Author Archives: CK Barlow

About CK Barlow

I'm a composer and music-technology instructor. In the summer of 2011, I decided it was time to give full-time music-making a shot, so I left my corporate job (I've always had one). That's part of what inspired Composing Kitchen, the blog I publish with my incredible spouse, Karen Milling.

The gig that ate my life (but left me smiling)

The past two weekends, I’ve been in a theater/music collaboration as part of the experimental ensemble I play in. We’re called Out of Context, and we do something called conduction — a method of improvisation that’s guided by a conductor who uses a set of hand signals to indicate, very generally, what we musicians are to do. Some signals allow the conductor to build coherence and even returning motifs or musical settings into the improvisation; other signals allow him to whip us into a chaotic frenzy and then stop us instantly. It is an incredible amount of fun.

Here’s a trailer assembled from previous performances:

STORM: Theater Grottesco and the Out of Context Orchestra
from Theater Grottesco on Vimeo.

Dino (JA Deane), our conductor, collaborated with members of Theater Grottesco in Santa Fe along with a number of writers, scientists, poets, videographers and visual artists to compile a variety of text and images about our changing environment. The resulting piece, which we performed eight times over two weekends, is called STORM — and I’d have to say it presents like one: fierce, sometimes overwhelming, different every night, probably too unrelenting some nights but with a clear ebb and flow other nights. Dino conducts the ensemble as always, including the actors, but in this show also improvises the triggering and placement of multiple videos projected above and around the stage.

If you’ve ever been in a theater production, you know how consuming it can become. It’s a huge time commitment, from initial rehearsals through tech/dress rehearsals and then finally the shows. When you have a matinee and an evening show at a theater that’s an hour from home, it’s a little tough to do much of anything else.

I spent those in-between hours on my own in the warehouse/gallery/theater space, working on ideas for another gig coming up. I surrendered to the limbo. My composing schedule and goals went out the window for those two weeks, and I decided to just be OK with that.

Another trait of shows like this is the camaraderie that they just about always foster. I adore my bandmates. No two ways about it. OOC has existed as a band for 15 years, 11 of which I’ve been around for, getting together on the second Sunday of every month for years and years to make chaotic, often strangely beautiful sounds. They’re family to me.

Out of Context 2012 (L to R): JA "Dino" Deane, conductor; Milton Villarubia III, electronic and acoustic percussion; Jon Baldwin, cornet; Joseph "Joey" Sabella, vibes and electronic percussion; CK Barlow, sampler/live sampling; Paul Bossert, trombone; Jefferson Voorhees, drums; Katie Harlow, cello; Alicia Ultan, viola; Ross Hamlin, guitars; John Flax, text; Bonnie Schmader, flutes; Carlos Santistevan, upright bass.

The other day at my freelance gig, I ran into a former coworker from the job I quit last summer. We caught up a bit, and in parting she said, “You’re really living the dream, Carla.” It’s funny; I have a sticker on my laptop that says just that. It was given to me by a musician friend, Jacqueline van Bierk of the band Otto’s Daughter — it’s an ad for their EP “living the dream.” I stuck it on the laptop case so that it’s visible to others when I’m working/playing, and I did so a little bit facetiously.

But weeks like this make me stop and think… I guess I am, huh?


A Love Note for Valentine’s Day

I’ve mentioned before that when I quit my job last July, Karen and I vowed that we would not let our reduced income stop us from traveling. So we keep an eye out for great airfares and when we see one of interest, we jump on it. This weekend we hit Denver for $39 each way and got a room at a pretty fun hotel (The Curtis). We figured it was an early Valentine’s Day for us since in Karen’s line of work (she’s massage therapist at a nice spa), she’ll come home on the 14th too exhausted to do much of anything.

A couple of days before this Denver trip, I took on a project that required a fairly bleak perspective: a “beautiful but melancholy song, female vocalist, about lost love, feeling lost, etc.” It was due Friday morning, but we were flying out Thursday morning. I sure didn’t want to be the jerk spouse who works the whole time we’re away together. So Tuesday I hammered out lyrics and recorded the vocals, then Wednesday between freelancing and teaching I handled the acoustic guitar parts — the things I couldn’t do on a plane or in a hotel room.

At some point that evening I asked Karen to listen to it. She’s always honest with me about what works and what doesn’t. As she listened, her expression became concerned and eventually almost tearful. She finally took off the headphones and said, “Is this about me?”

