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“If you don’t practice this week and come back ready to play your piece, you’ll have to do ten push-ups.”  That’s how a piano teacher friend of mine gets at least one of her students to engage at their lesson.

I’ve got one of those myself.  He’s about 8 years old and we’re working in Alfred’s Kids Guitar Method Book.  He’s developed this super annoying habit – He strums his strings really really loud and really really fast every single time I try to correct his playing.  He does it again…and again…and again.  I mean…every…single…time.  It’s like fingernails-on-the-chalkboard annoying.

One day, I reached my limit. I had a James Thurber-esque daydream where I clobbered him over the head with his little 3/4 size guitar.  There he was with his head popping out of the sound hole and his nylon strings flopping all over…. birds and stars spinning around his head.  But something brought me back to reality.  Ahhh… the delightful sound of him banging on those strings again.  In a moment of desperation, I said, “Knock it off!  This is a guitar lesson!  I want you to count out loud and play this piece correctly…or….or….you’ll have to do ten push ups!”  His eyes popped open wide and he was totally silent.  He sat up straight and played his little piece about as good as I’ve ever heard him play.  I nearly fell out of my chair.

The next week he was back at it again.  I asked him, “Do you know what a habit is?”

“When you do something over and over?”

“Yup.  How’d you like to do ten push-ups over and over?” I’m amazed at how fast the posture improves and as well as the playing.

Unfortunately, the following week…same old same old.  “Listen Kiddo, we’re going to have to figure this out.  This guitar studio isn’t big enough for the both of us!  Here’s the deal… You and I are going to make a SUPER PROMISE!  Do you know what that is?”

“No, sir.”

“I didn’t think so.  It means you have to promise you won’t do that annoying thing on your guitar anymore when I’m trying to talk to you.  When two people make a SUPER PROMISE, you have to shake hands…and then you can NEVER break that promise.  Ever.  If you do… it’s NO BUENO!  Do you know what that is?”

(Gulp!) “Nope.”

“Not good!  It’s always best to never break a SUPER PROMISE.  So here’s what you and me are going to promise to eachother…   YOU promise to practice your assignments and be ready to play, sit up straight, and count out loud…AND…YOU promise never to bang on your guitar anymore.  For me, I PROMISE not to make you do 100 push ups.  Deal?”

(Gulp.) “Deal.”

We shook hands, he packed up his guitar, and we walked out of the studio.  His grandma handed me a a check and asked me how things went.  I said, “Just great!”, with a big smile and a wink. “Be sure to ask him about the SUPER PROMISE we made today.”

The following week all I had to do was mention the SUPER PROMISE and we had the best lesson ever!

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I carried on for a while not fully realizing how much I didn’t enjoy my music anymore.

Music was the money-maker that put me on planes to sing, record, and perform in Hawaii, New York, and almost every state in between. I had an enviable life in the eyes of many.  

(If you missed the first part of Stacey’s story, click here for part 1)

Opportunities seemed to fall in my lap — and they would occasionally reignite the flame of my music:

  • Recording for two projects on EMI records
  • Getting to work with Celine Dion
  • Getting to fly to the town where the President (at that time) lived as we performed a concert there with other amazing artists

Those were the firework times of excitement — but mostly, I was restless with discontent and all the technicolor living I had been doing seemed to fade to grey tones when I looked at my life.

I was this woman who, as a little girl spent all her extra time on the piano; and now I was resentful of sitting down at it. All those days and nights as a kid in New Jersey with my big, puffy headphones on listening to my 8-track, and then in Connecticut as a teen with cassettes, and eventually California as a young adult with CDs full of my favorite artists — all of those were traded for talk radio or silence as I drove the 405 freeway up to Los Angeles for another gig.

I guess when you’re looking for a change, sometimes life brings you an unexpected one.

At the age of 27, I ended up pretty ill. The doctors couldn’t figure out why, but after a scrillion tests and a year and half later, they told me to get my affairs in order (because they thought I was dying), and that if I did live that I’d never have children.

