Achieving Your Vision and Goals in Life - The 3 Tier System

I use a basic 3 Tier System I came up with to guide my actions with regard to achieving my vision and goals in life. It's not proprietary, so feel free to adopt some semblance of it in your own life, if you dig it.

The 3 Tier System is a metric to measure your everyday actions against your visions and goals, thus helping you achieve said vision and goals, if applied judiciously and effectively.

Obviously, you first need a vision and goals. Take some time to think about that and then write down your vision and goals for your life, no matter how far out or seemingly unobtainable (these are DREAMS we are talking about here, so go for broke!). The whole point of this system is to move you toward obtaining what you want from your life.

My vision and goals for life are to be a financially independent author and musician. I am not there yet. Thus, I still work for THE MAN, albeit not full time. But that is my simple vision and goals framework that I am aiming at. I could elaborate that I want to write and publish a non-fiction book about leading a productive and fulfilling life while working in soul sucking corporate America, and a science fiction novel, as well as get some of my original songs licensed for film and television. But you can write down as little or as much detail as you want and the 3 Tier System still works. That's the beauty of it.

If you don't have any vision or goals for your life...I'm sorry! But look on the bright can stop reading this blog post right...NOW! Maybe go smoke some meth or whatever.

For everyone else, here's an overview of the 3 Tier System.

Tier 1 actions are those actions that directly promote and foster your vision and goals. Writing books (or parts of books), composing and performing songs, and research related to those things (reading similar books and listening to similar music) are Tier 1 actions for me as an aspiring writer and performing musician/songwriter. I can include band practice and blogging as Tier 1 actions because they make me a better musician and writer, respectively, much like an athlete trains for official competitive events by doing daily workouts. I can include my mini house concert videos online as Tier 1 because I am performing as well as promoting myself. Tier 1 can also be subdivided into 3 Tiers. Tier 1a might be getting a song or story published, literally hitting an actual goal. Reading a sci fi book, while moving me toward the goal of publishing a sci fi book, would be Tier 1c.

Tier 2 actions are neutral actions that don't affect your vision and goals negatively or positively either way. Eating healthy and sleeping and exercising are mission critical for mental and physical well being. They don't directly promote your vision and goals, but they are necessary to function effectively. So they don't hurt your dream chasing. Would I rather be doing Tier 3 actions as opposed to eating and sleeping? Of course. But Tier 2 stuff is necessary from time to time.

Tier 3 actions are those that work against your vision and goals. These are to be avoided whenever possible and stopped as soon as you recognize you are doing them. After a while, you will get used to recognizing and avoiding these. For example, going to my day job is a Tier 3 action. I have to do it to pay my bills but it is directly in opposition to achieving my vision and goals of financial independence through writing and music. Surfing social media is a Tier 3 action, unless it is used for the express purpose of promoting my vision and goals, such as creating a Facebook event for an upcoming show or posting a mini house concert video or sharing a useful blog post with people (like this one).

With everything you do, simply ask yourself, "What Tier is this with regard to my vision and goals for my life?" If it is Tier 3, ask yourself if it is something you really need to do. I need to go to my day job to pay my bills but to the extent I can avoid it, I do!

I consider socializing with friends to be a Tier 2 action, good for my mental health but not directly fostering my vision and goals. But drinking alcohol when I socialize is a Tier 3 action. So when I go out with friends, I often do not drink, especially if I know there are Tier 1 actions in my immediate future. Sure, I might have a beer to relax a little before a prestigious rock show I am nervous about, but I won't get hammered, because that will eff up my performance and lead me away from my vision and goals.

Any questions? I will respond to anyone who leaves a comment.

Happiness in the Face of Adversity

Due to a series of financial setbacks recently, I have been doing a lot of thinking about the never ending struggle to get ahead in this world. At the moment, it is easy for me to feel frustrated and demoralized. I work hard and I am frugal, but I just can't seem to get ahead of the tsunami of money hemorrhaging.

But nothing is as bad as it seems. Personal economics aside, I have a good and full life. 

Notwithstanding shorter hours at work, I have tons of flexibility in my job so that I can pursue my artistic endeavors (writing and music) and take time off (albeit unpaid) to travel. I have an unbelievably awesome and supportive girlfriend who also likes traveling, and my music. I am in good health and I have health insurance via the contracting firm that employs me.

