In our society, there’s a pretty clear idea of what constitutes a happy life: a hot partner, a beautiful home, a red-hot career, and lots of money. So why are so many people who have these things still so sad? My guess is that it’s because they think negatively and don’t monitor and control their own thoughts before they are incapacitated by them.

I used to get frustrated when I’d hear celebrities say “Follow your dreams. Believe in yourself. That’s how you achieve all your goals in life.” “BUT HOW?!” I’d shout at the TV. “WHAT DO YOU ACTUALLY HAVE TO DO TO ACHIEVE YOUR GOALS?!” I always thought that saying “Believe in yourself,” was a quick, mindless answer to that question until I realized what it really means. Believing in yourself and thinking positively are not passive activities. To believe in yourself, you must actively think positively and monitor your thoughts so you realize when you are being negative and putting roadblocks in your own way that don’t really exist outside of your mind. Think about all the negative things you’ve thought about yourself. “I’m too fat.” “I’m not smart enough to do that.” “I should have done that, but I was too lazy.” And on and on and on. What if you took notice of every time you thought something like that, and actively stopped yourself and thought a positive thought instead? What if every time you thought “I’m too fat,” you stopped yourself, and said to yourself, “I work out and try to eat the right foods. There are parts of my body that I love and find beautiful. No one is perfect. My body is an incredible instrument that performs incredible feats every day to keep me alive and let me do the things I love, and I appreciate it.” You may notice that “I’m too fat,” is just an opinion, whereas the positive thoughts I suggested are all facts. I don’t know about you, but I find that really, really powerful.

When it comes to music and pursuing my dreams, it’s incredibly important that I monitor my thoughts constantly. If I let myself think “I’m never going to make it,” for too long, eventually there’ll be no motivation to keep going. So whenever a thought like that pops into my head, I am sure to counter it with thoughts such as, “Careers can take a long time to build. I’ve accomplished a LOT since I started out. I believe in my music. I believe in myself. Hard work pays off, so I should keep working and not worry.” Again, the negative thought is impossible to prove, whereas the countering thoughts are pretty much facts. So the positive thoughts are always far stronger than the negative thoughts.

If you can get in control of your thoughts, you’ll get faster and faster at stopping your negative thoughts in their tracks and replacing them with positive thoughts that disprove the negative ones and make you feel better. The faster you feel better, the less time you will have wasted being sad. The less time you waste, the more time you have to use productively. Using time productively leads to accomplishing goals. And there you have it! Believe in yourself, have more productive time, accomplish your goals! It really does work!

I’ve had a couple weeks away from my dayjob this month and I can’t believe how busy things have been–and how much I have yet to do!

I’ve put together a backing band for live shows and booked our first show for January 30th at 8:40pm at Public Assembly in Brooklyn (www.publicassemblynyc.com). The goal is to have one full-band show per month to start off, as well as do as many solo open mic performances as possible to drum up a fan base, make connections, and refine my performance/guitar skills.

I’ve taped half my YouTube cover videos that I wanted to do with a solo guitar accompaniment so far, and am doing the other half tomorrow. I’ll post those on YouTube asap and hopefully start getting lots of views!

I’ve revamped my website according to some of the helpful hints on www.ArielPublicity.com, and made it much better-looking and more user-friendly, so hopefully that will help me retain fans when random people come across my stuff on the internet and want to support me. BTW, as you’ll see, there’s a notice on the site to email me if you want a free mp3 of mine, so if any of you reading this want a free mp3, email me at talktojccassis AT gmail DOT com and lemme know! Don’t get annoyed if you’ve already bought my album–you got 13 tracks for the price of 10 because of the way iTunes prices albums. 🙂 But you can always get a free mp3 from me once I’ve made some new music!

