way too soon. There are exceptions to this rule but they’re extremely rare. On a first date, I suggest going for the hug and leave it at that.

11. Always make the plans

I believe it’s my job to make the plans for a date. I also apply the 1o date rule here. Plan those first 10 dates. If she’s comfortable with you picking her up at her place, then do that and do not be late. Tell her where you’re going so that she can tell someone where she’ll be. She has no reason whatsoever to trust you early on.

If you make it to 10 dates with a woman, somewhere along the way she’ll ask you to join her in something she wants to do. Odds are you won’t have to plan all 10.

Guys what are some of your dating best practices? Women, what do you wish guys would do better when dating?

10 Things I’ve Learned Studying With Buzz Amato

I studied classical piano from ages 6 to 13 and I got pretty good at piano during that time. I’m grateful my parents pushed me to take lessons because much of what I learned then still serves me today. Being a teenager at that time I wanted to play Van Halen and Rush, as well as jazz like Dave Brubeck and Ellis Marsalis. This culminated in a battle of wills between me, my teacher, and my mom, resulting in me essentially giving up piano and taking up rock guitar. So while I gained expertise at another instrument, my piano playing and sight reading skills went by the wayside.

As an adult I’ve taken drum lessons and voice lessons, but I’d always wanted to get back to my first instrument, the piano. Finally in June of 2012 I set out on that goal and began studying with the exceptional Buzz Amato. I’ve been fortunate to study with a musician and teacher who has a vast knowledge of theory, live performance, composition, arrangement, as well as insights into pop and jazz music. My playing and songwriting has grown immensely as a result of my studies.

When I told Buzz I was writing 10 things I learned from him he joked, “Oh, you could come up with 10?” That’s Buzz’s humor, a joke with multiple levels, self-deprecating while indirectly challenging me as well.

Let’s get to it, here are 10 lessons, among many, that I’ve learned from Buzz:

1. Be Gentle With Yourself

Perfectionism, excellence, and being exceptional at whatever I’ve set out to do, has plagued me my whole life. I say plague because perfectionism allows excuses, self-doubt, and procrastination to insidiously work its way into eventual inaction and frustration. Buzz saw this in me right from the beginning and would often repeat, “Be gentle with yourself.” All of this ridicule and pressure I put on myself was unnecessary. After all, I wasn’t preparing for a command performance at Lincoln Center in front of the president. Maybe that’ll happen someday but that’s not the current reality. I’ve learned that grace, patience, and love opens a better path to real learning and growth. No one is perfect, because…

2. Every Musician Makes Mistakes

I revere players like Chilly Gonzales, Herbie Hancock, Glenn Gould, and Prince. They’re virtuosos and while they seem to never make a mistake, they’re human and they do. The difference is, they’re able to disguise their mistakes, even using the mistake to find something new.

Miles Davis famously said, “Do not fear mistakes – there are none.” It took me a while to get over my fear of making mistakes, especially playing live. When I had gigs where I fell on my face, I left the stage crestfallen and embarrassed. Buzz got me past all that. Buzz says everyone makes mistakes and really the difference between me and Chilly, or Herbie, is how they use the mistake. Buzz says, “If you play it twice, it’s not a mistake.” So mistakes are okay, after all…

3. It’s Just Music

Buzz reminds me that we “play” music. There aren’t many other aspects of life where we are playing, other than sports, recreation, or acting. Music is powerful. It heals and brings unity to humanity. It offers joy and catharsis. It gives us deeper understanding of ourselves and others through artistic expression. However music is not brain surgery, aeronautical engineering, or law enforcement. I’m not saying music isn’t important, but playing music doesn’t have the same stakes as surgery.

4. Set A Goal or Intention When Practicing

I’ve noticed when I set a goal or intention for my practice time, I practice with more focus and tend to accomplish more. These are simple and specific goals such as, learn the next measure of this piece, or work out fingering for this passage, or….

5. Record Yourself

We’re fortunate to have easy access to recording with computers, phones, and cameras. When I record myself and play it back, I’m able to analyze my playing from a different perspective. I can objectively critique and notice what needs to be practiced, what’s working and what’s not, if my tempo wavers, or if the piece is ready for performance. Recording also applies what is known as the “red light syndrome” to my practicing. This pressure helps relax me when I am finally playing in front of an audience, since I’ve worked out those jitters by recording.

6. Play Relaxed

I know I should play relaxed, but it takes a lot of control, practice, and skill to get there. When I am learning certain passages in a piece they can torment me! Buzz teaches that it’s best to slow the tempo down until I can play the music relaxed. Playing with too much tension in the forearms, hands and fingers leads to more mistakes and fumbles but ultimately, it just sounds bad.

