Archive for July, 2006

Advice to A Young Musician

Posted: Jul 31, 2006

From music veteran Slaid Cleaves:

1. Don’t believe the people who say you are good. Listen to the people who tell you where you are failing. You have to learn to be extremely hard on yourself in order to continually improve, or else you’ll just end up playing in your room. Everyone wants to be a musician, but only the ones who are self-critical, work the hardest, and stay with it the longest will succeed.

2. Songs are more important than anything else. There are thousands of great songs out there in the world. Why would people want to buy your songs if they aren’t as good as what’s already out there? You need to strive to write songs that say something interesting, something moving, something memorable, in a way that no one else has said it before. In order to get good songs you have to be hard on yourself. One of my favorite songwriters, Mary Gauthier, says she puts about 40 hours into every song she writes.

3. For a long time, you will have to do everything yourself. Make your own records, bring them to record stores, book your own gigs, play for free, do your own promotions (create a web site, make posters, buy adds, bug radio stations, create mailing lists). Nobody will help you until they see something going on already. Only then will they want a piece of the action. You have to get the ball rolling yourself and convince them there’s some action.

4. It’s very hard to get things going on your own. Find a group of musicians who are at your level, doing similar music, facing similar challenges. Work together, help each other get better, write together, share gigs. You might have to move out of the security of your hometown to find a group that you can be a part of. I’ve found “comrades in arms” by moving to a big music town, going to a lot of shows, performing at open mics, even playing on street corners.

5. Big record companies are more trouble than they are worth a lot of times (they might even be extinct in a few years). Small, local independent record labels are doing better than the majors lately, and you are much more likely to get their attention. Big record labels almost never sign someone unless they’ve made indie records and already have a significant audience (thousands of fans). But you won’t need them anyway, because the future of music is in digital downloading.

6. Despite all that I’ve said, you must find your own way. Every successful musician has “re-invented the wheel” to get to where he or she is. The business part of the music business is always changing. And when it changes, smart, alert, creative people will see an opening where they can gain a foothold.

7. In sum, work on your craft, let people know what you are doing, be patient.

8. Oh, yeah. Most important: find a girlfriend (or boyfriend) who has a good job and is willing to support you for several years.

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DAY 25: to the self-promoters out there who think you’re the greatest…

Posted: Jul 31, 2006

Myspace and I have a love-hate relationship.

She’s been good to me, but she sure does take up a lot of my time. Not that I plan to spend hours and hours on myspace or anything, but my gosh how the time gets away from me.

Also, there’s something unique I’ve seen about the new crop of wannabe musicians on MySpace. They love to post comments on major recording artist’s pages saying stuff like, “Hey if you like Counting Crows, then come check out my music!” or “Hey everybody, I’m the next Dave Matthews. Check me out.”

Frankly, I feel really queasy about it.

OK, so I’m all for ruthless self-promotion. But give me a break. Have some flare people. If your musical creativity is anything like your copy writing, it might be time to find a new career. That may be harsh, but it’s the blatent truth.

Just a word to the wise: people get mad when you proclaim yourself to be something great. Even if you ARE the next John Mayer, don’t proclaim to be. Let everyone else find that out on their own terms. It all goes back to the “Music or Marketing – which comes first” topic, which I’ve written about before.

To be fair, I did my homework and checked out a few blatant myspace comments ads.

About 10% of the time, I’m pleasantly surprised. But the far greater majority of the time, people are putting their name and their reputation out there with little to show for it. It’s bold, sure. But if the music’s not good — really good — then you’re not really getting anywhere.

In my opinion, you have to start with live shows and build a local fan base around you that become diehards, because they’ve seen you live multiple times. They know you. They’ve hung out with you. Trying to advertise to an ad-nauscious, fleeting fan on Myspace is the wrong way to go.

OK, so that being said, I wrote to the staff at MySpace to find out how exactly to become a “featured artist.”

Hi, I’m writing to find out more about how to be chosen as a featured artist on myspace.

The FAQ said to email you for a rep to contact me. So, if you’d be so kind, I’d really appreciate it.