I said, “My gosh, no! It has nothing to do with you; it’s just what I had to write for this project!”

See, every relationship song I’ve written since being with Karen has been about her, except this one. And they’ve all been deliriously happy, except this one. How she could think for a moment — when she’s the source of everything beautiful…

Mixing in the Hotel at Night

Mixing in the Hotel at Night. Yes, that's a martini glass.

We left the next morning for Denver. I finished mixing the song in the hotel room Thursday night while she slept. And then I crawled into bed and held her and thought about how lucky I am. Pretty incredibly lucky.

Listen to “All Right”

More from our Denver trip:


Inspiration, Insecurity, and Insane numbers of… goals.

I promised myself (and anyone who’s reading) that I’d get serious about posting weekly because I learn so much by looking back at what and how I’ve done in the last week. I’m a little behind with this week’s post but that’s in no small part due to a bit of soccer mania at our house. See, the CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifications have been going on for a couple of weeks now and we’ve been watching. We aren’t fanatics about much in the sports world, but soccer and the Olympics are biggies for us.

Apparently not enough people in the US care about women’s soccer for the CONCACAF tournament to be televised here. I bet if more Americans knew how tight the qualifications were — that of the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico, Canada and the US, only two teams get to go to the Olympics — it might get televised. I won’t complain, though, because we were able to watch all of the US team’s games online.

The US and Canada were predicted to emerge from the eight-nation field with the two Olympic berths, and they did, in that order. The US outscored its opponents 38-0 in 5 games (14, 13, 4, 3 and 4 to 0, respectively). That sounds like they dominated, and for the most part they did. But in the one game that mattered most — the semifinal versus Costa Rica to determine which team would get one of the two Olympic berths — they had the most trouble. They looked nervous, and they admitted as much after the game. In the end, they pulled through, got their ticket to London, and then went on to win the whole tournament by defeating the other Olympic qualifier, Canada. You can see the highlights, which are pretty impressive, at concacaf.com.

Our household fanaticism included lots of Twitter reading and youtube watching of related content. I was checking out tweets by some of the men’s national team players congratulating the women, and I got sucked into Landon Donovan’s stream. I hit a tweet by his amicably ex wife, Bianca Kajlich, of this quote: “One of the reasons we struggle with insecurity is because we’re comparing our ‘behind the scenes’ with everybody else’s ‘highlight reel.’” It’s attributed to Steven Furtick, a North Carolina pastor.

Doesn’t that just about sum it up? We watch the highlights and we see the best moments. But they are just moments. If we dig a little deeper, we hear Tobin Heath, for example, talk about making enemies by deciding not to play for her high school soccer team because she wanted the challenge of training with a boys’ club. We saw tweets berating Rachel Buehler following the 2011 World Cup. We hear Sydney Leroux say that by age 6, she knew that she wanted to play on the US Women’s Soccer team when she grew up, and so left Vancouver for the States (thanks to dual citizenship) at 15 to make it happen — and got booed for it each time she touched the ball tonight in Vancouver. We see video of Ali Krieger making herself keep running intervals after the rest of the team has stopped.

I love these women. And I know that the only reason they make it look so easy is because they work so, so hard.

The US Women's National Team following their win at CONCACAF

The US Women's National Team following their win at CONCACAF

If you’ve really got to compare yourself to someone else, keep it apples to apples. Everybody has highlights, and everybody has bloopers. And maybe every six months of effort you put in will yield just a few seconds of highlight reel — but they’ll be awesome.


As promised — the ad music!

A few weeks ago, I posted about a great opportunity I got here in Albuquerque to create the music for a new ad campaign by the New Mexico Lottery, celebrating their contribution of $500M to allow students statewide to attend any of our state universities tuition-free (given a minimum GPA).

A still from one of the six ads in the campaign.

I promised that once the ads were finalized, up and running, I’d post some of the music so you could hear a little of how the process worked (I got permission to do this written into my license agreements).

So here you go (192kbps mp3s): This is a collage of four of the five drafts I did, taking anywhere from 3 to 6 hours each to produce — not quite broadcast ready but offering different possible directions. The basic guidance I’d gotten was no straightforward guitar or piano, an organic/natural sound, an uncluttered arrangement (just a few instruments), and something cool and edgy.

Of the drafts in that collage, the ad agency and Lottery commission chose the last one. You might remember from that earlier post that I liked the last one best, but neither the production house nor I expected the ad agency and the client to go for it. Backward ukulele, sampled ukulele, and backward piano over a mellow but swaggering hip-hop beat. Who knew!

