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The Power of Dreams for Personal Growth
The ones we hold in our hearts while awake
Looking back, I think that some of the happiest and most fulfilling times of my life have been when my mind and soul were filled with dreams, and my entire being was active in pursuit. You could say I have “failed” at achieving many of those dreams, but I have become a better version of myself for attempting them. And I don’t regret a thing.
Dreams of Baseball
When I was young my dream was to be a professional baseball player. I loved the energy, accolade, approval and identity of sports that I had felt by playing while growing up.
I worked hard to keep that dream going all the way through college before its abrupt end after my senior year.
Looking back now it’s easy to see that wasn’t actually my dream, it was just the product of outside influence triggering my need for identity and approval, but from that dream I learned a ton about discipline, teamwork and toughness in pursuit of difficult goals.
Luckily, being the dreamer that I am, that wasn’t the end of my dream worthy aspirations.
Dreams of Los Angeles and Creative Work
After baseball, I rightly realized that focusing on and finishing my education was the smart move. So with all the new time I found in my schedule without sports, I buckled down and finished my degree in computer science. Shortly after graduating I got a programming job in Ann Arbor, Michigan (near where I grew up) and began my journey into adult life.
Initially it felt great to have real, disposable income for the first time, but it didn’t take long to realize its cost in time and energy spent under fluorescent lights in a boxed off slice of an office existence.
Suffocated and depressed at the notion that I would be spending the next 40 years of my life in that taupe cubical doing uninspired work, I decided that I wanted to do something more fulfilling with the majority of my waking hours. I had always loved 3D graphics and creative technology, but there wasn’t much in the way of work like that in the Midwest, so I devised a plan to build a creative portfolio website and start applying to jobs out in Los Angeles where one of my best friends had just moved.
I spent six months living with my parents and spending evenings after my day job working on my interactive portfolio site. When it was ready, I started applying to jobs out West using my friend’s address and within a few weeks landed a handful of phone interviews.
Much to my excitement one of the interviews was with the online division of The Walt Disney company working on some of their high profile characters. The first phone interview went well and they invited me for an in person interview a couple weeks later. Elated and filled with the hope of new dreams, I decided to jump and test the waters in Los Angeles.
Long story short, I packed all my belongings into my Oldsmobile Cutlass and moved West to live on my friends couch for a few weeks before landing the Disney job and establishing my new life in the City of Dreams itself.
(As it turns out, this particular dream had a big impact in determining the trajectory of the rest of my life as I still live in Los Angeles and work in creative tech 😊)
Dreams of Music
My Los Angeles dream had another motive that was a little closer to my heart, but that I didn’t dare publicize given my roots in the conservative culture of the Midwest…
I had always deeply loved music and had started playing guitar in high school, but never really focused on it much when I was younger due to all the sports and academics. I humbly started out by trying to learn to play my favorite songs but quickly after felt the urge to try and create my own.
I was always an introverted and emotional, over-thinker type and had started journaling and writing poetry very early and naturally as a way to express and attempt to understand myself. With music and creativity, I began to see the potential of those expressions reaching other people, for both connection and validation of who I am.
In it I saw the opportunity to gain a voice and connection with people in the world around me and a chance at a small piece of influence during this short time that we share here. (And I still very much believe this today)
Being from a grounded Midwestern culture, I didn’t dare to dream that I could make a living off of music and art (that belief has altered a bit since…), but from this dream I have found a way to better understand and express myself as well as a way to connect with, and possibly inspire, other like-minded people.
At this point in my musical journey I’ve headlined the Whisky A-GoGo, have been on tour a few times and have had my singing voice streamed over a million times on Spotify. I am not able to support myself with music and am nowhere near the rockstar level I hoped to be when I first started this dream, but as part of my Los Angeles music journey I’ve met and worked with some of the most inspiring and talented people.
The connections created from my pursuit of music proved to have much more value than money or fame. They have provided fulfillment of a cultural currency and self growth that inspires me to create and push myself to advance the craft.
I truly see music and creativity it as a big part of my personal growth journey that will span my entire life, and to this day most of my closest friends are musicians and creatives.
Dreams of Freedom and Pursuit of Creativity
Today, I still dream, and I’m certain now that I will never stop. These days I dream of creating a more flexible and financially independent life where I am free to pursue creative expression and experience of this world beyond the nights and weekends standard dictated by modern financial survival.
In this pursuit, the same as my other dreams, I’ve tried and failed many times already, but with each push I inevitably gain new insight and knowledge that enhances who I am and increases my ability and chance to survive under the terms that I choose.
