awakening big picture

9 Negative Emotions And What They Mean

Stop Negativity

There are 9 common emotions that are uncomfortable, unpleasant and just darn nasty.

Fear, Hurt, Anger, Frustration, Disappointment, Guilt and/or Reget, Inadequacy, Overwhelm and Loneliness.

I think most of us have felt these in our lifetimes, and perhaps even on a weekly or daily basis.  There was a time when I experienced Anger, Frustration and Overwhelm almost daily.

The 9 Negative States can be seen as warning lights on your dashboard.

Here’s what they mean and how you can learn from them to release them.

1) Fear

Batten down the hatches, tense up – there’s something you’re going to have to deal with.  This is not always true, but you feel it!  Take a moment, breathe.  Is there really something worth fearing?  Unless you are in a life/death situation, most fears are overblown, misplaced and are just worry amplified.  Worry is also not necessary.  If it happens, deal with it then.  Don’t make it worse by spending energy tensing up for a possible non-event.

Action:  Ask yourself, “What’s the worst thing that can happen?  Then what? And then?”

2) Hurt

Somehow a standard was not met.  Rules were broken.

Action:  Reflect on “Are these rules even valid?  Who made these standards?”

3) Anger

This is a more intense version of hurt, because again, a rule was not met.

I have been in arguments in the past where the other person leaves the room because I’ve raised my voice.  In my set of rules, it was okay to get passionate about your discussion and just get it all out in the open now.  The other party, whose rules were, never raise your voice as that is verbal abuse and threatening would just leave the room.  Can you see how these sets of rules were always in conflict?

Action: Let it go.  Reflect on the standards and rules that you feel were not met.  What now?

4) Frustration

Something is not working and trying to bang through the wall over and over in the same way will only leave you with a banged up head.

Action:  Change the approach.  Change something.  Be flexible.

5) Disappointment

You haven’t achieved something and you need to change.  You also may be feeling a little sorry for yourself.

Tony Robbins says the difference between winners and losers is that winners know how to control their emotional state.  Emotions can be thought of as weather patterns being sent up from the unconscious, most triggered habitually.  Did you know that you can consciously induce triumph or disappointment?  You choose your states whether it is out of habit or choice.

Action:  Change the process or change what you want your outcome to be.  Pivot.

6) Guilt / Regret

You broke one of your own standards.

Lester Levenson created a whole personal improvement program called the Release Technique and it is simply letting yourself feel the emotions fully and then releasing them. Once you do, you have emptied out the energy you were holding onto thereby clearing all kinds of problems created by stress which causes disease.   This technique lives on with two of Lester’s disciples Hale Dwoskin’s Sedona Method and Larry Crane’s Release Technique.

Action: Make amends, forgive yourself, and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

7) Inadequacy

You feel less than something or someone else.  You can do this by first, stop comparing yourself to others and to start educating yourself in the ways you feel inadequate.  This may be in the hard skills of how to play chords on piano, or the soft skills of how to have confidence in public speaking.

Action:  Learn skills, Stop comparing to others.  Measure your results to see personal  improvement.

8) Overwhelm

Your priorities have become muddled and you’re trying to do everything because you don’t know which is the most important.

Action: Stop, reflect, prioritize and then go forth.  Most people over-estimate what they can achieve in a year, but underestimate what they can do in a day.

9) Loneliness

You need to connect with people and spirit.

Action: Get out and say hello.  Find your support group of like-minded people.  Find your “sangha.”  Get with God.  I have a writing group, my church choir, my Dad’s group, my music students, my family and now the Foundation as my network.  I’m grateful to have them all.

I’ve learned this list from Dane Maxwell and Andy Drish at The Foundation, of which I’m just starting the journey.  Because I’m an extroverted thinker, I find I can think and reflect better if I’m teaching others about it.  I hope you find this helpful.

awakening big picture growth musings spirit success Wealth

What is the most destructive question that everyone asks themselves?

“What’s in it for me?”

This is the underlying question almost everyone has running in the back of their minds.  Someone makes you an offer and you automatically ask it.
“What’s in it for me?”
Parents ask a variation, “What’s in it for my child, my family?”


It’s perfectly normal and most everyone does it.


So why is it a problem?

Because this question reveals a mindset of lack.
“Gimme, gimme, gimme.”
“Take, take, take.”
It’s the voice of the ego based on fear, insecurity, and a lack of abundance.


It’s victim thinking, not a hero.

Poverty Thinking

I experienced this growing up.


It was like life was an all you can eat buffet.
But “You better get your money’s worth.”
It’s why cruise ship guests put on their “buffet pants.”
Or the advice of some who say, “don’t fill your plate with the cheap stuff, grab the good stuff.”


Now, what if we could shift this to the opposite?

What if we could change the question?
“What’s in it for me?”
But rather

“How can I help?”

Abundance Thinking

By asking this new question, there is an assumption of abundance.  This question assumes you have the power, capacity, and ability to help.  It’s a powerful question. You are tapping into your true gifts. It comes from a deeply spiritual place, not your ego.  There is more than enough to share.


We’ve all had ups and downs in our lives.  I personally experienced many magical miracles. And then flipped to complete despair.


What I’ve noticed is the presence of the first question and not the latter.  Mindset is the key.

So what is mindset?

A mentor of mine recently gave me an amazingly simple definition:


“Mindset is the voice(s) in your head.”


That’s so true.  I hear my parents, teachers, and even people I don’t care for speaking in my head.


Who put these voices in our heads?

They get installed automatically throughout life.  Parents. Teachers. Relatives. Caregivers. Friends.  Facebook. The media…


The thing is, unless you are aware, you are being programmed all the time.  If you let it wash over you daily without consciousness, you are installing these voices.  The prevailing mindset of lack, poverty, and despair.


The good news is, you can reinstall new voices.  It’s like upgrading your internal operating system to the latest, greatest version.  You choose your own voice.
Tomorrow, my son turns sixteen.  Sixteen! We’re about to start visiting colleges.  Think about focus of study. Plan out a course for life.
What I want most for him is to flip the questions.  Ask more empowering ones.
“How can I help?”
“What can I offer the world?  
What was I born to do?  
What are my gifts?

