7 Simple Steps For A Lifetime of Successful Reinvention

What is the secret of a successful life?  Why do some people seem to always succeed no matter the challenges life throws at them and others seem to be trapped in a never-ending cycle of pain and suffering?

“The human spirit, like a campfire, must be lit again each day.” – Steve Chandler

I recently spoke with a music teacher in a small town in the middle of the USA. She was in a desperate state as she originally had a very strong roster of 31 to 40 students for 13 years but now has only a handful and is struggling to make ends meet. She’s an excellent teacher who plays and teaches seven instruments! But after over twenty years of professional experience, she can’t even make her rent payment.

It’s heartbreaking.

So many creative, talented, amazing people suffer from this. I struggled for years with it too! 

What is it? 

It’s the problem of victimhood. She, and others like herself, have settled into the role of victim. She’s waiting for an external force to change her life. The problem is, no one is coming. She needs to make the shift from victim to owner. She needs to take complete responsibility for her current state of results;Good, bad or otherwise. Only by stepping into that role of an owner can she start to turn her life around.

“Owners focus on what they want. Victims focus on what they fear. And both positions are pure internal invention.” – Steve Chandler

We human beings have created emotional and mental patterns, routines and behaviors to “define” our personas. We believe we are how we think, look and feel right now. And most of us think this is permanent. It’s not. Your personality and ways of being, are really a collection of habitual states.

When I was in my twenties, I dived deeply yet briefly into an acting career in theater, independent film and television. I was so intrigued by the portrayal of completely different people by the same actor. Nowadays, this seems harder to find, as most celebrities act as themselves in every film.

Have you ever seen a film with Daniel Day Lewis? He is completely different every time. I also love how Ralph Fiennes portrays such completely different beings in Schindler’s List to The English Patient to Harry Potter. But my favorite has always been Robert DeNiro. His transformation from the gaunt, haunting Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver to the goofy, psychotic Rupert Pupkin in The King of Comedy to the beefy boxer Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull is just incredible.

How do actors completely shift their beings for a 6 month film shoot? For many, it starts from the inside by shifting beliefs. For others, it’s starts outside in through behavior and actions. It’s incredibly disciplined as it needs to happen within a short period of time. 

This actor’s way can also be applied to real life. You get to be the casting director. You choose who you want to become. So why not choose your perfect future?

“Self concept is destiny” – Nathaniel Branden

Here’s my steps to reinventing yourself.

1- Be the Owner – be fully responsible for all results in your life.

From today onward, you fully accept everything happening in your life to be a direct consequence of your choices, feelings, beliefs both conscious and unconscious. There are no accidents. It’s exactly how you created your life to be.

2 Feed your mind

Start thinking differently. There’s a plethora of great books by the likes of Wayne Dyer, Jen Sincero, Bob Proctor, Joe Dispenza, Louise Hays, Shakti Gawain, Marie Forleo, Tony Robbins, Deepak Chopra, Steve Chandler, the list goes on and on.

3- Choose a new destination

Those who fail to plan, plan to fail. Write down your goals. Visualize them. Commit to your new vision.

4 – Take Action

“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” – Lao Tzu

One of the best actions you can take is to find a mentor to help you choose which actions to take now and which to hold off until later. A mentor has already achieved what you want and can save you so much time, energy and money.

5- Measure your results

Knowing where you are now and where you want to go is essential. All airplanes are off course 99% of the time. Which leads to the next step…

6 – Correct your course

Take the wheel and steer. You need to constantly adjust to what life throws at you. It’s in these moments of reaction that true greatness is revealed.

7- Celebrate every small win along the way!

It’s important for your mental health and rejuvenation to celebrate your wins. Don’t wait for big milestones. Celebrate every single day. This trains your mind to constantly be seeking the positive in all of the noise.

Success is not going to happen in a weekend or from a single Facebook post. But taking positive action every single day moves you forward. I really like this book Reinventing Yourself by Steve Chandler. It just may start you on your path to recovery from victimhood to owner.

And if you feel qualified to own a massively successful music school, let’s chat.


What Is The Hidden Elephant In The Room? Permission.

“Who gave you permission to do that?”

I’ve always marveled at people who can just go out and do things in several different fields.  They are the Leonardo Da Vinci’s of the world – true renaissance people who don’t allow the artificial labels and boxes to contain them.

