It's alright if everything is not alright

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It’s TOTALLY alright if everything is NOT alright (re-written so it hits home). Mom, when you read this, I want you to know that everything is good right now. I promise. You don’t have to text me saying that you’re worried about me (again). I’m good. 

That said, things won’t be good forever. Something will happen, and I’ll be dragged through the mud yet again. That’s part of the agreement of being here; some days are great, others ain’t. I wanted to write this to remind everyone, but perhaps I'm writing mostly to remind myself that when shit hits the fan, that’s totally alright. When I'm down on my luck, I shouldn't let myself feel worthless, discounted, ashamed, or less of a person — it's all just a part of the process.

I’ve reached out publicly (perhaps too publicly) when I was going through some shit. I needed some advice and was willing to take anything offered. I’ve grown not to care what (most of) my friends, peers, and parents think, which is quite freeing honestly. I’m not afraid to reach out and talk about things when I’m in my feelings. Who knows? Maybe someone out there has the antidote! 

So often I read posts that have been filtered through that glossy, rose-colored tint where life is a never-ending party. I guess no one wants to be a buzzkill or drag others down in our "party ’til the break of dawn" culture (I've played both roles quite well in my day). I hate that it feels almost taboo to talk about difficulties. I’m not saying every post or conversation needs to be negative, but I know that if I want to get through a rough patch, confronting it head on helps me most.  

I’m done pretending. I have no one to impress. When times are tough, you’ll probably hear me mention it. I’ll be able to sleep at night knowing I’m not trying to fool myself. When the music stops, and I'm stumbling home as the sun comes up over the hills, I know I won’t be afraid to look at myself in the mirror.

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Thoughts From my Mini-Bender

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A few Saturdays, ago I met a friend for a photoshoot on a bright sunny day in Bushwick. What had been planned to be a productive day turned into a fourteen-hour mini bar-crawl without any workable photos. I dragged myself into bed at 4:00 AM exhausted and hiccuping. Looking back, I don’t remember all the details, but here are some thoughts that came up throughout the day:

  • I have zero balance in my life and am baffled by the concept of it. Living in New York, chasing the music dream and working full-time to cover bills doesn’t leave much free time, let alone leisure time. I’m ALWAYS working. Yes, it’s self-imposed, but I don’t have time to go out and enjoy the day, to see the long list of friends I’ve been neglecting, to keep in touch with my parents, or even the energy to always go to the gym to stay in shape.
  • American culture puts such a premium on the notion of working hard/grinding/hustling/no days off/putting in the work. It’s like, if you work long and hard enough, you’ll succeed, and all your wildest dreams will come. But with all that's happening, I don’t know if hard work still reaps success. I wish everyone who is working hard out there the best of luck — but is luck (or even success from hard work) even possible anymore? How the fuck do you get ahead?
  • I was sober for eight months last year. I needed that time to reflect, check in with myself and my behavior. I learned about the triggers that drove me to drink. When something made me sad, I’d want a drink. Or when I was feeling slightly depressed, I’d want a drink. Alcohol is a great numbing agent. While I made enormous progress during that stint of sobriety, I still drink to numb myself (as was the case last Saturday). That black hole, deep inside, never feeling fulfilled or never feeling entirely comfortable with my place in the world often gets the best of me. All the meditation, music, workouts, Instagram and pretty women can’t tune that out. Although boozing is the least healthy way to deal with it; I hate to admit it works.
  • On a brighter note, even in this cold, hard, lonely city of New York, I’ve found people are quite warm and friendly SO LONG as I am the first to introduce myself. My friend and I met loads of cool, interesting people that Saturday. “Hey what’s up? I’m Art!” goes such a long way. I hate the idea of “no new friends.”
  • There’s freedom in going with the flow. I wanted to create a month’s worth of content in that photoshoot, but I got NOTHING. Instead, we were perched at the bar with a strong buzz by 1:00 PM. That's not what I planned, but it’s what happened. So, I don’t always need to be behind the driver’s wheel. Sometimes, I can sit back and just be along for the ride. I don't always need to, say, battle my bandmates about which song should be our next single. Or always be the alpha male in the group.  I should relax a bit and enjoy the ride. 
  • Oh and drink water. Lots of it. Especially if you're gonna behave like I do at times. 
 Eight hours in. The wheels were starting to come off. This was the last photo taken, for good reason. Don't be like me. Get a job. 

Eight hours in. The wheels were starting to come off. This was the last photo taken, for good reason. Don't be like me. Get a job. 


Mr. product endorser

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Contrary to what my friends think, I intensely dislike social media. That said, when used correctly, I understand it’s value (hence all the glamorous photos of moi!) and the goodness that can come from it. In my line of business, more followers/friends (theoretically) equal more opportunities. I’ve lost enough chances to my lack of “numbers” and “stats”  to know this. I'm trying to figure it all out. 