I’m in the middle of a project called “How to Get a Record Deal in 365 Days” where I detail my progress from zero to deal inside 1 year. For more info on my project, there’s a quick video intro at www.NicksJourney.com

Otherwise, my contact info is below. Thank you.

We’ll see how it goes, but that’s a better way to gain clicks and page hits than spamming Jack Johnson’s page.

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DAY 24: the sunday show at the pier…

Posted: Jul 30, 2006

DAY 24 – Man, it feels good to play live again! Tim and I played our first show together in a couple of years tonight.

Yeah, we rocked Patrick Malloy’s on Hermosa Pier. It feels good to have my guitar player back.

OK, so by “show” I mean we got a 15-minute set at the Summer of Fun Talent Contest, and by “rocked” I mean two guys with acoustic guitars, strumming as hard as we could. This has been a fun weekend to be a musician. I met up with several potential promoters here that dig the songs and want to work with me.

And by “promoters” I mean new friends that have volunteered to help me book some shows. People are jumping on board with me on this 365-day thing, and I think it’s awesome. So let’s roll people…

Oh you missed it? Don’t worry love. There’ll be more shows to come very soon.

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DAY 23: you think YOU’RE busy? (part 6)

Posted: Jul 29, 2006

DAY 23 – Heading back to L.A. at 2am.  Soo tired, but I’m gonna post the last of this article from Steve.

So let’s say you’ve got a little free time from dumping the unimportant stuff, from prioritizing, working smarter not harder, ready-fire-aim, yada yada, and you’re not sure what you should be doing with this newfound time.

Apply the 80-20 rule.

The 80-20 rule states that 20% a task’s effort accounts for 80% the value of that task. This also means that 80% of a task only yields 20% the value of that task. In college I was ruthless in my application of this principle.

Some weeks I ditched as many as 40% my classes because sitting through a lecture was not often the most effective way for me to learn. And I already noted that I would simply refuse to do an assignment if I determined it was not worth my time. There was one math class that I only showed up to twice because I could learn from the text book much more quickly than from the lectures.

I only showed up for the midterm and final. I would pop my head in at the beginning of each class to drop off my homework and then again at the end of each class to write down the next assignment. I actually got the highest grade in that class, but the teacher probably had no idea who I was. The other students were playing by the rules, not realizing they were free to make their own rules.

Find out what parts of your life belong in the crucial 20and focus your efforts there. Be absolutely ruthless in refusing to spend time where it simply cannot give you optimal results. Invest your time where it has the potential to pay off big.

Guard thy time.

To work effectively you need uninterrupted blocks of time in which you can complete meaningful work. When you know for certain that you won’t be interrupted, your productivity is much, much higher.When you sit down to work on a particularly intense task, dedicate blocks of time to the task during which you will not do anything else. I’ve found that a minimum of 90 minutes is ideal for a single block.

You may need to negotiate with the other people in your life to create these uninterrupted blocks of time. If necessary, warn others in advance not to interrupt you for a certain period of time. Threaten them with acts of violence if you must.

In school I would lock my bedroom door when I needed to work, so my roommates would know not to disturb me. While each individual bedroom in the two-bedroom dorm suites was designed for two people (four people per suite), I paid a bit extra to have a bedroom all to myself. This way I always had my own private room to work. When I had time to be social, I’d leave the door open, sometimes playing computer games with one of my roommates.

If you happen to work in a high interruption environment that’s negatively affecting your productivity, change that environment at all costs. Some people have told me that giving their boss a copy of this article helped convince him/her to take steps to reduce unnecessary interruptions.

While for some people it’s helpful to block off a specific period of time for a task, I find that I work best with long, open-ended stretches of uninterrupted time. I’ll often allocate a starting time for a task but usually not a specific finishing time. Whenever possible I just allow myself to stick with a task as long as I can, until I eventually succumb to hunger or other bodily needs.

I will frequently work 6 hours straight on a project without taking a break. While frequent breaks are often recommended to increase productivity, I feel that suggestion may be an artifact of industrial age research on poorly motivated workers and not as applicable to high-motivation, purpose-driven creative work.

I find it’s best for me to maintain momentum until I can barely continue instead of chopping a task into smaller chunks where there’s a risk of succumbing to distractions along the way.

