Back in March, not too long after I announced that I was leaving Chicago for San Francisco, I put together a post titled Unemployment Never Sounded so Sweet. In it, I outlined the major goals I was planning on focusing on as I moved out here. This was the first actual long form writing that I had done in years, and it felt really good to put something concrete down on paper.
Here were the goals I listed:
- my wife
- growing and developing
- making a contribution
At that point, I still had a few months of my day job (teaching high school orchestra) and I was balancing that 60 hour per week commitment with gigs, planning a Cuba trip with the orchestra, and getting the podcast going full-force. I also recommitted myself to writing regularly again on the blog.
It was a race to the finish line this spring, and I had a lot of details to attend to as my June 6th departure for San Francisco grew nearer. Finding a home for our kitties for a year, giving 95% of my stuff away, coordinating moving details, packing up my humble pile of remaining stuff into boxes, laying out a few weeks of content for the podcast ahead of time, and lots of goodbye hangs with longtime Chicago friends kept me on a roller-coaster of a schedule until I took off for the West Coast.
My Scary Experiment
It’s both scary and exciting to wipe the slate clean and move somewhere totally new. I kept having this thought all last year: what if I took all those hours I spent at my day job, gigging, teaching at DePaul, and the like and poured them into my projects? What if I treated the podcast and the blog like my day job… at least for a period of time? What could I accomplish with those newfound 60+ hours per week?
That’s what I’m doing right now—working full-time on my projects.
My Current Life
My current life could not be more different than my life in early March. It’s a shocker to go from that pedal-to-the-metal state of business to having maybe one structured activity on the calendar in any given week.
Summers have always been a bit of a lazier time for me, so I was pretty sure that my time out here in San Francisco would start off feeling just like summer vacation. The danger for me is that summer vacation tends to be hilariously laid-back for me. The major event of the day might be taking a shower or walking to the store. My plan was to keep the momentum of the spring going into the summer, pouring all that energy into my projects instead of a day job.
Re-examining my Goals
I thought that it would be interesting to look at those goals and see how I’ve been working toward them these past couple of months. This is something that James Clear does regularly, and I thought it would be a good exercise for me. This may be something I continue to do from time to time here on the blog. Here goes:
Goal No. 1 – My Wife
It has been so good being back together with my wife! Actually, it may be that I’m fully realizing how bad it was being separated for an entire year. I did my best to come out to California whenever possible, and she came back to Chicago a few times as well, but we were both holding down full-time jobs a couple thousand miles apart, so this was understandably difficult.
Instead of seeing her once every month or two, I see her every day. I’m not likely to take that for granted anytime soon! This is all good.
Goal No. 2 – Walking
San Francisco is a sweet place to be if you like walking. We’ve been doing a lot of long weekend walks all over the city, along with day trips up to Marin County and the East Bay. Lots of great hiking!
In addition to getting out on the weekend for a long walk, I do a run in the late morning pretty much every day. I’ve been varying this run but have been mostly sticking with the Mount Sutro and Twin Peaks area where we live. I also get out most afternoons and do a walk on the hiking trails of Mount Sutro. It has a mysterious and prehistoric feel to it and is such a cool way to end the day! Here’s a pic:
Long-term, I’ve got this mega-walk that I really want to do, going west through Golden Gate Park to Ocean Beach, then north through Land’s End and into the Presidio, under the Golden Gate Bridge and east along Crissy Field, then following the waterfront all the way east through the Marina, through Fisherman’s Wharf and downtown, past the Ferry Building and AT&T Park, and all the way down through Mission Bay and into Dogpatch, then back west to our home on Mount Sutro. It’s about 28 miles or so in total, and we almost made it a couple of weekends ago!
We’ll get there.
Goal No. 3 – Writing
From an outside perspective, I haven’t written much since landing here in San Francisco. I’ve been intensely focused on this large-scale podcast synthesis project, so I’ve written a huge amount, but most of it involves research.
I spent a couple of weeks holed up in my new place, taking notes on all topics covered through the 200+ podcasts I’ve done. This was a truly massive project, but I am so glad that I took the time to do this. Through this process, ideas for thematic episodes started to emerge, from broader topics like grit, persistence, and finding inspiration to more “nuts & bolts” topics like developing certain bow strokes or left hand techniques.
I began putting out the first series, Winning the Audition, in July, and I’m wrapping up the final part of the series now. As I put this series together, it occurred to me that I was, in a circuitous way, putting together a book. The idea of fleshing out this series into a book really resonated with me, and I’m now in the middle of expanding this series into a book.
It’s been a while since I’ve written a book. My first book, Road Warrior Without an Expense Account, also came about as a result of another project. For that book, I had written a multi-part series on my experiences as a freelance musician. I reworked the material and expanded upon it until it became Road Warrior.
I’ve got similar plans for Winning the Audition. It’s a fun challenge to morph audio content into a print book, but I think that it will be a really valuable resource for musicians the it’s complete. My plan at this point is to do a thematic podcast series, turn it into a book, then start the process again.