What makes me the only one?”

A Lifetime of Questions

Of course, questioning goes on for a lifetime.
We never completely know.  We are always discovering.


The journey of life and success IS the journey of discovering the answers to this question.  Life is self-discovery. And this question can change your life.

How can I help?

I hope this awakens something inside of you.  New voices = new life. This goes beyond parenting, music, education, business, whatever.  This is for you. And through you, you will light up the world.
“You are the light of the world.  A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and place it under a basket, but place it on a lamp-stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.   Let your light so shine, so that they may see your good works…” – Matthew 5:14. the Bible


music process

How To Make Images With Only Sound

A Sound Design Project For Theater

I just started working on creating sound design for Fordham University’s theater department.  It’s a mainstage production of the play Magnolia, by Regina Taylor, which is a re-telling of the Cherry Orchard in 1963 Atlanta, Georgia.  It takes place right in the midst of the civil rights era and the sounds of that time period.

The biggest challenge is creating this sonic montage which is to open the piece.  Taylor, who is also directing, wants to evoke a backwards countdown from present day into the past.  It’s challenging and exciting.  Given all the events in the news lately regarding racial discrimination, it feels very timely.

To start with, I began gathering source audio to sample in this newsreel type audio event.

Here’s some of the sources i gathered:

Watching these videos, I found it impossible not to get caught up in the moment.  Especially the coverage of Bobby Kennedy’s assassination.   I got so choked up.

After exporting some of these audios using an online tool, I had a file folder from which I could import into my digital audio workstation of choice, LogicProX.

Here’s a screenshot of my session today.

How To Make Images With Only Sound

What a crazy mess!  I started by just laying down a basic beat and bass line to give some kind of structure.  Later I’m going to add a tempo map that ramps up to add to the excitement.

As we were listening to these ideas, my assistant engineer (my 14 year old son Alejandro), suggested a possible unifying idea:  to take each President’s oath going backwards in time from present to 1963.  Brilliant!

So that’s where we’re at so far.  I have a terrible first mix that I don’t want to bore you with just yet.  Lots more to do and in the process of updating my sonic palette by updating my Spectrasonics Omnisphere.  That’s a way cool virtual synthesizer.   Ok, more later!







awakening big picture

The magic power of asking with expectation

In a recent post, I talked about the power of questions to design an exceptional life.

But there’s more.  There is magic in the Universe.  And you can tap into that magic with questions.

Here’s a few more magical questions to start your day.

  • I wonder who I’m going to meet today?
  • What great surprise will I find today?
  • Who’s going to call me with good news?
  • How will my surprise bonus arrive this week?

It sounds crazy, but it does work.  Pick one of these questions and ask with expectation.  Give it a bit of time, maybe a few days.  As you develop this muscle, it will begin to get stronger, faster.

awakening identity

What are you going to be when you grow up?

Try as he might, he just could not sway us.  We all turned out to be true creative people.  My brother, sister and I all turned out to be creative types in advertising, music, dance and photography.

My Dad (and to a lesser extent, my Mom) tried to brainwash us kids to all be doctors, lawyers or engineers.  In fact, I didn’t even know I had a choice other than that.  It was that deep.

People would ask me, “What are you going to be when you grow up?”

“A doctor, lawyer or engineer.”

It was automatic and I didn’t even think about it.  It was a given.

Then, one day, after experiencing a 2nd guitar lesson, I blurted out,

“Dad, I think I want to be a rock star!”

It was crazy.  My Dad turned red, no, even purple.  He was besides himself with anger.  Apoplectic.

“Where did you get this idea?”

I was 14 and had just caught the rock and roll bug.  I was so moved by the music, especially blues and rock guitar.  Because money was tight in our house, I had to figure out how to get lessons myself.  I dusted off my Mom’s old nylon string guitar and bought a book, the Lennon McCartney Guitar Course.  But it was slow going.

Then, one day I happened to come across a place called the Youth Development Association.  It was in the little prefab building that used to house our  town library before it moved into a grand building.  There was a guy there.  Young, hippy with a beard and long hair.  Cool looking.  He was playing the guitar as he sat behind the desk.

“Hi, my name is Jim.”

He said he could teach me guitar.  And we could even start right then.  For free.  He showed me a barre chord and how to play the Rolling Stones, “Jumping Jack Flash.”

I loved it.  I said, when can we schedule the next one?  He said come by next week.

Exactly at the same time next week, I arrived with my guitar.  Jim seemed surprised.  He didn’t seem to work with a calendar or anything.  Luckily he was free and he taught me my second lesson.  I was learning blues scales and really cool chords.  I was super excited.

Somehow, in the lesson, he asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.

“A doctor, lawyer or engineer.” was the automatic reply.

He looked at me strangely.  And then said,  “Really?  What do you really want to do?”

It was strange feeling.  I was off balance.  What?  Do you mean I have a choice?

“Well, do you mean anything?”

“Anything.  What would you do if you could do anything in the world?”

“Well I would be a rock star!  I’d play guitar in a band!”

“Well why don’t you do that?”

It was like the craziest thought.  It cracked open my mind.  I had a choice!

That night was when it all happened.  My Dad was prone to massive bouts of rage at this time of his life.  He yelled,  “Who told you this?”

“Well…I…It’s… this guy.  His name is Jim Petrungaro and he works at the YDA.  It’s the Youth Development Association.  He’s giving me guitar lessons for FREE!”

I thought he would be calmed by this.  How clever, I had found a way to get free lessons.  Didn’t he see how important this was to me?

“You are never to go there again!

“What?  But, but why?”

“That is a place for drug-addict kids.  Kids in trouble. You are not allowed!”

I was crying and struggling to get a word in edgewise.  This didn’t make any sense!  I’m not a drug addict.  I was being resourceful.  I had found a way to study guitar.  And he was giving me lessons for free!

