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How Do You Spend Your Time?
By Mick Polich - 02/10/2009 - 09:07 AM EST

How do you spend your ‘life time’? Is leisure ‘work’, or work ‘leisure’? Is your time balanced, or do you wish you had more balance?

John Lennon said it best with,” Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

We are constantly busy with plans, especially music people that don’t have managers, agents, and executives looking out for them (the majority of us). Throw families, spouses, and friends in there, well, lads and lassies, it’s a heady mix.

What’s the secret to making everyday, every minute, count? Well….. the ole Blue Collar dude thinks he MIGHT be on to something ( per the last columns, of course, over the last year and a half!). You make your choices, then figure out how to get the most out of those choices by utilizing your time. Good lawdy, Mr. P. (as we collectively slap our noggins) – I could have figure THAT out, you exasperate! Sometimes, though, it’s the obvious that we need to be reminded of…..

But, the even bigger secret (at least to me) is that you start by doing some ‘small things’ on a daily basis. I think this is true of diet, exercise, health, and life. THEN, if you slip, fall behind a bit – you just pick it up, jump back on the bike, and ride……

We all make some concessions to life, especially if you’re trying to raise a family, or fit into the ‘domestic herd’. Sometimes you’ll feel cheated out of time not spent with your music, sometimes you’ll wonder if you spend enough time with the family. It ebbs, it flows….

Some days pan out while others slip away, but to be aware of the progression of what you can and want to do in life is a huge factor in getting some satisfaction out of attaining some artistic goals.

I think things change – some people spend huge amounts of time trying to reach impossible or unrealistic goals. There’s always a certain amount of ego involved there, which frankly, can crush the mightiest of peeps if you don’t make it to where you want to go. If this happens, we recoil and draw back in our shells to come out another day….

But hey…….the clock’s ticking – better get over your pity party and get on with getting’ on!

I find that the first thing I look at in time management is not treading over ground that I’ve already gone over in the first place. For me, this could be certain music that I’ve played for eons (unless I want to keep playing it in a different style, or fashion), approaches to recording, practice, managing groups, writing songs, the business side, etc. The question I always pose to myself is, well, even if I don’t have all the immediate resources to do EXACTLY what I want to do at the present, what can I do to get started on the path? Getting started – because we know how we would like to end up, but getting started is key. It’s sounds corny to some, simplistic to others, but the Zen philosophy of ‘wherever you go, there you are’ reigns true to me. You make a home recording of a CD, and want to sell it, but lack some capital backing for out-of-studio mastering, cover art, or mass production, well, you’re still there, and in a good spot, because somebody will buy it or want your music SOMEWHERE! Again, the beauty of the D.I.Y. movement blew that stuff apart – just do it. Globally, in restrictive economies and governments, people still manage to get their art OUT. You’ve got to. Sometimes I feel we’ve gotten far too ‘wussified ‘ form and structure in America because we have access to so much. Given today’s economy climate, I think the D.I.Y. approach can serve well, and you can learn a great deal about packaging, selling, and promoting your stuff – time well spent, indeedy.

Being brave enough not to waste time on things you don’t want to do – I think that can get to be more complex than it sounds, but again, to take even bay steps towards what you would like to do is a gain. Here’s an example – years ago, I got inspired by the paintings of Mark Rothko to do a CD of ambient sound scape material that reflected what I felt from Rothko’s paintings. Got a great review from an on-line ‘zine, Aural Innovations (in fact, it’s still up in their archives if you wanna check it out), but I knew even my closest of friends would consider this one of my more whacked-out projects. Let’s say I had a few ‘polite deferrals’! All in all, it’s taken in stride – why waste the energy getting pissed? Another time drainer!

A few years before I did my CD, I got inspiration from jazz great Pat Metheny. Now, if you look at the scope of Pat’s music over the years, the boy has covered some ground – not only with his own groups, but recording with Ornette Coleman, Antonio Sanchez, and David Bowie. The man has taken his music ‘out’, and brought it back to bordering on his own brand of ‘smooth jazz’, with all points in between. Some find it maddening (just stay in one place, Pat!), but I find it adventurous and very brave. Anyhoo, Pat did a 3 disc set with avant garde guitarist Derek Bailey called “The Sign Of Four”, released on Knitting Factory Records back in 1996. Talk about ‘out’ – all free-form music, two guitars, bass, drums. Given my liberal music tendencies, I couldn’t even make it through both discs, but yet I applaud the guy for having the kee-hone-as to go there. There’s the coin toss – was that a time waster for Pat, or a bold step forward in another direction.

I think if your heart is pure, and your intentions are good, no matter who says what, you’ve got to use your time to get to where you want to be, artistically speaking. This could be for a brief time, or a long time. The money will not always be there (and that’s more true every stinkin’ day), but if you feel you need to go there, go. At the end of the day, you’ve got to feel validated on your own. I know, I know, back-up kudos and congrats help, but it’s your baby, Homer, it’s your time.