I stopped everything and examined my life.

The nitty, gritty.

The “what was driving me?” kind of questions.

Not questions about music, but about me. What was going on, on the inside of me?

The answers came back in my introspection. How I was driven by Fear, by performing for others in relationships as “the good girl”, “the hard-working, responsible girl”… as a way to be worthy of their love.

I realized that I was working so much because I didn’t want to stop and rest. Because when I did stop… when I did rest, the noise in my head was non-stop criticism of me. The voice that lived in my head wasn’t a kind one that told me how proud it was of me. Nope. It was negative, judgmental, always looking for my faults instead of my goodness. When I kept moving, working, and the music turned on then, I couldn’t hear my inner static and angst.

Slowing down, being sick while aiming to be healthy meant evaluating my life those next couple of years. In that reflective time, I was able to see that I had lost my love, not only for my music, but for me.

I also realized that my love for music needed a certain environment to be in: It needed to have a certain trust and hope that life was good and everything was going to be okay.

I didn’t feel that way and so, I used music — not as an expression of my joy anymore — but to provide safety for my life that I didn’t feel in other places.

I know it’s really heavy and deep but there’s something that I’ve learned:

That it’s hard to feel joy when you don’t feel safe.

My lack of joy in my music was to me, a signpost that I didn’t feel safe.

It was partly because of how I was raised in my crazy home and some of those after-effects and realities were catching up to me in my 20’s. It was partly some crappy spirituality that sent fear-based messages that made me live like I was being chased by a bear, only it was called “God.” It was partly because of my marriage that was not a balanced partnership and I was more committed to people thinking we were okay than I was to letting myself be known in my pain.

Different things contributed to it but it was basically me not able to find my joy again.

Music is an expression of the heart. We can’t live the passion of the music without the connection back to the heart of who we are.

In all my fear and messy stuff in my head and life, I had lost touch with heart of the music because the heart of the music doesn’t just live in the song, it lives in me.

That was my journey… to get back to the heart of me.

There’s so much more to the story… about the healing my mind and heart experienced. The healing my spirituality experienced. The healing my body experienced. The healing my marriage experienced. All of those were the long and winding road stories that I write about in my books. I knew that as I was healing — that something was shifting.

After having two boys (that the doctor’s said I’d never have) we moved to upstate New York for a two-year stint, working at a church.

It was another rainy day, something we had often like my New Jersey childhood but unlike my Southern California experience. At the same time, it was a different day for me. It was a marker moment when I could see that my life had healed to a different place of safety and reconnection to my heart.

I was ready. I could tell.

I asked my husband if I could have my iPod back. He had been borrowing it since I had zero interest in anything other than the music I had to do for my work for a few years. On this particularly different day, I gave him a piece of paper with one song on it.  He smiled and disappeared into the room for about 5 minutes and came back and handed my iPod to me.

I looked at him with gratitude, put my earbuds in, stepped out the front door into the drizzle that was falling and looked up. I didn’t care about the conditions, I was on a mission…

I walked up and down the street, on the crooked sidewalks, with the skies opening up as Natasha Bedingfield was in my head singing, “Unwritten”:


“I break tradition,
Sometimes my tries
Are outside the lines
We’ve been conditioned to not make mistakes,
But I can’t live that way, no…

Feel the rain on your skin.
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in.
No one else, no one else
Can speak the words on your lips.
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
The rest is still Unwritten.”

 

What a powerful moment.

Because it wasn’t just a moment when I was reconnecting to the music that I was starting to love again, it was reconnecting to my life — my soul… my heart… where the music lived in me.




