The current challenges we face have been incredibly disruptive for musicians and creatives. Projects, goals, and livelihoods have been displaced, creating untold amounts of stress and worries of the future.

In this episode, John discusses how to navigate these difficult times and how a cable TV show about restoring cabins has helped him find a positive mental space.

Episode Transcript

Episode 189 – The Way Forward

Hey there, this is John Henny, welcome back to another episode of the intelligent vocalist. I do so appreciate you spending this precious listening time with me. 

Alright, my book Beginning Singing, as I’m sure you well know if you’re listening to the podcast is out now. So go grab your copy. I have the Kindle version priced at 99 cents and so it’s the equivalent amount of 99 cents in every country. So it’s cheap, you can go get the Kindle version cheap. If you like paperback, the paperback version is out now. And if you have the book, if you would be so kind as to leave a review on Amazon, I would be most appreciative it’s very important for reviews for Amazon to recommend the book and also for people to find the book. So any and all reviews are appreciated.

Alright today, I want to start with a bit of a personal confession. And the confession is this past week, I kind of lost it between the lockdown of the pandemic and just everything that this has affected, including just watching personal relationships and people struggle with that and the politics that have been injected into this, especially in the US and with an election year. It’s a little stressful and then in California, we have had horrific wildfires. 

I’ve had my phone go off a number of times with emergency alerts, talking about possible evacuations and even though thankfully, it hasn’t affected myself or my loved ones. It’s certainly affected a number of people that I know and then the smoke was just absolutely choking. If you seeing pictures of it, it really can’t describe what we went through, the ash was coming down like snow. And then the air quality was so horrifically bad that you really, you couldn’t go outside, you had to stay inside with air purifiers on and your air conditioner on and just get your breaths of purified air because you weren’t going to get healthy air outside. 

And as that was really driving me crazy, that really made me feel helpless. And then a few nights ago, my wife and I were awoken with an earthquake and I thought you know what, that’s it. I literally cannot take any more gut punches from Mother Nature between viruses and smoke, and now earthquakes. I’m done, and I had a bit of a fit and after I calmed myself down my wife and I sat the next evening and we decided to put on the show that she introduced me to called main cabin masters.

Now this is a show where they go in and they repair old cabins in Maine, usually on the lakes and rivers and these beautiful, natural settings. But this is not the type of show that I usually watch, I am not handy at all. Any home project that I take on is usually me just red faced and frustrated and doing a bad job, it’s just, it’s not what I do. But my wife insisted that I watched this show and when I first started watching it. It stars a team that’s a brother, sister and the sisters husband are the main people who redo these cabins. And when I first watching it, they kind of seemed a little coarse, a little rough around the edges. I wasn’t sure if I was going to vibe with this show. But as I watched it I realized that these people are true artists and what they do in restoring these cabins is just breathtaking. It’s absolutely beautiful and the aesthetics are wonderful. But what really struck me and what really helped is when they encounter problems, and they certainly encounter problems, number of these cabins, their aging, some of them have been abandoned for years. There’s all kinds of wood rots, and roofs that literally have plants growing out of them, they’ve been neglected for so long. And as they dig into these projects, and refurbishing things that they weren’t expecting, will come up. And one that I watched recently, they were installing the piping for a wood burning stove to keep the cabin warm. And they were led to believe this piping was going to be a certain size, I think it was six inch and when the stove was delivered by the owner that the owner had purchased, it was actually eight inches. And they had just put in the new roof, done all the cuttings, all the piping, and they had to go back in and redo everything. 

Now, if I was doing the home project, I would be frustrated out of my mind, and many people would start to get upset. Why did you give me the wrong measurements? Who screwed up here? Now we’ve got it, they don’t do any of that. They just look at the job and very calmly fix it. They have this beautiful, almost hippie artist mentality and you can see, you’ll see t-shirts where it’s Grateful Dead t-shirts or the band fish, which is almost an extension of the Grateful Dead kind of like a hippie jam band. And that’s kind of their mindset and it’s actually a really calming show. And I found that you know what I need to employ this in my life. And I really had this revelation that this negativity and frustration and scrolling through social media, and just reading comments that will drive you crazy in this politically charged environment.

That’s an indulgence, it’s like this dark luxury. It’s like just living on potato chips and ice cream. It’s addictive, the brain gets addicted to this stimulus and we tend to react to negative stimulus more intensely than positive stimulus. I’ve even found it when I’ll go through comments on my YouTube channel and it’s the negative comments that will really jump out and stick with you. And I realized No, I have to keep finding my way forward through this current situation and I realized that being negative is indeed a luxury and I have to consciously practice being relentlessly positive. That’s the only way forward through this.

Everything else, anything else that’s not positive, is going to drive us to where I was just after that earthquake, where you just want to throw up your hands, I can’t take this anymore. And I can almost guarantee as you’re listening to me, you’ve had those moments. This is we are experiencing something that people have not experienced in many a generation once in a 100 year pandemic, combined with political situations that are tough, that are tough on our mental well being and as voice teachers and musicians and creatives.

