KoriSoron (me), Feedback Analysis (and You)

KoriSoron

Last year on this day, I wrote a post called Due Versus Do.  The post talked about the need to put the work in and pay dues in building your craft and building an audience and outlined a plan for building a regional audience (If you’re playing live music – you might find it to be an interesting read).  It’s also a good example of setting up a parameter for feedback analysis.

Feedback Analysis

I first read about this term in a book called Heart, Smarts, Goals And Luck which was a book that talked about self assessing those areas on a HSGL scale to determine where the reader’s strengths were as an entrepreneur.  The quote below is from notes I made from the book – so I believe that it’s paraphrased from Peter Drucker.

Whenever you make a key decision or take a key action, write down what you expect will happen.  9-12 months later compare expectations (with outcomes).  Otherwise it’s too easy to rationalize a decision Ex Post Facto.

This is something I happened to be doing in goal setting – but was remiss in going back to see how well those things actually worked!

What This Means for You

Feedback analysis is a great way to look at how your goal setting is actually working.  It’s not enough to just write down goals.  In reviewing them you can also see what’s working, what’s not working and how to best steer your ship from here.  It requires looking at what you did, warts and all, and coming up with an honest assessment.

As an example of this process using the web post from a year ago – how did KoriSoron do with feedback analysis? (again the initial post is linked here in case you’d like to compare Due Versus Do).

1 / 2.  Open Mics (play in front of people) / play traditional non traditional venues.  We didn’t explore this a lot.  Largely because we put our focus on working on new material and playing new venues.  It’s something I’ll probably explore solo to try to open some doors – but the yield of getting people from an open mic to a show was non-existant and the open mics didn’t yield gigs in and of themselves.  It IS a good way to network (in a legitimate way like making friends instead of a slimy way of using people), but it requires showing up every week to do so.  Typically it’s a 3 hour investment in an evening to play for 5-10 minutes but probably worth it if you’re trying to break into a new market / venue.

We played a number of different venues, and that coupled with the monthly gig at Arthur’s has been REALLY useful for us in terms of feedback for what works and what doesn’t work for the show.

For me, it’s interesting to see the yield of what I practice that I think will work versus what works in a live setting.  No matter what methods I use, it always tells me something different and I can only get that information playing live.

3 /5   Developing Marketing material / Social Media / Get Visible and Record material.  We made some strides here.  Farzad pulled together a strong website and we did a lot via Facebook.  We wrote a lot of new material and got Dean Mirabito to play percussion with us (which added a whole other dimension to what we do) and  started digging deep to get into the nuances of the tunes to improve our performances and live shows.  This also involved a lot of experiments with arrangements and live sound options and involved a lot of trial and error.

We also started recording every show (and using a standalone recorder for a live mixer as well) and that’s been great pre-production for going into the studio.  But recording is the next thing that we’re targeting in a big way.

4.  Network.  This is something that needs improvement.  Our tunes are very difficult to play and require a lot of practicing.  It’s only now (a year later) that I’m starting to get a sense of what the tunes are and what our sound is enough to start going back out to shows in a consistent way.  Everything is this business is based on what you can do and who knows what you can do.  Again – I’m not into spammy networking, you have to have legitimate relationships with people – but if you don’t network you’re going to play in your room forever.

6.  Build bigger.  Here’s a GREAT strategy from Heart, Smarts, Guts and Luck that encapsulates this –

Think Big – Start Small – (Scale Fast)

I put scale fast in parenthesis because in business you need to scale quickly.  In art, you need to scale at the rate you can scale.  You’re developing a foundation that you need to build on.  To modify the suggestion strategy:

Think Big – Start Small – Output Constantly – Review – Revise – Repeat

I hope this helps!

As always, thanks for reading!

(and hope to see you at a KoriSoron show soon!)

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Don’t Let Time Become An Excuse For Not Starting Something

Hi everybody!

I just wanted to add a post to go with the new series I’m running on my podcast. (if you like this post you might want to check it out if you haven’t already!)

