10 Things You Can Do To Be a Better Artist

Jennifer Thomas-581KAT 2As a composer/recording artist with four albums released and a growing music career, I am immersed daily in a global community of musicians that contains everything from amateurs to seasoned professionals.  I get to see a lot of really amazing stuff, some things that are maybe not-so amazing, and everything in between.

Before doing what I do now though, I performed in the world of Classical music (violin and piano) for about 20 years before discovering I wanted to have my own voice and compose my own music.  I’m now 10 years into my composing/recording career, and I only recently started finally feeling like I’m starting to get it – you know – this thing called the music business.

And while I know I’m definitely far from learning everything I still need to learn, I wanted to share with you what I HAVE learned thus far.

I’ve actually been wanting to write this blog post for quite some time – as I’ve jotted down thoughts in a journal regarding this subject. But here it is…

10 Things You Can Do To Be a Better Artist.


  1. Know that you will never be able to please 100% of the people, but you can be 100% true to yourself.

    Truth.  Even if you get those tens upon tens of thousands of Facebook or Instagram fans, or millions of YouTube views on our videos and you start to feel like you are hot stuff and the best at what you do – you still won’t please everyone.  Even if you write what you feel is possibly THE most beautiful song and produced to perfection, there may still be someone out there who will disagree and give you that aggravating thumbs down, or rude comment.

    I used to let this get under my skin when it would happen.  But you know what?  This is life.  Everyone has a choice of what type of food they love, what style of clothing they prefer, and what music they listen to.  They are going to love what they love. And YOU…you just need to have confidence in yourself and what you are putting out there and remain true to your own creative vision.

    I really like the saying “You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.

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  2. Don’t put too much thought into “Likes” or “Dislikes” on social media.

    There was a time when I used to check my number of Facebook likes almost daily.  I would also pay attention if my number of Instagram followers went down after a particular post that I made.

    Oh man, I just lost some followers probably because I did a mommy post about my baby and they are only here to follow my music.

    I would say this to myself – because HELLO – I wanted to retain followers and goshdarnitt I wanted people to like me.  I became overly concerned about what I posted until one day I realized I shouldn’t have to worry about whether or not they liked me.  What other people thought of me was none of my business.

    You can’t worry about what others think. You just have to be you.

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    Now I rarely have a clue how many followers I have. It’s exhausting try to care about it.

    First of all, do YOU unfollow people that are no longer relevant to your current interests?  Yes, of course you do.  And do you do it because you dislike the person or you think they suck?  No. I mean, not usually.  It’s personal, right?  It’s not really about them, but it’s more about whatever it is you are into right now and what you want to see in your social media feed.  So don’t take it personal when someone unfollows you.  It’s not about you.

    And as for Facebook?  Pshsh.  Don’t even get me started.  With how you have to pay to boost posts for your current fans to even see anything you post anyway, and how people can pay for fake likes and so forth…I don’t see the relevancy on number of likes anymore.

  3. Be a real human.

    I don’t have too much to say about this other than – don’t be someone who just pushes your music on people like a used car salesman.  Be a real human being with your fans.

    In all reality, people nowadays really just yearn to know about you and what you do outside of music, behind the scenes.  This doesn’t mean you have to disclose your inner soul, but just be real.  Don’t try to be perfect. Allow people to know that you are human, that you too wake up with messy hair, you have bad days, and you eat fast food.

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    One of my fans once told me that the biggest reason she followed her favorite artists on social media was not to find out about the latest music news or listen to links to their music, but to find out what they were doing outside of music.  The whole reason she was their fan in the first place was because she already knew and loved their music. That was a given.  But she wanted to know them as a human being.

  4. Be humble.

    I always tell myself that if I ever get to a point where I think I’m pretty awesome and better than others, then I need to check myself.

    Don’t ever think you are better than someone, or that you have it all figured out. Even if you have won multiple awards or have X number of albums out, you still have things to learn.

    And be humble with your fans too, btw.

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  5. Make your own dreams come true. Don’t wait for someone else to do it for you.

    I feel like there are so many artists out there who are waiting for some big record executive to discover them, offer them the deal of a lifetime so that they can go on to make lots of money and be super famous.

    Look, it just doesn’t happen that way. And if it does happen, it is very VERY rare that, especially in 2016.  Do you want to know why?

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    First off – competition.  For every one of you, there are thousands more out there who are also trying to land a record contract or who are waiting for that bigtime producer to notice them.  So not only do you need to be talented, but you have to be EXTREMELY multi-talented, beautiful, young, and unique. And you need to have quality demos that basically sound like a finished product (which they will then take and completely change it to sound like something else).

