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Gooding, fall in the woods

A year and a half ago, my wife and I and our three dogs put everything we owned into a Penske and moved from Los Angeles, California, to a small town right outside Nashville, Tennessee, called Kingston Springs.

We moved from a city of 4,000,000 to a town of around 2,000.

It’s been an adjustment, to say the least. We went from 10 lanes of highway to roads narrow enough to barely pass. We went from concrete and grass that wouldn’t grow (and we shouldn’t have been planting) to a zillion trees and a bazillion bugs. I went from a blue state to a neighbor with a “Hillary For Prison” sign (yes, it’s still up one year after the election).

I went from neighbors who seldom spoke to one another in LA to strangers bringing you baked goods and checking in on you just because.

From smog to humidity. From palm trees and 70 degrees in the winter to nine degrees at night. I traded my fear of earthquakes for my fear of floods (I grew up in Kansas so the occasional tornado is no sweat).

Touring from here is 10 times easier. We are close to 100 markets and don’t have to cross the Rockies all night to get home. Everything is cheaper here. Nashville thinks they have traffic, but, God love ’em, it’s pretty easy to get around. Coming home at night after a show inside the city, I feel like the whole world left the highway to me alone.

There are janitors out here that write better songs than anyone singing on The Voice.

I’ve met some of the nicest people I have ever met in my life here, and soon after I arrived, Carter Hulsey, one of my favorite songwriters (literally up there with Dylan, Cohen, Willie) and his incredible crew moved into town. Working with him and knowing his friends and family has been an absolute joy.

Though I’m really bad at taking the day off, down the road are state parks, canoes, and zip lines, and I recently cleared a little nature path from the back door of my studio down to a nearby creek.

There is so much to love here, it’s crazy. I have so much more than any one person deserves. And yet, when something doesn’t break my way, when I don’t feel at home or I am suffering a setback of any kind, the same thought creeps in. Some variation of…

“If I were still in LA, then…”

“This wouldn’t have happened in California.”

“At least back in California I could have…”

Excuses. Victimhood. Whining. Garbage.

The same things I fought there, I fight here.

The same fears I had there, I have here.

The war is with myself. Same as it ever was.

Am I going to write every single morning? Am I going to speak truth to power? Am I going to finish what I’m working on and send it out the door? Am I going to jump out of bed and get my blood flowing or lie there for a minute running through my fine-turned but worthless list of regrets? Am I going to get up earlier and create something before the day gets to rolling over me with its little fires and demands? Am I going to become more kind and patient or more fearful and bent out of shape?

Am I going to return the emails and check all social media or am I gonna make excuses for how my creativity suffers if I work too hard outside of the songs themselves? (It doesn’t, by the way—that’s another pillar we hide behind ’cause we are either afraid of failure or afraid of success—or, God forbid, both.)

Am I going to make new friends and network or am I gonna stay at my house at night and read books or binge-watch Netflix and hide out?

Am I going go max my workouts or just stay at a plateau?

Am I going to save money and build things that help others or buy crap I don’t need?—or, worse yet, curse money as the root of all evil so I don’t have to stand on a line and fight to be the successful person I know inside I can be, and the person this world needs me to be if I’m gonna make any change.

Location won’t solve this for me. Nashville or LA or anywhere else. Granted, you gotta be near a city large enough to have some industry, and while I believe the internet is making the world much smaller every second, nothing beats face-to-face or the energy of a city. (I also think there is growth in leaving your hometown, at least for a while) But 99 percent of the improvements I want to make in myself, in this world, and in my career have everything to do with slaying my own demons and getting better at what I HAVE CONTROL OVER. I imagine it might be the same for you as well. We are all trying to get by and all trying to get a little better.

Of all the incredible capabilities and faculties we have as human beings, none are more honed and ready for battle than our abilities to make excuses.

We can instantly, almost magically, rewrite our own stories, our own histories to fit whatever template keeps us from growing, BECOMING. Whatever excuses allow the resistance to wrap itself around us like a warm blanket. A blanket of fear that we don’t know is actually suffocating us until we have lost days, weeks, years making excuses.