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Time and Fear

It can be scary to start a new project, take on a new initiative or choose a new direction. One fear-based response I hear from people consistently for why they don’t want to take on something new is some variation of this:

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“Well…what if I put all of this time and energy into it and it doesn’t go anywhere?”

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The Tough Love Part Of The Post

Here is the reality check for this line of thinking:

Your time has no fixed economic value before you start something.

Let me clarify this.  If you’re currently making six figures a year in your day job, you are sorely mistaken (or outright delusional) if you’re taking on something new at the ground level and assuming that your time in your new venture will initially have the same value as what you’re currently making.

If you open a hot dog stand and sell five hot dogs in your first hour, SOME portion of that wage (and given the cost of supplies will be a negative figure in this case) will be your new (hopefully temporary) hourly wage.

While it doesn’t mean that’s what you’re worth –  it does mean that’s what you’re making at this moment.  Five years from now your artisan dogs might support a dozen stands selling hundreds an hour and bringing in real money – but at this moment – in the simplest equation – your business is valued at the dollar value generated when expenses are subtracted from assets and revenue.

Later on, once your project has inertia, your time will have a definitive value and there will be numerous things fighting for your time.  But initially, it’s like going to court in that just as you don’t get compensated for your time to appear in court – you don’t get back the time or energy in a project that went bust.  It’s gone.  Eat the loss and let it go.

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Sometimes you take a step back to move forward.

When I realized that my fretting hand technique was holding back my playing I had to re-learn about 1/2 of what I “knew” how to play.

It was a drag, and initially it felt like a huge waste of time taking a step that far back and I resisted it for a year because I didn’t want to wast my time taking a step back when there was already a lot I could do on guitar.

But what I could already do wasn’t getting me any further ahead in the long run.  The process of revamping my technique made me re-evaluate my relationship to the instrument and to music as a whole.  I began to hear my playing differently and began to hear other people’s playing differently.  Ultimately it got me the fluidity and clarity that I admired in so many other players playing that I was always wondering why it was missing from mine.

I sometimes wonder if people get frustrated when they talk about whatever they saw on the internet or TV (i.e. “if your time is so valuable how exactly are you spending it now?”) and then go on to ask the initial question:

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“Well…what if I put all of this time and energy into it and it doesn’t go anywhere?”

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Here’s the answer:

The good news is that if the project is a bust (and if you haven’t invested EVERYTHING into it) you can quit and take what you’ve learned from this venture to move on to the next one.

I copped this from Seth Godin who once said that quitting is undervalued and that the problem with quitting is that most people quit something when it’s too late.  The time to quit is in the early stages BEFORE you take the second mortgage, empty the bank account and realize that if this doesn’t work out that you and your family need to move back in with your folks.

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And now the caveat!

If this website has a one word core idea, it’s balance“.

Before I played guitar, I started off as a drummer in junior high school.  If I didn’t quit drums in my first year and later switched to guitar I never would have stayed in music because by the time I had enough time in on drums in high school I wouldn’t have had the energy or interest to transition to learning guitar.

If I quit my pursuit to revamp my technique too early, I never would have made the progress in my playing that I did.

The balance is the hardest thing because the onus of understanding and maintaining that balance falls on you, the individual.

Balance will play a huge role in the posts and podcasts ahead!

Starting any new project will take inertia to keep it going.  Once you get the project going you’ll have plenty of opportunities to evaluate your use of time and address it’s value in a real way, but don’t let that short circuit your plans for starting something.

More content coming soon.  As always, thanks for reading!

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It’s Not All Gold

As a professional – one important lesson to start internalizing is the need to balance being passionate about what you do and maintaining an emotional distance from it at the same time.

Hostile Terrain

Most of you have never heard of my first self published book, an unabashed DIY effort called Hostile Terrain.  It featured poetry, some plays, essays and other works.  Truth be told, about 30% still holds up as writing that I’d be willing to show to other people.

Hostile Terrain came out of a process of years of journaling.  I wrote everything down as an outlet.   I was depressed and desperate and it took a long time to realize that journaling just fed right into that.

