If I were to count the number of two-A.M.-youtube-binges I’ve gone through, you would be disgusted.  It’s so much easier to watch the world through a 6 inch screen, than to live in it yourself.  You’ve probably experienced this phenomenon at least once.  It’s late at night, you’re tired but not tired enough to sleep.  Your mind races, and to calm it you watch senseless videos and read meaningless articles on clickbait websites like “Buzzfeed”.  If you’re feeling lonely you might spend most of the wee morning hours scrolling downward through the endless pile of rubbish that is your Facebook “newsfeed”.  So if we all do it, there must be some reason right?  What is it that drives us to this obsessive behavior?  I think we should go back in time.

When you were 5 years old, what did you spend most of your time doing?  I for one had a collection of smooth rounded pebbles whom I would appoint as the Judge, jury, and courtroom of my imagination.  My best friend had a stick that was a magic wand; he could conjure massive beasts and command them to destroy my rocket ship with the flick of his wrist.  Even still, at 10, 11, and 12 years old, I believed that my back yard was an underground fighting pit.  I had an extraordinary gift in my youth: I could imagine.  I could build entire worlds out of thin air.  My worlds, invisible to my mother peering out the kitchen window, were as real as could be.  Creation, pure imaginative creation, was my life.  We humans crave this sort of creation.  Our brains are hard wired to build, draw, sing, dance, and create.  All the while we expand our minds and the minds of those around us.  Unfortunately it seems we have devolved into an age of non-creation.

Let me rephrase that,  some of us have devolved into a state of non-creation.  By the end of 2017, youtube.com will have accumulated over 82 million videos.  The new-age online entertainment giant “buzzfeed.com” receives 7 billion hits monthly.  The online consumer craves articles ranging from cute cat photo albums to “How to Cut a Watermelon the ‘Right Way’”.  Fun fact: The aforementioned “how to cut a watermelon” article was completely made up by me… or so I thought it was until I (20 seconds ago) found Buzzfeed’s article entitled “You’ve been cutting watermelon wrong your whole life!”.  Clearly, there is no lack of creativity in our world.  Right?

Wrong.  Think about how many people you know make entertainment or creative content online.  According to socialblade.com, an online social media analysis website, there are essentially 175 million youtube channels with upwards of 1,000 subscribers.  In other words, thats how many people are making videos that people care about.  There are 7 billion people in the world.  That means 2.2 percent of the entire population of the united states, is making content on yo utube.  Now, I will admit, 2.2 percent of 7 billion is pretty impressive! (go youtube!) however, that is NOTHING compared to the number of people who watch youtube.  Lets take a look at the generally accepted (and researched) 1% rule of the internet.  The 1% rule states that 1% of the people who regularly access a website, are active creators for that website.  That means the 99% left are simply lurkers.  Those 99% are the late night, cook-out-milkshake-Netflix-watching-snuggie-clad lurkers.  Given this information it is safe to assume that the majority of the population is watching, not creating.  This presents a very real, and very imminent issue to me.

Do you remember when you stopped imagining?  For me it was when I realized the tv people did all the imagining for me.  I was changed when iI played my first video game and realized that my underground fighting pit was real, and someone else built it for me.  It was so much easier to sit back, relax, and let the creative people do the imagining.  All I had to do was press ‘A-B-Left-Right-Left-Right’ to knock my enemy down!  As I got older, the influx of virtual stimuli began to permeate my existence.  I remember nights I refused the chance of a camping trip because I preferred my computer screen to a warm winter fire.  We as a people have crash landed on a planet of mind melting time wasting media.  It’s time for us to take back what was stolen from us.  The next time you feel the internet grasping at your throat, try writing a letter to your closest friend, or draw a fairy in the woods, or experiment with making your own herbal teas.  It’s not impossible, I promise.  If it was impossible than I wouldn’t have been able to stop watching that Jimmy Kimmel video and start writing this.  Long I know, but necessary, for my sanity, and yours.

Don’t Work Full Time!

The nine to five doesn’t work. The full time job model that most of the world faces is broken and wrong. From the moment we are born to the time we are christened as adults with our first paycheck we are taught to shut up, sit still, and conform.   We are taught to conform to corporations who employ us, and subversively control us. Enter: the great treachery of capitalism. The lie that in order to be loved, respected, successful, and fulfilled, you must be employed (by another company) full time.  I’m here to teach you all how to avoid falling into that trap, and I’m here to journey with you away from the trap, and into the ocean of possibilities that appear when you take control of your own destiny.

