DIY Destiny

There’s no substitute for hard work. You can call it Karma, Brownie Points or Thermodynamics. But the unifying theme boils down to this: You get what you give.

The most refreshing iteration of this concept came from my friend Conor, a 16 year old career musician.

“When I was younger I thought that if you got a manager or a label you’d just be swept up by some magic carpet that would carry you to fame. It turns out you have to hike every step up the mountain to success. You get out of the music industry what you put into it.”


The man himself, Conor James

How empowering is the idea that success is a choice, rather than a gift we have bestowed upon us?  Success does not come from a wishing well but from the blood sweat and tears of our labor. This blog should be uplifting to a motivated person who wants to be the best they can be. It’s time to stop waiting around for magic carpets and make and make our dreams into a reality, the honest way, the only way.

Conor’s mind has been made up for a long time now. He is going to be a career musician because he recognizes that he is the one in charge, Figuratively and literally. He is his own manager, producer, film crew, singer and songwriter. He’s already an exceptional musician in terms of skill, but equally impressive is his attitude. Because he is no longer waiting for the magic carpet, he is working on his own terms. Each note he plays is another small step towards his vision of success. His confidence reinforces his practice, and his practice brings him new reasons to be confident. Each new song, video, or hour of practice adds to this feedback loop of positivity.


For young people planning a career in ANY art form, it is so very important to avoid Bad Consultants. To define my terms, a Bad Consultant is any person giving you negative advice who: A. doesn’t share your vision, B. doesn’t know the real you, or C. states that your goal is “impossible.”

Bad Consultants are all over the place, even in your field of interest. That’s why its important to detect and reject them.

By some human error, a Type A,B, and C Bad Consultant became a photography professor at a major art institution. This Professor projected his hopelessness onto my friend, a highly talented and promising photographer. “Professor ABC” actually scared my friend into changing majors! I have no doubts that “Professor ABC” was telling his own failure story.


I’d love the chance to ask “Professor ABC”, or any Bad Consultant, these questions:

Did you do everything in your power to become the “blank” you wanted to be?

Did you persevere with “blank” even after many failures?”

Did you give up on “blank” due to permanent failure or fear of more failures?

Is “blank” really impossible, or do you just tell that to yourself (and others) to let yourself off the hook?

Professor ABC is unfit to give advice and I want him fired! I am furious that his hopeless words ended my friend’s photography career before it began. Nobody fails until they give up. Although Bad Consultants are regrettable, persevering in spite of them will make you all the more exceptional.

I was 8 years old when I started skateboarding.  It was the greatest sensation I ever knew. I would skate every time I got the chance and my skills progressed. Since it was so fun, the many hours I spent practicing didn’t even feel like practice. But then at age 13, I hit a plateau. It seemed that no matter how much I practiced, I wasn’t getting any better. I actually thought I was ‘maxed out’ and it was physically impossible for me improve. I was so fixated on “being good” that I was no longer inspired by fun. Once the fun disappeared, I stayed at this plateau for a long time and eventually let my skateboarding fizzle out.

Last spring, I started skateboarding again, but something was different this time. I was skateboarding simply for the fun of it! The feeling was so intoxicating that I couldn’t get off the board. The spark was back!


I learned more and more new tricks. I got more comfortable riding the half-pipe. I was airing out of the bowl! Without even realizing it, I had broken through my plateau. I wasn’t skating for the sake of getting better.  I was skating because I loved it, and  my long list of new tricks was just a delightful consequence! Having goals is important, but you must also avoid becoming so obsessed with “greatness” that your passion stops being fun. Because if it isn’t not fun, then what’s the point? Let the progress be a side effect of doing what you love, not the focus. In my case, I played my way past my plateau.


I find encouragement in the notion that our success will be determined by the amount of effort we put in. This mindset allows us to toss the old idea of fate and chose a destiny of our own design. This work is not limited to hours spent practicing, but also requires that we avoid negativity. We must be inspired by the love of the process, not the success it brings. We need to get back up after the inevitable bumps and bruises that we are bound to encounter. Although the “path” to success may seem like this arduous journey, keeping it fun is what makes it worth the trip!

To check out some of Conor’s awesome musical projects, click here. DSC_0188[1]


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Intro to Swagger

Our beliefs and expectations shape the world around us.

Have you ever believed in something so strongly that it came true? Was it something you hoped for, or something that you feared? More often than not, I see people fixating on their fears and in turn allowing those fears become a reality.

How would your life be different if you had no fear? Imagine not caring what people thought about you. Imagine what you could accomplish if you weren’t held back by your own fear of failure. Imagine being unashamed, unapologetic, and happy with the person you are.

If the above statements sum up a day in your life, then you probably have swagger.

The results of swagger vary from person to person. Swag is more of an attitude than any specific action. Equipped with a positive mindset, you are free from inhibiting thoughts and fears that serve only to stop you from taking chances and being your true self. It’s so important not to judge yourself, because usually these internal judgements are not how you feel but rather how you think society will judge you. Once you clear all of those negative thoughts from your head, you will have a clear mind that is more ready to act upon your creative passions.Image

No two swaggers are identical. Each individual has a unique combination of: experiences, knowledge, skills and passions. This is something to be celebrated, not downplayed. That is why two genuine expressions of self will never look the alike. You might snowboard, play music, read books, or make inventions. Any and all of these things are good if, and only if, they are a result of your own creative passions, not somebody else’s.

Here’s what swag ISN’T. Wearing designer clothes, driving luxury cars, or listening to rapper-endorsed headphones. These are generally things we obsess over, in hopes that these things can give us the feel-good sensations we should be producing on our own.

Another thought trap to avoid, is trying to copy somebody else’s swag.

My friend Mike is a natural musician and singer. He embraces that because it is his deepest passion, and since his actions are in alliance with his passions, his result is swag! He is at an elevated level whenever picks up a guitar or takes the mic.  Onlookers wish they could feel this sensation, but they analyze his swag out of context! His musical expertise is not the source of his swag, but rather a result of his swag. I tried and failed many times to copy him, but in truth, Mike is the best person in the world at being Mike. The same is true for me, and for you.  It was removing myself from this competition that enabled me to move on and discover my own creativity.

Since my philosophy on swag was inspired by the many life lessons in STAR WARS, I would like to look back to a scene from Empire Strikes Back. Swagger-master Han Solo is piloting his ship through an asteroid field as he flees from imperial TIE fighters. The worrisome C3PO  drops his famous line:

“Sir, the probability of successfully navigating an asteroid field is approximately three thousand, seven hundred and twenty to one!”

Han doesn’t let that bother him. He drowns out C3PO’s fretting to focus on the one task at hand (and survives of course)! Which do you prefer, focusing on 1 thing that you do want, or 3,720 irrelevant things that you don’t? When dealing with inner doubts, people who don’t believe in you, or statistics that look discouraging, dismiss your inner C3PO with Han’s famous response,

“Never tell me the odds.”


Swagger isn’t just for rappers. We all have the swag deep within us. But here’s the catch, one size does not fit all. Swagger is custom tailored to each individual who is willing to confidently embrace their natural qualities.



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