    Second, the need for artists to have a record label in order to be successful is becoming more and more of a thing of the past.  It’s 2016!  Look at violinist Lindsey Stirling.

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    She is a successful self-made millionaire with record labels offering her contracts left and right, but she turns them all down. Why?  Because she has built such a huge system of fan support that they stand behind her and continue to help her have success – she doesn’t need a label.  And it goes without saying that with her huge success, aside from her talent and originality, one of the reasons labels want her so badly is because they see how successful she is and they want a part of that (with dollar signs in their eyes).  But I love how she continues to defy all odds and show the world that she is a force to be reckoned with.

    And P.S. with more and more artists becoming successful independents, the need for record labels continue to decline and many are not as financially affluent as they once were – thus making the number of new artists they sign fewer and fewer.

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    I truly TRULY believe that you can do anything you put your mind to.  You have to think outside of the box sometimes, but it is entirely possible.  If you have a dream, YOU can make it happen. You just have to work hard.  And you need to ASK.

    Do you want to perform with an orchestra but you don’t know how?

    Ask.

    Do you want to record a music video but don’t have the money, do crowd funding?

    Ask.

    People want to see you succeed.

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    My first album was produced on a really crappy keyboard with basic software. I did all my own artwork, promotion, and everything.  The only thing I hired out was 2 soloists, and my mixing/mastering engineer.

    My most recent album was recorded with a real orchestra, and a choir at one of the most prestigious recording cathedrals in the country and mixed and mastered with a Grammy award winning engineer, and my debut concert was at Benaroya Hall with full symphony and choir.  All because I ASKED.

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    And do you want to know what?

    That first album, despite it’s humble beginnings, is what got me onto Pandora, which then led thousands of listeners to discover me.  I now have  over 40 million unique listeners on Pandora (and it pays the mortgage.)

  6. Do invest in quality artwork and photos.

    You know how they say to never judge a book by it’s cover?

    Well that doesn’t apply to music albums.

    Your album cover will totally be judged as it is the first thing someone sees when they are introduced to your CD. And if you have really bad artwork or amateur looking photos, then they are going to assume that your music is really bad and amateur too.

    I’m super picky when it comes to this, and my biggest thing is fonts.  Even just the font you choose can make your cover look professional or amateur.

    Photography?  Hire someone.  It’s worth it, I promise.

    If you want people to take you seriously, you need to have some professional looking photos.  Put down the smart phone, and don’t try to manipulate that one photo that your friend took of you from 10 years ago to look like an album cover.

    (From my 3rd album – “Illumination”)

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    From my 4th album “Winter Symphony”

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    Make sure you have high-resolution photos.  Be sure the coloring is correct – you don’t want your face to be shadowed or colors to be weird (unless of course you are going for a shadowed face).  Also keep in mind that nowadays, most people will be viewing your album cover as a tiny thumbnail on iTunes or Amazon because most people buy digitally.  How does your album cover look as a 100×100 pixel picture?  Does it stand out?  Does it make sense?

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    And last of all, get opinions!  Ask people that you know and trust will give you their honest opinion. It’s better to have your cover reviewed by someone then to go to print and realize you ended up with this:

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    Or this:

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    This…

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    Haha…this…

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    or THIS.

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  7. Keep up the maintenance practicing.

    I am SO guilty of not doing this.  I am either in full blown performance practicing mode for concerts or not practicing at all.  And then opportunities will come to me while I’m on a “break” and will sometimes miss those opportunities because I’m not up to speed on my music.

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    I get it. Life is busy. I’m a mom of 3 little ones and so I don’t always practice every day. But DO do maintenance practicing, even just to keep your most popular songs in your fingers (or voice).

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  8. Do make contracts and agreements with people you work with.

    I actually have really fond memories from my first album where I knew everyone that was helping me with it – we were friends – and most of them were just doing it for free to help out. I was so grateful and I loved the feeling of trust between everyone.  We did not do any agreements or anything, because honestly at the time it never even crossed my mind.

    But 10 years later, as my career has progressed, I’m learning how essential it is to have these agreements set in place before starting a project.

    I have had several experiences where I worked with people where we never made a formal agreement or a contract and then later on something came up where it seemed we weren’t clear on an issue, or another situation where perhaps one person didn’t feel that they were compensated enough.

    The people you work with want to be protected, but you also need to protect yourself. It goes both way and is mutually beneficial.