Toward the end of my 4th year of working part time jobs, I got hired as a game-master at a company called “RavenChase Adventures LLC”. This company ran an Escape Room. Players were locked into themed rooms and forced to escape before the hour ran out. Unlike everywhere else I had worked, I wanted to be there. I enjoyed getting to learn from my coworkers. Our boss encouraged us to follow our dreams and take risks. He himself took risks and allowed us to contribute in ways that were meaningful and challenging. He trusted in us to be able to learn, and execute effectively in all capacities. He gave us all a spark of hope.  Hope that maybe we were worth more than $7.25 an hour.

In August of this year, I made an amazing decision to move closer to Rebecca.  I quit my job at the Escape Room and took a full time job at a print/copy company. I made this decision expecting that the affirmation from my family, and my partner’s family, would bring me everlasting joy. I thought doubling or tripling my salary would be worth it. I thought having benefits would make me feel more secure.

Instead it has completely broken me. Each and every day I wake up, I sit in an office, or in a car, and am presented with a day devoid of challenge or excitement.  My coworkers, who are all over 40, have accepted this as their fate. When asked why they continue to work here even though they hate it, they reply with “that’s just how life is” or “because I can’t do anything else”. Envisioning myself in the future saying the same thing to a new recruit makes my stomach lurch. How could ANYONE in their right mind allow themselves to become so dehumanized that they accept this misery SIMPLY because “that’s how life is”?

That’s not “how life is”. Life is vibrant, joyous, creative, beautiful, exciting, surprising, and overwhelmingly fulfilling. Life with a Corporate boot on your neck is hell.  If you want to be happy, and fulfilled, and joyous in life, than you must look away from wealth, and look toward enriching your life through art, music, dance, love, creativity, and helping others.

 So what am I doing about it????

I used to think that because I was raised as a musician, I was destined to be a musician and nothing else. I didn’t think I could paint, take pictures, write, make movies, build houses, or fix cars. The truth is: I can be and do whatever I want. Realizing this is the first step to escaping the degrading mindset of compliance that corporations want from their employees.

I firmly believe that you are what surrounds you. If you watch tv all day, than the sum of your mental capacity is limited by what you watch. If you work around people who are complacent and satisfied with meaningless work, than you will become a zombie like them. If you wish to be an artist, surround yourself with art, and challenge yourself creatively. If you wish to be a carpenter, surround yourself with wood and working tools, even if you don’t know how to use them. If you want to open a business, commune with small business owners and entrepreneurs and you will be more likely to succeed.

In order to break free from corporate complacency, we must first and foremost teach ourselves to learn actively.  We need to start seeking challenges outside of the working world.  Through sharing my learning experiences with you, I hope to inspire you to begin to learn and explore things you never thought you could. In the past three months alone, I have learned the following in a functional capacity, and I wish to share with you how I have been able to do so, while working a full time job.  Please join me on my journey to escape the meaningless life of a corporate employee.

Digital photography editing,
Darkroom Photography,
Ableton Live,
Acrylic and oil painting,
Bamboo flute,
Drywall building,
Writing a blog.

Learning How to Learn

I hope to inspire you and prove that you can do and learn whatever you would like.

We seem to have an illusion that everything requires lots of money and time to get started.  If you want to learn guitar, you are put off by the exuberant prices of the instruments, and extra equipment you think you need, and the high cost of lessons.  When I was considering learning darkroom photography, I was faced with the prospect of learning the chemistry and concepts that I had never come across.  I remember reading articles about darkroom that were full of words like “stops” and “fixer” and “emulsion” and thinking “how will I ever learn ANYTHING if I can’t even understand the language being used???”

How did I overcome the problems that faced me when I was trying to learn darkroom photography? I created a well defined goal. 

Day 1-2     I knew I wanted to do film.  My dad had an old film camera that no one was using, and I’ve always loved the way film grain makes a photo look.  I’m also a huge DIY fan, and I knew I wanted to eliminate anyone else touching my art.  The goal was:  I want to be able to take, develop, and print my own pictures from start to finish with the least outsourcing possible.  From there, I read everything I could on each step of the process.  Having that well defined goal illuminated those steps. 

Taking Pictures.

Developing Film.

Printing/enlarging photographs.