Over that foundation, I then created five different melodies in different voices; they chose one using kalimba (an African thumb piano). Awesome. Then I did two choices of endings for them. In short, I worked hard to provide something they’d like.

Here is the final version of the music, and here’s an example of the videos (beautifully shot/produced by halflife* digital). The excellent ad agency supervising the entire thing was Kilmer | Kilmer | Marshall | Duran.

What a great way to wrap up 2011 and begin 2012! Oh, and I got paid for a Breaking Bad webisode placement this week, too. Very cool. Not every week will be quite this much fun, but weeks like this make the hard work worth it.


Embracing the Newbie

One thing I wondered about — not really worried about, just wondered — was whether my self-esteem would take a hit when I left my corporate job. Like it or not, we Westerners tie a lot to our occupations, whether it’s the prestige of high-dollar professions or the insta-halo that comes with social-good and faith-related jobs. When you leave the job, you leave the identity and associated cachet behind too.

Compounding that, when you change careers, you’re jumping into a new role in which you might have less experience or training than your peers and competitors. Especially if you were well-established in your former profession, it can be downright humbling to be the newbie again.

In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.

— Shunryu Suzuki

I experienced it pretty strongly this week when attending a welcome-back faculty meeting at the university where I teach a few classes in the music department. It’s easy to feel a little inferior there because I’m part-time, not even remotely tenure-track, master’s rather than doctorate, yada yada. That feeling is nothing new. And it’s possible that now, having forfeited my white-collar identity, I have less spare self-worth lying around with which to combat it.

Similarly, I have plenty of peers in the production-music business who are better instrumentalists or who have more training as audio engineers. Compared to some of them, I might never catch up.

Granted, I’m not really a newbie. I started my first band more than 30 years ago (yikes…) and haven’t stopped playing or writing since. I do have that master’s degree. I’ve got TV placements under my belt. But there are times, especially when a piece of music gets rejected, that I feel a little underdoggish.

So how do I deal? Certainly there’s the Presbyterian approach (per my upbringing): Work work work, harder harder harder. I do. I work my butt off, no question.

And there are plenty of books out there that say to play to your strengths rather than spending time chasing your deficiencies. Of course they’re talking business strategy, but it also relates to the topic at hand: it’s definitely toughest to keep your chin up when you’re playing someone else’s game. I especially like The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You’ll Ever Need by Daniel Pink and Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable by Seth Godin.

But as I write this, something else occurs to me: Embrace the Newbie. You know, as in Beginner’s Mind. Not just lack of knowledge, but also lack of cynicism. I’m not saying it’s easy to do, to get yourself past a bout of dejection. But if you can get there, you’ll see the other side of the Underdog coin: Eagerness, energy, openness. Now that is powerful stuff.

So flip that coin!  And while you’re thinking along those lines, check out the song, called “Got My Own,” that I wrote and recorded Wednesday afternoon/night — right after that faculty meeting 😉 — and mixed Thursday morning for a noon deadline. Because, well, why not?

Cheers!


Every Day a Revolution

Since I posted a long’un last time – and since the world probably doesn’t need another New Year’s Resolutions post – I’m keeping this one short and sweet.

Here’s what I’ve hit upon in this season of retrospection:

  • My theme this year will be to expand my opportunities, and I will aim high.
  • Trying and failing can hurt a little, but it’s necessary. For example, I pushed myself pretty hard on a composition three weeks ago, and that experience gave me the confidence to push even harder on another opportunity the following week. The first attempt didn’t get picked up for its specific placement opportunity, but the second did.
  • This blog prompts me to think regularly about how I’m doing and what I’ve learned, and then to distill that into something other people can understand. Just doing that helps me retain and build on what I’ve learned. It’s important, and I need to treat it that way. I’ll be posting weekly from now on.
  • I’m re-engineering my life, which means I’m making resolutions every day — not just on Dec. 31. That might sound like “shiny new object” syndrome, but it’s not. My resolutions aren’t numerous because they’re contradictory or wishy-washy, but because I’m learning something every day about myself and my business. Each resolution complements the others.

Every day a revelation, a resolution, a revolution.

Ascending the Sandia Mountains on the Tram


Go for it – because you never know.

In the last week, I’ve had two relatively different situations come up that ultimately pointed to the same truth. Somewhat of a long post but I hope you’ll bear with me.