But in my house, Dad’s word was final.

After that, I never saw Jim again.  I used to think he would be disappointed in me – that I had broken my word that I would come for that third lesson.

This incident was the beginning of my awakening to my self-identity.  It’s probably my first major turning point.  A pivot point.  It also began a long dark period between my father and I.


awakening growth success Wealth

What Is The Iceberg Principle Of Successful People?

People are like icebergs.  What we can see is only its tip .  There’s a whole lot going on underneath where we can’t see it.  There is a principle that successful people know.  I call it the “iceberg principle.”  

Success means a lot of different things to people.   No matter your definition of success is, though, I think we can all agree that we feel successful when we are in control of our lives, accomplishing things and feeling like we are making  a contribution to the world.  

The Iceberg Principle

Successful people use the “iceberg principle” to work on what’s underneath the surface.  

Just as icebergs can drift through oceans, melting along the way, many people drift through life until they melt into a puddle of oblivion, irrelevance and regret.   

What keeps some icebergs on a path to doom?  It’s all in the part you don’t see – steering it like a ship’s rudder.  The difference between the lost losers and successful folks  is what’s going on underneath:  their subconscious beliefs.

Subconscious Beliefs Are Controlling You

One of the most powerful subconscious beliefs people hold concerns money and wealth.

You can learn a lot about your or someone else’s iceberg – subconscious beliefs – by asking questions.  

Can you answer this question?

What is the first thing you think of when I ask , “How do you feel about money?”

Or, to put it another way, fill in the blank:  “Money is ____________________.”

Subconscious Beliefs About Money

When I was a young boy, I heard many things about money.  

  • “There’s not enough money.”
  • “Sorry, we can’t afford it.”
  • “What do you think, money grows on trees?”
  • “If we had money we could do it.”
  • “Money is the root of all evil.”

It’s no wonder that I have struggled with money and debt in my life.  

With subconscious beliefs like these, why would I ever want to be involved with  money?

Human Operating System – HOS

These controlling subconscious beliefs are like a human operating system.  Just as a smartphone has iOS  or Android, we humans have an operating system made up of beliefs.  Most of them, however, were never consciously chosen or designed by you.  You picked them up along the way.  And they are still resonating today.

Installing New Beliefs

How much more successful would I be if I grew up with beliefs like:

  • “Money is power.”
  • “Money is freedom.”
  • “Money is compassionate energy that I use to accomplish my goals.”

Skeptic’s Mind

You may think this is just mumbo-jumbo hogwash.  Woo woo New Age crap.  And, to be honest, a part of me is skeptical, too.  But, the childlike wondrous side of me says, why not?  Logically it makes sense.   The way I talk to myself definitely makes a difference.  Look at successful athletes and their powerful self-talk.   

Melt The Limiting Parts

It feels good to expose these limiting beliefs, because just exposing them is like melting these parts of my iceberg.

It’s Not Too Late

Another part of me (and maybe you?) is asking , “Well, isn’t too late?  I am what I am.”  And I get it.  It feels difficult and maybe even foreign to change your beliefs.  But let’s try a little experiment.

The Power Jacket

Over the next 30 days, think of it as if you were wearing a new jacket.  You are borrowing a power jacket.  Maybe it’s a nice blazer that makes you feel powerful, wealthy and in control.

Try saying to yourself, “I deserve to be wealthy.”   See how it feels.  Do you hear voices in your head making  negative or contrary remarks?  Interesting.

Write It Down

Take a blank piece of paper.  Draw a line down the center from top to bottom.  On the left, write the sentence “I deserve to be wealthy.”  On the right column, write whatever comes up.  It could be negative.  It could the voice of a relative.  Maybe it’s your father or mother.  Or maybe a neighbor or teacher?  

Do it at least twenty times.  Each time, write the corresponding response.  

Over time, you will notice the responses changing.  It’s very interesting!  Almost like a dialogue inside yourself.

Do it everyday until the responses change from negative to positive.  At some point, you may even “recruit” a supporter from that inner voice.

It sounds crazy and magical.  And it is.

Spending Money

Anytime you spend some money, tell yourself, “There’s plenty more where that came from.”

Holding on to money fearfully as if there were  not enough is also blocking the flow of wealth in your life.

By spending money  consciously, you add energy to the whole system and that energy  flows back to you.  We will talk more about this in a future post.

Money is just one area of your iceberg.  You can easily use the iceberg principle for health, relationships, spirituality and more.

Ancient Wisdom

These are not new ideas.  You can find them in every country  and spiritual tradition in the world.  But it seems we are a forgetful lot and easily distracted by shiny objects.  

Take some time for yourself to understand the iceberg principle.  

Carve the unseen part of your iceberg to guide you to new bluer oceans.  Send me a postcard when you land.  I’d love to know about your journey.



joyful living

A great question to ask someone when you first meet

I wasn’t comfortable speaking to people.  My whole childhood was trying to fit in.  So I didn’t really want to be noticed for being unique.  I was too unique.  The only Asian kid in a whole community.

Over time, I began to get some comfort.  Awkwardness fell away and I <gasp> became attractive to girls.

One thing I’ve always been, is insatiably curious.  I’m curious about too many things!  If I could only just concentrate on one discipline.  But no!  I had to be curious about music, art, history, how to build stuff, how to cook, what are the secrets of the Universe.

Over time, I’ve come up with a few favorite questions I like to ask people when I first meet them.

Here’s one:

What’s your favorite word, and why?

You can learn a lot about people from their favorite word.  It tells you about their personality, their breadth of knowledge, even their reading history.

When I was a journalist in the music business, I had a lot of access to rock stars, producers, managers and record executives.  Most were not that interesting.  But I learned a lot about the biz, the good, the bad, the ugly and the rare beauty.

My favorite word is “resonance.”

I love how the sound of the word is so resonant itself.  It permeates my body, mind, my thoughts.

