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Living with your parents or in-laws (and challenging the traditional American stigma)

2:15 PM James 0 Comments

I’ve been living with my wife’s parents for about six months now. Since the birth of our daughter, they’ve graciously allowed us to rent two extra bedrooms for $1,000/month.

It’s been a major challenge to my concept of being an adult. I thought being an adult meant being independent. I didn’t know what to think of the all-too-common story of the Millennial college grad who moves back in with her parents, the “boomerang child”.

It’s also a potential strain on our relationship. Being that close to one set of parents presents its own set of problems:
  1. Parents can get on kids’ nerves.
  2. Adult children can get on parents’ nerves.
  3. You don’t want to think about your in-laws seeing or hearing some of the normal married things you do with their precious son/daughter.
  4. There can be tension about your multiple roles. Should you be treated as a guest? As a tenant? As something entirely different?

However, there are many benefits as well:
  1. Parents can be an enormous help with the grandchild.
  2. It makes grandparents feel included, which helps their sense of well-being.
  3. You can also be a big help to the parents with various things (household repairs, shopping, etc)
  4. If your parents have a big house that’s now an empty nest, your financial assistance will help them pay their mortgage. It’s also a more efficient use of housing than to have two big houses (one for you and one for the parents).
  5. Parents don’t always like to take monetary gifts from children, so this can be a creative way to help your parents out. You’re also keeping more money in the family, instead of paying some stranger.
  6. Baby can get to know more family members, which is great for baby’s social, relational, and language development.
  7. You can save money on rent and increase your savings for upcoming expenses.
  8. If you’re at all concerned about your parents or how they live, it’s a way you can keep a closer eye on them and make sure they’re OK.

From a cultural perspective, living with one's parents isn't as taboo as you might think. In the US, it's become more acceptable since the Great Recession. In many European countries, more young adults live with parents, even up to age 40. And in Asia, multi-generational homes are very common.

From the family unit’s economic perspective, we’re saving my in-laws $1,500/month, and we’re saving ourselves about $700/month in rent and $1,200 in childcare costs, so the total economic benefit is $3,400/month. That’s over $40k/year tax-free in after-tax money, or it’s like making $56k/year more before taxes if your marginal tax rate is 28%.  

From the family’s relationship perspective, I think we’re building stronger family bonds, and we’re allowing everyone to spend a lot more time with baby, which is a huge win.

On the other hand, if you’re living with parents, you’re kind of on the same train with them as far as lifestyle, by default. You eat what they eat, if you share a fridge with them. You may not always do what they do, but your activities are compatible. And you may not spend what they spend, but you’re influenced by it to a higher degree. Herein lies the risk of diluting the benefit of multi-generational cohabitation.

How to beat this:

  1. Be really clear on your priorities. Get clear with your spouse on this if you’re married. One of you is related to these people, and may have a stronger emotional attachment to their way of living. On the other hand, they may be more effective or more knowledgeable at broaching uncomfortable subjects with them.
    1. Make specific plans as a couple.
    2. Talk about your specific goals, and any actions you need to take separate from your family’s normal activities.
  2. Make sure you spend time with yourselves, and not only time with family. If you don’t make an effort, you start to feel like siblings instead of romantic partners.
  3. Don’t feel like you need to always do what your family is doing. Chances are, your parents don’t want to always spend time with you either.
  4. You can score points with the parents and buy some leeway by doing thoughtful things for them occasionally. Wash the dishes, do some housework, take them to dinner, and be a good neighbor / tenant / child / in-law.
  5. Know how long you want to do this. Talk with your spouse about how long they’re OK with this arrangement. Decide when to reevaluate. Discuss how it’s going regularly. Have a plan to get out, and don’t be afraid to pull the trigger and reclaim your independence!


I wish I’d thought about alternatives to an MBA

2:00 PM James 0 Comments

As I’ve written about before, I really enjoyed going to business school, and I learned a lot of topics that I never covered in my Bachelors of Science in electrical engineering. Here are some great things about the UCLA Anderson MBA program:
  1. Learning about tons of topics outside of engineering (strategy, marketing, organization behavior, mergers and acquisitions, real estate) and models that I still use today
  2. Meeting non-engineers who are great people, ambitious, and curious (my class was ~25% current and former engineers, 20% consulting, 20% finance, and various other disciplines)
  3. Fun social events with said great people
  4. Many opportunities to explore different career paths, with varying levels of engagement and commitment: case competitions (marketing, banking, hackathons, startups, consulting engagements, real estate deals, nonprofits)

I’ve described UCLA Anderson as “a 5-star buffet of educational opportunity (and I’m not just coming hungry, I’m bringing Tupperware!)” (They love to put that in the promotional emails). But what if you don’t need a 5-star buffet? What if, instead of the $50 Bacchanal Buffet at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, you just feel like some high-quality sashimi and only need to spend $25 to get it?