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    And read and consider everything before you sign an agreement too. I tend to be the type where I just want to trust everyone and I think “everything is going to be just fine!”.  Because ALL projects start out blissful. But I’ve done projects where I agreed to an amount, and then as it turned out it ended up taking 100 more hours to complete than I thought it would and I didn’t put anything into my contract about being compensated for extra hours or a bajillion extra editing sessions – so by the time I finished the project I felt like I actually went into debt for it instead of being paid – haha.

    And to be completely honest, I still reeeeeeally dread the “money conversation”. Part of me wishes that I could always just have that friendly nice working environment that I did like on my first album – where everything was bliss, no problems arose, and we were all friends. But even sometimes working with friends, misunderstandings happen and it can be so awkward. So having the “money conversation” needs to happen and so does a written agreement.  And trust me it’s so much better to have this all done upfront so you’re not left in the dark later on. I’m speaking from experience on this one – where I’ve been on both sides of the table. I’ve been the person that someone was upset at, and I’ve also been the person who felt like I worked way more than what I was being paid for.

  9. Don’t vent on social media.

    In case you haven’t learned already, being present on social media is a must on every artist’s to-do list.  The better you can become at it, the better you will be able to be present out there to people who love your music and will prospectively come to love your music.

    So DO be present on social media.

    But for heaven’s sake do NOT vent, publicly bash, gossip, or belittle someone on social media. There will probably be times when you get frustrated with a project, or maybe someone you are working with – but tweeting about it only makes you look like a jerk, and it will also ruin relationships. Keep your head and your cool, and be professional.70b37bc4765f5a39e931c6b6c569984e
    I know an artist who had a bad experience filming a music video and while that person stayed 100% classy, the person they worked with went onto twitter and posted a tweet that was extremely derogatory towards this artist.  I’m not sure if this person didn’t think that the tweets would be seen or what, but the artist cancelled the video and it was never finished and obviously those two will never work together again. Not to mention the person who put out the tweets got a bad rep as being volatile and rude, which probably ruined some possible prospective projects for them as well.

    Unless you plan to vent about something that could have a positive outcome – i.e. a cause you believe in, or something silly that will make people laugh but is of little consequence – just. don’t. type. it. Period.  Put the phone down and walk away from the computer and vent to your best friend in person instead.

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  10. Thank your fans.

    Please do remember to let your fans and the people closest to you that support you know how much you are grateful for them.  A little “Thank you” goes a long ways.  Without them, you would probably be performing to an empty room so make sure you let them know that you value them and their presence.26382753-Thank-You-Word-Cloud-in-vector-format-Stock-Vector

    And besides, people who support the arts are just basically some of the coolest people I know. 😉

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Being Happy for Your Friends’ Happiness

20150206_183709I just returned from Grammy weekend in Los Angeles!

Will (my husband), and I flew down with the purpose of supporting our dear friends, Ricky Kej, and Wouter Kellerman as they were nominated for a Grammy Award.

And guess what? THEY WON!

It was very exciting, and I couldn’t be more thrilled for them!  I have known Ricky for a couple of years, and Wouter for the past year.  Early last year, Ricky and his wife spent a few days in Seattle and I showed them around and we had so much fun.  And Wouter is so incredibly nice and has a 100 watt smile all of the time!  I can honestly say that these two gentlemen are a couple of the most genuine people I’ve met, and they do music for all the right reasons.

I am beyond happy for them!

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Aside from this amazing weekend, I wanted to talk about success and happiness.  It’s something that we all want.  We ALL desire happiness in various shapes or form.

But there is this thing, especially now days with social media, where if we see a friend have a little bit of success – whether they got a job raise, or lost 50 pounds, or sold a million copies of their new book – we sometimes feel bad about ourselves.

WHY?

This has been on my mind so much lately – so many instances recently where I’ve seen people hate on others for their good fortune.

I read this article last week that was featured on the Huffington Post entitled “When Her Good News Makes You Feel Bad“.

READ IT.

I think comparison and competition exist partly because we believe that there is a scarcity of good things in the universe. And that belief makes us kind of small and scared and unable to feel true joy for others or peace for ourselves.”
(Read more in the article).

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I will admit, that there have been times in my own music career, when I’ve seen other similar artists get millions of youtube views, or sell a lot more albums than me, or maybe they are just a heckuva lot more famous than myself…and there is a part of me that has momentarily felt bad for myself.