The decreased hours at work actually gives me more free time off to pursue my true artistic passions. It's not like writing compliance documentation for an IT group at a hospital is my life's ambition. I don't crave more of it. When I am old and on my death bed, I am not going to regret working a soul sucking office job less!

It is easy to get down about money matters if you focus on dollars as a metric of well being. When I find myself falling into that trap, I stop myself. I tell myself that money is not what life is about. Passion is what life is about. And then I set about fulfilling my passions.

When I feel frustrated about money or life in general, I can relieve the anxiety by doing writing (like this!) or playing music. It satisfies my soul far more than money ever could and I am happy afterwards. Pursuing passion is like a happiness drug with no side effects. But it is short acting. If I go for too long without doing some writing or music, my stress cup fills up and starts to overflow.

Exercise, good diet, and rest help to empty the stress cup as well. I am lucky that I can walk or bike to work (5k round trip) and avoid driving my car, which I despise (actually, I despise other drivers). I don't have to put gas in my Prius more than about once per month. I can walk a block to the grocery store and since I merged households with my GF, my living expenses should go down, once I sell the albatross that is my house. I have control of my own life and I don't need to stress about the things I can't control, like vet bills and mortgage payments and decreased income and a depressed housing market.

I have a lot to be happy for and goddammit I am going to be happy, bitches!




And I say that with absolutely no sarcasm.

The apocalypse came yesterday. Everyone was either raptured or zombified.

I'm not sure how I avoided one or the other of those fates, but here I am.

And it is fantastic.

I am an introvert who has never liked people much. I enjoy quietude and now I have oodles of it.

No more lines. No more shitty drivers on the roads. No phone calls. No coworkers. No noise pollution. It's glorious.

The zombies don't worry me much. They are slow and dumb and mostly quiet. There aren't many of them here in the Bible Belt. Most around here got raptured. I guess the bar for getting into heaven must be pretty low.

Fear of Outside

I have long posited that after 911, people stopped going outside as much. I can’t verify this with science, but I observe fewer people doing things outside, like walking, biking, etc. People still do it, just not as much as they used to. I think it is because of the post-911 culture of fear.

This morning, I walked the 1.6 miles to work. It was a fantastic morning, sunny and cool, bordering on brisk. This is perfect weather for exerting oneself in a physical manner (aka a "constitutional"). Nonetheless, I only saw three other people during my 24 minute walk, which included a fair piece on a beautiful nature trail.

One guy was walking his dogs, two German shepherds, but as I got closer, I realized he was only taking them across the parking lot of a veterinarian’s office. I also saw one biker and one runner.

911 did something to Americans, making them more fearful of the world and each other. I think this accounts for fewer people “braving” the great outdoors. People go from their houses to their cars to work and rarely feel nature, but only briefly. They are scared. This is made all the more irrational because of the fact that you are in much greater danger of death or harm in your own house or in a moving car. Even workplaces are risky when compared to say the inside of a flying airplane (statistically one of the safest places). You are eight times more likely to be killed by a domestic police officer than a foreign or domestic terrorist.

Don't get me wrong, I hate people and love it when the nature trail is deserted so I can walk or bike in peace. I totally am not complaining. But objectively, people should be outside walking and biking around more. What are they afraid of?

Ask the Internet Brain

The Global Internet Brain (GIB) is full of information and most people have access to it via smart phones, computers, and other electronic devices.

I am confused why people seem to be dumber than ever, even with this resource at their fingertips.

Sure, not everything you find on the GIB is useful or factual. But a lot of it is. Yet people still seem to get their information via social media, which is rife with bias and fallacy, rather than using search engines to find and verify facts.

It’s almost like people are willfully ignorant.

Do the Work You Love and You'll Work for THE MAN a Lot of the Time

If I were only to do the work I love, I would be broke. Because although I am a very hard worker, the work I love is writing and music. It’s very hard to make money from these things. They are basically ARTS.

I work for THE MAN to get underwriting for my art. It’s not a bad gig. As a contract technical writer, I can set my own hours. I typically put in 32 to 35 hours per week on really super boring compliance documentation for an IT group at a hospital. Would I like to be doing something else less mind numbing with that day and a half? Sure. But I basically get 3 days off a week, more than most office workers. Plus, I can take unpaid leave any time I want, like when I go on a cruise next February for two weeks. That kind of stuff sets me back financially, but I plan ahead and save up the money. The freedom to exercise my travel bug is priceless. Plus, as an aspiring travel writer, the cruise (my first) means lots of fodder for writing.