The great crux of my time — learning how to be an all-star player in a game that I can’t fucking stand. 

I gave up on trying to be an influencer. I tried wearing that hat for a minute last year, but it’s just not a good look for me. My friends were also kind enough to make sure they shared their thoughts: “What are you doing? You sound like the headiest guy on the planet!” They had a good time making fun of me. 

All else aside, I just don’t like to sell. If I wanted to persuade people to buy shit, I would’ve pursued advertising after college and chased that Madison Avenue money. Truth is, I couldn't care less about 95% of the brands out there. Even with the products that I do care about, it's not enough to hock them to the people who are giving me their valuable time. I don't know if it's the anti-influencer, rebel, asshole, or apathy in me. 

Realistically, I don't want to lose my credibility. I’ve seen musicians pivot from creating art to making a paycheck by pushing, say, a brand of cosmetics. I don't want to do that. I think people would see through me if I tried selling them something. Granted, seeing the things my friends who are social media savvy get to do makes me wonder if the joke is actually on me. Who knows, maybe I'll become Mr. Product Endorser down the road!

The only person I want to be beholden to is myself. Integrity goes a long way, so I don't mind leaving money on the table for now. All I’ve ever wanted to do is build a community of like-minded, forward-thinking people who are trying to inspire positive change. I want to be involved and exchange ideas with people I find fascinating. In my eyes, I want all eyes on everyone in the circle — not just on me. I’ll dish out the assists and let others dunk the ball.

I don't know if I'll ever learn to love the game, but I am becoming a better player. For what I want to do, I think that's all I can ask for.

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I've thrown away every expectation

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I'm turning thirty this year. As I reflect on the past decade, I find myself asking, "Is this it?" All of that hard work was for... this?

Yes. All of that was for this.

I don't write with bitterness, sadness or defeat. Honestly, I feel good. Above all, I still feel a tinge of hopefulness of what's to come.

I've searched the darkest corners of every dive-bar from Colorado to New York to figure things out, and for fucking once, I think I've got an answer... I'm supposed to be right here right now.

As my birthday approaches, I've thrown away every expectation and hope for what life is supposed to be. Looking back, I could have never lived up to that picture-perfect narrative I pieced together long ago. I'll leave fairy-tales for reading.  

My bandmates joke that if someone punched me in the face, I'd probably reply with something like "Hey, thanks so much for that!"

They say that because I'm replacing all expectations — the idea of winning 30 Under 30 awards, touring the world, being famous, having the dream family, fulfillment, and profound success — with endless gratitude. I now wake up every morning grateful to be here, just happy to be alive.  

I've said it before, but life has humbled me beyond my wildest imagination. If you need me these days, you can find me swimming in the waters of endless gratitude. What a perfect gift to receive this birthday. I can't wait for what's to come.

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Self-Care is Essential to Take Care of Others

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My good friend is a successful restaurateur. While my other friends and I were out partying or relaxing, he was busy working, studying, and mastering his craft. He knew he’d be able to give back so much more if he took care of himself first — and he has succeeded. Today, his restaurants provide jobs for dozens and consistently delivers memorable dining experiences. He’s now able to be involved in charities and I remember him even paying someone's rent when they fell on hard times. He is in a position where he can be helpful when people need it.

Self-care is essential to helping others. Whether self-care means being selfish with your time so you can start your own business, or sleeping in so you’re not cranky (like meeee!), we all need to take better care of ourselves so that we can give back.

I'm in a much better head space when I’m taking care of myself. When I adhere to a proper gym schedule, eat well, sleep enough, stay away from the garbage on the internet, and finish work I’m proud of, I feel fucking great! My inner thoughts are positive, my sense of humor is healthy, and I’m pleasant to be around. I’m much more inclined to be compassionate and kind to others when my home is in order.I certainly know how partying all night and running on four hours of sleep makes me feel. Helping others is tough when I'm looking through bloodshot eyes.

I'm probably not going to change the world. Hell, my contributions, at best, will likely be minimal — but contribute I shall. I’ve already received flattering texts for songs we put out, as well as plenty of texts (good and many bad) about my photos. Seems like people are paying attention

So now when friends turn me down to hang because they’re working on something, or just need some time for themselves, I applaud them. Get in that self-care — I’m doing the same.

I will continue to selfishly take care of myself while pursuing my passions, knowing that eventually, I’ll be able to give back the time I've spent caring for myself. At some point, I plan to teach and be active in charities and non-profits. Maybe I’ll even be a yoga instructor someday! My friend embodies the overall goal of my master plan to an astounding degree. He gives back so much. That's all I've ever cared about. 