We are all vibrating beings and to resonate means we are in harmony, in tune, vibrating together.  We are on the same frequency.  Or perhaps a complimentary one.  Like an octave, a fifth or some other beautiful interval.

Maybe that’s why I’m a musician, composer and music teacher.  But I believe resonance goes beyond that.  It goes through our thinking, being, feeling.  It’s in my cooking.  It’s in how I walk, I laugh, I run, I ride a bike.  Resonance.

What’s your favorite word?  Why?  Please share below.

growth joyful living

How To Design An Exceptional Life

Are you feeling stuck?  There’s a way to take control of your life.   Whether you are looking to increase your wealth, health or happiness, this will make a difference.  You can design an exceptional life.  And you can get started right now.

To begin, let’s clear  the decks.  Your mental space, physical space;distractions ,noise.

Take a moment.  Shut the door.  Turn off all the sounds.  If you need to, get outside of your normal environment.  Nature can be therapeutic.

Let It Go

Using breath awareness can quickly transform your emotional and mental state.
Sit comfortably.   Take in a deep breathe and let out all the stress and anxiety of the day.  Breathe in, let it out, and do it again.  Flush out all the toxins by breathing out as long as you can until your stomach caves in.  Try to make your lungs as empty as possible with each breath.

Get Yourself in A Resourceful State

Breathe in deeply.  Now let it out slowly to a count of five.  Do this 5 times.
Now you are ready to tap into your greatest resources with questions.

Ask A Better Question

To improve the quality of a life, it begins with questions.  Isn’t thinking just questions?  (Hey, that’s a question!)

Most of us have the same average questions running in the operating systems of our minds.  They were installed long ago without us even thinking.

It’s funny when comedians say it, because they give voice to what’s inside our heads.
“Ugh, why do I have to go to work today?”
“Is he looking at me weird?  Why does everyone hate me?”
“Ugh, I can’t believe I did that.  What’s wrong with me?”

These types of statements and questions are so common and yet so damaging.  They make you feel terrible.  Would you speak to someone you care about in that manner? Then why do you speak to yourself that way?  These negative questions set a standard because the way they are phrased make it seem that they contain truth- but they don’t..

“Why does everyone hate me?”

Really?   I am hated – is that really true?  Of course not!
“What’s wrong with me” presupposes that there is something actually wrong with me.

These types of questions take you down a certain path that do not lead you to your best resourceful self and to your own exceptional life.

Here’s some daily questions I use to put myself in a fantastic state.

1) What Is My Mission?

Do you have a goal or goals?  What about more than a goal, do you have a purpose?  A mission?
By writing it down daily, it steeps into your consciousness.  It gets into your blood, your body, and triggers the magic.

2) If I Could Live Today Over Again?

Time is fleeting.  When I became a father, I became much more aware of time.  It’s incredible how fast it goes.  When my son was two, it was difficult as I was sleeping very little.  But then it was gone so quick.  He went from crawling to standing to walking to running and riding a bike.  It’s crazy.  By answering this question BEFORE the day begins, I become aware of what’s important right now and what I  NEED to do to make my use of this time complete.

3) What Is My Theme For This Year?

For the past few years, I’ve been using a theme to motivate myself.  It’s different than a goal which is usually external.  This is how I will act, be and feel as I move towards this goal.   Example, “The year of compassionate kindness and loving myself.”

4) What Do I Get To Enjoy Today?

You ever feel like everyone is having all the fun?  That everyone really is living like their Instagram and Facebook feeds?  To quiet this part of the mind, I use this question.  By answering it, I get to know that I have taken time to choose an activity that I too will enjoy today.  It’s important to have time to do what you enjoy.

Read a detective mystery.  Walk in the park.  Sit by the water.  Have a cup of tea.

5) Who or What am I Most Grateful For?

Gratitude has been shown to be the most important feeling for happiness in life.  So ask yourself a question that makes you feel grateful.  Start your day with gratitude flowing through your whole body.

I spend a few minutes giving thanks to my Creator.  My family, our well-being, our love and health.  My mentors, angels, teachers and associates who guide and help me every single day.  My Mom who left the world way too soon and gave me so many talents, gifts and confidence.  Thank you.  My mother-in-law, who taught me about kindness, compassion and welcomed me into her family.  My friend, mentor and teacher, Andy Blackett who has shaped my life in so many ways.

But Isn’t This Just Talking To Myself?

I know there is skepticism as to how asking yourself different questions  can actually do anything.  “I’m just talking to myself” you may say. But the way you talk to yourself, your “self-talk” or thoughts actually shape the way you experience your reality. Nothing is more important than learning to ask yourself the right questions to begin designing your exceptional life!

In future posts, I’ll delve into the metaphysical magic that makes this all work.  And I’d love to know how you get on with your lifestyle design.  Please share in the comments below.


focus joyful living purpose

How To Stop The Mental Focus Deprivation Torture

A Kafka-esque World

Everyone’s racing around trying to get more done.  Faster. More, more, more.  It’s a system of torture kind of like a Kafka-esque world where we don’t know why we’re rushing around but we know it’s important.  We are becoming shallow and it’s all because of focus deprivation.

Uber Generation

Hard to believe only ten years ago, the iPhone was introduced to the world.  And it’s changed us.  It’s made us always “on.”  Caffeinated, pumped-up, arrogant, “Uber generation.”   Whomever pushes further, faster with the sharpest elbows wins.

There are lab rats who would rather ingest cocaine than even food.  Every few seconds, a beep, buzz, chime alerts them to another dose.  It’s the same with the modern smartphone user.

I’m no luddite or ditching my phone anytime soon.  (I’m an Apple fanboy since 1985!)  But to truly make an impact in the world (and isn’t that what we all want?) we need to slow it down.

And we need blocks of uninterrupted time so we can work with deep focus.

This is impossible when we have a lifestyle that encourages shallow thinking.   Open office plans may be great for sales people or customer service.  These folks need to be reacting to others all day.  But for anyone who needs to think deeply, it’s torturous.  It’s kind of like sleep deprivation where someone pokes you every 5 minutes.   Focus and deep work can never happen with constant interruption.