There are examples of architects who are also creating furniture or smart phones or interior designs (Philippe Starck comes to mind).  Or photographers who also compose symphonies (Gordon Parks). Or fashion designers (Tom Ford) who are now directing films.  In the past, many famous names come to mind as being renaissance folks:  Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Michelangelo, Galileo, etc.

Who gave them permission to do these things?

It was no one but themselves.

Musicians and artists often struggle with permission to practice their craft.  They have to hustle!  Teaching is an opportunity but it seems many do not make it a priority.  After talking to many creative folks, I’ve discovered a few things.  There is a resistance to starting a business.  The reasons I heard include: lack of confidence, experience, a plan, focus, fear and more.  But behind all of this, I have discovered another reason…permission.

No one gave them permission.

As children, we are taught to always ask for permission.

“Can I go outside?”

“Can I have a snack?”

“Can I sleep over?”

It’s a natural part of every child’s life.  But for many, that habit created a pattern that is difficult to break.

Our society is organized around permission.  It sets structures for us to work, live and play within.  Color within the lines.  This hierarchy structure is necessary and useful, especially for safety reasons or for life and death industries like aerospace or medicine.  But, at some point we need to grow up and be adults.  Are we not going forth because we have not given ourselves permission?

“You don’t need to ask permission to take responsibility.” – Ed Catmull, President, Pixar

Jobs are being eliminated from the old structures of permission.  They are being replaced with the self-motivated work of responsibility.

Whether you are currently employed or self-employed, you have the opportunity to take full responsibility for your results:  financially, emotionally, mentally and socially.  Everything.  You don’t need to ask anyone’s permission.  You can just start doing it.

Of course, there are many other things that are required for success.   But it all begins with letting yourself take action.

Over the last few years, I have been training and coaching music teachers and business owners.

Here’s what one told me.

“The act of me agreeing to contractually pay you for the [coaching] immediately, concretely changed my mindset from an amateur to a professional.”

In some ways, you can see he had finally given himself permission to make this a focus.

No One Is Coming

This reminds me of the writings of psychologist Dr. Nathaniel Branden.  He is famous for several books including the Six Pillars of Self Esteem,  The Psychology of Self Esteem and others.

Throughout his books, there is a central theme: “No one is coming.”

In other words, there is no windfall.

There is no knight in shining armor riding up to save you.

There is no hero.

It is within you.

Give yourself permission…the elephant will wander off.

Music and Science

How to raise your IQ by 7 points

I came across this article in Inc magazine yesterday.  And it was surprising especially since the headline didn’t reveal the “secret.”

Want to Raise Your IQ? Neuroscience Says to Take Up This Easy Habit

It’s probably not what you think, but it’s scientifically demonstrated to improve how you think.

Most of us think of IQ as a fixed thing, like an SAT score. You take a test, they tell you how smart you are, and that’s that.

Turns out that’s wrong.

Neuroscience is demonstrating that brain functioning is actually far more fluid than previously believed.

For example, research out of the University of Zurich shows that doing one simple thing can actually raise a person’s IQ. And we’re not just talking about children, whose brains are usually considered more pliable than those of adults. This works for both kids and adults – even those of advanced age.

So what’s the trick? Is it using flash cards to learn more advanced words?

No. It’s also not meditation, solving a Rubik’s Cube, or taking ginkgo biloba (though none of those could hurt).

It’s learning to play a musical instrument.

That’s right — playing music significantly improves brain functioning, and can raise your IQ by seven or more points.

Read the full article at Inc.

This is just the latest in a series of studies proving the connection between mental development and music education.  I have a roundup of articles that all prove the benefits of learning a music instrument. 

Blog Teaching Methods

Teaching Strategies For Growth Mindset

What is the most important factor in a student? Many people would say it’s talent, or effort, or persistence, or luck or some combination of these.

Behind all of this is something that is more important – the proper mindset. Recent research (Blackwell, Trzesniewski, & Dweck, 2007) has shown that there are two different mindsets among students:
1) intelligence as a fixed, static trait or you got what you got
2) intelligence is a changeable, flowing trait, in other words:  you can learn whatever you put focus and effort to

Most of my music students do have a growth mindset, but may need some extra encouragement.   To do this I need to use a specific way of communicating.

The Dangers of Praise and How To Do It Right

Researchers have discovered that if you just praise the intelligence of the child, there are negative consequences.  So just being positive and saying “Good job!” is actually detrimental and has a backlash because given a new challenge, the child would rather not participate (quit) in order to “save face” and live up to the expected standard.  Rather if the child was praised for their effort, the next harder challenge was met with more effort.

