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?

9 Ways Comparing Yourself To Others Is The Biggest Scam

Light from another sunrise makes it its way through a squint in my venetian blinds. In a dream-like state of half-asleep/half-awake, I roll over to a phone nestled comfortably beside my pillow. I check in on the time to make sure I’m not late for anything. Then, of course, I check in on humanity.

The Instagram app is open. How did that happen? I’m scrolling now. The screen slides effortlessly underneath my thumb like melting ice. My eyes are wide.

Consciously the stimuli begins to roll in:

…There goes the concert I missed last night…
…somebody’s cute baby…
…my friend dropped a new music video…
….wow, look at this art direction…
…ok, this meme is really funny…

Subconsciously, another narrative plays in the background:

…If I were smart, I would’ve been at that show. Have I lost my finesse?…
…I’ll never have babies because babies cost money and I don’t have any money…
…This music video is great - I wonder how many views it has? More than mine…
…I need better art, I’ll never be cool enough…
…If I made more jokes, I’d have more friends…

Have you been here before?

If you’re like me, warped messages from comparing your life to others’ (IRL + online) echo inside your head and drip down to your heart, activating all those familiar feelings of not-enough-ness. Why though?

I’ve heard that comparison is the thief of joy, but what exactly are we supposed to do with this information? I’ve parsed together a few ideas.

Here are 9 things I remember when I need to get out of the comparison-trap:

  1. Comparison is a fact of the human experience, there’s no getting around it and therefore no use in harboring shame about it.

  2. Comparison is a distraction. Feeling bad about the way your life compares to someone else’s is just another way to avoid the tasks in front of you.

  3. Comparison is petty. Many times I’ve realized I don’t even want something until I’ve seen that someone else has it. Stop and think - is this a real desire of mine? Or am I just hating out of fear of being left behind?

  4. Comparison is ego-based. An unchecked ego is literally unattractive. Trying to protect your self-image by ramming it up against others only blocks new opportunities. With your head stuck in the white sands of another’s curated achievements and aesthetics, all the good that’s meant specifically for you passes by without notice.

  5. Comparison pays no respect to differences. Each of us are living different lives with vastly different paths. Even identical twins. So expecting any of us to end up at the same place or the same conclusion at the same time just makes no sense.

  6. Comparison forgets where you came from. So you went to a good school, got good grades, got a good job, and then seemingly threw it all away to pursue a creative endeavor you were passionate about. It was a sacrifice, but now you’re basically doing what you want 90 percent of the time. So why do you salivate over the projected stability and business card titles of your college friends, knowing all that you’ve bravely created for yourself in the here and now? You’re exactly where you need to be.

  7. Comparison lives off of assumptions. If your mind is an inbox, assumptions belong in the spam folder. We tend to tell ourselves the worst possible version of a story and end up acting things out in real life to try and make it true. Assumptions can keep you stuck in a negative loop about yourself that you were never supposed to subscribe to in the first place. As Don Miguel Ruiz says in The Four Agreements, “Once you recover all the energy that you invested in making assumptions, you can use that energy to create a new dream: your personal heaven.”

  8. Not all comparison is bad. Comparison can light you on fire in a positive way. Just don’t hold on so long to it that it burns. Let it be catalyst for changes that are realistic and healthy.

  9. Life is not a race. You may have heard the saying, “it’s a marathon, not a sprint.” But I’d trash that competitive concept all together. How about…life is a school dance. You show up, awkward as hell, move your body around, take some pictures, pretend to have fun until you find a way to actually enjoy yourself, and stay until the end.

What tips do you use to break the spell of comparison?