I didn’t realize at the time that writing wasn’t getting bad things out of my system, but instead, it was just making me sicker.  I was breathing in the same stagnant air and thinking that I found something invigorating and relavatory because I was equating output with discovery.

In the next stage of this process, I was living with a person in a completely isolated situation and had hit emotional rock bottom because I had to confront things that intellect alone couldn’t solve and that I simply didn’t have the emotional maturity to deal with.

In the middle of this terrible living situation, a freak accident happened where the room I was living in flooded.  I lost 10 years of writing and journals.

I was devastated.  It was thousands of hours of work down the drain (or so I thought).

So being emotionally crushed, I went back to what I knew.  I went back to writing and eventually I wrote some more and then put out Hostile Terrain. I sent it out to friends and to a few publishing houses I was into, and while I got a few “attaboys” I got no interest from anyone for anything resembling publishing.

Bedtime Stories For Mutant Children

In the meantime, I decided to move away from poetry and into short stories.  I was really influenced by Tomas Bernhardt’s The Voice Imitator and decided to write a series of short stories that focused on dark stories for adults told in a children’s storybook style.  This was about 1996 or so. The Tim Burton book, The Melancholy Death Of Oyster Boy, came out mid project and even though I was jealous he beat me to the punch – my stories were much darker and I thought I might be able to get some publishing interest for a character I developed while on a grim tour of Germany (Kommandant Kumar) and for the overall book concept, Bedtime Stories For Mutant Children.

I had all the stories online so I could get feedback from my friends.  I didn’t have a computer at the time so I was working on my friend’s work computer.  I did this off and on for about a year.

Then something happened.

Within a 24-hour period the web server went out of business AND the hard drive that I had all of the files on seized.

I lost 30 short stories. Gone. Casper.

I hit my frustration limit and I stopped writing.  I abandoned the screenplay I wrote. I stopped all of the other writing I was doing and I worked on other things.

Eventually, I started seeing things differently, and I came to a realization.

It’s Not All Gold

  • There is no scarcity of ideas.

  • Not every idea has value

  • Important ideas will return

  • Sometimes it’s the process and not the product

There is no scarcity of ideas.

This was the biggest obstacle that I had to overcome in my own thinking and it’s one I still wrestle with.

There’s a fine line between being attached to an idea and being chained to it.

The difference is whether the idea you’re working with serves your larger goals, or if it’s only serving its own completion.

You don’t have to hold onto every idea like it’s a precious nugget.  There are more of them out there.

Not every idea has value equal to the amount of work needed to put it into action.

Again, it’s easy to get emotionally attached to the work put into an idea and equate work with value but that’s not always a direct relationship.  If you ever watch an episode of Shark Tank, you’ll likely see businesses where people have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars into a product that has generated no revenue after several years in place.  This is what I’m talking about.

Cultivating the mindset to distance yourself emotionally from what you’re doing is a difficult process to develop and maintain but it’s an extremely valuable one.

Important ideas will return

I like documenting things because sometime I find things worth exploring but, in retrospect, every really good idea I couldn’t remember came back to me or presented itself in a different form.

Sometimes it’s the process and not the product

For me, this is the most important lesson in this piece.

Earlier, in regards to losing all of my writing, I said that:

“It was thousands of hours of work down the drain (or so I thought).”

That work wasn’t down the drain at all.  The work I put into that sharpened my writing and really honed my ability to focus.

That emphasis made huge differences in my practicing and ultimately affected other areas of my life in a much more positive way than the actual writing ever did.

When I work on projects now, I assess the value of the outcome and the value of the experience and if either one makes sense for me to do, then I’ll take it on.

Don’t get hung up on old ideas at the expense of new ones.  Implement, assess and then continue or abandon as need be.

I hope this helps and as always, thanks for reading!

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Stop Kicking Yourself When You’re Down Or Discarding The Amateur Mindset

“If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.”

(I don’t quote racists like Henry Ford lightly.  But, for me, many of Ford’s quotes highlight the lesson that there are times that you have to listen to the message while ignoring the messenger.)