Here’s a decision flowchart that can help you decide whether an MBA is right for you:

Some quick takeaways from this flowchart:

  1. Instead of a full-fledged MBA from UCLA Anderson (and other top business schools), you could enroll in targeted certificate programs if you’re more sure about what you want to do after school.
  2. If you’re curious about other jobs, and you work in a company with people who do those jobs, talk to them before committing yourself to an expensive degree. Go out to lunch / coffee / drinks with them and say you’re considering a career change. Ask them how they got into this field, and what experience and education helped them. Ask if they ever hire internally. Ask if you can help out with a project, something they’d use an intern for.
  3. There are many ways to learn the same thing. Some career paths require a name-brand education, or formal training, and some don’t. Knowing which you need can save you lots of time and debt.
  4. I’m not against getting an MBA! Far from it, I’m happy I got a part-time MBA. It’s taught me many helpful concepts that I still use today. However, when I was deciding whether to pursue an MBA, I didn’t have this whole picture at my disposal. As informative as they were, the various info sessions I attended didn’t point us toward non-MBA paths (imagine that). I remember wanting to feel like I was making active effort and measurable progress towards my dream job. For some people, these paths do not require a fancy piece of paper.


My first 7 jobs

1:56 PM James 0 Comments

  1. Freelance writer at The Morgan Hill Times - wrote for my town newspaper (circulation: 35,000) covering junior varsity sports teams for $20 a story. I spent about 3 hours each week writing two 250-word stories, so I made about $13/hr. My work consisted of calling up coaches and asking them about the games they played and what was coming up next week. I took their summaries of the games, spiced them up with exciting verbiage, and banged out the stories.
  2. Page layout editor at The Morgan Hill TImes - when summer rolled around, the paper hired me to work 20 hours a week laying out the news section, including the front page, photos, captions, trimming stories, and proofreading. I made $8-10/hr, which was a little better than minimum wage. I spent a few late nights making sure we met deadlines. I continued doing this job during my last year of high school. I quit during the year to spend more time playing music in my band and apply to schools.
  3. “House man” at Eagle Ridge Golf Course - the next summer, I worked at a local golf course doing a bunch of random manual labor tasks. Building sheds, repairing golf carts, washing glasses behind the bar (only once!), and setting up for weddings and parties by assembling (and disassembling) dance floors, moving a lot of furniture, and setting and clearing dishes. The job was physically demanding, and I often woke up the next day with a sore back and muscles. Hours were nights and weekends - sometimes I’d work from 9am-1pm to set up, then come back at 9pm-1am to tear down. I made minimum wage + tip, which worked out to $11-15/hr. I only worked about 15 hours per week, and my mom thought I was lazy, but it left me free to play with my band and hang out with my friends before I went off to college.
  4. Camp counselor at Camp Leelanau - my freshman summer, I was coerced to work as a camp counselor at an all-boys summer camp in the forest of northern Michigan. It was an awesome place for kids to get outdoor skills, challenge themselves physically and mentally, and enjoy great brotherhood with other campers and learn from counselors who are positive male role models. I made $1,500 for 8 weeks of work, so the hourly rate was less than $5/hr (assuming a 40-hour work week… and this was basically a 130-hour work week!). I was responsible for a cabin of five 7-to-8 year olds, and for teaching archery, neither of which I had any experience doing before that summer. It was a memorable summer, but I did not want to do that again! It also made me realize that taking care of kids is TOUGH and I did not want to be a parent… yet.
  5. Lab assistant at Scripps Institution of Oceanography - in sophomore and junior year I worked in a computational environmental science lab that used big data and neural networks to predict weather patterns and stuff like that. I worked for a Principal Investigator (a guy with a PhD who ran the lab and got funding) and wrote and edited his papers, wrote scripts for data analysis, fetched coffee, and wrote his expense reports. That glorious job paid $11/hour, and came with a free helping of verbal abuse and high blood pressure from stress. The PI was a narcissistic asshole, but he helped me with some letters of recommendation down the road. I also learned C and scripting, so that was good on-the-job training.
  6. Engineering intern at General Atomics Electronic Systems - I started out working in the basement with a desk pretty far from everyone else. There were two other interns who I became friends with. We traded music and goofed off. I also occasionally built and debugged circuits, redlined engineering drawings, classified electronic component databases. Basically, they gave me really vague tasks, and I made tons of stupid mistakes and learned a lot of engineering jargon and practices the hard way. A few months in, they put me in charge of the next round of interns. I made $15/hr and they offered me my first full-time engineering job as a Component Engineer at $45k, then $51k. I refused because I knew that was way under market, and being a Component Engineer sounded like the most boring thing ever.
  7. Associate process engineer at Cubic Defense Applications - got this job thanks to my college buddy and lab-mate. At $55k/year, it was pretty average entry-level engineering pay. The job was really interesting: I didn’t appreciate many parts of it while I worked there, but I learned so much from it that I still use today, and I had some good people who taught me valuable lessons and gave me valuable experience. The cool thing was that I got a lot of autonomy - it was up to me to figure out how to solve problems, usually by just walking around, asking questions, and being resourceful - scary, but interesting. The bad things: waking up early (5:30-7am start times were not uncommon), feeling inferior to design engineers (which is not true), working with paper and command prompt legacy systems, feeling like I was supporting bad decisions regarding the Iraq War. Worked with some awesome people, though, and will always be grateful for the opportunities!


