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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The 12 Laws, Part 3: It's Not The Team, It's the Coach

What's up, True Believers and True Deceivers? I hope you guys are enjoying this blog series, because I'm only 3 chapters in, so if this is a bust, I'm kind of committed at this point. Ah, who am I kidding? I like it myself, and since I've committed to it, I'm going to finish it regardless. I'm obviously not going to be able to cover everything in my blog, but I'm hoping that what I do tell you will inspire someone else to pick this book up, read it, and apply his principles. He's already proven that he knows what he's talking about, at least to me...


Law Number Three: Get Your Mind Right

I can't and won't say I loved every word of this book. I don't think Russell intended it to be as such. He was doing him, and being honest, so he had to tell the reader the truth as he sees it, and he submitted that we might disagree on some points. This chapter was an overwhelmingly spiritual chapter, and whenever we are talking spirituality (at least in the United States), you could be talking Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, etc. But regardless of who you choose to worship or exalt, your mind is more important to have right than your body or your bank account.

I see updates on Facebook of people exalting the virtues of the P90X system and losing weight, people believe that things are going to be better when they lose "x" amount of pounds, but no matter how much you train, it won't matter one bit if you aren't engaging in prayer, reflection, and self-study.

"Remember, your mind is your most powerful muscle."

I don't want to get into a theological debate, but I have always been of the mind that God can be found within before he can be found without. Buddhists believe in what's called "Dharma", your life's purpose, the reason why you are here. People spend all their time searching for their Dharma, when they really shouldn't be looking for it, they should stop and start listening to it.

Russell spent the majority of this chapter exalting the virtues of yoga, and I have to be real, I haven't tried it, but I do find that many of the principles seem very sound. No, I have not done yoga, but I am a martial artist and have spent some time meditating.

Meditating allows us to shut off the voices in our head in order to hear the God inside us. "The truth is, when you can't hear God inside of you, you're always going to struggle in life." You have two "selfs", the higher self and the lower self. The higher self is the decisions and choices that benefit the world and others, it is the source of contribution. The lower self is the greedy self, the choice that benefits no one but you, or causes harm.

I found this particularly fascinating, when speaking on the higher and lower self, you can tell much about people by what drives their choices. People who tend to be motivated by their higher self inspire through hard work and dedication, they promote positive environments, they are inspiring. Those who are driven by their lower self are selfish, they are takers and not givers, they bicker over credit and are neg by nature. They are the ones that think they are "getting over". Those driven by their lower selves may find some success, but it's always temporary. People who listen to their higher selves move on to bigger and better things, while those who appeal to their lower selves get stuck playing low notes and/or eventually fade out altogether. Listening to your lower self keeps you from accessing the blessings in you.

On the subject of meditation, Russell says it allows us to "be present". Being present is realizing the power of the "Now". We drift between the past and the future, never fully realizing the potential of the present.

"Living like that, you become your own worst enemy. You wait for things to happen instead of making them happen. You imagine what happiness is like instead of appreciating the happiness
that is already present in your life."

At one point you are completely focused in the now is known as "pure presence". Anyone who's been in a car accident knows what it's like. It's like "bullet time" (ironically, being shot at is another moment you experience it, but more people can relate to car accidents); everything slows down, you can see and recall every detail, flying glass, tires screeching, but you're not afraid. No past, no future, just that moment. Every religion has a name for this state. Yogis call it "Samahdi" or "walking meditation". Christians call it "Christ Consciousness" or "State Of Grace", while Muslims call it "Taqwa". Instead of dealing with things as they should be, you deal with them as they are. While shootouts and crashes are rather extreme, there are others doing everyday things in this state. Athletes call it "the Zone". A sketch artist or painter is experiencing pure presence.