Even though I’m still a bit far from where I’d like to be, as much as ever I feel that I’m heading in a general direction that includes all my skills and passions in varying degrees (technology, music, creativity, exploration), and that is certainly progress.
From here, as I grow I hope to adjust the balance of my pursuits to meet a more fulfilling proportion, ideally shifting more time and energy away from economic driven work and employment to that of personal creativity and exploration.
From a certain perspective it would be easy to look at some of my dreams as failures, but even though things haven’t always turn out how I initially planned, each pursuit has undoubtedly lead to some of the biggest periods of growth in my life.
To me, the essence of life is chasing dreams in pursuit of the exploration and understanding of our world and pushing the capacity of our own potential to be a bigger influence on it. The beaten path is relatively easy and so predictable. I can’t imagine not attempting dreams, even if only to know what lies on the other side of trying.
If you read interviews from successful artists and entrepreneurs, a common theme is pushing through failure. I can certainly validate that every time I’ve attempted something difficult, especially when fueled by dream level passion, I’ve always learned a vast amount from the endeavor regardless of the result.
In this world it is easy to get stable and comfortable as quickly as possible and then seek simple, accessible pleasures for fulfillment. I would argue that the vast majority of people in the world are guilty of this and most never aspire to anything more. I think a part of this stems from traditional culture and the notion that dreams are something reserved for life up until when college ends and “real life” begins.
But as I’ve found, the “real life” stretch is the majority of your existence. In that it certainly warrants some fulfillment, individuality and joy.
The older I get the more and more I look at life as a journey to be experienced not just a path to some pre-defined set of societal achievements to be checked off. There is so much we can’t control anyway, and letting go a little can be extremely liberating.
Learning to be true and kind to myself has helped me see this. There is no one right way to go about life, and the meaning in it is to be found not dictated.
The Challenge of Balance and Awareness
As a last thought, and perhaps the only area that might hold some regret in my pursuit of dreams:
It is important to be aware of balance when pushing toward a lofty goal.
Throughout my journey I’ve at times become a little too obsessed with reaching a goal and fallen out of balance in life which has lead to burnout and ultimately stagnation of progress.
At the end of the day we are human animals with different needs and nourishment required to keep us alive, energized and motivated for life. That includes relationships, community, physical and emotional health, and space for rejuvenation.
The modern world, with all its potential, has become a little too obsessed with hustle culture and achieving goals as fast as possible, but this approach is often glorified and easily leads to burnout. One of the most important skills I’ve learned along the way is to take stock of your emotional, physical and mental health to identify when a change is needed in an out of balance life.
And very importantly, when falling out of balance, never be afraid to ask for help.
This entry ended up being a long one, but writing it helped me recount and realize the importance and value of dreams.
With technology and an interconnected world, we live in an era of limitless opportunity where the pursuit of dreams could easily lead to their realization and an experience of life greater than one could imagine.
Exciting Tech of the Week
Stable Audio Tools
StabilityAI, the company behind the popular generative AI text-to-image model Stable Diffusion has recently released a collection of open source Python tools for training and using Stable Audio, their text-to-music diffusion model. More on the technical side than the user facing Stable Audio, tech minded producers could use these tools to train a new Stable Audio model on their own collection of songs, in order to generate music that is more similar to their own style, as well as many other potential uses such as pre-training samples or drum loops toward a certain style.
This kind of technology is something I’m very excited about and plan to spend time in the near future digging into the current possibilities. The potential to tailor AI toward your personal styles where it can act as a unique creative collaborator is a great example of AI being used as an enhancement tool rather than a generic generative content machine.
My Creative Updates
I’m slowly getting back into the groove in the production of songs for my solo EP, which I’m still hoping to release at least one single from by the end of the year.
I’ve been working on drum programming and polishing up my production knowledge as I start to layout the sessions and templates to record and produce the songs.
As part of the preparation, I brushed the dust off my old Peluso 2247 SE (a brilliant U47 clone) and started testing that as well as some of my other analog gear in preparation for vocals. I have to check to make sure the tubes in the mic as well as my Retro Doublewide compressor are still in working shape. I’m normally a digital person, but I have a nice analog chain that I like to use for vocals, so I’m excited to get the chance to use it again.
I also just ordered a 4 unit desktop rack so that I can mount and more easily use my UA 1176 in the chain as well. That mic and those two compressors into an API 512c preamp make for some sweet vocal sounds.
Hopefully in future updates I’ll be able to share some audio and video clips (exclusive to this newsletter perhaps 🤔) of production as it progresses!
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