What should you spend your career on? Inspiration, disillusionment, fulfillment, and chasing the wind

1:45 PM James 0 Comments

I titled this “chasing the wind” because I’ve found fulfillment in a career to be a moving target, perhaps a mirage that doesn’t really exist.

Inspiration: When I started working at The Old Place, I was swept up by the company mission “contributing to human welfare by the application of biomedical engineering to alleviate pain, restore health, and extend life”. Working on medical devices meant that I was applying my skills, education, and effort towards a noble purpose, and that felt great. I was excited to get into the office every day, because I had a new opportunity to make sick people live more normal lives.

Disillusionment: After a while, I realized that large organizations, even well-meaning ones, do things that disappoint you sometimes. A product previously claimed to be safe now has to be recalled because it’s causing, rather than blocking, pain in some patients. A device is found to malfunction in certain rare conditions that could potentially kill a patient. A company that claims to value innovation under-invests in R&D, and bleeds market share while its main product grows increasingly outdated. You see your friends laid off because the company misses earnings targets. Eventually, your company dodges billions of dollars in taxes in a legally and ethically sketchy acquisition. After seeing enough of these, enough promises to turn things around, a revolving door of VPs, presidents, and CEOs, you realize you don’t believe anymore. You have to leave.

Despite my disappointment, I still know many people who believe in the company mission and who still walk into that office, committed to helping sick people feel better. It’s noble, if quixotic. I also realize that managing a department, a business unit, or a global corporation is hard. You don’t always like the cards you’re dealt. You may not know the answers, but you do the best you can and hope it’s enough. I further realize that being unhappy with one’s job because it doesn’t inspire you everyday is such a Gen Y concept that it’s cliche. But still, it affects me.

You can see this two different ways: as the one who’s been let down, or as the one who can do something about it. If you see your company doing something dumb and you know a better way, let someone know. Figure out what it takes to convince the right people. I’m not saying commit career suicide, by golly. But showing that level of ownership and initiative will get you noticed at any company. Just be prepared to discuss what you see as the problem and the solution in a way that makes sense to the decision-makers. Of course, if you’re convinced you’re powerless to change the situation, or if your well-being is suffering, then you need to figure out a graceful way to move on.

Changing jobs fixed this for me at first. SpaceX inspires the hell out of me with its mission to make life multi-planetary. My coworkers inspire me to give my best, because they damn sure give theirs. I’ve sacrificed many long days and nights for the dream of sending humanity to the stars, and I’ve had some huge wins as well as some big disappointments. I feel like I have agency, so I dust myself off and walk into the office believing I’m doing my highest good.

Will I ever get disillusioned at this job? It’s definitely possible. Although we hire people all the time, people quit too. I’ve experienced frustration about certain things my team, department, and company have done. But nothing has made me lose faith in our mission, or in the commitment we all have to it. I’m also developing what I think is a healthy sense of perspective about how much you can really expect a job to fulfill you.