I won't go into great detail about Russell's yoga experience, but it was very persuasive, and I can truly appreciate how it can bring balance back to a life that's out-of-whack. He says if you don't know how to meditate, you can practice just being silent, holding still, not moving and maintaining your breathing. Start with sitting still for just 15 minutes a day, listening to the voice of your Higher Self. Take it to 30, then 45. Just putting that into practice can help to be able to see the present. You can't make money in the past, you can't grind in the future, you only have the now, and the now is most important moment you're ever going to get. You can build up your team all you want, but if your head coach ain't right, you won't be going nowhere.

RECOGNIZE THE REAL:

"God has already put a lot of time into you. When you put a litle time back into God through prayer and meditation, that investment will always pay off."

-ere'bodee's favorite mega, blogninja

Republican Woman-Stay Away From Me.. � Davey D's Hip Hop Corner-(The Blog)

Republican Woman-Stay Away From Me.. � Davey D's Hip Hop Corner-(The Blog)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The 12 Laws, Part 2: Who Do You Think You Are?

What's good True Believers and True Deceivers? I'm back with Part 2 to my 12-part Blog covering the 12 Laws Of Russell Simmons. I appreciate any and all feedback I get on this, and if you like what you see here, I urge you to go out and get a copy of Do You: 12 Laws To Access The Power in You to Achieve Happiness and Success (Damn, Rush.... couldn't get them to edit that title down a bit???) Anyway, it's $6 if you follow my link to Amazon.com. Trust me, this will be a book you read more than once, and I'd love to see more of my friends adopt some of the principles therein. So anyway, let's get down to business:

LAW NUMBER TWO: Always Do You

"It takes courage to grow up and turn out to be who you really are." - E.E. Cummings

"Never change for the mainstream - stay in your lane, and if you're talented and resilient enough the mainstream will come to you." -Russell Simmons

Here's a very interesting anecdote (at least I hope it is) from my childhood/adolescence when I first started doing music. This is something I've done from a very young age, I did talent shows all through junior high and high school, I paid for my first studio session when I was 15 (or more accurately, my homeboy put us in the studio at that age). Prior to going to the studio, I was doing my thing on the block and in the hood. One of my closest homies and my first real artist I made beats for was John Kemp (RIP) aka John-John, he was our neighborhood jackman (for those unfamiliar with Floridian slang, this meant he robbed people). We didn't go as hard as NWA back then, but we were definitely roughnecks, and our music was definitely profanity-laced (we rapped how we spoke and how we lived, without resorting to testifying against ourselves like a lot of idiots do nowadays). Our neighborhood barber, a guy by the name of Walter, made the offer to manage us. He had connections with a lot of hair shows and he said he could get us booked to perform, but we had to have music that was more family-friendly. Studio time back then was $75 an hour, so a trip to the studio would set you back $300 easy for a minimum of 4 hours, which was about how long it took to record and then mix a song. We did 2 songs that we performed for a number of shows and got a pretty good response for. Everything was all good...

I met a guy by the name of Keith Dixon back then (hey, DLR, remember IHOP after the Carousel show? I know you do). Keith was in the movie business, he was fresh off a little film by the name of "Boyz In Tha Hood", he directed "Dead Homiez" for Ice Cube (if you watch the video, at 2:03 there's a close-up of him in the video, it's pretty dark, tho) and "You Can't Play w/ My Yo-Yo" for Yo-Yo. He was originally from Houston, and had a job working for Rap-A-Lot. Keith liked us and offered to shop our material for us to J. Prince. We were ecstatic. We sent the tape to him and waited to hear back. Unfortunately, the only songs we had to send were the two songs we recorded at Walter's behest. What was the word? J. Prince loved our stuff, but said that we were "too soft" for the label that was home to Scarface and the Geto Boyz. He said that if we had anything else he'd be open to hear it. My homie that paid for our studio time got knocked off in North Carolina and caught 4 years, and we never got another chance to submit.

The moral of this story? Had we just done US, we might have gotten that deal with Rap-A-Lot instead of being patted on the head and sent on our merry way. I regretted that decision for a long time, but I learned that I would always be true to who I was from that point on and not adjust my music to suit anyone's approval other than my own.

