You’ve heard about it.
Everyone in the realm of personal development and self help seems to be talking about visualization and why you should do it. I even wrote a book that talks about it, here. But what exactly is Reverse Visualization, why is it important and why should you even consider doing it? I’ll explain.
When I first began my digital marketing agency, I did so because I was frustrated with the changes in the music industry. To be completely honest, had I released my albums in the glory days of the music industry before Napster shocked the world and essentially preemptively did everything Steve Jobs set out to do with Apple via iTunes, I’d probably never have began my entrepreneurial ventures. Why fix what isn’t broke, and with that many albums being sold and without the threat of pirating, I certainly wouldn’t have been broke.
Yet life happens and things change, the most of which is technology. Technology seems to change parallel to time. Like twin blood brothers or two lovers who abandon high school to faux elope together, forgoing the perfunctory duties of everyday life, these two go hand in hand. As one progresses, so does the other, steadfastly. And so, rather than continuing to fight against the machine of a changing music industry, I decided to go a different route.
And while so many are keen to point out the dripping point of market saturation in the so-called music “industry” we have today, my decision came about as a result of something far more practical. It just wasn’t making sense anymore. When I was 15 years old I began running my own recording studio, and by 17 I had MTV camera crews at my door chronicling my journey with music as they followed me around in a local gym as I shot around basketball by myself, presumably trying to show what kind of life I was living to make it appealing for television ala American Idol or X Factor. But this was before all of that.
Right around this time, Jimmy Iovine had a lot of really great ideas, one of which was to sign Eminem. The other really great idea he had was to launch a worldwide talent search via the internet using the MP3 technology that was just beginning to bubble and change the world. A lot of people don’t understand that about Jimmy Iovine. The man is a consummate entrepreneur and CEO, and he was using MP3 technology to his advantage in this way far before Jobs or anyone else that I can remember. While most executives were losing their lunch over the thought of the advent of the MP3 as a tangible format, here we have Jimmy Iovine looking for his next Eminem using the platform.
And look he did. One of the artists he found in his search was me; an at the time 17 year old singer, songwriter, record producer and musician that Listen.com declared to be generations X’ iteration of Prince. Jimmy’s team took notice, and after I uploaded a few songs to Farmclub.com, the platform he launched for finding his new protegees, I was his A&R staff’s featured artist and invited to fly to Los Angeles to appear on a USA Network and MTV Network joint venture hosted by MTV’s Matt Pinfield called Farmclub.
But like the one firework in the box that spoils everyone’s time, I didn’t end up going. My mother, who was managing me at the time since I couldn’t organize a box of socks, much less a music career, had told me that she read online somewhere, from someone, on some forum, that the contract made the whole experience “not worth it,” since I wouldn’t be able to “sign to anyone else for 6 months – even if Interscope didn’t want to sign me.”
And in terms of my music career, it’s the dumbest advice I’ve gotten. I kicked myself for it for over a decade. Not because it was my only opportunity to shine (I was the #1 selling Contemporary R&B Artist on MP3.com at 16, already heavily utilizing the MP3 format), but because I always knew I had more to offer the world than I was at the time as a single-parented, homeschooled kid with a bunch of studio equipment he taught himself to use without any advice or guidance.
But none of that is the point of this article. The point of this article is to explain to you why I began to use reverse visualization as a means to change my life. I realized that music that doesn’t make dollars doesn’t make sense. I signed two major label deals with two of the biggest record companies in the world; labels who refused to promote a single album. I worked with some of the biggest names in music and even was responsible for the signing of a kid who went on to sell a product to Facebook. But none of this changed my bank account.
So I had to stop lying to myself. I love music, but music doesn’t love me. It spends it’s time fawning for all of these new artists who seemingly can’t sing, and no one seems to care because, well, there’s auto-tune. Much like a girl who’s had a really long night of binge drinking and crying sessions who, without any sleep, knows she can just pop a pill or do something otherwise disreputable, pack on some makeup, and fake it for a day, Autotune always saves the day, and makes a millionaire. Yes, music, this love has run its course. I want a divorce.
And divorce it I did. I began a marketing company and learned from some of the best marketers in the world. I wrote a book. I started this blog. To be honest, I did a bunch of really cool shit since quit the bad habit I had in that insufferable hag called music. And here are the reasons why.