Take a look at a dying breed – the juke joints and blue shacks of the American South. Most people don’t ‘get them’ (those who want their blues scrubbed up for dinner, nice white shirt and tie…), yet they persevere on community spirit, common ideology, and the preservation of form. Do those people think that they’re wasting their time pursuing an art form that they love? Hell no – they are having a GREAT time! And that’s another thing about time, too – are you having FUN getting to where you’re going no matter where you are, or where you will end up? Great athletes work their butts off, yet have fun on the way. Case in point – current Super Bowl champs, the Pittsburgh Steelers. Nothin’ fancy – hard work, blue collar mentality of a Rust Belt city with a common identity of team, community spirit, and years-accumulated knowledge on how to put out a winning sport s franchise. Yet, in all the interviews I’ve read up to the Super Bowl – yes, Coach Mike Tomlin is one hard dude, yes, there is a lot of work, but we have FUN. And winning a Super Bowl –well, that’s just Cool Whip on the pumpkin pie, kids. No waste of time there – word hard, enjoy the ride even with the bumps.

O.k.,so, let’s see - fun, have a straight – ahead plan that could go anywhere( and no matter where you end up, enjoy yourself), work hard, steer the ship, take some chances on any level you feel comfortable with, and see what happens. Time is a gift that we don’t know how much we have of it until it’s gone, right? Sure, Mick, jeeeeee-us, Mr. Philosophy. Well, that’s why y’all read my b.s. – at least I think that’s why ya keep comin’ back! That perhaps on the rarified occasion - I MIGHT have a clear, valid point!

I used to be a ‘look-over-to-the-next-plateau’ kind of guy – always thought there was something better over that next hill, and somehow things would be different. Yep, the grass is always greener on the other side of the nuclear power plant, I tell ya. After awhile, you find you’re always going over several hills, then, what’s the POINT??

Also, why does it take some people to understand the precious commodity of time with a whack over their life skulls??? Does it take something drastic, or tragic, or event – changing? Well, it shouldn’t, especially if you want to start making some skirts in another direction. This is where the Eastern way of ‘kaizen’ makes perfect sense – take small steps towards your goal, but TAKE small steps – key word there, TAKE.

There are things you do not wish to do in your life, but have to – sometimes for the greater good of the bigger picture, sometimes you’re just forced into a situation. “Maybe someday” is a common phrase, but when does someday come, and how much time do you think you have? No one has a clue – and that can be the beauty of the deal.

Even as I write these words, I need to keep convincing myself that I believe in way I’m saying, because there is doubt at times, and I think it’s complicated doubt. But, as with time, you need to reinforce what you think the importance of the concept is – using your time wisely to move ahead even in a small, small manner. And hopefully, the bits of string holding the complex pieces of doubt will untie themselves to unbridled and free yo’ mind ( and – finish it – and yo’ ass will follow!).

People’s opinions of how you spend your time to a musical goal shouldn’t matter anyway – if you’re, again, true to your heart, true to yourself, and there’s a direct line to a purity of mind and heart ( and the goodness that comes from that), then you’re not wasting any moments at any point in your life. This is not just advice for older musicians such as myself, it’s for ANYBODY at ANY age. I’ve just finished watching some snippets of some YouTube videos featuring late jazz bassist Jaco Pastorius. I remember his first solo album for CBS back in 1976 – a bass player who can play like a lead guitar player, with the chops, musical depth, and diversity to push an electric, no, and electric FRETLESS  bass forward to the forefront of the music world – I mean, where did he come from? Well, if Jaco didn’t put the time in to train on his instrument, and push a vision to make the electric bass a viable musical force, we would not have a lot of the electric bass and music styles that we have today out on the table.

Which brings me to my last point – wasting time stewing over the ‘coulda, shoulda, woulda’ things in life – things that might have happened that you didn’t do what you wanted to do when they came up, of should have happened, or could happen (just the fear of the unknown). I’m trying to turn myself from being a person who stews and rehashes stuff like that in my mind to move ahead and either attempting to do something to resolve it, or let it go. Pick your battles, do what you can, then move on - this is what I’m trying to change. Look at the energy you waste stewing over stuff in this matter when you could be using love and creativity to move forward in life (thanks for that insight, father Richard!). We waste time because we want what’s in our mind to be resolved in real life, the way we WANT it! We worried about what people think about our life, art, and music. Most of the time, it ain’t worth the naysayers. There’s a line between good, honest criticism and malicious discontent and spite – know it, recognize it, but don’t waste any more time stewing over it!

So, let me wrap it up – think about your life, your music, and your art. Then, think about what needs to happen by taking one step (and try the bite-size ones first, if you wish) to jump-start it in that direction. Here’s your time to move forward and not waste your time!

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