So How To Get Mental Focus?

For getting impactful, meaningful work done, we need blocks of deep focus time.  And that requires you to…

Turn off your notifications!

Try it for a day.  A week.  You just may want to continue longer.  You don’t need someone else telling you that they are important.  You need to preserve the sanctity of your focus.

Turn off your notifications!

And see your productivity soar.  Do not continue this self torture by being a lab rat for Facebook.

Turn off your notifications!


music purpose

The surprising struggle with composing music for media

For the past twenty or so years, I’ve been involved as a composer for theater, film, television and other media.  In the past, I have done projects for commercial advertisers pushing products and services that I didn’t always believe in.

That’s tough.  Because there’s a conflict internally.  And while I wanted to create the best possible music analogue to the message, it became more and more difficult with projects I couldn’t believe in.

Belief.  It’s the only thing that makes us who we are.  Our beliefs and our values.

Recently I was invited to create the soundtrack and trailer music for a new podcast.  The subject is about immigrants and the deportation of the most vulnerable of them.  As a child of immigrant parents, married to an immigrant, it’s something I can get behind.

While I don’t condone illegal immigration, I do think the way we treat people who are here, no matter how they arrived is a reflection on our society.

The podcast is called Indefensible and is sponsored by the Immigrant Defense Project.  



I Was Fired

I was fired.

It was a dream job.  Or what I thought was a dream job.  The pay was awful but the perks were amazing.  That’s the paradox of the music business.  All the free records, CDs and t-shirts you could possibly carry home daily.  Oh salary?  You want to get paid for this?

It was an independent marketing company.  I started as an intern even though I was only a junior in college.  It was not required for my coursework.  But I knew that the sooner I started, the easier it would be to find work in this crazy competitive industry.

We promoted music and bands that were so far from the mainstream.  With names like Anthrax and Megadeth, it was no wonder executives at major labels had no idea how to work this stuff.

On my first day at “work,” we ended early with beers at our desk for a birthday for one of the guys.  Then, we all went to see Metallica play a show at the Felt Forum.  Backstage, I met with a Who’s Who of heavy metal.   I was in heaven.

Remember Al Gore’s wife, Tipper? 

Around this time, the mid 1980’s, she and Susan Baker, wife of Treasury Secretary James Baker, started what became our greatest nemesis: the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC.)  It was probably Ozzy Osbourne, our client, who bit the head off a live bat onstage that caught her attention.

In testimony before Congress, Susan Baker said,  “There certainly are many causes for these ills in our society, but it is our contention that the pervasive messages aimed at children which promote and glorify suicide, rape, sadomasochism, and so on, have to be numbered among the contributing factors.”  The PMRC began pushing record companies for a ratings system, like the film industry, to warn parents about the evil music. 

Want To Sell More?  Get Banned

Of course, putting a sticker that says “Parental Warning” only made our clients music even more desirable to the kids.  Banned music?  I gotta hear this!  It probably was the greatest galvanizing force that helped our movement.


Because I joined a small company of less than 10 people, I was the lowest man on the totem pole.   One day I had an epiphany.  What if I recruited, trained and managed other interns?  Even though I wasn’t being paid, I could promote myself to management!

I presented my plan.  Of course, my boss agreed.  It was a win-win-win situation.  He had free labor.  I was promoted.  The interns were getting their first step into the music business.

An Army of Interns

We interns became part of a telemarketing force.  By calling independent, taste-making record shops across the country, we could introduce our clients and their music to the early adopters.  We would call, ship out a free package of goodies and soon, people in small towns would be talking about this cool new band, Guns N’ Roses.  This was back before the internet, mobile phones, Google.  Now it seems so antiquated.  But it worked.

Cold Calling

I became close friends with hundreds of shopkeepers and record store clerks by phone.  It was kind of amazing.  How could they resist?  I was just calling to ask them what was selling and if I could send them some free stuff that they would love.  It also really helped my shyness.  It was basically cold calling.  But the thing about cold calling, it’s a mental game.  You need to get past your fears, inhibitions and resistance.  I discovered that if I warmed up first by joking around with my colleagues, I would be in a better mood on the phone.  The hardest people were the owners of the stores.  They were busy!  They didn’t want to hear from some kid in New York City.   I started smiling before dialing.  Forcing myself to laugh right before they picked up the phone so that it was if we had already started the conversation and were past the awkward stage.  It worked incredibly well.  The more I just talked as if we had known each other already, the easier it was.  And, I truly believed in what we were doing and promoting.

And there was a side benefit.

It made me less awkward with talking to girls.  In fact, I made several long distance “girlfriends” over the phone.

So how did I end up getting fired?


I was young, brash, impatient.  There’s a fine line between confident competence and arrogance.  And even though I had the support of my boss, I caused a lot of friction in the office.  In hindsight, I also realize there was probably a bit of envy and jealousy among my coworkers.  I was the golden boy of the office.  But I was too naive then to realize this.  I still believed in meritocracy. 

One day, my boss took me aside for some mentoring.  He said, “You’re like a wild horse.  You’ve got such great ideas, but nobody can ride you.”

And it was true.  Thinking back, it was a great gift to be fired.  I needed to move on and wouldn’t just quit.  I needed to be pushed.  And, I needed to get a wakeup call.  Creativity, passion and action are great, but it doesn’t matter if you don’t fit in.

The Nail and the Poppy

This makes me think of the old story from Asia.  “The nail that sticks up will be hammered down.”  I think that’s from China.  Pretty good summary of Communism.  Or I think in New Zealand they say” the poppy that sticks out will be cut.” It’s fit in or die.

This is a struggle I’ve had all my life.  How to be remarkable, unique and different and still fit in, somewhere.

I haven’t given up on meritocracy completely.  It’s just that I know there’s a balance in life.  You can be amazing, brilliant and unique but still be kind, compassionate and generous.  I’m not the man I was at 24.  Hopefully, a bit wiser, kinder and more generous.