Day 3-10 After I had figured out WHAT I wanted to learn, I needed to invest in my own learning, so I bought a camera and an enlarger and paper and film and all of the equipment necessary.  I purchased everything on craigslist, or borrowed it from family and friends, keeping the cost to an absolute minimum.  Even if I didn’t have EVERYTHING in perfect working order, it didn’t matter.  BECAUSE I had invested in my OWN LEARNING and not hesitated once I had a defined goal, I couldn’t turn back!  I improvised a missing foot on my enlarging easel.  I used the wrong size film tray, and used paper fixer for both Film and Paper, etc.

This is key.  Investing in your own learning.  We are wired not to invest in something unless we know we will succeed.  If you TAKE that initial risk, you are much more likely to follow through to the end.

Nike’s motto of “just do it” rings very true to me.  If you just do something without thinking of whether or not you will succeed, you are bound to learn.  If you hesitate at the beginning of an endeavor, you will hesitate at each step on the journey.  Your hesitation can happen before you define your goal, but once you have positively defined your goal, simply do the next thing.

Day 11-28 After I had gotten all my equipment, I took two or three rolls worth of pictures.  I knew I wasn’t ready to begin developing yet, as I was still learning how the chemicals worked, and how to block light out of my tiny apartment bathroom.  I had to prove that I was learning at least a little, right?  If I was to continue down this path I needed to know that I wasn’t just taking blank pictures.  I sent off a couple of the rolls I had exposed to a company in California to develop, and print, and send back to me!

By doing this I AFFIRMED my learning.  I accomplished part of my goal, and outsourced for the rest, to prove to myself that I had progressed in the right direction if only a little.  This gave me the courage and inspiration to continue my journey.  By affirming this to myself, and rewarding myself for investing in my own learning, I re-lit the fire that had sparked my initial interest.  Half of the pictures were terrible, but they were better than not taking any!

After that, it was just a matter of following through with researching and executing the necessary steps to achieve the other two steps.  Once I had gotten the basic process down, I could begin really diving deeper into each aspect of darkroom photography without any fear of failure or consequence.  I feel fully equipped and confidant that I can create my own pictures from start to finish!  All in less than a month!

The key to being able to do anything you want, is to set a goal, invest in your own learning, and affirming your progress.  Map out the things you need to ensure that you are learning the subject, not just repeating processes.  Following orders isn’t fun, and neither is following step by step instructions.  Learning dynamically like this leads to better retention and builds confidence.  Go learn something new!

Art Slam!

As my first step toward financial independence and entrepreneurship, Rebecca and I took a trip to the local Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Library.  This newly renovated building is filled to the brim with incredible resources; there is even a maker space with a 3-D printer for public use!  Right as we entered the building through the cafe entrance, a shimmering shining necklace of crystals and copper caught my attention.  The wearer was a smiling young man who exuded positive energy.  I immediately complimented his necklace and asked if he had made it.  He began to show me his wife’s business, a copper and crystal jewelry boutique.  He and I had an instant connection and began discussing entrepreneurship and how simply INTENDING to accomplish something tends to lead to completion.  We were so enthralled with each other that Rebecca disappeared into the abyss of the 3 story library unnoticed.

I learned that my new friend, let’s call him L.B., was a slam poet, and entrepreneur.  He had recently left his full time job to pursue his poetry business full time.  Winston-Slam is a poetry slam event held throughout the month and L.B. is a major player in the Winston-Salem poetry scene.  His connectedness with influential people throughout the city is boggling.  He also runs the coffee shop for fun!  When I brought up my concept of a cross-cultured arts/music studio, his entire demeanor changed.  He looked me straight in the eyes and said, “That is going to happen this year.”  Taken aback I asked what he meant.  He went on to tell me that many artists and poets and musicians in Winston-Salem shared my dream, and that he had been trying to get the idea in motion for a while.  He asked me to meet with him on Monday to begin planning our new idea.

I met with him at a little coffee shop called “Coffee Park Airstream”.  He introduced me to the owner of the coffee shop, and I began to pitch my idea.  I told the owner, Tommy, that I had no entrepreneurship or business experience, but that I was passionate and ready to get started.  He began to spill out names and organizations of influential people I should talk to, and even offered L.B. and me a space to test out our new idea: an art slam.  The pieces are now in motion, and L.B. and I are planning on running Winston-Salem’s first underground art slam in February of this year.  We hope to use the art slam to test out the concept of cross culturing various artistic mediums.

Three days ago, I had no idea what entrepreneurship was.  Three days ago I was lamenting the lack of control I had over my own destiny.  Three days ago, I felt like I had no support system in the new city I had moved to.  Today I KNOW that I can accomplish anything.  I know I am not alone in this city.  All it took for me to meet L.B., meet Tommy, and start down the path of creating Winston-Salem’s first ever art slam, was to simply DO what I perceived to be the next step: go to the library.  Doing has so much more power than simply thinking.  I was able to think about my ideas and fantasize about them, but it wasn’t until I took a step to make my dreams REALITY, that I began to see results.