On the flipside, I have even had friends unfriend me before, or not talk to me – and at a later time I come to find out that it was because I was doing well in my music and they weren’t, or that my life was going so much better than their’s and they just couldn’t take seeing the positive status updates.  At one point, a friend sent me a personal message telling me that the reason she had backed away from our friendship was because I was always posting about things going well in my life, and it made her feel bad about her’s.

Everyone has their good days and their bad.  But we are all different, and we all certainly do not have the same talents.  While I might be good at music, I can tell you that I am not very good at crafty things.  But instead of dwelling on the fact that I will probably never sew my kids’ Halloween costumes or have a Pinterest home, I remind myself that I can appreciate others who are gifted at those things and concentrate on the things that I am good at.

And above all, HERE’S the thing, everyone:

When you finally understand that there is NOT some cosmic rule that the universe or God makes about how much good fortune there is to go around – and that just because someone else has something good happen to them does NOT mean there is now less of it available…you will find yourself in a place where you can truly and genuinely be happy.

You will be happy for yourself.

You will be happy for your friends (and I mean GENUINELY happy).

You will find hope for yourself.

And you will find a whole lot more love in your heart and see the world differently.

And if you see your friend talking about something wonderful that happened for them?  Be happy for them, and then you get out there and work hard for yourself too and just know that it IS possible for you as well.

– Jennifer

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The Art of Attaining Your Goals

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Last Sunday, I was asked by the teacher in the women’s organization at my church if I would take a few minutes during her lesson and share about a goal I had achieved, how I did it, what obstacles I faced along the way, how overcame, and felt, etc.  Her lesson was on bettering ourselves in the new year and setting goals.

Goal setting is something I am very passionate about.  I’ve set goals since I was a child, and have always set my sights high.  I have always had this natural faith that I could do whatever I set my mind to.

Mind you, I don’t always accomplish every single goal that I set, but I try very hard and my ambition is great.  And when I set out to do something, I am one the most determined persons you will ever meet.

I thought I would share some of my thoughts that I shared in church, in hopes that it might help any of you.

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Goals are NOT crap.

I recently read a blog post where the author talked about resolutions and “how they are crap”.  She believed that instead of setting goals, failing, and then feeling discouraged – that you should just leave your life up to God and allow him to decide what comes for you.  As I read the comments on the blog post, it seemed like everyone was praising the author and saying how much better this made them feel instead of setting goals.  And then there was one commenter who had the guts to say what I felt inside – that life was about bettering oneself, reaching for something higher and not allowing oneself to be complacent. Of course, the other people attacked him a bit for having a difference of opinion and having the audacity to say so.

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Some people will argue that resolutions and different than goals, but to me they are the same.  It’s saying that you want to accomplish something and are willing to work towards it.

Maybe resolutions/goals are overwhelming to some people because they really do feel like they fail, and fail often.  I personally don’t think it’s because their goal was unattainable, but it was probably because a) they weren’t ready to commit, and b) they didn’t set themselves up for success.

As I think back over my life and the various goals I’ve set/accomplished, there are a few that really stand out to me.

Goal #1 – Finishing ‘Illumination’

It took me 4 long years to complete my 3rd album “Illumination”.

I started writing the songs in between other projects until I had enough songs and the kind of songs I wanted for this album.  Some of the songs took me over a year to finish composing. My skills as a composer developed immensely during the process, and the diversity of the music on the album reflects that as well.

During those 4 years, I had a child, finished a film score, started and completed a 2nd album, got pregnant again, and gave birth to our 2nd child, worked and completed the 3rd album. So not only was I busy working on music, but I was busy growing our family and both took a lot of time and effort and energy.

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Many people asked me “How do you do it??”.

It did take a lot of time management and goal-setting to complete, and even got to a point where I made myself write out goals and deadlines, otherwise I feared I would never finish the album.

(Here is a blog post I wrote as a guest columnist for author Alex Bledsoe, on the act of balancing parenting and career).

Monthly Goals and Deadlines

One thing I did was I set monthly goals with specific dates of when I wanted to accomplish certain things by.

This is a screenshot from the ACTUAL goal sheet that I made and had pinned to the wall in my music studio.  As I was still trying to lose all my pregnancy weight, you will also see that I had some weightloss goals defined on there as well – as I was preparing for photo shoots and videos and wanted to look my best.  I was working hard on all levels, I tell ya!

You can click to enlarge if needed.

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Another thing that I did was create a spreadsheet for each process of the album creation so that I always knew where I was at with each song and what I had left to do.