The state of flow, where you are totally absorbed in a task and lose all sense of time, takes about 15 minutes to enter. Every time you get interrupted, it can take you another 15 minutes to get back to that state. Once you enter the state of flow, guard it with your life. That is the state in which you will go through enormous amounts of work and experience total connection with the task.

When I’m in this state, I have no sense of past or future. I simply feel like I’m one with my work.

While sometimes I suffer from the problem of the task expanding to fill the allotted time (aka Parkinson’s Law), I often find that it’s worth the risk.

For example, when I do optimization work on my web site, I’ll frequently think of new optimization ideas while I work, and I’ll usually go ahead and implement those new ideas immediately.

I find it more efficient to act on those ideas at the moment of conception instead of scheduling them to be done at a later time.

This happens to me all the time in songwriting.  Sometimes when you get the creative juices flowing, you gotta go with the flow.

Work all the time you work.

During one of these sacred time blocks, do nothing but the activity that’s right in front of you. Don’t check email or online forums or do web surfing. If you have this temptation, then unplug your Internet connection while you work. Turn off your phone, or simply refuse to answer it. Go to the bathroom before you start, and make sure you won’t get hungry for a while. Don’t get out of your chair at all.  Don’t talk to anyone during this time.

Decide what it is you should be doing, and then do nothing but that. If you happen to manage others, periodically ask them what their #1 task is, and make sure they’re doing nothing but that. If you see someone answering email, then it should be the most important thing for that person to be doing at that particular time. If not, then relatively speaking, that person is just wasting time.

If you need a break, then take a real break and do nothing else. Don’t semi-work during a break if you feel you need rest and restoration. Checking email or web surfing is not a break.

When you take a break, close your eyes and do some deep breathing, listen to relaxing music and zone out for a while, take a 20-minute nap, or eat some fresh fruit. Rest until you feel capable of doing productive work again. When you need rest, rest.

When you should be working, work. Work with either 100% concentration, or don’t work at all. It’s perfectly fine to take as much down time as you want. Just don’t allow your down time to creep into your work time.

Whew!  I think that’s the bulk of what my new friend Steve had to say.  Sorry to post someone else’s thoughts on here, but he had the right ideas when I really needed to hear them.

OK, now time for sleep.  We’ll try again tomorrow.

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DAY 22: you think YOU’RE busy? (part 5)

Posted: Jul 28, 2006

DAY 22 – I’m on a personal development kick, and have been spending my free time figuring out why I have no free time anymore… 

Take a hard look at this and be brutally honest with yourself.  I’m trying to do the same for me.  No games.  No coverups.  Here’s Steve’s advice on getting rid of the junk that wastes your time

Triage ruthlessly.

Use the trash can liberally. Apply the rule, “When in doubt, throw it out.” Cancel useless magazine subscriptions. If you have a magazine that is more than two months old and you still haven’t read it, throw it away; it’s probably not worth reading.

Realize that nothing is free if it costs you time. Before you sign up for any new free service or subscription, ask how much it will cost you in terms of time. Every activity has an opportunity cost. Ask, “Is this activity worth what I am sacrificing for it?”

In college I was downright brutal when it came to triage. I once told one on my professors that I decided not to do one of his assigned computer science projects because I felt it wasn’t a good use of my time. The project required about 10-20 hours of work, and it involved some tedious gruntwork that wasn’t going to teach me anything I didn’t already know.

Also, this project was only worth 10% my grade in that class, and since I was previously acing the class anyway, the only real negative consequence would be that I’d end up with an A- in the course instead of an A.

I told the professor I felt that was a fair trade-off and that I would accept the A-. I didn’t try to negotiate with him for special treatment. So my official grade in the class was an A-, but I personally gave myself an A for putting those 10-20 hours to much better use.

Ask yourself this question: “Would I have ever gotten started with this project, relationship, career, etc. if I had to do it all over again, knowing what I now know?” If your answer is no, then get out as soon as possible.

This is called zero-based thinking. I know a lot of people that have a limiting belief that says, “Always finish what you start.” They spend years climbing ladders only to realize when they reach the top that the ladder was leaning against the wrong building.

