In thinking about what the winning equation is, I realize it's important to start with two questions: 1) What equation am I concerned with? and 2) What is it I'm trying to win.
As for me, I'm trying to win the game of life. Yes, it's a game. A very serious game that shouldn't be taken lightly, but still a game. And life has rules just like any other game, be it Dominoes or spades. Thankfully, I about as good at playing the game of life as I am a Dominoes or spades player. I'll let you guess how often I lose at those games.
In 27 years, I've had a fair amount of practice in determining which equation I concern myself with and what it is that I'm trying to win. I'm all about purpose. Some people want money, some want fame or notoriety, some want power (or the perception of having power), some want love and companionship...me, I pretty much only care about fulfilling my life's purpose.
I'm one of those people who thinks God/the higher being/He created each of us for a very specific reason. We were each given a unique set of beginnings, challenges, experiences, interests, relationships and skills for a purpose. And my equation for figuring that purpose out is something like this:
Sweat(x2) + Vision / Time - Cash
It's pretty simple to me. My experiences over the years have proven to me that if I work my ass off (sweat) to develop a skill for something that tells me that it's worth my Time (however little of it I have) because I'm interested in it. The longer I'm interested, the more likely I am to develop good relationships around that thing, whatever it is, and have ideas come to me (vision) and be willing to face the challenges to have those ideas come to life.
One of the frequent challenges, at least for me, is the lack of capitol. Cash. I grew up poorer than most. As I told some students in a classroom I recently spoke in, my childhood home was once robbed of Pop-Tarts and bologna. No lie. I never had my own bedroom or lived in a house that didn't have at least three more people than bedrooms. And I can say without a doubt that $400 is the most money ever given to me from anyone without anything being offered in return. And that's what I got from my mom for becoming the first person in our family to graduate from college.
The funny thing is that if I were a money-driven person I could easily have a ton of it right now. I won over $100,000 in scholarships to go to UT-Austin and only used about 75% of it on tuition and fees. I could've saved the rest and invested it when the market was still good. Instead, I did what I never did as a child growing up, I splurged. On eating at nice restaurants, traveling to other cities and shopping. Was this unwise? I don't think so. I was able to use my four years in college as an opportunity to fall in love with Austin, make some important professional connections, establish myself as a more "cultured" individual and buy my first car (a Mazda 3).
When I moved to D.C. after college, I had $300 to my name but in one year I was making a higher salary than my mom, a secretary/assistant of 25 years, had ever earned. But even with the new income, I quickly began my track record of turning down job offers that would've yielded me more money. Hell, even Real Role Models, the book I had published earlier this year, wasn't written with any type of financial objective in mind. Had I considered money in writing the book, the chapters would definitely not be about people like Tracie Hall and Steve Jones. Case in point, you don't even know who those people are.
A few people may think I'm in some kind of financially stable situation since I own my own business, Sneak Attack, travel frequently and write books, but the truth is the opposite. I've definitely not chosen the path of least resistance come rent time. But I do feel like I'm getting closer to fulfilling my purpose, whatever that may be.
The reason I know this to be true is because regardless of my financial situation I make up for it and some with my sweat and vision. Everything that I've gotten in life was because I worked my ass off, came up with a worthwhile venture (Sneak Attack, Real Role Models) and squeezed a couple dollars out of it to keep me moving forward. There are plenty of people who have cash and they don't need as good of a work ethic as me. Hell, Austin offers a ton of these examples. There are even hard workers who lack vision, but work really hard in an industry that yields them a shit ton of money. They're doing the Lord's work in another way. They're making money so they can constantly and comfortably stimulate the economy even when it's grim. Good for them.
As for me and my Time, Sweat and Vision will always be on top of Money. So far, the math always works to my favor. I have great people around me and in my corner, I am continually finding ways to give back to my community and it's only a matter of time before money isn't a real concern at all. I hope. Austin rents are going up...and by the looks of the bars in the new W Hotel in downtown, I can imagine drink prices are soon to follow.
I know this won't be a popular topic, given the timing of the holidays and all, but tell me something, is it a major strength or a major weakness to have an inability to regret anything?
I ask because I can’t point to a single thing in my life that I regret. Nothing at all. Not the jobs I've turned down, the friendships that weren't maintained or the direction I've chosen at various forks in the road.
I keep telling myself that something will come along and leave me remorseful and full of should’ve-would’ve-could’ve-type thoughts, but it hasn’t happened yet.
Part of it is because at a very early age, growing up the way I did, I had to train myself to believe everything happened for a reason. Over the years I’ve become something like a master of that mantra. I know it’s the popular thing for people to say these days, sort of like people who say “I listen to everything” when you ask them what kind of music they like, but I seriously do wake up each day believing that everything happens for a reason. And, yes, I do listen to everything. Well, not Nashville music...
But so many people get in trouble with that whole “everything happens for a reason” thing when they start believing that means either something good or bad has happened. The truth of the matter is that whatever happens is a) neutral and b) is only intended to get a reaction out of you since 99% of life is how you react to things.