I went on to get fired several more times in my life.  It seems, it took me a long time to realize I’m an entrepreneur at heart.

awakening growth joyful living process spirit

A new mantra to smooth out your day

What is a mantra?

A statement or slogan repeated frequently.

Many times, the words I hear in my head were not consciously chosen.  They just keep cycling through.  Things my Mom said or my Dad told me.  Sometimes they are not so good and I really need to excise them like a bloody tumor!

But words have power.

By designing the words that are in my human operating system, I can begin to change from within.

When I became a father, I consciously deleted all cursing from my vocabulary.  It wasn’t easy, but I really wanted to be a good role model for my son.  I used  to curse like a sailor.  And it wasn’t conscious.  I just picked it up from the environment I was in.  After a few months of catching myself, it became easier.

A new mantra

Everything that happens is neither good nor bad.  It just is.

Next time you feel frustrated, impatient and angry, realize that it is based on a judgement.

You are perceiving that something is not happening the way you think it should be.

No judgement.

Strike Should

The word “should” is a clue.  Whenever you hear it, run away.  Strike it from your vocabulary.  There are no shoulds.  Stop shoulding on the world.

No judgement.

Start using that phrase as internal mantra.  Your new self-speak.  Hear it in your head.  “No judgement.

Just let the moment pass over you as if you were watching from afar.  What used to cause you pain will have no effect anymore.

No judgement.


awakening big picture inspirational quotes joyful living spirit

What favorite quote has changed your life?

What favorite quote inspires and uplifts you? 

Do you have a favorite quote you live by?

Mine comes from a Zen Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh.  It has resonated throughout my being for decades now.

“My actions are the ground I stand on.”

It is so powerful yet simple.  Stop talking and do it.  Do the right thing.  For if you do not, you are standing on quicksand.

“My actions are the ground I stand on.”

At the end of a life, what else will you have? 

All the material possessions, they turn to dust.  They are just trinkets, baubles or as Robert Kiyosaki calls them, “doodads.”  Meaningless.

But to have live a life of right minded action?  The experiences, results, all flow from how we be and do.

A few thousand years ago, Siddhartha Gautama, a man, became known as the enlightened one.  The Buddha.  His teachings became what is now known as either a religion or a philosophy depending on who you talk to.  One of the most powerful teachings is the Eightfold Path.

These 8 steps lead to a path of a good and successful life.  It’s a Middle Way – not too hot and not too cold.  Just right.  It’s like the original 7 Habits of Highly Successful People!  Only one louder!

Here is the Eightfold Path

  1. Right Understanding
  2. Right Intent
  3. Right Speech
  4. Right Action
  5. Right Livelihood
  6. Right Effort
  7. Right Mindfulness
  8. Right Concentration

These are not rigid rules or commandments.  It’s not authoritarian.  It’s a self-help book.  It’s the original coaching program.  Thanks Sidd!

Anyone Can Use Them

And you don’t have to call yourself Buddhist to benefit.  These days I call myself Catholic and Buddhist.  Perhaps one day I’ll expand that to other labels too.

But there’s no conflict.  All spiritual paths are good.  There is no difference.


Sure there are religious practices that look different from the outside.

  • Making the sign of the cross.
  • Bowing to Mecca.
  • Chanting in Hebrew.
  • Chanting in Latin.
  • Chanting in Sanskrit or Pali.

It’s all the same with minor external differences.

The real culprit in the world is absolutism

Puritanism.  Fundamentalism.  Holding too strongly to anything.  I’ve seen it in all areas of life.  Snobbery leads to arrogance leads to condescension and separatism.  It’s tribalism.

There are coffee snobs who would never ever drink Dunkin’ Donuts coffee.

Wine purists who do not drink Merlot.

Music teachers who have frozen in time all methods of certain master teachers as if time stood still.

People who judge others by the shoes they wear, the cars they drive, the words they use.

Hmm.  That’s it.  Judgement

“No judgements.”  That’s another good quote to live by.

It gets in the way.  Acceptance is the new middle way.

And to accept I need to change my thinking, being and doing.

“My actions are the ground I stand on.”

awakening spirit

Do you know how to hear the secret chord?

“Well I heard there was a secret chord
That David played and it pleased the Lord”

– Leonard Cohen, Hallelujah

I’ve been listening for that chord. 

It haunts me.  Just when I think I hear it, it slips away like a distant echo.  A foghorn on the black lake in the mist.

Years ago, in Thailand, I heard someone call my name.  I turned around, and there was a guy I didn’t recognize.  He was incredulous.

“Don’t you remember me?”

“No.  How do I know you?”

“We spent last summer in Taiwan together.”

“I wasn’t in Taiwan last summer.  In fact, I was only there once as a child.”

“No, dude, you were there.  It’s me Carter.”

“Carter?  Well, I don’t know how you know me but I don’t think we ever met before.”

We ended up spending days together.

We talked and talked. It was as if every question I had, he had the answer to.  And every question he had, I had the answer to.  It was like the secret chord was not a sound, but rather a conversation.

I slip in and out of periods of extreme magic. 

Unswerving faith in an invisible sun and powerful connection with a force.

And then I go all the way to the other side.

It’s like the title of a book I read long ago:  power versus force.

Sometimes I’m surfing the waves of power. 

Effortless, magical waves of abundance flow through me.

And then I get stranded on a rock.

Unable to move, marooned for what feels like eternity. 

No matter how hard I try, it seems I make little progress.

And then I remember to let it go. 

I breathe into the wind.  I let it lift me and somehow I get a little lighter.  The color of the light changes and I begin to move with flow.  The distant mountain that I so desperately sought flashes by me as I reach even higher vistas without effort.  I smile with relief.

Until I forget it all again.

Lately, I’ve been remembering again.

It all begins with internal dialog.  Is it filled with awe and gratitude?  Or has it turned to checklists and self-critiques?

I begin to practice saying it over and over.

“I love you.”
“I love you.”
“I love you.”

And a slight tingle begins.

“I love you.”
“I love you.”
“I love you.”

