Why Social Media is Like Track and Field Day

Remember Track and Field Day? Being led out to the football field by Mrs. Rislov. All those different stations. Softball throw, gunnysack race, 100 meter dash.

We knew Nathan Berry or Kristi Glassman would win anyway. Why even try? Don’t teachers know better? In the second grade, all you’ve got for social leverage is your foot speed and who you invite to your birthday party. 

But every year on the last day of school, we’d line up on the track and wait for Mr. Blaze to fire his cap gun toward the clouds, signaling the beginning of our end, consummated by the the dreadful participation ribbon. 

One year, though, something came over me. Maybe it was something I ate for breakfast or maybe the anxiety adrenaline had been festering too long. Because when handed that softball, I flung it so far there wasn’t even an arc. Gone. Straight to softball heaven. In my mind, all my classmates lifted me above their shoulders and never let me down (I’m currently typing this while still on their shoulders “Espe, Espe, Espe…” they’re chanting.) 

That was the one time I didn’t receive a participation ribbon. Maybe it was worth all the other times. 

I think social media is a lot like Track and Field Day. Stay with me here…because don’t you think it’s kind of required these days? Sure, we can choose not to participate or get an excuse note from our parents, but it still doesn’t change the fact that it’s happening and most of our classmates are out there. 

Honestly, I’d rather watch from the sidelines (and I still often do). But I’ve been surprised that when I do choose to participate — when I put myself out there — sometimes something happens. A connection is made that at the very least is, “Hey, I see you, and I’m here, too.” But every once in a while it can be life altering.

What I’m talking about is participation ribbons, and blue ribbons. And the fact that we can’t get either one unless we go out on the field with Mrs. Rislov and line up. 


What My Typical Day Looks Like

Caleb asked if I’d write about what a typical day is like for me. Probably like you, mine changes a bit depending on the week or season, but for the most part, here it is… 

7am – wake up, hit the snooze, wake up again, shower.

7:30am – drink coffee, chat with Heidi, and prod Silas (our 7 year-old) to get dressed, brush teeth, comb hair.

7:45am – drive Silas to school (on the way home turn on NPR and listen to the news for song ideas).

8am – get Lorentz (almost 2) and August (4) dressed and ready for the day, while Heidi showers. 

8:30am – make my to-do list, turn TV on (news), get updated while listening for song ideas.

9am – walk to studio in backyard and write by myself for at least one hour.

10am – complete etc. stuff on my to-do list and prep for cowriting session.

11am – welcome cowriter to the studio, catch up (if someone I know) or get to know them, and figure out a song direction for the day.

11:30am – write a song.

4pm – cowriter leaves, and I begin production of song demo if I haven’t started already (sometimes I’ll begin production once we have completed a verse and chorus).

5pm – hang with Silas, August, and Lorentz. Usually play baseball in the backyard. 

6pm – dinner (if Friday, pizza!).

7pm – dishes, clean up, chip away at laundry, watch the Minnesota Twins.

7:30pm – get the boys ready for bed.

8pm – lights out for the boys, Heidi and I watch the news and talk about life.

9pm – if I have enough energy, go back out to studio and work on the day’s song demo. Otherwise, watch baseball and have some alone time.

10pm – read.

11pm – Zzz… 

2:30am – get tapped by Silas (he’s scared to be alone) and go back to sleep with him in his bed.

4:30am – get woken up by August (also afraid of being alone) as he crawls into bed with Silas and me.

7am – wake up, shower…  


What’s your typical day like?


One Sentence I Write Down Everyday

It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle of just surviving. Somedays the to-do list is out of control and I feel like that ball inside a pinball machine. Just bouncing from one place to the next without any clear direction or control. By the end of the day I’m exhausted, but I can’t tell you if I’ve done anything that really mattered. 

Inspired by both Greg Mckeown’s Essentialism and author Donald Miller, I came up with one sentence that I put underneath my to-do list every morning. It’s my life theme, one sentence I’ve thought long and hard about. Here it is…  

My Life Theme:
To love, serve, and care for my family, friends, neighbors, and others, relentlessly pursuing “less but better,” and striving to go above and beyond, living boldly from a mindset not of scarcity and fear, but love and abundance.

It’s obviously a work in process. But if this resonates, I’d encourage you to form your own life theme in a sentence or two. Write it everyday beneath your to-do list so you don’t forget! 


Getting Public Recognition

I don’t even want to to know the amount of money I used to spend sending my CD to radio stations and magazines. It’s probably in the billions.

But I still remember the first time my music got reviewed. I couldn’t believe somebody other than my relatives actually listened and wrote about it. Are you kidding me?

Over the years I’d get more and more public recognition. But thing is, it was always fleeting. Sure, it’s nice when you become known for your work, because the work has its own life, its own experiences with people. And to get public recognition usually means people’s experience with it has been meaningful. That’s rewarding. But praise runs only so deep and doesn’t last long. (If you haven’t already, read my post I Hate to Namedrop, but Taylor Swift…).

I tell songwriters to make sure they love the process of writing songs. That’s the engine that keeps everything moving forward. Imagine you were a carpenter, but you stopped building stuff. Sure, you’d still be known for past work and accomplishments, but you’re going to have a tough time moving forward and staying relevant.


Publishing Deals and Whack-A-Mole

When I signed my first publishing deal in 2012, I got a little sick to my stomach. My 16 year-old artist spirit went into existential crisis mode. Did I just sell my soul? 

But I was incredibly thankful, too. We had a baby on the way and I’d been serving coffee at Starbucks for $9/hour. The publishing advance saved us. 

Along with a paycheck it brought more opportunities and relationships. I also got the respect of being “published” which, believe or not, really raises eyebrows.

And, shhh, here’s a secret…most people don’t know what a publishing deal is. I mean, do you? I certainly didn’t before signing one. But it just sounds good, right? — “published songwriter” — like I could go to my high school reunion and keep my chin up. 

But here’s the thing about publishing deals and deals in general with creative people: Everything is a trade. Have you ever been to an arcade and played that game Whack-A-Mole? You take a mallet and, yes, whack a mole. But then another one pops up out of a different hole. So you hit that one down. You never win, you just keep trying to keep as many down as you can. 

For me, I whacked the “money problem mole” by getting a publishing deal. But the mole that popped up was an extra voice in my head while writing. Would my publisher like this line? Will they think this song is too fast, too slow?

But I have a theory that to actually win the game Whack-A-Mole, you do this: 

Hit every one down at least once and see which one bothers you the least. Leave that one up to stare at you. And as much as you want to pulverize that little booger, take a deep breath, stare back, make nice, and see if the two of you can’t get some work accomplished. 

For me, that was the projected voice of my publisher in my head. It’s a struggle that’s ongoing and I’ve made peace with that now. But honestly, we’ve accomplished a lot together!


P.S. Want to learn more about publishing deals? Start here.