Some of you might be wondering about the song "Sailing" that is in my music player right now. This is a song that's been in my repertoire for quite a while. When I wrote it, I wanted to compose an escapist sort of song. If I could go anywhere, be anywhere, and be with the love of my life, where would that be and what would it look like?
I actually wrote this song during a particularly rough week, and working on it helped me to get out some aggravation. As many of you know, I grew up in the South Pacific, and so, home is anywhere the ocean is. I spent countless hours when I was a teenager sitting out at a beach and staring out into the endless blue--lost in thought and enjoying every minute of it.
I've been land-locked living here in Nashville and having been in Charlotte, NC for so long, and I sure do miss the blue.
I'm glad I wrote this song. These days, it makes me quite happy.
There happens to be one song in the world that served as a catalyst for me to pursue music as an on-going passion. Several years ago, a friend of mine had told me of a new artist named Fiona Apple. She mentioned that I might like her stuff and recommended that I check her out. Well, a few weeks later, I was in a record store and came across one of those listening booth/kiosks that had several different CD's that you could hear songs from. Fiona Apple's debut album called "Tidal", with those gargantuan blue eyes staring out at you, was one of them . . .
I remember picking up a copy and thinking "Oh, this is that girl that my friend told me about". After looking throught the song titles in the back of it, one title stood out to me. It was number 7--a song called "Never Is a Promise". I thought it was such a simple but poetically provocative name for a song.
In the middle of this very busy record store, I put the headphones on, went to #7, and was hopeful that I would like what I would hear. I can honestly say that this event changed the way I looked at music. I heard this song with all of its power, hopeful defiance, angst, and beauty, and I was so inspired. I could relate to every word and understand every nuance in the music. The delicate inflections in her voice, the sense of mounting urgency in the piano, the mournful violins, and that tender moment at the end when she sings "You'll say I need appeasing when I start to cry"--I was never the same after this. This song changed me in ways that I can't even begin to explain.
Every now and then, I actually play this song on the piano and sing it when I'm alone in my room. I just love to play it so much.
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about focus. I realized it’s something that I always heard people telling me to do, but not something I ever took time aside (in school or in life) to really learn how to do. In fact, for some time I even shunned the idea. I purposely joined as many clubs, bands, projects, etc. because I was interested in so many things. I equated busyness with success. I was skipping the “being effective” part. So I’ve been trying some things.
I quickly realized that one culprit of why I was having difficulty focusing was likely space. I’ve pretty much always had three lanes moving in my life. 1)Music, 2)Work, 3)Personal Life. When I was in school, work was replaced with school (barely). The second half of 2012 I was able for the first time to create a life/art/work balance as it relates to space that I hadn’t had up until that point. The company I started got its first NY office, I started renting a studio to go to when working on music, and suddenly my apartment became…just home. In cycling between the three locations, I built up a response where I would arrive to the studio, and feel, “Now I just work on music”. I’d get to the office and think, “I’m going to knock out my DecisionDesk work”. And when I arrive home I actually immediately relax a lot more than I used to. Home used to be where I would shuffle between chilling out with my girlfriend, work on that new song, and send a thousand emails. The separate spaces concept was really helping my focus on each track of my life.
The other side of the coin though is that there is a part of me that firmly believes that you can accomplish what you need to accomplish pretty much anywhere if you know how to focus. If you have the tools you need (for me, a laptop, some headphones, and ideally some sort of instrument to write on) it literally didn’t matter. I even got deeper into this headspace after reading a book by Josh Waitzkin (the Searching for Bobby Fischer kid), a chess Grandmaster where he talked about having trouble focusing on chess when playing in Washington Square Park in NYC. He would hear a song and be distracted, someone would be talking over him, etc. So he trained himself to be able to focus (and win) in practically any environment. He would purposely play with loud music on, have his little sister screaming behind him, etc. Eventually, it didn’t matter where he was, his focus was unwavering and you wouldn’t beat him even if you were jackhammering in his ear.
A goal of 2013 for me is to be able to operate well in both the “Separate Spaces” arrangement, as well as the “Grandmaster” arrangement. I could see wanting to continue with separate spaces as a trigger to know what I should be focusing on in each space, however I’d like to be able to be thrown for a loop, “today you have to finish your work with tons of people around you talking about different things” and still retain focus. Right now I do not have the Grandmaster method down. One way I think I can try to build that muscle is by roughly maintaining my daily habit (it’s 2pm, you should be focusing on X) even when my schedule has changed my normal location (a meeting took me to the other side of town, or I’m in a different city visiting friends).