And since some people have this naïve outlook when major things happen – “Can you believe what happened TO me??” or “Why did this happen to me?” – that they end up regretting things because they put themselves in between what took place and why it took place instead of just letting what took place be what it was: something intended to incite a reaction from you and test you.
If you have a positive, optimistic, workmanlike attitude about life then your reactions will always eliminate the need to regret. At least that’s my two cents. Everyone else has their own pocket of change.
This will be the next to last Friday Jam because starting in 2011, I'll be changing things up to focus on lyrics instead of videos. I'll be introducing Lyrical Tuesday, a day for reflection and introspection about how certain lyrics have influenced my life.
Just had about three hours of spare time on this flight to NY so figured that since I've seen about a million and one "best albums" lists for 2010, most of which seem to be playing it safe and copying one another, and not too many "best songs" list that I approve of I'd give you my favorite tracks of the year. And I'm going the safe route and saying the order doesn't matter because it does. I have about 50 gigs of music in my iTunes and picked out my favorite songs of the year then ranked them by order of how many plays they've had to help me determine my list. Some songs like those by Mumford & Son and David Dallas were left out because they were 2009 productions, while other great albums like Arcade Fire’s Suburbs didn’t get a single song in simply because none of them cracked my top most-played tracks of 2010.
Rank. Song Title – Artist - Justification (as if I need to)
54. Roman's Revenge - Nicki Minaj featuring Eminem - Nicki Minaj and Lil' Kim have been beefin' ever since the Barbie MC came onto the scene, and this track finally proved who's real in 2010 and who's still living in 2000.
53. Love The Way You Like - Eminem feat. Rihanna - Eminem's album wasn't his best, but the guest features with Pink and this one with Rihanna made it a bestseller and Grammy favorite.
52. Airplanes, Part II - B.o.B. feat. Eminem and Hayley Williams from Paramore - Well, "Nothing On You" was the most-overplayed song in 2010 so I had to pick another song off Bobby Ray's album that didn't annoy me.
51. Detroit - The Bright Light Social Hour - There a lot of artists and bands in Austin that I love, but this song is probably the best one you'll hear on New Year's Eve. Speaking of, I'm pretty sure they'll be at The Parish with L.A.X. that night. Sounds great on the LP, but even better live
50. Over - Drake - Another really over-played song, but you can't front on the Toronto singer-rapper for taking the torch from label chief Lil' Wayne while he was off to prison and running with it.
49. Written in Reverse & Nobody Gets Me But You - Spoon - I can't decide which song I like more. I love them both. Transference was the first must-buy album of 2010.
48. Terrible Love - The National - A lot of people didn't think Spoon could top Ga Ga.and they did it with Transference (IMO) and I could say the same about The National with High Violet vs. Boxer.
47. My Chick Bad - Ludacris feat. Nicki Minaj - Nicki Minaj, like Eminem, is best when she's not expected to deliver both or all three verses on a track and Luda is always doin' his thing.
46. Deuces (Remix) - Chris Brown feat. Drake, Kanye West, T.I., Fabolous - The original is more radio friendly, but the remix is more closely aligned with my rapper preferences...literally, who wouldn't like a track with this mix of some of Atlanta, Chicago, New York and Toronto's finest.
45. Sand Dollar - Neiliyo - Hate all you want, but Neil makes music to party and dance to. And 2010 was a partyin' and dancin' kind of year.
44. Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks - The National - Of the several Austin City Limits tapings I saw in their last year in Studio 6A, The National's was the most powerful...largely because of the a capella performance of this song.
43. Free Mason - Rick Ross feat. Jay-Z - Rick Ross' album was very solid, but the glaring weakness was all the guest features...not that they weren't great (like this one by Jay-Z) it's just there were too many of them.
42. J'ai Claque La Porte - Chromeo - Probably one of the higher ranked songs on here for an album I wasn't crazy about.
41. Brian Eno - MGMT - Ditto on the point above, but still a great fun song.
40. Little Green Apples - Adam Ahrens - Yeah, it's a cover, but I don't care. I saw Adam perform at Lambert's and fell in love with this song in a way I never identified with previous versions.
39. Rude Boy - Rihanna - It's possible that this song made the list so high because how much I liked the video. It's possible.
38. Don't Play This Song - Kid Cudi feat. Mary J. Blige - A lot like the M.I.A. album, I skip through most of the tracks then replay the few I like over and over.
37. Thieves in the Night - Hot Chip - Like Eminem, Hot Chip makes at least three appearances on this list...largely because One Life Stand was my go-to album for gettin' in the party mood.
36. Wait Up (Boots in Danger) - Tokyo Police Club - It sounds like most of the good songs they make, which just lets me know that they're comfortable with a winning formula.
35. I'm Beaming - Lupe Fiasco - Lupe's album still isn't out, but this song helped feel some of the void until we get Lasers.
34. From A to B - VETO - A well-written song that has a '90s Gavin Rossdale kinda vibe.
33. Jump in the Air (Stay There) - Erykah Badu feat. Lil' Wayne - Weezy was in jail and Erykah was running around naked, but they still found time to put this one together.
32. I Wish (Remix) - Yelawolf feat. Pill & CyHi Da Prynce - This song made all of us, including Kanye, a CyHi fan overnight.