A good job should definitely give you satisfaction, and it helps to believe in what the company does, but I’m not sure it’s healthy to let it define you or your ethical or philosophical standards. Companies and other institutions, like governments and churches, will make decisions you disagree with, things that look like big mistakes, and you will be disappointed. It’s best not to put them on too high a pedestal. Sure, we should hold leaders to a high standard, but we should also forgive them when they act human and make mistakes. What’s more, we should help them recover if we truly care about them, and they let us help. That’s a positive way to show you believe in what you do.

It’s also helpful to value your self-development as your career goes on. Even if a company isn’t your “dream date”, a stint there can be worthwhile if you’re learning and growing in a personal and professional sense. A job doesn’t have to be forever.

I can’t close without emphasizing how important it is for all of us to have support that’s outside our company. Friends, family, and communities we belong to all play an important part in our well-being. Don’t place too much trust in work, expecting it to meet needs that should be met by other close relationships.

With that, I sincerely hope you find a job that inspires you and makes you want to get out of bed and walk into the office every day ready to make a difference. I also hope you have people who make you feel that way too.


I wish I’d been less of a hoarder earlier in life

1:43 PM James 0 Comments

I remember being jealous of people who seemed to be happy having few possessions. That’s never been me.

I’m also well-acquainted with the shame of having a messy car and a cluttered bedroom, the paralysis of trying to throw things away, and the frustration of feeling like I’ve hit a mental block and will never be free of stuff.

Much of these instincts came from my upbringing. My father was at times incapable of throwing away even old newspapers and empty peanut butter jars. My mother’s well-intended generosity meant I ended up with presents that I didn’t want, but felt bad throwing away. I developed an emotional attachment to things that symbolized parts of my life that I cherished. I still struggle with these attachments to this day.

I certainly wish I’d grown up with less attachment to physical objects. From college age, I moved often, about once every year or two, and moving all my cherished possessions was physically exhausting. I also remember it being mentally exhausting, because each move-out dredged up memories attached to those things. I didn’t think about them as much when I unpacked, which is why I think I still dread packing, but love unpacking. All told, my attachments have complicated my life for well over a decade.

I suspect my hoarding has kept me from being as mobile as I’ve wanted to be. Moving is always inconvenient. It’s really a pain with you have literally tons of stuff following you around. I’m sure it’s influenced me to spend extra money on a larger place instead of a smaller one. I know it’s cost me considerably mental energy.

I want this next paragraph to introduce some revolutionary concept, like SO THAT’S WHY THIS YEAR I’LL INTENTIONALLY REDUCE MY POSSESSIONS TO THAT OF A MONK TAKING A VOW OF POVERTY. But I don’t really want that. Facing that drastic of a reduction would be mentally… challenging.

However, I have accidentally reduced my attachment by living with my wife over the last four years and, together, living with her parents for the last six months. With few exceptions, I give my wife permission to toss anything she deems unnecessary. She’s helped me lighten my load considerably. We’ve also limited ourselves to one bedroom (and part of a garage) worth of stuff over the last several months, which has been incredibly eye-opening. Now realizing that I don’t ever think, let alone use, the vast majority of my things, I’m much more open to parting with them permanently.

My favorite technique for deciding if I can throw away something is to take a picture of it. If I can look at that picture and get roughly the same level of enjoyment as looking at the real thing, I let go of the real thing, and keep the picture. My second-favorite technique is a self-imposed requirement that for every new thing, I have to get rid of something else. Buy a few new shirts at the store? Time to donate some old clothes to Goodwill. A third “stuff” limit we implemented was investing in a 1600 sqft townhome in the neighborhood we love, and planning to raise our family there - we’ll have to make everything fit 1600 sqft somehow, and that will force me to reduce drag.

Some things I haven’t thrown away, but I’m thinking about letting them go soon:
  1. Bass guitar and amplifier
  2. Crate of books
  3. Snowboard gear

In the coming year, I hope to part with more non-essential possessions, and clear up more physical and mental space for the important things in life. Now that I’m married with an amazing six-month-old child, I’m willing to let go of some of the old parts of my life that I used to cherish, and make room for the present and the future. I should have realized that I didn’t need to start a family to benefit from that mindset.


Why I stayed at a job way too long (and why you shouldn’t repeat my mistake)

1:42 PM James 0 Comments

2007: Super stoked about my new job! Associate Electronic Design Engineer, making the world a healthier place for sick people! LA, here I come! Started at $64k/year, not very competitive for an engineer, but at least it’s a design job in the medical field, which I wanted. And hey, I get to live closer to my (then) girlfriend. Oh what’s that, she just broke up with me? Aww, crap.