Last week, I was brought into a local ad project – no, not a cheesy car dealership commercial! It’s a beautifully shot, high production-value piece. The production house and I met on 12/14 with our client, the head of a well-respected agency, and talked through his needs. I came away with a variety of ideas and suggestions.

For custom composing jobs, I follow Tom Kelley’s advice in The Art of Innovation: “Prototype early and often.” Why is that great advice? Two big reasons: It helps you home in from multiple angles on what the client likes, and it protects you as the artist from getting too attached to a single idea.

So I promised three to five drafts by the next Monday, 12/19. The first was relatively safe but absolutely usable. #2 just plain didn’t work; I canned it. #3 and #4 had a little more swagger, which the production house wanted, and I liked them OK. For #5, though, I went with a less mainstream style that I personally like, even though I didn’t think it stood a chance with the client. I allowed myself to do what I thought sounded cool, regardless of likely marketability.

We sent them to the client and waited. I thought he might go for #1 or #3 but I secretly hoped for #5; the owners of the production shop thought he’d go for #3 or #4 – but no way #5. The answer came back: #5! As soon as the commercial is out, I’ll post a collage of all four drafts and the final product.

No rest for the weary, though. Later on Monday, the music agency I use (TAXI) posted an opportunity that I’ll excerpt here, w/bold for the key stuff:

Y111220SS

NY Ad Agency URGENTLY needs TWO, Fun (but not silly), CONTEMPORARY, Indie Artist/Band-Leaning, Mid-to-Uptempo, Singer/Songwriter or Quirky Band SONGS for 2 DIFFERENT TV spots for a coffee brand’s upcoming commercials. … They need a song that relates to what you FEEL or LOVE about coffee, but your lyric should NOT MENTION the word “COFFEE” IN IT! … Instead, give them lyrics about “getting your day off to a good start,” or “I love the way you make me feel” type of stuff … for the FIRST TV spot. … Submit SONGS about “home” related subjects for the SECOND TV spot. “Home is where the heart is,” “Home is where I’d rather be,” “being home makes me feel good” in so many words. … If you’ve got the PERFECT song for these pitches, they COULD pay as much as $100,000 for EACH placement! …  Submissions must be received no later than TOMORROW, TUESDAY, DECEMBER 20th at 3pm, (PDT). TAXI #Y111220SS

 

So, yeah, they posted that on Monday, and it was due the next day at 4pm my time. Yikes. Part of me – a big part of me – said, Don’t bother.

For starters, these ad agency listings are pretty high-bar affairs that leave plenty of crushed egos in their wakes. So… I’m just talking about fear of rejection, right? I thought, What if I do something that I know is good and has value elsewhere, regardless of the outcome for this listing? OK – Mental Block #1 vanquished.

Then there was the time limitation.  As little as a year ago, I couldn’t have conceived of pulling anything off in that time frame. But I’d been working on speeding up, largely by not being so self-critical in the initial stages. As composer John Lewis Parker has said, “Ninety percent of composing is having the courage to continue, and being open to ideas.” And who knows, I thought — maybe I’ll start something really worthwhile, even if I miss the deadline. Sweet! Unnecessary Obstacle #2 kicked to the curb.

Finally, I don’t have a traditionally “pretty” voice. I just don’t. But I’ve been wanting to pursue some of these singer/songwriter opportunities – a genre where imperfections can be a good thing, plus I have a solid background there. I’d gotten a good start the week before by writing and producing a piece in one day for a similarly challenging listing. I quit the day job for exactly this kind of opportunity. Am I going to let it pass without even trying?

I decided to find a way. I realized I could take an existing instrumental that suited the listing and write lyrics for it. I set to work that night on the lyrics.  Confession: I find sweet/happy/”crazy about you” lyrics easy; I just think about Karen. Seriously. If everybody had the kind of love and support I have from her, wars wouldn’t start.

The next morning I edited the lyrics a little and then hit the studio. I had five vocal parts recorded, edited and mixed by 2:40. Eighty minutes to spare.

So… the listing requested two different themes; should I try the other? Why not? I took another existing track and wrote lyrics for it. In this case, I got really lucky: Karen and I happened to write lyrics for this song for an informal performance earlier this month, and some of them even worked for this job! I quickly wrote two suitable new verses. I got the thing done and turned in by the deadline. The execution isn’t perfect, but it’s sweet and evocative, which is important.

You can hear both tracks here.