With the remaining vacation time and beyond, my next set of goals is to finish/post those cover videos, book a February gig with the band, write and record new music for the next album, learn pro tools, make merchandise for my online store, and finish perfecting my guitar playing on the additional songs I’ve been learning for open mics, then get out there and play as much as possible. I also want to join Taxi, the independent A&R company, and see if I can get any cool opportunities through that. (www.taxi.com)

Wish me luck! I’m excited!
-JC

Food for thought: the average American watches 4 hours of TV per day. That’s right–FOUR hours, PER DAY.  If the average American spent 4 hours per day doing anything, ANYTHING more productive, can you imagine how much better of a nation we would be? If we spent four hours per day mentoring kids, or parenting our own, or helping animals, or standing up for human rights, or cleaning up the environment, or exercising, or learning new skills, or meeting our neighbors, or ANYTHING but watching TV? Jesus H. Christ–I can’t even get my head around what a different world it would be.

My point being, if you have a dream, like I have a dream, step number one to achieving that dream, no matter what it is, is TURNING OFF THE TV. Just do it. Even if Dr. Phil is in the middle of a sentence. Turn it off, get off the couch, eliminate TV watching as an option for a time filler in your mind, and go do the things you need to do to get where you want to go. Go do research on the internet. Go practice a skill. Go network with a contact. Go work out. Go keep yourself healthy. Go make a new contact. Get out of the house. Learn something. Do something. Achieve something. Make a “to do” list. Map out how you’re going to get where you want to go.

Even if you only watch an hour of TV a day, it adds up. That’s seven hours a week. In seven hours, you can do a lot. In seven hours, I could write seven songs, or reach out to a hundred music bloggers, or research a boatload of other artists’ career paths, or practice a new song on the guitar until it was perfect. Or expand my fan base.

Time is exceedingly valuable. I’ve come a long way in the two years I’ve been working on my music career, but it took thousands of hours, divided over hundreds of days. I haven’t watched four hours of TV in a single day in a LONG time, and I don’t plan on ever really doing it again in my life. I used as many of my free hours as possible to do things that would help me get somewhere in my music career, and in two years of putting my free hours to good use, I have made many new friends and contacts, kept up old friendships, learned web design, recording and music production, written an album, put my album up for sale on iTunes, Amazon, and many other sites, made four music videos, learned to play guitar, expanded my fan base, done shows, and on and on and on, all while holding down a full time dayjob.

Nobody who has ever made it at anything, especially music, has done it by sitting on their ass watching TV. Making it is a full time job. TV will not help you make it in any way, ever. So stop watching TV and start moving towards getting on it!

I have this annoying tic where as soon as I think of something I should do to try to get more exposure for my music, I think something self-defeatist like, “No, that wouldn’t help. It would never get the results I really want.” Then I have to remind myself, “Bullshit, JC, you haven’t even tried it! Why don’t you try it?” I remind myself that of course it hasn’t worked yet, because I haven’t tried it yet. But maybe if I gave it a real, honest, effort-filled shot, it would!

People are always talking about how hard it is to become a star in any field. “Sure that person succeeded,” they’ll say, “but for every person who succeeds, do you know how many people fail at that? A lot!” True, but what I want to know is: how many of those people who failed really, really tried, and gave it their all, and kept trying until they had absolutely exhausted their options? None, I think. Because I don’t think there really is a way to exhaust your options. If you run out of money, go make some more. If you run out of friends, go make some more. If you run out of jail, you better keep runnin’, baby!

My latest idea for what I’m going to try to get more exposure for my music is YouTube cover videos. There are a bunch of people on YouTube who’ve done them (Esmee Denters being the best-known) and some of them have gotten some great opportunities out of them. But all of the good ones who’ve made lots of videos have gotten hundreds of thousands if not millions of views, which is way more than I’ve gotten so far with my original music. And of course the idea is if you can get people to watch you sing covers, maybe they’ll watch your videos for your original music, too. Can’t hurt. And some of these people went from being total unknowns to being signed to major labels in a year to two years. Not bad at all!

For my cover videos, I’m going to do some of the all-time most watched songs, some of the most popular and searched-for songs of the moment, some classics, some of my personal favorites, and keep going as long as I can/need to to get where I want to go. The average person might fail at this because they might not do it at all or they might not do it long enough, but I’m going to do it and do it as long as I need to to get the results I want, and that’s what’ll make the difference. That, and picking the right songs and singing the hell out of them.