"The concept behind Do You is fairly straightforward: Always try to be yourself."

Any kind of lasting success is rooted in honesty. We understand that truth on a personal level- certainly no one seeks out a long-term relationship with someone's who's dishonest. One of the examples Russell uses is our old friend Robert Van Winkle aka Vanilla Ice. "Ice, Ice Baby" was a catchy song, the lyrics were not atrocious (certainly not in comparison to some of the shit that comes out of Waka Flocka's mouth), had he been more honest about where he was from rather than fabricating this "thug" persona, the backlash against him might not have occurred. If he could have just Done Him instead of fabricating his history, he wouldn't be history.

Russell and I share the opinion that the driving force behind HipHop is not a catchy beat, or a dance, or a pitched-up soul sample. To quote Chubb Rock, the beats are "cosmetic backgrounds." The thing that's brought HipHop through the years to where it is now is the honesty and integrity of artists. KRS-One has never sold the amount of records on one album that Vanilla Ice did, but he's still active, still performing, and very much respected as the Teacher and The Scholar. Vanilla Ice is melting down on VH1 "Reality" Shows (that's a dash of irony for ya).

Now I don't want to mislead anyone in thinking that Doing You is automatically going to garner you respect, success, and praise. That's not at all what I'm saying. Russell confesses that when Outkast came out, he did not like them, nor did he understand that what they were doing expanded HipHop. His words were, "That ain't HipHop." Those of us from the South immediately understood what 'Kast was doing, but when they won the New Artist Of The Year award at the Source Awards, NY was hostile. If Big Boi and Andre had taken the advice of Russell and the New York HipHop community, they would not be (arguably) the biggest HipHop Group of All Time.

"You have to realize that when you do you, people are not always going to understand you at first."

This goes back to vision and being clear about what it is you want to represent. I feel that's the challenge of most new artists. My son right now wants to make music, and I'm trying hard to get him to realize the most difficult part of being a real artist is finding out what it is you want to say, and then figuring out who exactly you want to say it to. It's easy when you're standing in front of that mirror holding the brush pretending to be whomever the latest hot act is, but when you start putting your life, your words, your impressions out there it's not so easy. If an artist can get that nailed down early, all the other stuff is a real cakewalk. You won't make any mistakes on your way to your destination, because you won't have to question any decisions you make.

Doing an authentic you means you don't chase what's hot, you develop a trusted brand. It's like being a quarterback. They don't throw where the receiver is, they throw where he's going to be. You make your choices based on what feels true to who you are, and you maintain your vision. You don't chase that tiger and grab his tail, you jump on his back. You sell CDs, you sell t-shirts, you sell whatever, but make sure your Integrity never has a price...

-ere'bodee's favorite mega, blogninja

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

You Can't See What I Can See: The 12 Laws

What's up True Believers and True Deceivers? It's your favorite digital scribe trying to breathe life back into these pages. It's been awhile since I been consistently blogging, and that's due to me working on a book of my own, and when I'm not doing that I'm reading everything I can get my hands on, but I do miss this, and I need to be more consistent. I've been yelling at one of my blog-mates El The Roller Derby Chick about her blogs, then looked at my last posting and realized just how hypocritical I've been. She's a good 3 postings ahead of me.... thanks for making me look bad, El.

So there's this blog I've been wanting to do for some time now, but I didn't feel as though I could really do it justice. Something like 2-3 years ago, I had the chance to read Do You!: 12 Laws to Access The Power In You To Achieve Happiness And Success by Russell Simmons. From time to time I've touched on some of the principles he outlined in the book, but I really wanted to delve into each one of the laws and give them their proper due. I wish I could give copies of this book as gifts (and now that's it's in paperback, I might do just that) to people I believe would be receptive to the ideas Russell puts forth. So without further ado, let's make this the first blog in what will be a 12-blog Series.