7. Know Your Limitations

While I don’t see a lot of limitations in Buzz’s playing, he references them a lot. He’ll say, “I will substitute in a passage so I’m not using my 4th and 5th fingers, because they are weak.” He then proceeds to run and up and down the keyboard with ease. For me, I know that singing in the key of Eb is not good a key for me.

8. Know Your Strengths

Buzz knows he’s great with arrangement and harmony. He’s got lots of stories where folks complimented him on his use of harmony. I know I can write music quickly when there’s a deadline. For the past 3  years, I’ve completed the February Album Writing Month challenge, writing 14 songs in 28 days. I also know I’m good with Logic and making interesting guitar tones with effects.

9. Unlearn What You Have Learned

We talked about this one yesterday. Buzz tells the story of talking to guitarist Pat Martino who remarked the point of learning music is to learn all the rules, then forget them. The idea is to free the mind from the mechanics, theory, technique, and thinking, and simply play the music. When I allow music to flow from me without filters, rules, or thought, I’m able to truly express the purest form of the music.

10. Mix At Lower Volumes

For many years, I loved listening to music and mixing music at loud volumes. Fortunately a recent hearing test revealed my hearing is normal and I haven’t suffered any noticeable loss. Buzz showed me mixing at lower volumes allows me to hear more details and nuances. Sure, it’s fine to crank up a mix for a minute to gauge where it sits. However, every mixing engineer will tell you, mixing at lower volumes causes less ear fatigue and ultimately gives you a better mix.

If you’re interested in contacting Buzz about piano or music production lessons you can hit him up through his site at buzzamato.com.

6 Lessons I Learned From Star Wars

Note: This post does not contain any spoilers for The Force Awakens

I know you’re sick of hearing about Star Wars. However I’m gonna ride that momentum for this one. I remembered writing this Toastmasters speech from the Competent Communicator series and decided to repurpose it. This speech focused on using different voices to make your points. It’s hard to beat Star Wars when it comes unforgettable voices.

Here are 6 lessons I’ve learned from Star Wars:

1. Believe in something greater than yourself

Luke says, “I don’t believe it,” after Yoda brings his ship out of the swamp. Yoda replies, “That is why you fail.” The characters in Star Wars who had faith in the force were very strong, whether on the dark side or not.

My personal experience shows that believing in a power greater than myself, a spiritual power, offers a way to get through difficult times and everyday life. This belief opens up a fellowship of humanity which offers support, knowledge through shared experience, and friendship.

2. No one likes a know it all

C3PO loved to let everyone know that it was fluent in over 6 million forms of communication. C3PO was constantly calculating the odds in scenarios which Han Solo didn’t appreciate.

If you know something, you don’t always have to share it. If the odds are against someone, you don’t need to tell them. They are probably quite aware the deck’s stacked against them. No one likes to be told they cannot do something and that taking risks are dangerous.

3. Do or Do Not. There is no Try.

This is my favorite! Remove the word “try” from your vocabulary. Try is an excuse to fail. When someone says they’ll try to do something I take that as a no. Saying, “I’ll try to come to your party,” means they won’t show up. Either you do it or you don’t, there is no in between. 

4. Listen to your teachers

Luke provides great examples of what happens when you don’t listen to your teacher. Luke leaves his training with Yoda at Dagobah to rescue his friends, but it’s a trapWhen Luke goes into the cave he takes his weapons. He fails the test. When Luke does listen to Yoda he succeeds. When Luke begins his training with Obi Wan lowering the visor on the helmet, Luke gets his first glimpse into using the force, following Obi Wan’s lead. Almost every time Luke ignored his teachers and acted out of his own self-will, he ended up in a bad situation

5. You must unlearn what you have learned

This is another favorite. Information changes constantly. I can become stagnant and irrelevant if I hold on to old ideas. We believe stories about ourselves that are completely false and hold us back.

I saw this amazing photo which says, “In a society that profits from your self-doubt liking yourself is a rebellious act.” We’re sold a lot of BS in this culture. These false narratives repeat over and over, seeping into our subconscious, beating us down. We are all worthy of love. We all have the ability to bring joy and love into this world. We all need to do the work to heal ourselves from the lies we tell ourselves, and the lies others have told us. We’ve got to let go of beliefs which do not serve us

6. There is always a chance at redemption

The story of Darth Vader’s redemption is one of the most inspiring, and important, plotlines of Star Wars. Luke never stopped believing there was good in Vader. Never. Luke believed he could redeem Vader and turn him to the light. The pivotal moment comes when Luke removes Vader’s mask. Vader says, “Let me look on you with my own eyes,” and the redemption is complete. It’s late in the game sure, but it happened. Luke was right.

What are some life lessons you’ve learned from Star Wars?