The war is with myself. Same as it ever was.

But if only I could… I love this, BUT… I would like to try to do this, BUT… I love you, BUT…

Everything before the BUT is bulls**t.

When I was young and afraid to move away from home—worried about money, whether I had what it took, whether my family would be OK, whether A, B, C, or D—little did I know that moving only changes things so much. You are who you are wherever you go. You start every day with the choice to recreate yourself or fill your day with things that, frankly, don’t matter, and neither you nor anyone else will ever remember happened. I have wasted a lot of years working myself to death with WHATEVER CAME AT ME versus MY CLEAR AND CONCRETE GOALS. Live your life or someone else will have you living theirs. The key for me is making sure that, no matter what happens between sun up and sun down, I get some writing done, that I got a work out in, that I am kind to strangers, that I make some uncomfortable phone calls, that I try to GIVE instead of take. That I focus on the process and not the results.

The war is with myself. Same as it ever was.

We gotta get out of our comfort zones. The only way out is through.

Do you compliment someone you know is doing great work or do you feel jealous and stay quiet?

Do you tell your loved ones how much you care about them or do you figure they know ’cause you are around, working hard, etc.?

Do you try to listen to someone with a totally different perspective than you or do you assume you must disagree on EVERYTHING? (I am terrible about this and forget that we have so much more in common than we think.)

Will we reach beyond our grasp, jump in the deep end, and ASK?

Will we be bold enough to try ideas that we know damn well might fail? YES.

Have I failed before, and I’m still just fine and out here swinging? YES.

Do I know that failing is an inevitable part of LEARNING and building ANYTHING? YES.

Will I write the songs first thing in the a.m. before I’m too critical or worried about what anyone else thinks? YES.

Will I try to find the best in people? (When we don’t, we bring out the worst in people.) Will I continue to learn to meditate, even though my mind is a buzzing bee about 90 percent of the time? Will I max my workouts so I have more energy throughout the day and don’t get sick on tour and so I can sleep at night? Will I speak truth to power and try to create positive change in this world? YES.

Recommit. Look under the stones. Shine a light.

Anything else is that old mind killer, FEAR. Fear of failure. Fear of being made fun of. The resistance. Fear of others with different ideas than you. Fear of change. The same thing that stops great ideas cold, that stops progress, that gridlocks our hearts, our relationships, and, currently, our government.

Moving past fear. Adapting. Growing.

There is a five-dollar fee for whining. Put it in the tip jar.

I am slowly learning that all I have control over is how I attack the day. For me, the day is won or lost in the morning, before the bells and whistles. It may be a different time for you. (Seems every road manager we’ve ever had got their best work done between the time I went to sleep and when I got up, dead middle of the night. Noel Galan and Tyler Cossel, I’m thinking of you beasts.) But whatever those sacred hours are, there is only so much energy allotted per day to our hearts and minds. Here’s to not wasting them with excuses. With blame and with anger. With regret about everything we AREN’T or don’t have. Here’s to starting with what we ARE and what we DO HAVE and what we want to BECOME.

So if you aren’t in the town you want to be in right now, or don’t have the job you want, or don’t have A, B , C, etc., there is still no reason you can’t work on changing the way you SEE things. The way you react to things. We have to start where we are and improve the skills we have. I’ve got to learn to be a lot more grateful. I’ve got a long, long way to go with patience. I’ve got to use the internet for something other than checking news sites (which only spin me away from solving problems and into negative and short-term thoughts).

No matter what, there are still gonna be days where it takes everything I have to get going (that’s why I love tour so much—you don’t have a choice: 🙂 GET UP!), but once I get going, fear falls away, and one foot in front of the other, things are slowly being created and being built.

In the coming posts, I will share some tricks I’m learning to beat resistance (including my obsession with journals, keeping a daily discipline chart, conversations with others, and my new obsession with starting the day with “the worst first” :-)).

I hope you will share your ideas right back with me. Maybe we can both get a little better. I am in the fight with you. Thanks for reading.


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