31. Flying Overseas - Theophilus London feat. Solange - I know it's not in the top 10, but if I could only put 10 on an album to capture the year, this would definitely make that list.
30. Shutterbugg - Big Boi feat. Cutty - Who'da thunk it...Big Boi doesn't need Andre 3000 to shine throughout the year.
29. Beverly Kills - Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Weird awesome shit that you don't have to like if you don't want to. I happen to want to.
28. White Sky - Vampire Weekend - The gem on a so-so LP.
27. Carrie - SPEAK - I'll keep raving about these guys so long as they maintain their pop sensibilities without going to Katy Perry proportions.
26. Crown on the Ground - Sleigh Bells - The highlight of the pep rally of an album by the M.I.A. sponsored group.
25. Thieves - She & Him - If you don't like Zooey Deschanel then you haven't heard this song. Or seen 500 Days of Summer.
24. Issues – Finale – The Detroit native and SXSW vet hasn’t gotten nearly the buzz experienced by other up-and-comers, perhaps because he’s not rapping about getting high. Regardless, this is a hip hop gem from 2010.
23. Up All Night – Drake feat. Nicki Minaj – Drake owned much of both ’09 and ’10 with his mixtape So Far Gone and album Thank Me Later, this song (along with Fancy, #23) make up a helluva party punch.
22. Ten Cent Pistol – The Black Keys - My second favorite track on one of the top five albums of the year by one of the top five bands of the last decade.
21. Fancy – Drake feat. T.I. and Swizz Beatz - See #25 above, ranks higher larger because T.I. does his thing.
20. Friends – Nas & Damian Marley - The lone song from the collabo album that will be heard on my iPod in ’11.
19. I Feel Better – Hot Chip – You could feel like shit then to this and the song will come true in your life.
18. Tighten Up – The strongest cut on Brothers that introduces my top 20 songs of the year.
17. I’m On It – Childish Gambino…get familiar with his name because I have a feeling 2011 will be a big year for him.
16. XXXO – M.I.A. feat. Jay-Z – Why did this album suck? I don’t know. But there was a highlight amid the disappointment.
15. Stylo – Gorillaz feat. Mos Def & Bobby Womack – Plastic Beach wasn’t a place I got very excited about, but this song did have an interesting vibe to it.
14. Drugs – Ratatat – I don’t even need lyrics, just some instrumentals to keep me interested and a good beat to keep me dancing.
13. Shine Blockas – Big Boi feat. Gucci Mane – No, I’m not a Gucci fan. But I must admit that he added a nice touch to The Son of Chico Dust.
12. Vaporize – Broken Bells – Danger Mouse can do no wrong. And seeing them at Lustre Pearl ended up being the highlight for the ’10 SXSW for me.
11. One Lfie Stand – Hot Chip – With I Feel Better and Thieves in the Night, Hot Chip’s dance party trifecta are unmatched in 2010.
10. You Want it. I Want it. – Onli – Just a really fun pop song that I listened to throughout the year.
9. Doin’ It Again – The Roots feat. John Legend – Not sure why The Roots didn’t get a Best Album nominee for the upcoming Grammys. No way Eminem’s album beats this in a non-name-recognition battle.
8. Greater than the Sun – Zo! feat. Phonte – Another artist I fell in love with in ’10 and I’m excited to see come to Austin in ’11.
7. Dear God 2.0 – The Roots feat. Monsters of Folk - You’d be hard pressed to find a better collaboration from 2010 than The Roots and Monster of Folk.
6. Made – Big Sean feat. Drake – Speaking of collaborations, this one helped me see more clearly why Kanye is putting his muscle behind Big Sean’s career.
5. Wondaland & Oh, Maker – Janelle Monae – I’m not sure which song I like more, which is probably why they were played the same number of times in ’10. I would love to see her win Best New Artist at the Grammys.
4. Address – Currensy feat. Stalley – This XXL Freshman is one of the best and this song stands stands out as a prime example of why people are so high on Currensy…get it?
3. Recoiled & Mmmhmm – Flying Lotus – I’ve seen way too many Best Album lists that aren’t putting Cosmogramm in the top 10 or 15 and they need to give these two songs a listen and re-consider.
2. Enchanted – J. Cole – Drake’s Successful would have been in this place if I’d made a list in ’09 and this song fits the bill for the exact same reason…it always leaves me in a very mellow introspective mood that reminds me that I’m on the right path.
1a. Games You Can Win – RJD2 feat. Kenna – I had a great conversation with RJD2 at Fun Fun Fun Fest, but completely forgot to say thanks for giving me the best single song of 2010. Well, he shouldn’t get all the credit…Kenna was awesome too.
1. Power (Remix), So Appalled & Lost in the World … aww, screw it. My favorite song of 2010 is Kanye’s album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Dopeness on a hundred, thousand, trillion. I could try to play one song, like Power or So Appalled or Lost in the World, but I’d almost always end up listening to the whole damn thing. This is one of those rare leave the keys in the ignition, when you’ve already parked, because it’s so damn awesome-type albums.