Communicating Learning Goals

Almost daily I have a student who complains
“That’s too hard! I want to just stay on the same song!”

Here’s some things I say and you can too in your classroom, studio or with your own children.  Though I’ve made these specific to music, you can apply a variation of these to any subject.

  • Learning music is like playing a video game. Once you achieved the last challenge, we’re on to the next level.
  • You’re not supposed to know this already, this is brand new.

High Expectations For Forward Motion

  • I KNOW that you can do this, that’s why I’m showing you this.
  • This will be challenging, but I’ve seen you do amazing work before.
  • Remember how hard _____ piece was? And now you can play it so well. This is like that one only better.

Struggling Even With Effort

  • You are not there…YET (emphasis on the yet)
  • If you’re feeling overwhelmed, just remind yourself that you can’t do it…YET.
  • Let’s take a break and come back to this tomorrow.
  • I admire your persistence.
  • I appreciate your effort and focus on this.
  • I love how you never gave up on that last piece. Let’s do it here too.

Struggling But May Need Help With Strategy

  • Let’s work on just the one spot giving you trouble
  • What part is giving you trouble? Let’s just look at that.
  • How about we make a plan to learn this piece? You can do section A today and then section B tomorrow and then back to A…

By setting the proper belief system in place at an early age, we can guide our children to future success in music, and in life.

For more information, read this excellent article from Prinicipal Leadership, a magazine aimed at school principals.

Lesson Plan Ideas Mindset

How To Teach Perseverance, Grit and Success

Soft Skills Vs Hard Skills

There’s been a lot of talk in the education world of late about the value of the soft skills, emotional and psychological.  These are the skills that are traditionally not tested.  Unlike math or reading or science, these skills are more nuanced.

Because I’m a music teacher and my wife is a long-time educator, I read lots of articles on this.

Grit & Self Control – 2 Determinants for Success

One of the researchers at the forefront of this movement is Dr. Angela Lee Duckworth.  Her passion is in discovering how self control and grit can predict future success.  Her research has shown that grit is a better determinant of future success than academic scores and achievement.   See below for her excellent TED Talk video.

And if you didn’t realize already, music lessons are a long term sustained pursuit towards goals.  They are the perfect example of a grit-enducing activity!  It’s less about talent and more about the “stick-to-it-ness” that determines success in music…and life!

How To Praise – Right and Wrong Ways

Since reading about these studies, I’ve been more careful about how I praise in my private music lessons.  Of course, praise is wonderful, but if you just say “good job” automatically you are sending a signal that any effort or any result is good.  What I’m trying to elicit is a long-term grittiness.  By praising the effort, focus and patience, I can now subtly influence how they are working towards their goal.  Some of my best students are a challenge because if I give them a piece and they play it very easily – they love it.  But if it’s just a bit too far out of their reach, sometimes they will shut down completely.

The never-ending process is finding the appropriate material that is just a single rung or two up the ladder of complexity.  This can be either conceptual like introducing a new concept such as chord inversions or a challenge technically with a certain stretch or position of the fingers.  By matching the material to a small enough distance, anything is possible.

With particularly challenging music, I have the student focus only on a single measure or sometimes even a few beats.  I like to use Post-It notes to cover up the rest of the page to truly give them nothing else to focus on.

So as you work through my lessons with your kids, think about how you are teaching life-long skills of persistence, patience, and focus while learning the beauty of music.


Watch These Short Videos

Congratulations Dr. Duckworth on yesterday’s MacArthur Genius Award!  Wonderful

Further Reading

“So-called noncognitive skills — attributes like self-restraint, persistence and self-awareness — might actually be better predictors of a person’s life trajectory than standard academic measures. A 2011 study using data collected on 17,000 British infants followed over 50 years found that a child’s level of mental well-being correlated strongly with future success. Similar studies have found that kids who develop these skills are not only more likely to do well at work but also to have longer marriages and to suffer less from depression and anxiety. Some evidence even shows that they will be physically healthier. This was startling news. “Everybody said, Oh, it’s how kids achieve academically that will predict their adult employment, and health, and everything else,” recalls Mark Greenberg, a Penn State University psychologist. “And then it turned out that for both employment and health outcomes, academic achievement actually predicted less than these other factors.”