The Life-Changing Magic of Modeling

When I take stock of the many life-changing decisions I’ve made over the years, I now see that each one was almost always preceded by a phase of “modeling.” I don’t mean modeling as in the cover of VOGUE magazine. I mean lifestyle-modeling. As if life were a toy-sized, 1000-piece propeller plane you could buy at a hobby store back in the day (Amazon’s probably killed all those by now though, right?).

I modeled a vision of my life after one I saw in front of me. I put myself in an environment that resembled the one I wanted for myself. I made friends with people who did the things I wanted to do. And slowly but surely I started living that life and doing those things, for better or for worse. Most of the time I didn’t realize what was happening until later - but now I consciously appreciate modeling as just another natural step towards achieving my goals.

  • In high school, a stacked Honors student’s schedule with a bunch of over-achieving peers influenced me in clear direction. I visited university campuses regularly and modeled my life after my older cousins who graduated from places like UCLA. Not surprisingly I, too, ended up graduating from UCLA years later.

  • In my early twenties, I played in bands and made friends with bedroom producers, picking up the skills to record my own music and upload it to the internet. Shortly after, I began hanging out with independent artists and songwriters who dropped gems of insider information about management and major labels. Years later, I would assemble my own management and marketing team to distribute my music independently.

  • In downtown Los Angeles, I was searching for a retreat from the monotone corporate offices I still worked in during the day to fund my music career. I moved into a loft to be in a more open space, and by walking the streets exploring pop-up shops and cafes, I found a community of like-minded creative entrepreneurs who seemed to be living an enviable life of freedom. Years later, I would cut the corporate umbilical cord to enter that same freelance lifestyle with all of its highs and its lows.

Now that I’m aware of the process, I don’t just envision myself in my dreams. I go and try my dreams on. Just like Japanese denim. Sometimes it takes a little breaking in. You can too:

  1. Want to move to a new neighborhood? Take the long way home and drive through that place every chance you get. Frequent the local businesses, grab a seat on the terrace, and make-believe you live there.

  2. Want to take your visual art to the next level? Scour the IG for references. Find gallery openings to go to - the small ones where people talk to strangers. Get your mood-board ready.

  3. Want to be better with money (ha!)? Experiment with a budget or a business plan and find the one friend or family member who seems to be good at it. Watch a few YouTube videos, listen to a few podcasts, or read a few articles that they might be interested in. You can avoid the dreaded act of “brainpicking” by sharing your thoughts on these content pieces first and following up with a casual question. “What’s your take on this?” An informational conversation can likely blossom from there.

What are some ways modeling has helped you achieve in the past? And how do you see it helping in the future?

You Can Never Go Backwards

If I had a favorite phrase that could sum up my journey as an artist in the last decade, it would have to be “false starts.” So many opportunities to kneel at the starting line. So many shots in the distance that signaled “This is your time!” And on the other side, so many life situations that said “Hold up. Not so fast.”

Life is a rollercoaster, and we tend to pay more attention to the uphill clanking than any other part of the ride. A loss of momentum can feel like a loss of life. A running out of breath. A moment of questioning, “How much longer can I really keep this up?

As our peers seemingly zoom past us in accomplishment after accomplishment, waving to the digital public, the sense of our own inertia grows in intensity. It’s like being held back a grade while everyone else is graduating.

This negative self-image does no good to our creative process, of course. What’s the point in trying when it always feels like a losing game?

Thankfully, there’s an antidote to this feeling of being left behind that I’ve learned to tap into. It’s the simple reminder that no matter where you’re at in life, you can never go backwards. Here are a few examples:

  1. There may be a world in which I miss a timely opportunity to break new music on a major platform and lose out on thousands of potential plays. But the act of collaborating with talented musicians, creating that music, and releasing that music never goes away. The songs themselves live on forever. I am a better writer and better educated artist because of the process. Everything I create will carry the knowledge that comes from my previous experience, pass or fail. The lessons from my past bodies of work live within me and no one can ever take them away.

  2. The last leg of my first concert tour may be cancelled due to low ticket sales. But the experience I got from performing the first leg live in front of a crowd, large or small, night after night never goes away. The skills I sharpened in rehearsal and the people I worked with to put it all together remain. The road stories I’m living to tell my future students or grandchildren are laced with embarrassing moments and disappointments like this. And with that, I am always moving forward.

  3. I may lose a long-term business partnership that I thought would last a lifetime. But the relationship skills and financial education I received in return for my sweat, blood, and tears are an investment in my present and future. I have a foundation to build on, without ever needing to think about it again.

You can apply this idea to a variety of setbacks, whether it be a tough breakup or a health relapse. If experience is a teacher and knowledge is wealth, what seems like going backward is really just another step closer to living more richly.

Watch Your Mouth: How Changing My Language Is Changing My Life

One of the the more transformative lessons I’ve learned is the impact my day-to-day language has on my mood. Seemingly insignificant words have had the power to either carry me into a championship-winning week or hurl me into a whirlpool of “woe is me.” And that word-power produces real consequences when it comes to my art, work, and relationships.

In light of this knowledge, I now consciously make an effort to edit my mental script when things are looking dark. Here are two “easy” word swaps I’ve made to instantly create a more positively charged outlook:

  1. To Me vs. For Me
    Instead of seeing any particular situation (e.g. a career setback, emotional letdown, or personal failure) as an all-out attack that is happening to me, I reframe it as an opportunity for me. An opportunity for me to practice this new mindset I’ve been wanting to have. An opportunity for me to learn and to lead. An opportunity for me to grow.

  2. I Have To vs. I Get To
    If you were to describe this week’s to-do list to a friend, how would you do it? Pay attention to how this feels:

    “I have to wake up at 6AM tomorrow.”
    ”I have to go to the studio and work on this project.”
    ”I have to make a post about ______ to promote my upcoming _______.”
    ”I have to figure out what I’m going to do about _______.”
    ”I need to get my sh*t together.”

    This was me - constantly looking ahead at a pile of tasks that I have to or need to get to, rather than something I’m lucky to be doing. I found that gratitude is the only way to flip the switch, and it’s as easy as replacing the phrase “have to” with “get to.”

    I get to wake up at 6AM tomorrow.”
    ”I get to make a post about _______ to promote my upcoming ______.”
    ”I get to get my shit together!”

    (Bonus: turn “get to” into “choose to” and you’ll be activating an even more powerful starting position.)

What other language makeovers could you see yourself initiating this week?