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5 Things I Learned From Rock And Roll

5 Things I Learned From Rock And Roll

We live in a world where rock and roll is largely seen as the product of a bygone era. At least it seems to me like that, while the underground seems to be hinting at a comeback. As someone who’s identified as a rock and roll kind of guy for most of his life I’ve grown concerned of this largely because I fear that there is some very real wisdom that rock and roll brought us that we are missing out on. Here are five of the most important tings that my years running around gigs and partying with everyone from Aerosmith and KISS to Cannibal Corpse has taught me.

1. Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff

The roadie is puking in the bathroom after accidentally taking a bunch of meth that he thought was cocaine (A surprisingly common mistake!), the bass player just hooked up with a chick who probably has chlamydia (Or at least local punk Crusty Pete says so) and the rest of the band is sitting at the bar laughing at the rhythm guitarists antics (Hey man, Johnny is hilarious when he’s drunk!). What the hell? Do these people have no grasp on reality? Where do they get off? In fact – these guys have an incredibly firm understanding of what’s going on – rock and rollers are fully aware of how hard this whole thing is. They are the ones trying to make a living off of it after all. So why are they so chilled out all the time? Shouldn’t they be freaking out?

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Not really. See – these men of the road are in a stressful environment day in and day out, and sometimes are on the road for up to ten months of the year. They’ve been through it all and the vast majority of them have come to realize that eventually the natural order of the universe will come into place. If the gods don’t want them to play their next show because the bass player has to deal with his latest STD, so be it – there is nothing that can be helped by worrying. You’re always going to have to face struggles, new challenges and bleak futures – that’s just how it goes, especially in rock and roll. Once you come to terms with that, it’s a whole lot easier to chill out, take life by the horns and embrace a brand new day.

2. Do It For The Cause

The most maligned group of people in rock and roll are the infamous ‘posers’. People who are there simply because they think it makes them look cool and not because they are trying to actually contribute to the scene. Thee are the people who have no real interest in the music – and that makes everyone have a worse time. If you’re killing the vibe and showing up somewhere for the wrong reasons then nobody is going to like you – that’s just how life works, there’s nothing that you can do about it.

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So anytime you find yourself in a new situation – and one that you think you might end up deeply invested in – take a minute to step back and evaluate why you’re there. Are you doing it for the right reasons? Or are you just trying to profit? People can spot a phony from a mile off, so you have to be careful when figuring out what you want from a new opportunity. If you’re not their for the cause, ideologically, morally or whatever, then you might want to move away from it because if your heart isn’t it, what’s the point anyway?

3. Keep Your Expectations Low

I’ve seen David Bowie’s longtime trumpet player Mac Gollehon play in front of 20 people in a tiny bar on a Wednesday night. I’ve seen Billy Milano – a platinum selling artist – play a tiny basement show. Hell! I’ve even seen a band on tour from Europe – in their prime at that – play a show in a crust punks basement in a shitty South Philly neighborhood. That’s just how this whole thing works: many of us are bitter, worn down and tired and there’s nothing protecting us from that. The simple fact of the matter is that even by having expectations, you are simply setting yourself up to be disappointed.

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Nothing is handed to you in this world and as long as you can keep on going, you should be happy. In a world of entitlement it’s the rock and rollers who possibly understand this best. They are used to playing packed crowds one night and then empty clubs the next – the audience is fickle and keeping one step ahead of the rat race is always a challenge. So ultimately, why even bother? When you can simply chill out and enjoy life as it comes with no real expectations it’s much easier to come to terms with the existential suffering that can to often come to define our lives.

4. Everyone Can Help You Out

What the most successful touring bands have come to realize is that anyone and everyone is a potential ally. As New York City blues legend Tomàs Doncker is fond of saying “We are under siege” and when in a siege you need to take help wherever you can get it. Here’s the thing: everyone feels better when they can help someone out, and while not everyone is looking to actively help you (and in fact some folks want quite the opposite) in my experience people are generally out to do good. Everyone is a potential connection, and our nations rockers get it.

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Being in a touring band often requires you to trust strangers, trust that they won’t harvest your organs when they sleep on their floor, trust that they will be paid at the end of the night, hell, they even have to trust in small things like that their food has been made properly and they aren’t facing a twelve hour drive whilst suffering food poisoning. Being in a touring band is a larger metaphor for life – everything is incredibly precarious and chaotic, and while some people have a lot of help you still have to keep your head up and make sure you don’t screw up, because after some mistakes there really is no coming back.