It’s incredibly frustrating because the way that we have done business and performed in the past is not available to us right now and I spent some time with a good friend of mine, who’s a mental health professional and I just asked him how do you recommend people get through this, and what he told me is number one, you have to focus on survival. Just getting through this, with your health intact, with your loved ones protected, and with your finances is in as good a shape as possible, you just need to survive each day. And for me, that means not seeing students in person. 

One of the riskiest things that you can do, that they see as being potentially super spreading events is loud talking and singing. And when you’re teaching, and we’re getting excited, and we’re singing in, we’re demonstrating, and back and forth man, there’s a lot of aerosolized particles going into the air. So that is something that I am not willing to do, I and even my music academy. I don’t, I can’t put anyone’s health at risk. So we are not seeing any students in person for any instruments. And that has had my wife and I work very hard to create a virtual version of our music academy with pre recorded lessons that people can get on, and study. And that’s been, it’s been a lot of work. It’s been fun. It’s been inspiring, but it’s also been a lot of work. But as we do each day, the focus is, stay healthy, survive. And then the other thing my friend told me was, stay in the moment. He has a colleague in the mental health profession, and who’s actually his therapist, and she just turned 90.

And, of course, she was asked her secret, she still practices, still healthy, still alert. And they asked what her secret is, and she said, I just take each moment as it comes, stay in the moment, just experience the moment. And the third thing he said was, don’t over plan your future right now be more flexible. This is not the time to make rigid plans. I’m not saying don’t plan for the future. And don’t have goals and don’t work towards those goals. But but be flexible, be adaptable, what you thought your life was going to be seven months ago, a year ago, where you thought you would be today. I guarantee you, you didn’t think you didn’t see this coming. No one saw this coming. And so we’ve all had to adapt, and we need to be flexible. 

I have a Voice Teacher Academy, Contemporary Voice Teacher Academy and what my wife and I have been doing the past couple of weeks is we have been meeting with members on one on one consultations and I’m just including this as part of the membership. But we’ve been opening up slots, and as soon as we open up slots, they fill up but as our time allows, we’re opening up these slots to members and we’re just talking about their business, and where they are right now where they want to take their business. And you know, what I have found is, you sometimes just need someone to point the way, even if you already know what the way is. 

And I myself, I work with a business coach, and I will come to the business coach and say okay, what do I do next? And oftentimes, the next step he tells me, is something I already know that I need to do. But having my coach tell me this and point the way there is clarity, it stops me from bouncing around and what about if that? No, I can just stop and go. Okay, I need to complete this task. He clears my plate. He clears everything and I think if you are finding yourself just a little lost and not sure what to do next. In terms of if you’re a teacher where to take your studio, building your student base, if you want to do product or a book, or if you’re a singer, what to do next with your voice, I would encourage you to get with someone, book a console with a business coach, schedule a voice lesson or two, just to have somebody point the way and give you clarity. And if you can get out of this program of the worry and the stress and projecting into the future, and just find a pathway of doing of taking positive steps, and working towards keeping a positive mental space, we can get through this. This pandemic is going to move to another phase, it’s going to at some point begin to fade, we’re going to get control of it, a sense of normal, normal life will come back.

But until then, just being able to be in the moment and do something that’s moving you towards the future in a positive way, a future that you have readjusted your goals, a future that is more flexible, but a future that is there, nonetheless. And being in the moment, with a little cast towards the future is a great place to be being in that positive place. You know, just this past weekend, the smoke cleared here in Los Angeles, and the weather cooled a little bit. And football came back on TV. And now I’m not even a big football fan. But I turned on the game. And I had my windows open and it felt almost a little bit like fall and it kind of felt normal. And there was just something so simple and beautiful about that. And I just appreciated the moment. And for me, I came into my studio early this morning, and I’m working on a new course. And I did some recording for that and then sitting down and just doing this podcast, and allowing myself to just be in this moment and to enjoy communicating with you. And to really try and, help people that that really is at this stage in my life. 

I don’t have aspirations other than how many people as I can, that’s what really brings me joy. And I just have to remember to stay in this. Enjoy this moment, enjoy speaking into this microphone and knowing that there’s somebody out there that this is connecting with and the idea that this may help somebody get through a tough moment. Just like I had, having a fit about an earthquake, I mean, I’m having a fit about Mother Nature and an earthquake, but I had had it and to just be able to just find some calm.

And to just be in the moment and to know this will pass and to know I can still do good work, you can do good work, you can still put yourself out there we’ll get through this. 

Hey, if you want to know more about me, please visit my website and be sure to sign up for my email list. And you’ll know about new projects I have coming out including the thing I’m working on right now that I’m very, very excited about. And if you’re interested in voice lessons, my associate Darlene Yam does have some limited availability, just email [email protected] and let Tracy know that you’re interested in lessons with Darlene and she can get you set up.

And until next time to better singing. Thank you so much. Bye bye