So, there are a lot of people of whom I am a huge fan. And I think it would be fascinating to read a long, heartfelt, personal email they wrote to a friend. I just wrote an email like that, and as I was writing it, it helped me cheer up from the crappy mood I was in. I think this letter contains a lot of helpful advice, and I often find myself doling out this advice to friends who appreciate hearing it, so I thought, why not give it a wider audience (by about 10 people) and put it on this blog. I hope it goes viral because I think it could cheer a lot of people up. Feel free to pass it on to your friends.

The Letter:

Hey girl, thanks so much for that beautiful email. I’m going to put it in my “nice things people have said to me” folder in gmail, but really it deserves its own folder entitled “life affirming, validating things people have said to me that help to put things in perspective and stop me from forgetting that I do matter to some people even if I forget it a lot” but I already have too many gmail folders and that title is too long, LOL. Anyway it was really really helpful and wonderful to read everything you said because I didn’t have the greatest birthday yesterday. It really wasn’t bad as birthdays go at all, and a lot of the reason it wasn’t the best was my fault that I could have corrected, but I just feel like I’ve been on a bullet train this whole month with not a second to stop and plan and prepare for the shit that’s important to me. Ugh. So I never asked people to hang out with me at night on my birthday, so I did the parade alone and got soaked to the bone in the rain and was freezing when I got to my friend’s party, and spent most of that party drying my costume with a hair dryer, then fell asleep before I could get to the party I wanted to go to, partially because I didn’t want to go to it alone, even though I really really wanted to go to it, and now I’m all upset that I’m already 26 and I didn’t go to that party and all my gay friends are moving out of the city and blah blah blah. So I’m glad that I give off this veneer of everything being great, but rest assured, I think it’s physically impossible for us to show everything that’s going on inside on the surface, so everything always looks simpler from outside. Don’t ever think you’re the only one going through some shit, and don’t ever think your shit is ever the worst, because it never can be. With all the horrific things that go on in this world, the fact that we have time and the ability to pity ourselves for our stupid little failures is a fucking miracle, LOL. I am laughing at myself right now for actually being sad about my stupid, meaningless, first world, upper middle class, well-educated problems. Fuck me, I am so lucky. And so are you. And so is everyone who isn’t in a war or a North Korean work camp or a Calcutta brothel right now. At least you are free to pity yourself in private, for god’s sake. What a bunch of idiots we are. Anyway.

I was able to cash the check, and seriously, don’t even worry about the whole thing! Money is just money. It comes and goes and we make it and spend it and lose it and it appears and it will never matter as much as friends and wellbeing.

Damn girl, I am so glad we had that walk in Central Park!!! Of course I remember it too, and I’m so glad it was so helpful to you. As you know I care so much about you and I really sympathize with where you’re at emotionally right now and I’m so glad and grateful I was able to help. That’s the only comfort you have when a friend is not feeling well, is being able to help, and I want to help as much as I can! I’m glad you’re feeling a little better now, and please trust that things will continue to improve if you keep working at it. Life is one big mindfuck after liberal arts college and we just have to take it one day at a time and do the best we can with it. We have to remember to forget about the idea of “success” and whether we have it or not, and just do what makes us happy and take care of ourselves and our friends. Everything else is pretty well out of our hands anyway, isn’t it?

You really ought to start loving yourself the way other people love you. 🙂 You are beautiful and wonderful and loving and caring and creative and talented and interesting, and you always have been. There is nothing in you to hate. And there are so many things about you that other people would love to have. From stupid superficial crap like looks to more important things like family and friends and education and opportunities. I prolly talked to you about the whole “The Secret” message of remembering to be grateful and express gratitude for all the things you have rather than fixating on what you don’t have. Start with the basics like the fact that you have a normal body that functions properly and allows you the freedom of being self sufficient and independent, and don’t forget all the other things that are going well, like the fact that you’re not isolated and you can choose what you want to do with your life and you live in a free country and you’re a citizen of another free country and you know what your options are and you’re not being forced to spend your time killing or oppressing others, etc etc etc. Once you start thinking about it you’ll see there are an infinite amount of things to be grateful for. Every single thing you have, there are lots of people out there who don’t have it. No matter how bad you feel mentally, gratitude can help that, and you still have a lot to be grateful for. If nothing else, this sadness will teach you to be grateful for happiness, and not take it for granted, and do whatever you have to do to find happiness and keep it. Also, something I try to remind myself of is that happiness is not dependent upon other things. It’s its own thing. No matter what you have or what you’re doing or where you are, you’re either happy or you’re not. Things and people and places can’t make you happy if you’re not. And you can be happy without things and places and people. You have to figure out how to cultivate happiness for happiness’ sake. Also living in the moment is helpful. Most people are sad because they’re regretting the past or dreading the future, but if you forget about that and focus on the present, the present usually isn’t that bad. I dunno, maybe also try to think of things thusly: if life is making you sad, it’s probably just because you’re missing the joke. Find the humor in every situation and you’ll see this is really just one long, absurdist, alt-comedy play with too many characters and poor staging that doesn’t allow for everyone to have a good perspective from which to view the lunacy such that it becomes funny. And in the end, there is no message and no meaning anyway. Just a chance to play your part to the best of your ability and wear the most feathers out of everyone on the stage.