5. Life Is A Party

This is perhaps what rock and roll is best known for – the parties. No matter what the circumstances a lot of these bands are made up of fun loving dudes who are excited to be out and on the road and stoked to see their buddies, buddies who they might only cross paths with once or twice a year. Being in a band on the road is an adventure in and of itself – that’s why there is so much romance based around it. And that’s why amidst all the chaos and confusion that can define your typical tour experience there is a certain zen to chilling out, lighting one up and drinking a beer with your friends.

Remember that no matter what, if you’re doing what you love then you’re partying. Even as I write this hunched over in a crappy train station waiting to go to my parents house for a few hours before going onto the next great adventure, I’m smiling and feeling good because life is a party. Sure sometimes there aren’t pretty girls, lots of drugs and money being thrown around – but there is a sublime party to be found even in solitude. Coming to terms with that and coming to terms with the eternal joy that every day life can bring you is essential, if you want to be able to carry on through the fire and the flames of our daily toil.

Featured photo credit: Digboston via flickr.com

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Last Updated on December 9, 2019

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

Everyone experiences mental stress at one time or another. Maybe you’re starting a new career, job, or business, or you feel incredibly overwhelmed between work, parenting, and your love life (or a lack of it). It could even be that you simply feel that you have way too much to do and not enough time to do it,  plus, on top of everything, nothing seems to be going the way it should!

Yup, we all experience mental stress from time-to-time, and that’s okay as long as you have the tools, techniques and knowledge that allow you to fully relieve it once it comes.

Here are 5 tips for relieving mental stress when it comes so you can function at your best while feeling good (and doing well) in work, love, or life:

1. Get Rationally Optimistic

Mental stress starts with your perception of your experiences. For instance, most people get stressed out when they perceive their reality as “being wrong” in some way. Essentially, they have a set idea of how things “should be” at any given moment, and when reality ends up being different (not even necessarily bad), they get stressed.

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This process is simply a result of perception and can be easily “fixed” by recognizing that although life might not always be going as YOU think it should, it’s still going as it should—for your own benefit.

In fact, once you fully recognize that everything in your life ultimately happens for your own growth, progress, and development—so you can achieve your goals and dreams—your perception works in your favor. You soon process and respond to your experience of life differently, for your advantage. That’s the essence of becoming “rationally optimistic.”

The result: no more mental stress.

2. Unplug

Just like you might need to unplug your computer when it starts acting all crazy, you should also “unplug” your mind.

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How on earth do you unplug your mind? Simple: just meditate.

It isn’t nearly difficult or complicated as some people think, so, if you don’t already meditate, give it a try. Whether you meditate for 5 minutes, 30 minutes, or 2 hours, this is a surefire way to reduce mental stress.

Meditation has been scientifically proven to relax your body (resulting in less mental stress), while also reducing anxiety and high blood pressure.

3. Easy on the Caffeine

Yes, we know, we know—everyone loves a nice java buzz, and that’s okay, but there’s a fine line between a small caffeine pick-me-up and a racing heart and mind that throws you into a frenzy of mental stress.

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Try giving up caffeine for a while and see how you feel. And, if that’s completely out of the question for you, at least try to minimize it. You might find that lots of your mental stress mysteriously “disappears” as your caffeine intake goes down.

4. Attack Mental Stress Via the Back Door

That’s right: your body and mind are part of the whole being, and are constantly influencing and affecting each other. If you’re experiencing a lot of mental stress, try to reduce it by calming your body down—a calm body equals a calmer mind.

How do you calm your body down and reduce physical stress? A  great way to reduce physical stress (thereby reducing mental stress) is to take natural supplements that are proven to reduce stress and anxiety while lifting your mood. Three good ones to look into are kava-kava, St John’s wort, and rhodiola rosea:

  • Kava-kava is a natural plant known to have mild sedative properties, and you should be able to find it at your natural health food store or vitamin store. It’s available in capsules or liquid extract form.
  • St John’s wort is a natural flower used to treat depression. Again, it’s found at your local health store in capsules or liquid. Because it uplifts mood (enabling you to see the brighter side of all experiences) it helps relieve mental stress as well.
  • Rhodiola rosea is a natural plant shown to reduce stress and uplift mood, and Russian athletes have been using it forever. Like the other two supplements mentioned, rhodiola rosea can be found at your natural health store in capsule or liquid form.

While these supplements are all natural and can be very helpful for most people, always check with your health care provider first as they can cause side-effects depending on your current health situation etc.

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5. Good Old-Fashioned Exercise

This tip has been around forever because it works. Nothing relieves mental stress like running, kickboxing—you name it. Anything super-physical will wipe out most of your mental stresses once the exercise endorphins (happy chemicals) are released into your brain.

The result: mental stress will be gone!

So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or just plain stressed, try using some of the above tips. You can even print this out or save it to refer to regularly.

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