The next morning while at my freelance gig, I got two emails from TAXI that started with words I will never tire of reading: “Congratulations, CK! Your song(s) has been forwarded… .” The songs made it through the very tough initial screening and are now with the NY ad agency. In reality, this just means I’m in the running. I’ve gone from one in a million to maybe one in 20, or 50 so or. But it means a helluva lot more than that to me.

What if I hadn’t tried draft #5 for the local ad? We’d be kicking around something that didn’t really excite the client. What if I’d stopped at “Don’t bother” with the coffee ad? I would’ve just reinforced my old presumption that those sorts of opportunities are impossible, not worth bothering, etc. Instead I set a new, far more positive precedent for myself.

In both cases I told the perfectly reasonable voice in my head to bug off. Glad I did!


The Rally, and the Tally

For the last few years, I’ve spent the first weekend of November attending a music-industry event called the TAXI Road Rally. If you’ve read this blog since it started this summer, you’ve heard of TAXI; it’s the independent A&R company I use. As part of my membership, I get two tickets to the Road Rally, TAXI’s annual convention.

It’s… well, not to sound all fanboy about it, but it’s pretty incredible. Keynote speakers for the last few years have been hot tickets like Jeffrey Steele and Kara DioGuardi, and legends like Charles Fox and Lamont Dozier. Panelists include folks like Kevin Kiner (composer for CSI: Miami, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and the brand-new Hell on Wheels), seven-time Grammy-winning producer Rob Chiarelli, and on and on. It’s three jam-packed days of classes and panels on everything from current vocal processing techniques to how to use social media for your band, to how to get past writer’s block. This year, Kiner actually scored a scene from an upcoming CSI: Miami episode as a panel session. Pretty informative (and funny – Kiner’s a riot).

The Rally Hotel's lobby, after hours – spontaneous jams of all shapes, sizes, genres, ages and hair colors. I'm at far right, soaking up the love (and a little bourbon).

I suppose it’s just like anybody else’s convention: you come away exhausted and – depending on what you accomplished, or didn’t, in the last 12 months – some mixture of all fired up and inspired, and downright despondent that you aren’t progressing quickly enough. You get a million great ideas, but you also overhear a guy at the bar talking about having had 273 placements of his music so far just on one cable network. If you haven’t, that can sting no matter how far you’ve come toward your own goals.

I’ll interject here that the Rally consistently provides an undocumented, unscheduled perk: a huge dose of love and support from fellow TAXI members, who befriend and help one another online throughout the year and then have a massive hug and lemme-buy-you-a-drink-fest once we’re together in person. Without fail, newcomers each year are stunned by the support and encouragement they get from people who are, in some cases, the competition. I adore my TAXI friends. They make a famously solitary occupation feel practically communal.

But anyway, back to the hard stuff – if you’ve been following along here at Composing Kitchen, you can probably guess how I felt coming off the conference: I’m not doing enough, and I’m not doing it quickly enough.

That’s how it feels. But… really? Let’s take stock for a minute. Just since leaving my job in July, I’ve had three pieces of music used on TV and one in a Breaking Bad webisode. I’ve signed music with three more libraries and have been asked by an indie label for a genre-specific CD. I’ve produced about 50 unique pieces of music. Some of those are short show-theme bits, but most are song-length, and most have homes already (that is, they’ve been picked up by music libraries). One is sitting, as I type, with an ad agency, because I tackled the type of high-bar, quick-turn opportunity that used to scare me to death. I’ve started scoring a local documentary and am in discussions regarding a feature film for early 2012. This is when I’m not busy teaching two university courses, freelance writing and editing, serving on the board of the New Mexico Post-Production Alliance, and being a decent partner to my sweetie.

I started this adventure in mid-July. I knew that the risks probably had nothing to do with actually going broke and starving, but instead with taking on too much non-music work to cover the bills and winding up still short on composing time. That’s exactly what happened, and I have to make peace with that and honor my commitments.

So it’s not perfect, yet. It’s not 273 placements. But if I’m completely honest with myself – and I try really hard to be – I can say it’s working.


Is this a copout?

Am I doing what I set out to do? I said I was quitting my job so that I could be a full-time composer. I said I would complete a piece a day. I’m not.

I’m a few months in now, and here’s how I’d assess my new life: It’s not the 24/7 composing fest that I’d hoped for — but it’s still fantastic.