- Get Rich Or Die Trying
Depending on how you look at it, my circumstances are either more or less dangerous than 50 Cent’s. While I don’t live in the hood, don’t sell or even do drugs, and there’s no one (that I know of?) out to get me, I do live in an apartment full of lab-confirmed toxic black mold, which, according to the literature, will pretty much definitely kill you if you stay around it long enough. For reasons that are very complicated, I can’t do much about it unless I move out and get another house – tearing down the recording studio I built here in the process, and rebuilding it somewhere else.
When my health started to decline after moving here, I knew right away that if I didn’t get enough money to get out of my situation, my health would continue to deteriorate. I began having breathing complications, developed eczema for the first time in my life, and developed something called Tietze’s Syndrome also known as costochronitis. That latter was scary because it causes chest pain that is easily interpreted by both patient and physician as resembling a heart attack. I also developed a debilitating insomnia. I say debilitating because I would sleep for 2-3 hours a night for consecutive days in a row, waking at 3 or 4 am every day spontaneously, which began to take a serious toll on my physical and mental performance. I started to think less in terms of what I wanted, and more in terms of what I needed. And I needed to get the hell out of there, music be damned.
I began to think of what my life would be like if I stayed and accepted circumstantial defeat. To be candid, it’s not something I know how to do. I’ve never been one to just roll over and accept consequences. That’s what jolted me into action with my father, who after having a stroke, edema, diagnosis of a brain aneurysm, and adrenal failure, was told he would live probably 6 more months. My intervention on his behalf resulted in saving his life. He couldn’t walk without a cane, He now does yard work and all labs and scans are normal, including the brain scan. His doctors didn’t have an answer for him, and he was told “nothing can be done,” but “nothing can be done” isn’t even something that registers in my brain. So of course, I took action.
That’s the one thing I know I can always do when it seems like nothing else is working. If I can’t get out of a situation where there’s a window, and I see a pebble nearby, you bet your ass I’m gonna take action and throw it, increasingly harder, and see if something breaks. Because hey, you never know. It just might, and freedom could be found in a single pebble.
- It Isn’t Just About You
Every day that goes by, it becomes less and less clear exactly how much our prior generation is going to be able to depend on social security as a source of income. My mother, being left to work well into her late 60’s doesn’t seem to have left any type of exit plan for herself in terms of a segue out of work life. She’s worked as long as I’ve known her, and it troubles me deeply to see her have to work so hard at her age, without any support. She doesn’t make enough with the social security she does collect since she began collecting it as soon as she could, to make ends meet. So I feel compelled to act on her behalf.
I stopped music because I know that if I don’t take action and do something to intervene, her future and her health is in jeopardy. My mom has COPD. The literature of course says there’s no hope for this condition and that it will eventually kill her. We will see about that. If I have it my way, my research into the literature will prove fruitful and she’ll be fine just as my father was. I’ve studied natural medicine for years, thanks to looking into matters for my father, and I’m confident, she’ll be fine. But, I’m also practical. What if that’s not the case? Legends sometimes fail, so it would be amiss to think that an ordinary man as myself couldn’t also miss. And I can’t afford to miss when it comes to my mom or my dad, they’re pretty much the only two people I can depend on in the entire world. I haven’t spoken to anyone else in my family for over 5 years.
And finally, I spent a lot of time thinking about what I had to offer the world. I always say that I don’t intend to live a life whereby I spend it consuming resources from the world and not contributing back in some way. Consuming without contributing is a disease of the mind, like a sort of lameness akin to infancy. We learn to walk and then run, and so too should we learn to make contributions to others. This drives me every day. It fostered in me a strong will to succeed when I began to think of what would happen if I wasn’t able to make that contribution. All of the thoughts in my head, all the product ideas, all of the books, all of the things I could share with other people who maybe don’t have the nuggets I’ve been blessed to hear over the span of my short life.
Reverse Visualization is about thinking about what life would be if you DIDN’T take action. It isn’t the typical “think of yourself sipping a mai tai on a white Hawaiian beach getting fanned by pretty girls in hula skirts.” It’s about making the mental connection that if you don’t hustle, all of these dreams could fall apart. It imparts a sense of urgency that I find incredibly useful. It reminds me of a quote I heard once: “Success is never owned. It is rented. And the rent is due every day.”
Thinking of what would be if I didn’t achieve all of my personal goals was, and continues to be, a huge driving force for me. It drives me to wake up in the morning and stay productive and focused on mornings when I clearly don’t want to. Life is as much about sacrifice as it is about reaping. And at the end of the day, I’m okay with being able to say that I made all of these sacrifices, if at the end of my life someone comes to my side and says, “To me, he made a difference.”
That makes it all worth it.