I try to remember this throughout the day.

It’s easiest to remember in the grey dawn light before lists and worries start to crowd the edges of my mind.

“I love you.”
“I love you.”
“I love you.”

Today I awoke at 4:34 am.

I laid in bed with my mantra.  Letting it flush through me, a golden sparkly white light coming in waves.

And out there, on the edge, somewhat distant, I think I hear it.

The secret chord.

growth purpose

Chris Cornell asked me this question in 1990

I heard the terrible news about Chris Cornell’s suicide.  I was laying sick in bed with a horrible cold and had spent a few feverish nights.  It was something Chris said to me that echoed through my head for decades.

Back in the late 80’s, I was working as a freelance journalist for MTV and other publications.   The band had just signed to major label A&M, and their publicist was keen to set up an interview.

I absolutely loved the album.

Louder Than Love was the perfect combination of old classic riffs a la Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin fueled with some punk vitality.  I dived back to hear their earlier stuff on SubPop and was similarly impressed.  What also resonated with me was the ethnic diversity of Soundgarden.  As a young Asian American, I was astound by the fact that guitarist, Kim Thayil and bassist, Hiro Yamamoto were Asian!

Growing up in an all-white suburb on Long Island, I was an outsider all my life.  It was only through music, rock and roll, that I began to find some common ground with my peers.  I had never seen anything like this!

We set up an interview and met at a restaurant.  It was Chris and Kim and we just hung out.  Nice normal guys.  It was their first time in NYC and they knew about a party.  I tagged along.  We spent the whole night going from party to party.  At one point, we were hanging out with guitars and I showed Kim a funky slap style which he thought was kinda cool.

I wrote an article for MTV-to-Go Magazine.  Then wrote up a segment for MTV Headbanger’s Ball.    The album came out and was getting a bit of attention.  But this was still 1989.  Remember Bobby Brown’s My Perogative?   Straight Up from Paula Abdul and pretty boy hair metal bands like Poison were top of the charts.    Soundgarden was too dark and dangerous, yet.

About a year later, I was a panelist at an industry trade show for hard rock/heavy metal.  I ran into Chris in the parking lot and we greeted each other.  I was happy he had remembered me.  But then as he was turning to leave, he stopped and said, “Hey man, when are YOU going to be famous?”

I don’t recall what I said, but it was a strange feeling.  What does that mean?  Did he see something in me?   

Within a few months, I was selected as one of the new on-air hosts for MTV Asia based in Hong Kong with a satellite footprint of millions!  I was the daily host of the morning show, Classic MTV and a weekly top 20 countdown.

It was the early 90’s and I was living in Hong Kong, not in touch with the music scene in the US.   Asian audiences were very conservative and we were broadcasting Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson and Mariah Carey.

But, by December 1991, a bunch of us at MTV gathered to watch Nirvana’s new video, Smells Like Teen Spirit.  It was like a bomb had dropped.  It was fantastic and instantly I knew music was going to shift.  But I never expected it to change in such a big way.

When I was an intern at a marketing agency in the mid 80’s, we worked with under-served artists at major labels, specifically heavy metal bands.  No one at big labels knew what about this music or how to handle it.  It wasn’t played on mainstream radio.  It was underground.  And yet, hard rock and heavy metal bands had been filling stadiums for years.  A perfect problem to solve.

We broke these bands to a level of success.  But it was still far from the mainstream.

By 1994, Soundgarden’s album Superunknown debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200.  I was still in Asia and read it in the news.  I was shocked.  Soundgarden is in the mainstream?!  It was like music had changed overnight.  Nirvana broke the floodgates open and gone were all the teased hair pretty boys.

I recall thinking how I would probably get to interview Chris again at some point and tell him, “Hey man, do you remember what you said to me?”

It was probably an offhand remark.  I don’t think he would remember it.  But it was like he had given me permission to be something more than I even believed at the time.   

Thank you Chris.  For everything.  Your music, songwriting, voice, stage presence.  You were undeniably one of the greatest.

But for me, it was the gift of a question that reverberates still.

Photo: Variety
awakening growth purpose

How Do You Know If You Are In the Season Of Yes or No?

What Season Are You In?  The Season of Yes Or the Season of No?

So many times, you and I, we get stuck.  We get stuck in the details.

You say you’re going to create a new project?  But then, you look around and see that it’s already been done before.  Or something similar. 

You say to yourself, “Why even bother?  It’s not so unique.  It’s been done before.”

But the problem with that, is it may have been done, but not in your way.

You Don’t Always Have To Be First

Here’s the thing.  It’s not what you do, but how you do it that counts

You know how Apple has become the most valuable company in the world?  It’s NOT by being completely original, unique and novel.

No, what they are known for, is coming in with an improvement on what’s been done before.  Just last week, they announced a new home speaker with artificial intelligence.  Sounds just like the Amazon Echo, Tap, etc.  But, it’s a little different.  It’s done differently.  The execution is flawlessly Apple-like.  They’ve created an aura around their products.

Say you have an idea for a book that is kind of like a detective mystery, but in New York City.  How many detective books have already been set in NYC?  A ton.  But it doesn’t matter.  It’s how you execute the book.  It’s your style, your delivery, your voice that will attract others to your work.


A lot of my clients have businesses or want to start a business. 

These “want-trepreneurs” have yet to take action because they have talked themselves out of it.  I hear, “Well there’s so many version of that already.  Or they say, “I’m a life coach, how am I going to make a difference when there are so many other life coaches in the world?”


“How am I going to get enough music students when they can all just take Skype lessons or find one of the big schools.”

You can actually insert any job, role or title into this “Why does anyone need another ______ in the world?”

But why does anyone need any more of anything in the world?

This is no way to talk to yourself.  Self-talk, well that’s a whole conversation in itself – no pun intended.

You can always look at it as the glass being half empty, or half full.  It’s up to you.

The Danger of Over-Analyzing

If you over-analyze any project, endeavour, business venture – just about anything, you can always find a reason to say “no.”  But, you can also always find a way to say “yes.”