Why? Because I love everything I’m doing, and most of it is, in fact, music-related. I’m crazy about teaching, more so than I ever expected. The other day as left campus, I thought, “I just got paid to teach people how to connect joysticks to their computers and make ridiculous noises come out. That’s awesome.” Meanwhile, my freelance writing/editing projects rock: both
support renewable energy and sustainability efforts, and both involve working with strong, smart women.

If you’ve been following along since July, you might be wondering about that other freelancing gig — the online one. I dropped it. I didn’t need to finish reading The 4-Hour Workweek to know that it wasn’t paying off compared to my other engagements, so it’s gone.

Does that mean I’m failing? You could say that.

Now, what about the point of all this — composing? It still doesn’t pay the bills (it would be miraculous if it did, this quickly). And I still wish I had more time. Some days I have two hours, some days four, some days eight or more. I use it as efficiently as I can.

I’ve gotten my first few placements on TV — an American reality show and a UK travel show. I’ve got pieces in the exclusive catalog of a major daytime talk show, and I’ve signed several pieces with another new library. The relationships I have right now guarantee nothing; they mainly improve my odds from, say, one in a million to one in a few hundred. Once a piece of music gets picked up by a good library, my job is to forget about it and go make an even better one.

I’ve also continued to think about how to differentiate my work in a saturated market. Like it or not, anyone with GarageBand can put out passable production music. So mine has to excel, but that’s not news. There’s more to it: I want all of my pieces to have character, and soul, and vibe, and grit. No question, I will always push myself to work more quickly because that’s a great way to sharpen existing skills and internalize new ones. But speed can never come at the expense of feel and character.

So am I meeting my original goal of a piece per day? In isolated spurts, yes, but not overall. I could. I could force it, finish one a day no matter what. I could pull all-nighters, teach on no sleep and never hang out with Karen. I could deny myself even a one-day weekend. But I don’t.

Does that mean I’m failing? You could say that.

Or you could say that I had to try this to find out how it would actually work, and I’m learning and tweaking as I go — for example, by dropping unnecessary work.

Or you could ask me if I’m happier than before. Because ultimately, even if I were composing 24/7, wasn’t the whole point to improve my quality of life by spending more time on the things I love? Absolutely, and I don’t think that’s a copout. I think it’s the bigger picture.

So ask me. Am I happier? Yeah. By a long shot.

Could I be even happier? Sure. And that’s why there’s tomorrow.


“The 4-Hour Work Week” — part 1

OK, so I know there are plenty of posts out there about the Tim Ferriss book The 4-Hour Work Week. There’s no need for a long-winded dissection from me.

But as I type this, my bare feet are up on a windowsill in Portland, Oregon, with an incredible morning breeze coming into our hotel room; I’m relishing that perfect, teeny bit of bourbon-head that — rather than truly hurting — reminds me that I had a really fun time last night; and I’m about to go for an absolutely gorgeous run along the Willamette with my beloved spouse. We flew in yesterday from Albuquerque primarily to watch the US Women’s Soccer team play a friendly (exhibition) match against Canada last night, and it was totally worth it.

In short, it’s bliss.

If you’re familiar with the world according to Tim Ferriss, you get the connection. You might think he’s a douche as a person (I’d be inclined to agree for reasons spelled out in his book and in some high-profile blogs), and the whole package that he pushes might not work for you. But one point on which I definitely agree with him is this: Feeling free, or even successful, is not nearly so much about money as it is mobility. At least for me. Ferriss, who has earned $70K/month and more, can’t exactly speak from an either/or perspective about money vs. mobility anymore. Nor do I believe for a minute that he only works for four hours per week. But he is definitely a mobility guru.

For Karen and me, there’s nothing so fun and energizing as getting way – even for just a day or two — to explore a new city, to find the locals’ favorite coffee house, to have a few great meals somewhere new, to window shop. It doesn’t take a ton of money; on the plane here yesterday, I did a pleasant editing job that will buy us a decent dinner at the Bridgeport Brewpub tonight. It doesn’t even take a lot of time, because amazingly, consistently, a few well-filled days feel more like a week. It mainly requires mobility.

When I tell friends and colleagues about our little jaunt, too many say, “I wish I could do that.” Actually, a lot of people say the same thing when I talk about having left the corporate gig to do more of the things I love.

My response in both cases is, “Are you sure you can’t? Absolutely, positively sure?”

If you take a good, hard look at how your life is set up, do you find that you’re assuming some tethers that don’t exist, and maybe hanging onto others that needn’t?