4 Essential Lessons from 2015

1. Build a tribe. When you know who you are and where you want to go, the people in your circle should reflect that. When you don't have a place to fit in, it takes intention to build a community where you do.

I was effectively on my own at the beginning of the year. Having let go of the team I had spent the last 3 years working with, it was both a sigh of relief and a point of pressure.

Instead of feeding my insecurities, I focused on the creative scene I wanted to live in and paid attention to the people around me who were already there. It went beyond just working on tracks or hopping on a lineup. More like three-hour coffee talks and agenda-free vibe sessions at my home studio. Those same one-on-ones led to other opportunities to connect, from after-hours warehouse parties to mini-tours in other cities and states.

Everywhere I went, I made a point to be interested in others and be genuine with my artist story, my growth process, and my vision for Still Mind. Putting myself out there attracted people of like-mind who were able to contribute to my cause, because without even trying I was adding to theirs.

2. Be generous. With your ideas, with your truth, and with your expressions of gratitude. Doors will begin to unlock. If I wasn't vocal about my vision and my process with the people who were open to me, StillMind.co as you see it wouldn't exist. After months of planting seed after seed and talking ideas through in LA with my friend and creative director Brett, it all came together on a flight home from Tokyo. At first it took a lot of vulnerability to say, "Here's something I'm working through. I'm not sure yet of all the pieces. What do you think?" But because I had a tribe of people I could trust, I was able to take that step.

3. Live patience. If persistence (aka hustle) is one side of the coin, then patience is the other. When putting together the video for the song "Relapse" I knew we'd be up against a lot of constraints - budget, resources, and time of course being a huge one. But the priority was the creative. By establishing quality as the main hustle, we had no choice but to make patience just as much a part of the plan as everything else. Personally, I had to embody patience.

With a handpicked team of talent and crew devoting time, shoot days had to be pushed back to accommodate other jobs (months). Concept had to be reworked and re-framed based on a few essential meetings (days). Many collaborators came right when we needed them like Sophia Stoller, the choreographer behind all of the key body movements in the video. A friend from college I hadn't seen in years, she appeared in my feed on a day I felt we had stalled. And she was perfect. It would not have been the same had we compromised earlier, or skipped any part of the process before. 

When it was all said and done, a video we initially brainstormed in April was released in December. And it was worth every minute.

4. Every day is day one. 2015 was all about forming the right habits - all of the rituals that could help me sustain as a human being first, and then as an artist. The one game-changing mental shift in all of this was to see each day as a new beginning. Maybe I skipped a day of meditation, but it didn't matter because I could pick it back up the next. Instead of beating myself up over the song I didn't finish yesterday, I could start fresh on a new writing session today. I broke my goals down into micro-achievements I could rack up to boost myself up with. If I could just lay the yoga mat out, that was worth something - and made it easier to get down to the practice for that day.

Now that the cycle of the Shift EP is winding down, this is a motto I have to repeat to beat the limits of perfectionism on my next project.

Forget about New Year's resolutions. Every day is a new chance to set an intention, re-commit to yourself, and take another step in the right direction.

 Photo via Diane Jong.

Photo via Diane Jong.