On the left you will the name of each song (some names changed later on, btw).  And then a space to check off everything from recording, editing, orchestration, mixing, mastering, naming the song, and more.  (To clarify Glen co-orchestrated some of the music, and Rob was my sound engineer).

Click to enlarge

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That spreadsheet was so crucial to me. And I was VERY adamant about not checking anything off until it was absolutely 100% completed.  So it always felt great when I could put a check mark in any of the boxes.

Setting Myself Up for Success

One thing you need to keep in mind is in order to accomplish a goal, you need to arrange your everyday life so that you make it possible to attain. You need to set yourself up for success.

My husband works a busy day job for Microsoft, and since we have two kids (now as of Jan 2014, one more on the way – due in March), we had to figure out a system in our home where we could juggle parenting responsibilities, work, and more.

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Fortunately, I married a guy who has ALWAYS, always been my hugest fan and supporter.  He would move mountains to help me accomplish my dreams.

We created a weekly schedule where 3 days a week he came home early from work and took over everything. I mean EVERYTHING.  When he walked in the door, I was ready to hand the kids over to him and go into my music studio and shut the door.  And I was typically in my studio until the wee hours of the early morning trying to get things done.

There were days when I needed more time, and so I would hire a babysitter to watch my kids all day, or take them up to my parents’ house so that I could have a few solid days of uninterrupted work-time.

I Was Kind to Myself

My original goal was to finish my album by June 0f 2012, but I know that things usually always take longer than you think. So when little hiccups came up, I wasn’t hard on myself or disappointed, I just kept moving forward.

Many people tend to give up when they fail, or say “What’s the use?”.  Thing thing is, is that LIFE HAPPENS.  Illnesses happen.  People you depend on fail you.  Money can be tight.  Other responsibilities come up.  The key is to not give up and keep going. I know that sounds so cliche, but it’s true!  Nobody is going to do it for you. You have to believe in yourself.

I completed the album only 6 weeks behind schedule and released it in the latter half of July 2012.

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So the biggest ways I was able to accomplish the goal of finishing that album was

1) Setting monthly detailed goals and deadlines
2) Setting myself up for success by arranging my life to make my goal possible
and 3) Being kind to myself in the process.

Goal #2 – Fitness and Weight loss

This isn’t a topic I usually talk about publicly because it has nothing to do with my music, but since you obviously now know it was part of my goals (from my goal sheet I attached above), I wanted to talk a little bit about this goal and how I worked EXTREMELY hard towards it and achieved it.

603315_10151233773213425_1842082860_nHaving kids does some crazy things to your body. I will say that.

Both of my pregnancies were really hard on my body and I gained more weight than I would have liked.  I seemed to have anything and everything go wrong with me – from several dislocated ribs, hip problems, pancreatitis, pre-eclampsia, and emergency C-sections both times.  Exercising during my pregnancies was hard.

After I had our 2nd son in Aug of 2010, I will tell you that I was very self-conscious of my body and how I looked.

I actually turned down performance opportunities because I was too embarrassed to go on stage and have people judge me for how I looked.  And granted, I have the best fans and supporters in the world and most of them are there for the music and not for what I look like, but still, in MY mind, I just didn’t have the self-esteem and courage to do it.

So for a good year or more, I really didn’t perform very much. I was still busy working on music in my studio, and commissioned projects, but just too self-conscious to get up on stage.

As I got closer to releasing “Illumination”, I knew I wanted to be in better shape so that I would look good in my photos and feel more confident.

At my “Illumination” Photo Shoot – Paramount Theater, Seattle, WA – May 2012

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Even at my photo shoot for my album (pictured above), I wasn’t at my goal weight but was still proud of where I was at that point.

It took me close to 3 and 1/2 years to lose all the weight I had gained from both pregnancies. From 2010 (after I had our 2nd baby) to summer of 2013, I lost a total of 70 pounds – which actually put me UNDER my pre-pregnancy weight.

The following photo is a progression of me in 2010 (after the birth of Taylor), and finally on the right in 2013 when I filmed the outdoor scenes for my Illumination music video.

weightloss journey

I will say that THIS goal was not as straight-forward as my goal for finishing my album.  I am very good at disciplining myself to work on music, but not always great at disciplining myself with my body (which is why it took me over 3 years to lose the weight).

But there came a point in Feb of 2013 when I was tired of losing a little, gaining a few back, losing a little, gaining a few back.

I wanted to reach my goal and I was finally in a motivated frame of mind where I wanted to kick some butt and just get it done!