2008: Still liking the job. I realize I’m a lousy electrical engineer, but I try really hard to make up for it. I’m getting some decent advice from mentors at work, although I should really be doing more active in making complete designs. Instead, I’m testing and editing current designs, and making subcircuits more or less by trial and error. I’m also still doing a lot of menial work. And also going out a lot and generally enjoying myself as a 25-year-old. Oh well, it’s a good job with a good company. I’m OK with this..

2009: OK, I guess I busted my ass because people recognized me with a Top Technical Contributor award! (Worth $13k in company stock which vests over a 4-year period… I later realized that this is peanuts, more of an empty gesture really.) They also promoted me to regular Electronic Design Engineer, now capable of designing and generally being responsible for stuff. This is great… but I’m about to learn from experience A LOT OF WRONG WAYS TO DO THINGS. Not just my own, but also my department and my company. Take mental notes!

2010: I start to realize that my boss and I have some serious friction. I’m getting bullied and verbally abused by him constantly. I’m manifesting physical symptoms of depression and anxiety. It gets so bad I talk to HR and contemplate quitting. This is the first time I really should have quit. Meanwhile, I’m watching my department get abused by our management as well as our prime contractor. Lots of bad board spins and dead ends. I’m an OK engineer now, but still pretty distracted by my social life and my flirtation with a music side-career, and not really putting 100% into work. I do what I can, but definitely don’t try to fix organizational issues - and I don’t know how. I think about getting an MBA so I can understand what’s going wrong so I can help fix it, but I decide not so at the moment.

2011: I get sent overseas to fix problems with our contractor, and I succeed. Cool, now my department trusts me and I get to work on more quagmire projects. Company faces big losses because we have a product recall (not my fault!). My department gets gutted with massive layoffs - about two-thirds of R&D. Several of the smart ones who aren’t laid off start leaving on their own and getting better titles and raises outside. I don’t get a promotion this year, despite all this and despite asking. Feeling pretty demoralized at work. This is probably when I should have changed jobs. The writing was definitely on the wall, staring me in the face. Maybe I was a little insecure and grateful just to be employed. But on the plus side, I meet my future wife and get engaged! So I guess 2011 didn’t suck after all. (Only work-wise.)

2012: I get married to the most awesome girl in the Universe. As a wedding gift, the Universe miraculously lets me interview, hire, and train my own new boss. Work gets a whole lot more tolerable, even if I’m not moving up. I do get into business school and start working on an MBA part-time at UCLA Anderson. I know I’m going to find a better job before I graduate. By now, I’ve been at my job for 5 years. If I stay much longer, I’m going to get depressed. But I really need to focus on my new marriage and make sure I get the most out of grad school. For now, I can do my job in about half the time it used to, and use the balance of my time to finish my readings and assignments. I actually get to work on some really cool projects that I’m proud of!

2013: I keep doing a good job (and it’s not even hard at this point) and do little extra things like mentor new engineers and collaborate with lots of other functional teams at work. I’m kind of the EE belly-button now. Finally get promoted to Sr. Electronic Design Engineer! This feels good, but it’s not enough of a reason to stay. Other people my age are managers by now. This place is rife with office politics, and I didn’t play them right when I was younger. Something’s gotta change.

2014: So depressed at work, my wife starts to notice. I’m still underpaid, and definitely under-engaged. Start hunting for jobs hardcore, and get some great leads. End up applying for 2 internal positions (mostly to use as exploratory / leverage) and get offers for 1 of them, plus 2 external opportunities. Negotiate back and forth a bit, laugh at my company’s feeble attempt to retain me, and accept an incredibly exciting and scary growth opportunity at SpaceX. I’m so happy to can barely believe it! Is this what it’s like to love your job and be paid well with good growth opportunities? WHY DIDN’T I DO THIS 2-4 YEARS EARLIER? Oh yeah, I was busy and scared and young.

Then And Now

If I could go back in time and talk to my 2009-2013 self, I would’ve told myself to get out there and look! Treat music as the hobby is really is, go out a little less, and grab a kick-ass job at a startup or a sexier tech company. SpaceX, Beats, Google, Tesla, or any number of companies would’ve been great choices. I would’ve learned more, had better growth opportunities, and been better compensated. My compensation has more than doubled since leaving The Old Place. I’ll never know what else I missed by staying at The Old Place for 7 years instead of using more of my 20s to pull ahead in the work world.