There Are a Couple Musical Genres I Cannot Stand

I cannot lie. I have tried to embrace folk music. But I can’t. I think it’s awful. I don’t feel too bad about this. Most of the folk music lovers I know are equally disdainful of every other kind of music. So folk music seems to be a very eclectic acquired taste, and when you have a taste for it, you lose your taste for everything else. This is a broad generalization that anyone who has ever met a “bluegrass snob” will recognize as patently true on it’s face. I will be hated by folk music snobs just for saying this publicly. But honey badger...

I also can’t get into the blues. Blues music seems intellectually lazy to me (3 chords...maybe occasionally 4...with rare tolerable exceptions), and it mostly all sounds the same. Most of it seems to be simple chord progressions as a foundation for lead guitarists and horn players to show off their technical prowess at playing pentatonic scales upwards of 3 different ways (major, minor, and bendies when they land on the wrong note). It just gets real old for me real fast. Nothing against people who like it. In fact, the nice thing about blues snobs is that they tend to not be as closed minded toward other genres as folk music snobs are, as long as the other kinds of music have bluesy elements, like pentatonic riffs (most rock-n-roll…).

Conversely, I don’t dislike country music, even though it shares a lot of roots and similarities with folk music. It’s not my favorite genre, but there are some songs I like, in no small measure because I played in a country band for a while and grew to appreciate it.

Blues music’s more interesting counterpart is jazz, and I do like a lot of jazz. It’s intellectually superior, because you have to actually know a bunch of chords and music theory to do it well. I spent a few months playing bass at the Mason Lounge for Tuesday jazz night and really enjoyed being challenged to come up with interesting improvised bass parts.

I have been doing music for a long time and I have no real basis for disdaining blues and folk music. I just don’t “feel them,” as blues musicians say when trying to teach a song to a newbie musician.

“What are the chords?”

“Just feel it man.”

Blues lets you just feel it. Jazz doesn’t. You have to kind of know how to play your instrument and understand music.

Folk music is just way to much all about the FEELZ. They try too hard to get you to FEELZ and sometimes you just don’t want to fecking FEELZ that much. You just want to zone out and rock. Folk music does not rock. At all. Indeed, it seems to have an almost willful disenfranchisement of rocking. Bluegrass might be the exception, if it’s up tempo enough. But come on… “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald?” I am sorry those chaps met a watery end…but get over it. Move on.

I Can't Wait Around for Music Venues to Get Their @#$% Together...

I have to admit something…I don’t like booking shows at public music venues. With a few exceptions (you know who you are), booking agents at public music venues are the pits. I am often completely baffled as to why they were hired for the job. They are virtually unreachable by phone, email, social media, or other known forms of communication. When you do reach one, they are either rude or completely unhelpful or mean (like you are inconveniencing them). I didn’t start playing music to deal with people like that. I started playing music to deal with people who like listening to my music.

So I am through with public music venues. Or, at least I am through dealing with them. If someone else books me a show at a venue, I’ll play it. If it pays money, I will even give whoever booked the show 20% of the gross for their efforts and for having to deal with the dickish venue booking agent.

I am booking my own shows going forward. By this I mean establishing my own alternative venues and setting my own dates. How will I do this, you ask? Simple. My house is a music venue. I am no stranger to house concerts, having played them with my rock-n-roll band HIATVS (who actually have an official “no shitty music venue” policy when it comes to shows) at my house as well as other peoples’. I have also done online mini-house concerts where I basically set up a camera and microphone in my music room and perform for whoever wants to tune in and watch live (or watch later, because I can archive the videos on Youtube).

There are still a few good public music venues I will play going forward. Art Nest at the Cardinal Bar in Madison WI is a fun time. I often attend the open jam stage at Funks Pub on Sunday nights. The Tuvalu Coffee Shoppe in Verona is a nice place to play, though I haven’t played there in a while. I'd probably play Alchemy in Madison. Beyond that, public music venues will have to solicit ME to play there, not the other way around.