Writing Goals for the Blog
I used to put out three blog posts a day. This lasted for several years. Then I got overwhelmed and didn’t put out anything at all for another few years. Now that I’m back up and running, I’m figuring out a good balance that works for me.
I’d rather put out less blog content and have everything be of value rather than put things out jus too the sake of putting them out. I’m also keeping my focus mostly on the podcast. It’s something that I genuinely believe is making a positive contribution to the community, and it’s the project that is really getting my motor running these days.
But I love to write. It takes an immense amount of time and energy, but I love it anyway. My plan at present is to write one really good post per week. I do two podcasts a week. This has been my podcasting pattern for all of 2016, and I intend on keeping that rhythm. That, plus one meaty blog post a week, is not bad.
I’ve got a lot of other ideas for posts, like my Musical Innovators series, plus a whole bunch of bass content ideas. Also, I’ve had some great recent guest posts from Peter Tambroni and Sam Frazee. But for now, I’m planning on confining my own writing to one post per week.
Goal No. 4 – Traveling
Not much on this front so far aside from a trip to Monterey with my wife, but I’m looking forward to heading to Prague for BASS2016 next month!
Goal No. 5 – Reading
I’ve been doing more reading these days, which is a welcome change. Summer is typically when I get my best reading done, but I hope to keep this trend going into the fall this year.
Here’s a partial list of what I’ve read these past couple of months:
- Platform – Michael Hyatt
- Will It Fly? – Pat Flynn
- Ask – Ryan Levesque
- The Martian – Andy Weir
- Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates
- The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing – Al Ries and Jack Trout
- The Magic of Thinking Big – David Schwartz
- Better Than Good – Zig Ziglar
New Habit to Encourage Reading
A new habit I’m working on instilling is, when I pull out my phone, to click on my Kindle app rather than Facebook. It doesn’t always work, but it’s an interesting experiment I think that it’s helping me to read a bit more.
Goal No. 6 – Growing and Developing
Right now, I’m spending a big part of each day in the “growing and developing” phase. I feel like at least 75% of my work time is spent doing this, which is a great percentage. Hopefully I can maintain this ratio as I get busier with scheduled activities. I wake up in the morning excited to dig into the projects that I’m working on, which is a great feeling.
Goal No. 7 – Making a Contribution
This is a less tangible goal right now than when I was teaching full-time. There was no doubt in my mind that I was doing something to contribute when I was teaching orchestra. I know that I’m doing this with my projects, and that I’ll ultimately be able to contribute to more people through the podcast, through writing, and through other endeavors.
Contributing Through Teaching
I was fortunate to be on faculty for the Golden Gate Bass Camp in July, and it felt great to be teaching again. It has been a part of my life for so long, and it’s something that gives me genuine satisfaction. I absolutely want to keep teaching to some degree.
Contributing Through Online Projects
I also know that I’ve got something to contribute online, and having laser focus on the podcast is taking me in interesting directions. For example, I never in a million years would have envisioned this Winning the Audition series without taking all that time to listen and ruminate. I’m excited to see what else emerges from taking the time to focus and contemplate.
Two New Goals
Goal No. 8 – Playing the Bass
It’s kind of funny that I left playing the bass off of my initial list (Eric Hochberg pointed this out to me). Actually, playing the bass has become a big part of my life again. It never went away, but with all the conducting, lessons, blogging, and podcasting, the bass didn’t leave its case much except for gigs this past year.
I’ve gotten back into practicing in a big way, which has been tremendously satisfying. I look forward to playing the bass each day and am having a great time practicing scales, etudes, excerpts, jazz, and new solo pieces. It has been a ton of fun actually learning some new solo works!
Goal No. 9 – Networking
Trying to find that balance between honing in on the blog, podcast, and writing projects and meeting people here in the Bay Area has been interesting. I’ve decided that every weekday I will do at least one thing to reach out to someone I don’t know. That could be emailing a Bay Area bassist and introducing myself, contacting a potential advertiser, putting out an interview request, or emailing an area teacher. I don’t need to spend all day networking—I just try to do one thing each day. That ends up being a sizable number of new contacts over time.
This has been fairly easy for me. I’ve been trying to get better at going down the path that is bringing me the most excitement. The podcast and the idea of pulling common themes and advice from various guests has been getting me going every day, so I’m riding that energy at present. In a month, it might be something else, but I’m trying to find where my enthusiasm is the greatest and follow that path.
Balance can be a tricky thing for me. I can become obsessive about what I’m working on, sometimes to the detriment of the final product. Having the discipline to take a step back and relax, perhaps work on something else or go for a walk, take a nap, or the like is something that I’m constantly working through.
On Crafting a Schedule
I’m fairly good with large blocks of unstructured time. I don’t tend to fritter away hours on meaningless stuff. But I have found that using the Pomodoro Technique helps add just a little urgency to tasks, and it helps to keep me feeling fresh throughout the day. I don’t necessarily use it every day, but I probably end up using it three or four days a week.
Thanks for following along with my journey out to the West Coast, and feel free to email me or leave a comment!