Feeling Burnout? I totally get it! Here are some valuable questions and tips to get you back:

Valuable Questions:

  • Why am I a music teacher? What inspired me?
  • What other things in life inspire me?
  • Do I feel like I’m making enough money to feel safe or do I feel like I’m just squeaking by and every month is a stress?
  • Do I feel safe and happy in the other parts of my life that matter? My health, my spirituality and my key relationships?
  • Do I feel like I’m being honored in my work? (Remembering that honor comes first from us toward us and then, is reflected in our work relationships. People don’t honor you in their attitude, dollars, or time if you don’t honor yourself in those areas.)
  • Does my life have a good balance of the ratio between work and play?
  • Is there something I’m afraid to tackle in my business that is taking all the fun out it?
  • Is there a part of my business that I dread that I can either be equipped and trained in or that I can outsource? (That’s part of why Music Teacher’s Helper exists — to take the burdensome parts out of our hands so that we can focus our energy on teaching.)

 

Valuable Tips:

  • Taking the advice of the Shaman’s to make sure that each day is filled with singing, dancing, playing an instrument… for the sake of joy. This is separate from your work.
  • Read Julia Cameron’s classic: “The Artist’s Way” — In The Artist’s Way, she talks about taking an Artist’s Date each week. Something where you get to enjoy an antique shop, a comedy club, a poet’s reading, a jazz concert, a painting class — something where you’re feeding YOUR soul with what inspires you.
  • Take a day off. Non-stop work can create burnout.
  • Fill in these blanks: “If this ________________ were out of my life/different in my life, THEN, I would be happier.”  And, “If this __________________ were in my life, THEN, I would be happier.”

 

Remember: if there’s something that can make a difference in your experience of life, the most important thing to remember is that you’re in charge of making it.

I’m excited for you to return to the joy that inspired you into this beautiful art form called “Music!”

Keep on as you remember that your joy and your life makes such a difference in the joy and lives of others!

Stacey Robbins

(Here’s the photo of Stacey, her husband, and their boys)

 

 

 

Photo by Denys Nevozhai on Unsplash

Photo by Kat Smith from Pexels

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

 

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How has your New Year been now that we’ve wrapped up January 2018? Are your New Year’s resolutions still going strong?

  • Have you changed your eating?
  • Are you getting more exercise in?
  • Are you practicing your instrument more?

Or are you thinking, “Oh wait… I did have resolutions.  What are those again?”

So far, for me, one of the most helpful habits I’ve done is to do what’s called a 100 Day Gong. If you’re like me, you’re imagining someone banging a gong like crazy for 100 days.  Um, no…

Gong is a Chinese Taoist tradition — it’s a set amount of days one devotes to a particular task.  It is a promise to one’s self to stay focused and on path towards a designated goal. Here’s a good article on it.

So, for example, you could choose something simple like — practicing an instrument 20 minutes a day, taking a 30 minute walk, doing 20 minutes of writing for a book you’ve always wanted to write — and you do what you choose for those 100 days without fail.

Why 100 days?

Well, because science shows us that it takes about 90 days for any habit to get wired in your brain. You can read a great article on How Long Does it Actually Take to Form a New Habit? (Backed by Science)

You can start anytime, there’s no magic in starting on January 1st in the New Year. (Whew!)  But, the trick is, that if you miss even one day, you must start over from day one. So, if you get to day 92, and miss… start over. You’ll find out real quick how committed you are to taking some area of your life to the next level.

If you’re just starting, choose something relatively easy. Maybe 1 or 2 tasks that you can do without fail in about 20-30 minutes. I tried putting on 8 or so of the top things I had wanted to try.  Bad idea — I didn’t make it far.  Life happens, and you get busy, or sick sometimes.  It’s ok if it’s an easier list. Don’t worry, you can add one from the list to the next gong after you get through this one.

Oh, and the payoff is… you get results.

When I did this for exercise, I found myself in the best shape I’ve ever been in. Plus there’s a psychological boost of being committed to the process. Imagine what you’d like to finally make headway in, and go for it.

Good luck. I hope that helps.

Let me know if you’re going to try something for 100 days — reply in the comments below.

Take care,

Rock

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