Remember that failure is your friend. So if a certain decision you’ve made in the past is no longer producing results that serve you, then be ruthless and dump it, so you can move onto something better.

This is good advice that I’ve never heard anywhere before.  I’m thinking I oughtta dump a few things right now…

There is no honor in dedicating your life to the pursuit of a goal which no longer inspires you. This is another situation where you must practice integrity in the moment of choice. You must constantly re-assess your present situation to accurately decide what to do next. Whatever you’ve decided in the past is largely irrelevant if you would not renew that decision today.

Identify and recover wasted time.

Instead of watching a one-hour TV show, Tivo it and watch it in 45 minutes by fast-forwarding through the commercials. Don’t spend a half hour typing a lengthy email when you could accomplish the same thing with a 10-minute phone call. Batch your errands together and do them all at once.

Trying to cut out time-wasting habits is a common starting point for people who desire to become more efficient, but I think this is a mistake. Optimizing your personal habits should only come later. Clarity of purpose must come first.

If you don’t have clarity, then your attempts to install more efficient habits and to break inefficient habits will only fizzle. You won’t have a strong enough reason to put your time to good use, so it will be easy to quit when things get tough. You need a big, attractive goal to stay motivated. The reason to shave 15 minutes off a task is that you’re overflowing with motivation to put that 15 minutes to better use.

It all comes down to figuring out what you want to do with your life and what you want to be known for.  Come people call it a legacy.  Some people call it a 500-year-plan.  I call it destiny, and for me, it’s music. It just took me a while to figure that out is all… 

I think if you get the highest levels of your life in order (purpose, meaning, spiritual beliefs), the lower levels will tend to take care of themselves (habits, practices, actions).

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DAY 21: you think YOU’RE busy? (part 4)

Posted: Jul 27, 2006

Yesterday, I talked about the Ready-Fire-Aim approach, which breaks through indecision, writer’s block, and other time-wasting stalemates that will stop you dead in your tracks.  I love the idea of this…  No guts, no glory, right?

Now, here’s more advice from Steve on the “Fire” step. I just want to put this out there to show what I’m learning today.

Do it now!

W. Clement Stone, who built an insurance empire worth hundreds of millions dollars, would make all his employees recite the phrase, “Do it now!” again and again at the start of each workday. Whenever you feel the tendency towards laziness taking over and you remember something you should be doing, stop and say out loud, “Do it now! Do it now! Do it now!”

I just set this text as my screen saver.

There is a tremendous cost in putting things off because you will mentally revisit them again and again, which can add up to an enormous amount of wasted time. Thinking and planning are important, but action is far more important. You don’t get paid for your thoughts and plans — you only get paid for your results. When in doubt, act boldly, as if it were impossible to fail.

In essence, it is.

It is absolutely imperative that you develop the habit of making decisions as soon as possible. I use a 60-second rule for almost every decision I have to make, no matter how big or important. Once I have all the data to make a decision, I start a timer and give myself only 60 seconds to make a firm decision. I’ll even flip a coin if I have to.

When I was in college, I couldn’t afford to waste time thinking about assignments or worrying about when to do them. I simply picked one and went to work on it. And today when I need to decide which article to write next, I just pick a topic and begin writing.

I believe this is why I never experience writer’s block. Writer’s block means you’re stuck in the state of thinking about what to write instead of actually writing. I don’t waste time thinking about writing because I’m too busy writing. This is probably why I’ve been able to write hundreds of original articles very easily. Every article I write spawns ideas for at least two more, so my ideas list only increases over time. I cannot imagine ever running out of original content.

Too often people delay making decisions when there is no advantage to be found in that delay. Usually delaying a decision will only have negative consequences, so even if you’re faced with ambiguity, just bite the bullet and make a decision. If it turns out to be the wrong one, you’ll know it soon enough.

Pour the bulk of your time into action, not deciding. The state of indecision is a major time waster. Don’t spend more than 60 seconds in that state if you can avoid it. Make a firm, immediate decision, and move from uncertainty to certainty to action. Let the world tell you when you’re wrong, and you’ll soon build enough experience to make accurate, intelligent decisions.