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Being Understated Makes the Biggest Statement

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My band played an after-hours party awhile ago, and before the gig, I decided to chat with the party people to see who else would be performing. I met one guy who was soft-spoken and almost shy. After chatting with him and his buddy, I went on my way to meet more people.

Later that night, an uproar came pouring from the performance room. I walked back to see what all the fuss was about and saw the quiet guy I had met earlier delivering an electric poetry reading. The crowd was going wild, chanting and screaming along with him. I was shocked; he was a completely different person, seemingly possessed or something, and by far delivered the best performance that night. When I recall our initial conversation, all I can remember is how he downplayed everything. In retrospect, his understatement made the biggest statement.

I love people who live the art of the soft sell. They appreciate their worth. They know their work is valuable so they don’t feel the need to hit you over the head with it. Like musicians, for example, who play a handful of flavorful notes in the right places rather than the ones who try to hit as many notes as quickly as possible in an over-extended solo. Or my favorite artisan jeweler who sends personalized messages about new pieces she thinks I might find interesting (because she takes the time to know her customers), rather jewelers who continuously spam because they somehow know I buy jewelry. And then there are the random people on Instagram who randomly message me asking for a shoutout strictly for their benefit. 

I admire people who don’t shove products down my throat, mostly because, I've totally been the guy who tried to over-sell, too much and too soon. Woof! I can’t help burying my head in embarrassment when I think back on some of that sleazy and shameless behavior. I know exactly how being on the receiving end of aggressive marketing feels, and it’s not pleasant. 

There are times and places to make your sales pitch. I'm a curious guy, and I like to get to know you so we can figure out how to work together for our mutual benefit. When a stranger taps me on the shoulder at a bar to give me his carpet cleaning business card, he should know that I can’t help but use it as a coaster. Or when I’m trying to put my shirt on after a show, and someone rushes up to me to tell me how amazing their band is, I have a hard time not tuning them out — where are your manners, family? 

I’m attracted to subtlety, not sheen. In the land of rockstars and bloggers (the space I’m trying to occupy), that's a rare trait. Hype seems to be the norm. Apparently everyone’s doing the absolute most important work and I better not miss out on it... I don't believe it though. It brings me back to the poet I met that night. He was understated and allowed his work to do the talking. He made no mention of his craft until the time was right. I became an instant fan. 

My blinders are on, and I'm staying in my lane. I have no interest being in the business of overstating.

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I asked for nothing and RECEIVED everything in return

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After years of disappointment, I finally understand that I'm not entitled to success. Free from expectations of reward and recognition for my efforts or compassion, I am now able to manage my expectations realistically (which, bottom line means that I bust my ass and hustle). I simply show up and work as hard as I can. 

I’m also keeping everything pretty simple. Taking life as it comes, day by day, and being present for all that happens is my new practice. When I succeed, I'm happy simply being here and am able to notice more of the tiny, beautiful things that life has to offer.

Being present allows me to embrace the good and the bad (especially the bad). I don’t need much to be happy—and often less truly is more. By asking for little, I receive far more than I could’ve ever imagined.

Seemingly out of the blue, life rewards me with little gifts that I never expected. Sometimes the gift comes in the form of an email requesting that the band play a high-profile gig, or a date with a woman who is out of my league; or it can be as simple as a warm cup of coffee to start the day. Some gifts are just so outlandish, they are difficult to believe. (I wish I could have seen that smile on my face when I received some of the Universe's wilder blessings — Did my pitch really just resonate with Swizz Beats?)

More often, gifts come during ordinary events, such as when I'm having a few beers with my friends, watching a sunset, or playing my bass. These small miracles give me the time and space to look up and say, “Thank you life.”

I’m no longer expecting grandiose moments; yet, when I'm present and paying attention, they consistently happen.

Of course, life is far from idyllic. Sometimes gifts come in the form of a right hook that knocks me the fuck out (with these types of gifts, simply getting out of bed to face the day can be difficult). Although these blessings feel like haymakers, they are actually opportunities to learn and be more compassionate. Even when my heart is breaking (such as it was when two friends passed away within a two-week period), I learned to treat others like royalty because I don’t want them to feel the sadness that I'm feeling. Life can be terribly cruel, and we have all had the shit knocked out of us.

Stormy experiences are needed to grow and evolve. I want to be the best version of myself, and that’s not going to happen in consistently calm waters. If nothing else, storms keep life interesting.

I still want that motorcycle, that international stadium tour, and my face on the cover of Rolling Stone. While I always reach for the stars, I now reach with no expectations. I simply put myself out there and carry on, working hard.

Somewhere in my soul, I know that the gifts I seek will arrive. And when they do, I am just as ecstatic to receive the crazy ones as I am to open my two eyes each morning. Although blessings may not come in the exact form that I imagine, I now know that they will arrive, and I am grateful.

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