The Season of Yes

If you’re in the early stages of a new business, new career or want to start a new side project, then you need to be in the SEASON OF YES.   Say “Yes” to it all.  Opportunities can only come if you say yes and open the doors.  You never know what opportunities will happen that could not have happened without you taking a few steps in this new direction.

The Season Of No

Much later on, when you are established and humming along in your new project or business, that’s when you need to start shifting to the SEASON OF NO.  I heard of stories saying that Warren Buffet says no to 99% of the opportunities presented to him.  He is definitely in the Season of No.

food recommended reading

A surprising new way to eat – no lectins!

I’ve recently begun cooking, shopping and eating in a new way.  It all came from a book, The Plant Paradox – the hidden dangers in healthy foods by Steven R. Gundry, MD which I learned about from Peter Diamandis.

All Roads Lead To The Gut

While I’ve been very much a conscious eater for the last 30 years of my life, I’ve begun discovering how much of our health is sourced back to the health of our gut.  The microbiome inside our stomachs are what keeps us healthy and when not, is responsible for something like 90% off disease!

Having battled skin issues like eczema, acne and dry skin patches for years with over the counter steroid creams, I knew I was only removing the symptoms and not the true root of the problem.

The Plant Paradox book goes into heavy detail, with scientific reasoning and anecdotal results, though from over 10,000 patients of Dr. Gundry.  The basic message is, we’ve been told all the wrong things about food.  It’s not about eating more protein, or eating only vegetables or only whole grains, in fact it’s all about lectins.

Lectins are a protein found in plants.  It’s what the plant produces to ward off bugs and predators as it gives anyone who eats them a bad stomach.  But over the hundreds of years, we’ve disconnected this cause and effect.  It’s the reason why peanuts cause so many issues, some immediately life-threatening.

So big surprises in my new shopping list and meal plans.

Good Fats are the Most Important

Olive oil, avocados, chocolate, walnuts, pistachios, almonds are my new favorite friends.

No nightshades!

This includes eggplants, peppers and tomatoes, all big favorites of my old diet!

No grains at all!

We humans are basically not meant to eat grains.  It’s the outer husk that is most problematic.  Brown rice is actually worse than the white rice, which is probably why the Chinese have been removing the shells from rice for thousands of years!    Whole grain bread – no way!

In my early reading of this book, I’ve found that the Yes list and No list of foods are pretty helpful and can be easy to follow.  It’s just the old habits and cravings that make it hard.

Bread?  Pizza?  Chips? Beer?

Well, it was nice to have known you once.

At least I can still have some wine and cheese, oh French cheese that is.  You’ll have read the book to get all the details.  I especially like the new food pyramid he offers.

Fiction and Poetry Writing

A Foreign Country – a very short story

“Hey, your friends are over there.”

“What?  Excuse me?”

“Your friends.  I just saw them over there.”

I was completely confused.  Here I was in a completely foreign town in the middle of Wisconsin, in a shopping mall I had a never been in and this stranger says, my friends are over there.

Uh, thanks.”  I said, not really sure what to make of it.

As I continued walking through this huge mall, I noticed a group of Asian tourists standing by the Orange Julius.


musings Writing


LavenderAt age 7, I used to lay on the grass lawn of our suburban home, head cradled in my hands, staring at the clouds drifting past.  I was acutely aware of the sounds reaching me and they would begin pulling pieces of me to their sources; the dog behind the house barking, above and to the left a small plane passing by, the swish-swish-jerk of the sprinkler across the street, the passing cars, and in the distance a tractor trailer roaring past on the highway.

On summer nights, when it was too hot to sleep in the beds, my father would leave the front door open and lay out bamboo mats on the living room floor.  I would lay for hours taking in the night sounds.  There was a party going on several blocks away and suddenly, I was there, dancing to the music, wandering around the party, only to sneeze and find myself back on the living room floor.

Or the sound of the train whistle from several towns away would have me wondering where it was going.  Where would I want to be going at this time of night on a train?  I couldn’t wait to grow up, to get out there and explore the world of these sounds.

When I reached my teens, I realized that I could chart my own course towards futures that  used to seem out of reach.  I devoured piles and piles of books, building new worlds inside myself, and forever living in this imagined but very real future.

As I grew into a young man, I continued living with this future focus.  It astounded me to see others glide into new abilities and graceful poise with ease.  I continually felt “late.”  It was like everyone else got the invite a couple of years ago and I just found out about the party.  I was always feeling like a “late bloomer.”

A sense of being out of sync continued.  But it swung the other way.  I was in constant angst, frustration and impatience for the future to hurry up and arrive!  I dove into technology, innovation – anything ‘new and improved’ caught my eye.  I lived on the bleeding edge of innovation, always the way-early-adopter and impatient for the rest of the world to catch up.

Other times I would be walking down the street and see someone looking at me.  I would see them and think, they look kind of familiar…where did I see this person? Awkward.  They would turn out to be someone I worked with at a job just last year and would be miffed I couldn’t even remember them.

And then I met M.

She was my opposite in so many ways.   I didn’t think too much at first, but within a week, I was smitten, enchanted; I couldn’t stop thinking about her.  I loved the way she would stop me in the middle of one of my “big fascinating idea rants” and say, “Don’t you love how those flowers smell?”

“What?  What flowers?”

“On that tree we just passed.”

“Um.  Oh yeah.”

At first, it would drive me nuts when I was talking about some big amazing new idea that was oh-so important and her eyes would drift over to a baby in a stroller walking past.  She would start talking to the baby and I would just stop and wonder, what was I saying?”

After a while, I did start to notice these “little” details.  It was like I was so far in the future that I couldn’t even notice the present.

It’s been over two decades since beginning my re-entry into the “real world.”  A part of me still feels like I’m late, but in the last few years, I’ve begun to get this sense that perhaps I’m a bit early.

You know that Seinfeld episode where Elaine is dating the bald guy?  Jerry says, “What is he, from the future?”