Sometimes I need a li’l preaching to snap me back to reality.  So sorry for the soap box.  I’m posting this so that you see just what it is that I’m struggling to break through.

I’m guessing I may not be the only one out there… 

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DAY 20: you think YOU’RE busy? (part 3)

Posted: Jul 26, 2006

To recap, this week is insanely busy with work, and I’m forced to choose between sleep and journaling. I’m going back through some old advice I should have heeded the first time.

Today’s portion cuts me to the quick everytime.  For all the work I’ve done, for all the practices I’ve endured to get ready for the big moment, I’m still afraid of one thing… failure. It stops me dead in my tracks all the time.

So many performers talk about stage fright.  Getting nervous before giving a speech.  Afraid to talk to the cute girl in the bar.  It’s all fear of failure.  And I suffer from it still. 

That’s why I’m posting the following.  I need to hear it.  Again.

Failure is your friend

Most people seem to have an innate fear of failure, but failure is really your best friend.

People who succeed also fail a great deal because they make a lot of attempts. The great baseball player Babe Ruth held the homerun record and the strikeout record at the same time. Those who have the most successes also have the most failures.

There is nothing wrong or shameful in failing. The only regret lies in never making the attempt. So don’t be afraid to experiment in your attempts to increase productivity. Sometimes the quickest way to find out if something will work is to jump right in and do it. You can always make adjustments along the way.

It’s the ready-fire-aim approach, and surprisingly, it works a lot better than the more common ready-aim-fire approach. The reason is that after you’ve “fired” once, you have some actual data with which to adjust your aim. Too many people get bogged down in planning and thinking and never get to the point of action. How many potentially great ideas have you passed up because you got stuck in the state of analysis paralysis (i.e. ready-aim-aim-aim-aim-aim…)?

I’ve tried a lot of crazy ideas that I thought might save me time, or get a foot in the door. Most of my own ideas were flops, but some of them worked. I gotta be willing to screw up again and again for the off chance I might stumble upon something that works.  Thomas Edison failed something like 10,000 times before he finally invented an electric bulb that would light up…. How’s that for dedication?

Understand that failure is
not the opposite of success

Failure is an essential part of success. Once you succeed, no one will remember your failures anyway.

Microsoft wasn’t Bill Gates’ and Paul Allen’s first business venture. Who remembers that their original Traf-o-Data business was a flop? 

If the word “failure” is anathema to you, then reframe it: You either succeed, or you have a learning experience.

Letting go of the fear of failure will serve you well. If you’re excited about achieving a particular goal, but you’re afraid you might not be able to pull it off, jump on it and do it anyway. Even if you fail in your attempt, you’ll learn something valuable and can make a better attempt next time.

I’m gonna read that again, because it’s hard to swallow sometimes.  Don’t believe me?  I wrote a whole song about it.  Check out “Out of my League.”

Tomorrow I want to take this one step further… the ACTION step.  So stay tuned.  Also, happy birthday to Landers, the hardest of the hardcore.  The most brutal of the brutes.  You may know her as Dakota Darts.  23 is a great year kid; live it up.

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DAY 19: you think YOU’RE busy? (part 2)

Posted: Jul 25, 2006

So this week is insanely busy with work, and I’m forced to choose between sleep and journaling.  It’s trying my patience and sapping my energy.  So I’m going back through some old advice I should have heeded the first time. 

For the longest time I’ve felt like I was spinning my wheels on this music thing, never getting anywhere. That is, until I found this advice from Steve. So do not pass go. Do not put a band together…yet. Do not play any shows until you first figure out step one:

The first step is to know exactly what you want.

In a Tae Kwon Do studio where I used to train, there’s a huge sign on the wall that says, “Your goal is to become a black belt.” This helps remind each student why s/he is going through such difficult training. When you work for yourself, it’s easy to spend a whole day at your desk and accomplish nothing of value. This almost always happens when you aren’t really clear about what it is you’re trying to do. In the moments when you regain your awareness, ask yourself, “What exactly is it that I’m trying to accomplish here?”