A few things I did to accomplish my goals were:

1) I hired a personal trainer
2) I set myself up for success by re-arranging my daily schedule so I could go to the gym 6 days a week
3) I got my family’s support with my food goals

Each of those things were very involved with many variables.

1040700_10151565003563425_246904629_oFor example, I hired a trainer because I needed accountability and I was at a point where I felt like I had done everything I could myself and needed outside help.

The trainer (Monica Lynne) I hired was also a life coach and nutritional coach, and so we had many hours of wonderful talks that provided insight into my soul as to the reasons behind why I did certain things.  For the first time in a long time, I was overcoming issues I had and reaching goals that I really wasn’t sure I ever would.

It was the BEST feeling to know I was capable of achieving this goal and could overcome trials.

As for setting myself up for success, this involved making my gym time a priority – even over friendships sometimes and other things that were fun.  I had a rule that the mornings were “my time” at the gym, and I would say no to anything else that got in the way.

It wasn’t easy, at first when I would tell people “Sorry I can’t, I have to go to the gym.”, they didn’t really see that as a valid excuse to get out of something. So I stopped saying that I was going to gym, but just instead said I had a standing appointment every morning and that I was “unavailable”.

My gym has a daycare too that my boys absolutely LOVED to go to, and so I didn’t feel guilty for having the “me time”, because they were also having a lot of fun, meeting new friends, and being social.

1234964_10151680335663425_1868392960_nMy husband was also very supportive by making sure I had my gym time, sometimes re-arranging his schedule in case I needed to go to the gym in the evenings, and also Saturday mornings.

My husband is an ultra-marathon runner and his big training runs are usually on Saturday mornings.  As crazy as this sounds, he would usually get up around 4 a.m. and go on his 4 to 5 hour trail run, and when he got back we would switch and I would go to the gym.

I got my family’s support with food goals, and this was not easy.

With an ultra-marathoner who loves his carbs, and 2 little boys who are picky eaters (can we say chicken nuggets and mac ‘n’ cheese?), we often rarely all ate the same thing at dinner time.  And everyone was okay with this.  I would eat my lean protien and veggies, while they ate their carby stuff and proteins.

I also didn’t bake as much, or bring sweets into the house as often, and got very good at saying no to things.

I was very motivated by the success I was having, and how fit and wonderful I felt.  Some people who say getting in shape is a vain endeavor obviously don’t know how great it feels compared to having extra pounds on you.  I LOVED being able to hike up mountains and not be out of breathe, to fit into my dresses with ease, and to be on stage performing and feel confident.

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Shortly after that last photo was taken in July of 2013, I found out we were pregnant with baby #3!

So I am going to be starting the process ALL OVER AGAIN come March. 🙂  This time though, I have still been able to work out at the gym through this entire pregnancy. I am currently 30 weeks along and still doing cardio and weight training 3 to 4 days per week.

To Sum It Up…

My point to all of this is YOU CAN ACHIEVE YOUR GOALS.

It’s not always easy, it’s not always fast, but it IS POSSIBLE.

Goals are not crap!

If I can do this with 2.75 children, husband, busy music career, and everything else, YOU can definitely accomplish your dreams too.

I want to leave you with a neat story about world renowned concert violinist Isaac Stern.   A real hero of mine…

(Story retold by Rex D. Pinegar)

stern1“Isaac Stern, the world-famous musician-violinist, was asked by a television talk show host at what point in his life he determined to devote his energies toward a career as a concert violinist. Mr. Stern told of having given his first concert in San Francisco at a young age. Music critics were extremely impressed and predicted a fine future for the promising young talent. With this encouragement, Isaac Stern began preparations for another concert a year later in New York City. The critics were not so kind to him there. It would require a tremendous amount of work, they judged, if Isaac Stern were to achieve success as a soloist.
Dejected and discouraged, the young Mr. Stern boarded one of New York City’s double-decker buses and rode it up and down Manhattan a number of times. He was, in his words, “crying inside” as he tried to decide where he was going from there. Were his critics correct? Had he gone as far as he was capable of going? Should he now seek a profession as just another member of an orchestra?
After his fourth bus ride through the city, he returned to his apartment where his mother was waiting. He had made his decision. “I am going to work, mother—work at my music until it works for me. Today Isaac Stern is acclaimed as one of the finest violinists in the world. Work is a principle with a blessing. Work builds us physically and spiritually. It increases both our strength of body and our strength of character.” (Isaac sterned passed away in 2001).