L.B. and I have a lot in common, we both have no idea what we are doing, and we both believe we can do whatever we want.  We both believe that our destiny is simply the result of our conscious effort to manifest our dreams.  L.B. lives by the mantra “speak it, and it shall be.”  I cannot stress this enough: what you say, is what you will become.  If you SAY you cannot accomplish something, you will not accomplish anything.  If you SAY you will succeed, than you will succeed.  By vocalizing our desires, we INVEST in our own destiny.  By speaking what we believe is true about ourselves, we give our consciousness a tangible blueprint for success.  The next time you feel hopeless, or like you have no control, SPEAK that control into your life.  I promise, if you speak it, it shall be.  Oh and come to downtown Winston for some ART SLAMS!

The Cat and the Rain

A cat realizes its raining and thinks, “It’s raining, better go find somewhere cozy to snuggle up for the night and enjoy the sound of droplets hitting the ground”.  The human realizes its raining, and muses, “I wonder how this is happening?  I wonder if I could make rain and sell it?  How can I recreate this?”.  The cat spends the whole night cuddled up inside his cozy kitty-cubby, while the human, stands and studies in the rain, and catches a cold.

This was the beginning of the biggest argument Rebecca and I have had so far.  While our banter was sporting and silly, the problem at hand held heavy significance to me.  Why do humans do so much to change the world around us, instead of just enjoying the things mother nature has given freely?  Why do we feel driven to create things to keep us entertained, when we could entertain ourselves with the simple pleasures of the earth?  What causes humans to be so destructive, in the name of progress, and distracted in the name of boredom?

Our argument started with a simple question: are humans more intelligent than animals?  My answer was a resounding no!  Rebecca, astounded, pointed out the achievements humans have made over millennia to improve their living circumstances and the general longevity of the species.  I argued that humans (stupidly) spent so much energy on trying to progress that they have forgotten to simply sit and enjoy the sunset. *I* think humans are smarter ONLY because we believe we are smarter.  We can only be intelligent if we contrast our intelligence to that of other humans.  (I’ll fight you tooth and nail on this.  SUE ME!)

Whether we are more intelligent than other animals is unimportant to me.  What IS important is that humans don’t take a moment to enjoy, rather than to improve.  I’ve found, especially in the past few months, that it has become increasingly hard for me to sit still without looking at my phone, or reading a book, or watching the news.  I seek to find some answers or some new step-by-step happiness guide.  We crave answers, rather than embracing mystery.  The happiest moments in my life are the ones experienced unhindered by the need to conquer or solve.  On top of a mountain basking in a sunrise on a cool morning is true bliss.   Uninterrupted communion with nature, and family are the pinnacle of ecstatic pleasure.

Humans also tend to overcompensate for their problems.  Shoes are a perfect example.  One day, a cave-man stepped on a thorn.  He first yelped in pain, and then he thought, “I could make something to cover my foot with when I go hunting that way I don’t have to worry about thorns stabbing my feet.”  His invention caught on.  At first he only wore his shoes when he was hunting in the woods.  He then began to wear his shoes while he was around the cave, because sometimes his cave-wife (or husband) was clumsy and sometimes dropped spiky rocks on the floor.  Eventually, our cave-man wore his shoes all day, keeping them on from the moment he woke up, to the moment he went to sleep, even when it wasn’t necessary.

There are current scientific studies that overwhelmingly prove the positive health benefits of “grounding”.  Grounding is the simple, (but apparently controversial?), act of taking ones shoes off, and standing on the earth.  Getting some grass between your toes and dirt under your feet is proving to be one of the most overwhelmingly powerful ways to overcome minor depression.  We have created shoes for work, shoes for playing golf, shoes for walking, shoes for hiking, shoes for walking to the bathroom from the bedroom, and in consequence, we have lost touch with the ground beneath us (pun intended?).

The next time you see a beautiful flower, don’t pick it, just let it sit there and do its thing.  When you’re with your loved ones, don’t pull out your phone and hope to find spiritual or human connection through its 8 inch screen.  Reach out and hug your family and friends and dogs and cats.  I don’t intend to try to convince you that shoes are destroying humanity.  I’m also not arguing that humans are inherently stupid.  I only hope that you’ll be inspired to look at the rain, and just let it fall.