You must know your destination with as much clarity as possible. Make your goals specific, and put them in writing. Your goals must be so clear that it would be possible for a stranger to look at your situation objectively and give you an absolute “yes” or “no” response as to whether you’ve accomplished each goal or not.

You could also take this one step further and tell some people about your goals.  I might recommend going one step even further and declaring to the whole world your goal… Sound familiar?  347 days left…

If you cannot define your destination precisely, how will you know when you’ve arrived? The key period I’ve found useful for defining and working on specific goals is ninety days, or the length of one season. In that period of time, you can make dramatic and measurable changes if you set crystal clear goals.

Absolute clarity will give you the edge that will keep you on course. Just as an airplane on autopilot must make constant corrections to stay on course, you must periodically retarget your goals.

Reconnect with your clear, written goals by re-reading them every morning. Post them on your walls, especially your financial goals. Years ago (during the mid-90s), I went around my apartment putting up signs in every room that said “$5,000 / month.” That was my monthly business income goal at the time. Because I knew exactly what I wanted, I achieved that goal within a few weeks. I continued setting specific income goals, even amidst occasional setbacks, and I found this process very effective. It wasn’t just that it helped me focus on what I wanted — perhaps even more important is that it make it easy for me to disregard those things that weren’t on the path to my goal.

The universe is waiting on you, not the other way around, and it’s going to keep waiting until you finally make up your mind. Waiting for clarity is like being a sculptor staring at a piece of marble, waiting for the statue within to cast off the unneeded pieces. Do not wait for clarity to spontaneously materialize — grab a chisel and get busy! There’s a key difference between knowing your destination and knowing the path you will take to get there.

A typical commercial airplane is off course 90% the time, yet it almost always arrives at its destination because it knows exactly where it’s going and makes constant corrections along the way. You cannot know the exact path to your goal in advance. I believe that the real purpose of planning is simply so that you remain convinced that a possible path exists. We’ve all heard the statistic that 80% new businesses (and about 97% of musicians) fail in their first five years, but a far more interesting statistic is that nearly all of the businesses that succeeded did not do so in the original way they had intended. If you look at successful businesses that started with business plans, you will commonly find that their original plans failed miserably and that they only succeeded by trying something else.

Use single handling

Instead of using some elaborate organizing system, I stuck with very basic a pen-and-paper to do list. My only organizing tool was a notepad where I wrote down all my assignments and their deadlines. I didn’t worry about doing any advance scheduling or prioritizing. I would simply scan the list to select the most pressing item which fit the time I had available. Then I’d complete it, and cross it off the list. If I had a 10-hour term paper to write, I would do the whole thing at once instead of breaking it into smaller tasks. I’d usually do large projects on weekends. I’d go to the library in the morning, do the necessary research, and then go back to my dorm room and continue working until the final text was rolling off my printer.

If I needed to take a break, I would take a break. It didn’t matter how big the project was supposed to be or how many weeks the professor allowed for it. Once I began an assignment, I would stay with it until it was 100% complete and ready to be turned in. This simple practice saved me a significant amount of time. First, it allowed me to concentrate deeply on each assignment and to work very efficiently while I worked. A lot of time is lost in task switching because you have to re-load the context for each new task. Single handling minimizes time lost in task switching.

In fact, when possible I would batch up my assignments within a certain subject area and then do them all at once before switching subjects. So I’d do all my math homework in a row until it was all done. Then I’d do all my programming assignments. Then I’d do my general education homework. In this manner I would put my brain into math-mode, programming-mode, writing-mode, or art-mode and remain in that single mode for as long as possible.

Secondly, I believe this habit helped me remain relaxed and unstressed because my mind wasn’t cluttered with so many to-do items. It was always just one thing at a time. I could forget about anything that was outside the current context.

That was long, I know, but SO important for me to hear, cause I feel a little ADD trying to do so much at once.  Always jumping around from project to project and expecting everything to work. 

I’m gonna’ keep this thread going for a few days, ’cause there’s a lot that needs to be said.  Stay tuned for part 3 tomorrow, because it gets even better yo. 