LAW NUMBER ONE: See Your Vision And Stick With It

"I dream my painting, and paint my dream." -Vincent Van Gogh

"Degrees are helpful, but they won't guarantee you success in the business world. Only faith and dedication to your vision can do that." -Russell Simmons

There's a funny practice in the music business that I see repeated over and over again. Guys who work with major labels take meetings with certain acts, and they have to document these meetings, but many go out of their way to mention with certain acts "We never met." It's hard to determine what will work and what won't, there's lots of success stories that still have me scratching my head, and A&R don't want to be the guy that took the meeting with Artist X and decided not to sign them when they go on to humongous success with a competitor. Anita Baker, a legendary soul singer (in my opinion) and a very unique voice was told by a group of suits that she could not sing, and should explore other options in entertainment. Every time I hear "Sweet Love", I just shake my head and wonder exactly what these guys could have been thinking? Maybe they had another artist in mind? Who knows? Either way, when it comes to Ms. Baker, they couldn't have been further off the mark.

Russell states that "...visions are actually God's way of communicating with us." This is a perspective shared across religions. In Proverbs, it says, "Where there is no vision, the people perish." In Islam, Muhammed didn't sit down and write the Koran- he received it in a vision. Many sports stars talk about visualizing what they intend to do when they are on the court: They see themselves receiving the ball, moving it down court or down field, making that shot, making that throw, throwing that punch, whatever their discipline. Until they see themselves doing it, it can't be done.

J.K. Rowling, self-made billionaire author, said the idea of Harry Potter came to her while she was on a bus. She just got the idea of a boy who finds out he's a wizard, she saw Hogwarts, she saw the teachers and the things they would learn at the school, and she couldn't wait to get somewhere to write down what she saw. She felt like this story was the story she was born to write. In her interview with Oprah, she was asked when she felt like or when she knew she was on to something. She said that she realized "Getting it published would be the hard part, but if [she] could get it published, it would be huge." She faced rejection after rejection until she finally came across a publisher who shared her vision. That vision is now printed in multiple countries and multiple languages, it's been made into movies that have grossed billions worldwide, and now has a theme park.

"Anything worthwhile is going to take time to manifest itself. And a lot of perseverance."

Thomas Edison was interviewed and asked how he felt about the fact that it took him 10,000 tries (or failures) to create the electric lightbulb. His reply was "I don't feel like they are failures, I feel as though I found 9,999 ways NOT to invent the lightbulb." This is very close to my own perspective that I cultivated from Tupac. His version goes: "If you die trying to do something, you never really failed." Sticking to your vision is not an easy thing.

First, harness your vision. When you find a vision you find yourself feeling very passionate about, that's the one you need to go after. Freeze your vision, you must freeze a powerful vision in your mind immediately. If you're a writer like me, commit a few notes to paper or a digital file, label it with something descriptive so you can come back to it later. It's lightning in a bottle, folks. You have to catch it when you feel it.

Be clear in your vision, don't make it so lofty that the average person can't see it, or fill it with so many ideas it overshadows your original concept. Clarity and confidence. When you have a good idea, you will know it. People love to be around someone who is crystal clear in their future.

Which brings us to my final point: Share your vision. Be excited about it. Don't be afraid to expose your idea to the light of day. Yes, there will be detractors, but look at them as a counter-balance to your enthusiasm. Don't let the fear of criticism distract you. Look to rabbis. Russell describes them as spiritual advisors, people who speak to your spirit in a motivational way. Dreams are singular visions that can be contagious in the right circle. There's more on that later, but you can't reach that point if you aren't willing to share. I'm excited about my book because I have good friends who share in my excitement and offer opinions. I take the advice of those who genuinely want me to succeed, and I implore them to be honest.

So share your visions with me in the comments, or tell me what you think about mine. If you've had a chance to get the book, lets talk about your own motivations. Our imaginations are our connections with the universe and with one another...

-ere'bodee's favorite mega, blogninja