The difference between an ok life and a great life is hard work.

Whatever lofty goal or big dream you have in life, it’s going to take some hard-ass work to achieve it.

The best thing you can do for yourself when pursuing a goal is immediately throw out the idea that it will be easy or happen fast. Because it won’t and it won’t.

Accept the fact that anything worth getting only comes after a lot of hard work, and get to work.

Here’s some of the work I’m doing right now: making music, making videos, leading a band, booking shows, friending hundreds of people on Myspace each day, performing as much as possible, practicing and learning new skills and songs on the guitar, trying to get blog publicity, and on and on and on.

A little work every day adds up over time to a lot of goals reached. A lot of work every day accomplishes even bigger goals even faster. The work is never going to end, so get used to working constantly. Once you reach your goal, you’re going to have to work to stay there, and work even harder to get beyond that point. So get comfortable with the idea of hard work every day. Because there really is no alternative if you have any ambition at all.

When you want to accomplish anything, in any industry or pursuit, you should tell everyone you know/meet about it. You’ll never believe how many people can help you out that you already know or that you will meet in your life. Sometimes the person you’re talking to has the power to help you him/herself, sometimes they know someone who can help you, or sometimes they just know something that can help you get where you’re going faster. But nine times out of ten, they’ll have something worthwhile to share with you. When I tell people I’m pursuing a career as a music artist, I never, ever get a blank stare. I always get one of the following responses (or something close to it):

“That’s awesome! It’s so admirable that you’re pursuing your dreams and not just settling for some lame job.” (This makes me feel good about myself and my decisions about my life, which gives me confidence to keep going.)

“Oh wow, I want to hear your music/come to a show!” (This also makes me feel good, and as though people give a shit about what I’m doing and are actually willing to support it or at least give it some of their attention.)

“Cool, you know, I know a music blogger/singer-songwriter/record label employee/manager/agent/booker/guitarist you should talk to–here’s his info…” (This helps me make a connection that is helpful no matter what–whether I just get a bit of advice out of it or a record deal.)

“Oh great, you know, I’m putting on a show and I’d love you to come play…” (That person just booked a show for me. Great!)

That’s why, when someone gives you an opportunity to tell them about yourself, you should tell them what you most want them to know, what you want to be true. You talk about what’s important to you, so they make a response that’s relevant to that part of your life. You’re basically telling them, “This is who I am. This is how I want to be known/seen.” So if you’re an aspiring screenwriter, don’t say, “Well, I’ve been noodling around with this movie script in my spare time, but it’s nothing special.” Say, “I’m working on a movie script I’m really excited about, and trying to figure out how to get it to the right people so it gets read.” Showing that you’re serious and are doing the legwork is what impresses people and makes them want to help you. When people ask what I do, I say I’m a singer songwriter who’s hitting a lot of open mics, doing shows with my band, making my own music videos, learning to accompany myself on guitar, and basically working towards a high-flying pop career. Now, do I also have a day job? Yes. But is that my ultimate goal and dream in life, with which I want help moving forward? No. I want help making progress in music, so I talk about how much work I’m doing on my music, and people are impressed and interested and offer to help.

Also, it’s important to know that people want to help you. People love helping other people. Personally, one of my favorite things to do is connect my friends with other friends and contacts who can help them do what they want to do. It gets them excited, it gets me excited for them, and it makes everyone happy. But, they have to let me know what they want so I know who to put them in contact with. If they don’t say anything, I don’t know how to help them. So don’t be shy about talking about your passions and goals, and ask people for the help that they’re just dying to give. They’ll give it, you’ll get it, and it will be awesome!

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!

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!