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DAY 18: you think YOU’RE busy? (part 1)

Posted: Jul 24, 2006

Busy week.  I’m swamped with the day job, and it’s hard finding the time to write everyday.  I think now is as appropriate as ever to post this…

One of the biggest problems that I’m having right now is finding the TIME to practice, write music, record, perform, promote, while having a full-time job, taking care of the everyday stuff, being single, etc. But I recently got some great advice that’s too good to keep to myself.  I want you to hear this story from a guy named Steve and then come back and tell me you’re still too busy.  ‘Cause after reading it, I had no choice but to shut up and get to work. 

So here’s Steve’s story.  There’s a whole lot of good stuff here, so I gotta break it up into several days…

“Do It Now”

When going to college many years ago, I decided to challenge myself by setting a goal to see if I could graduate in only three semesters, taking the same classes that people would normally take over a four-year period. This article explains in detail all the time management techniques I used to successfully pull this off.

In order to accomplish this goal, I determined I’d have to take 30-40 units per semester, when the average student took 12-15 units. It became immediately obvious that I’d have to manage my time extremely well if I wanted to pull this off. I began reading everything I could find on time management and putting what I learned into practice.

I accomplished my goal by graduating with two Bachelor of Science degrees (computer science and mathematics) in just three semesters without attending summer school. I slept seven to eight hours a night, took care of my routine chores (shopping, cooking, etc), had a social life, and exercised for 30 minutes every morning. In my final semester, I even held a full time job (40 hours a week) as a game programmer and served as the Vice Chair of the local Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) chapter while taking 37 units of mostly senior-level computer science and math courses.

My classmates would add up all the hours they expected each task to take and concluded that my weeks must have consisted of about 250 hours. I graduated with a 3.9 GPA and also received a special award given to the top computer science student each year. One of my professors later told me that they had an easy time selecting the award recipient once it became clear to them what I was doing.

I wasn’t considered a gifted child, and this was the first time I had ever done anything like this. I didn’t have any personal mentors helping me, I didn’t know of anyone who’d done anything like this before, and I can’t recall a single person encouraging me to do it. In fact, most people were highly discouraging of the idea when I told them about it. This was simply something I decided to do for myself.

Most of the time I kept quiet about what I was doing, but if someone asked me how many units I was taking, I didn’t deny it. I was perhaps the only student at the university with a two-page class schedule, so it was easy to prove I was telling the truth if anyone pressed me, but rarely did I ever do so. I didn’t tell you this story to impress you but rather to make you curious as to how I did it. I pulled this off by applying time management concepts that most people simply didn’t know but that were readily available in books and audio programs at the time (1992-93).

The time management habits I learned in college have served me very well in building my business, so I want to share them with you in the hopes that you’ll find them equally valuable. They allowed me to shave years off my schooling while also giving me about $30,000 to start my business (all earned in my final semester as a game programmer, mostly from royalties)…

Not bad huh? So starting tomorrow, I’ll show you the best of what I’ve learned from Steve about mastering time management, so that you too can get a record deal (or whatever it is you want) faster than you ever thought possible…

P.S. If you want more info on Steve, check out his blog

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DAY 17: hot in herrrre…

Posted: Jul 23, 2006

Southern California has a reputation for having the most amazing weather that never gets too hot or too cold.  I fell in love the first time I landed at LAX in mid-August.  Coming from blistering summer Texas heat, the cool 70-degree sunset over the Pacific etched itself in my mind forever.  I was hooked.  I knew I’d be back to stay.  And for the most part, it’s been great.

Ask my family how much I call them to brag about how nice the weather is here.

But I’ve gotten soft.  Can’t take the heat anymore.  And days like today make me pay for my luxuries.  We don’t have A/C here.  Hardly anyone does.  If you’re in Texas right now reading this, you think I’m crazy.

But rarely do we ever need it.

Chalk today up to global warming or something, cause all the windows are open. The fans are on high.  I’m stripped down to my skivvies, and it’s still hot and sticky in here. 

I always thought Nelly was right.  But maybe he should have said, “take off all your clothes, then turn on your AC and jump in a pool of ice.”  But I guess that’s hard to rhyme…

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P.S. Happy 16th birthday to my brother Ben.  He looks just like his brother Nick, but on a 119-month delay.

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