Overall, life is still good, all things considered. I’m happy I did make the move eventually. Best of all, I’m determined to make better use of my career than I did at The Old Place. 2 years later, SpaceX is still a great place for me to work - they greatly benefit from having me, and vice versa. I got promoted to Lead Avionics System Engineer, a supervisory role with plenty of influence and impact. And I got that partly because of the lessons I learned earlier in my career, what I learned in business school about managing my career, and wisdom from my awesome wife who I did meet while I still worked at my old job.

What do the next 5 years old in store for me, work-wise? I’m not totally sure, but the future is bright. I’m currently pretty happy at work. If that changes, I’m confident that my education, work history, and reputation will open up the right doors.


Cool things I learned from being in bands

1:17 PM James 0 Comments

Since I picked up a guitar at age 14, I'd dreamt of being a rock star and playing to packed audiences around the world (or at least around town). In high school, I was in a pop-punk band called This End Up. In college, I went acoustic and delved into songwriting and recording on my computer. When I moved to LA, I played open mics, joined my church's praise band, and pursued an indie career, recording and releasing my own album and playing at historic LA venues like The Viper Room and The Mint.

I never went pro with the music thing, but it was a huge source of enjoyment and education for me. Here are some of the lessons I learned from being in bands that still stand out to me today.

  1. How to write music. Ever wanted to express how you feel about someone or something? Writing a song is an unforgettable way to get your point across.
  2. How to really play my instrument. A lot of casual musicians can play some songs, but they're looking down at their hands, which is not the most engaging thing to watch if you're in the audience. Being in a band and playing in front of people makes you want to make eye contact with your bandmates and your audience. That, in turn, forces you to learn how to play without looking down, to relax, and to improvise. Things like that make the experience more enjoyable for everyone. When they see you're comfortable, it helps them be comfortable.
  3. How to recruit people - to play with you, and to come to shows.
  4. How to run a team of peers. Providing leadership for my peers didn’t come naturally to me. I thought of myself as a nice guy who didn’t want to boss anyone around. But what I realized was that a leadership vacuum is no fun. It leaves the group directionless and unmotivated. Someone needs to step up and lead, and that means you experience opposition, friction, and disappointment. But once you have a band working, coming to regular practices, learning songs on their own and perfecting them together, good things start to happen, and being in a band gets a lot more fun.
  5. How to collaborate with each other using verbal and musical communication. Writing riffs, lyrics, and arrangements on your own is nice, but it’s exponentially more satisfying when everyone in the band adds their own unique flair. Oftentimes, the song goes in entirely unexpected directions. Sometimes, you’re pleasantly surprised. Other times, you liked your version better, but you let the band own the song.
  6. How to market yourself and get gigs. Time management of packing and setting up for gigs. Networking with bookers, venue owners, and other bands you share the bill with.
  7. Friendship. Being in a band is one of the most unique kinds of friendship I’ve experienced. You share the creative side of yourself, which is scary. You spent extended amounts of time with each other practicing, traveling, and getting to know each other.
  8. How to think on your feet. What do you say when the cops show up and shut down your practice or your (unpermitted) outdoor show? What do you do when you break a string (or a strap) onstage, or when the power to your amp or your mic keeps cutting out? How do you stall, how do you connect with your audience, how do you handle a heckler?
  9. People will think you’re cool for no particular reason (at least when you’re in high school to your early 20s). Don’t let it go to your head.
  10. You can provide yourself and other people deeply satisfying levels of entertainment for zero marginal cost. Upfront cost for gear, however, is significant.
  11. What you think is cool and important is NOT what your bandmates and your fans think is cool or important. Sometimes the simplest riff or melody will became their favorite thing. Sometimes they just want to hear you play “Champagne Supernova” or “Billie Jean”, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Listen to those people and they’ll continue to be YOUR people. While we’re on that...
  12. How to take feedback, from your fans and from listening to yourself. Fans and audio recordings don’t lie. It’s a brutal truth but a valuable one. Listen closely and listen hard. Improve however possible. Realize that most people never become as self-aware as you, and that this knowledge will allow you to grow in ways you never imagined.
  13. The important fact that you’ll never be everything to everyone, but you’ll be everything to someone, or to your people, and that means everything.

Shoutout to my fellow musicians and fans who helped make this list possible!