The biggest obstacle in the way of most people realizing their goals isn’t a lack of money, information or skill.  

It’s their mindset.

Thinking like an amateur may be holding you back.

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The Devastating Gig

If I have any wisdom to impart, it is undoubtably from making a seemingly endless series of mistakes and correcting them.   One mistake that I made early on (that took a long time for me to identify and correct) was equating what I played with who I was.    This meant that every single gig was a proving ground.

So if I played a good gig, I was elated because I was somehow validated as a good guitar player.

And if I played a bad gig….then it must mean I was a terrible guitarist.

This sounds insane to me as I write this (and hopefully insane to you when you read it!)!  But this is a common mindset.  I know a lot of players who do this and beat themselves up at gigs, sessions and in the privacy of their own practice time.

It comes from how players define themselves and it comes from thinking like an amateur.

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You are more than what you do

Many musicians develop some odd concepts (in my opinion) about what constitutes a musician.  I remember getting out of college and having a discussion with a classmate of mine.  He had asked what I was doing for work and I said, “Oh I’ve got a day gig to pay some bills and then I’m gigging/recording with a couple of bands and teaching on the side.”

His face buckled into a disgusted contortion as if instead of speaking –  human biohazard had just freed itself from my mouth and landed on the table between us.  “Oh….”, he said in the most passive aggressive snark possible.  “I see.”

“What about you?” I asked, trying to ignore the reaction.  “What are you doing these days?”

“Oh well I’m playing in a band full-time and teaching.”

“That’s great!!” I said.   “Is it all original music?”

“No it’s a GB band.”

“Hmm…I didn’t know you liked those kinds of gigs.”

“Oh I hate them.  The people are stupid and the tunes are awful, but some of the players are okay and sometimes we get to play some standards after the date.”

(insert awkward pause) “Well at least it’s pay….”

“Well it’s consistent.  But it’s not great money.  I’m always spending almost as much on my car and gas as what I’m making on a gig.  So I’m running a little short.  Thanks a lot for paying for the coffee by the way…”

Does that sound rewarding to you?  It didn’t sound rewarding to me.

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How you define yourself will either break you out of prison or put you there 

I defined a professional musician as someone who was paid to perform music at a professional level.  My classmate defined a professional musician as a person whose sole source of income comes from playing music.

I’ll paraphrase a quote from my friend bassist/composer Daren Burns here,

“I am completely unimpressed when someone tells me that they’re a full-time musician playing music that they hate.  I don’t see anything noteworthy  or impressive in that at all.”

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There was a several year period of time that Jeff Beck was pretty much working on cars full-time and not playing guitar at all.  I’ve never met Jeff Beck – but based on what I’ve seen of him I don’t think that he worried about whether or not he was less of a musician because he wasn’t playing music full-time.   Additionally, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who thought of Jeff Beck as a mechanic who played a little guitar.

Jeff Beck defined himself, did what he wanted to do and didn’t worry about how other people defined him.  Not to take anything away from Jeff, but isn’t it odd that most musicians think of this mindset as fearless and badass?   It’s odd because in my way of thinking, this should be the norm rather than the exception.

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If you don’t define yourself, you let other people define you and (most likely) you won’t like their definition.

How do you deal with isolation?   Some people see the four walls they are in as a cell and each hour of each day erodes who they are a little more until there is nothing left of them.  Other people see the four walls as a blank canvas and work on creating things within those confines.

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Life is a surprisingly good teacher if you’re observant.  If you take the time and energy to look at what, how and why you do the things that you do – you might learn a lot about what your priorities are.  For myself, I learned a while ago that there were a number of things that I wanted to do, and that there was no clear career trajectory to get to where I ultimately wanted to go – so I was going to have to find my own way.   I could either get hung up on what other people thought of a path I was on (that quite frankly they didn’t understand), or I could take steps towards achieving goals I had for myself.

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Are you thinking like an amateur?

I don’t know how many of you have toured with bands.  It’s an interesting experience.  Even if you’re unfamiliar with the material on the first night, within a couple of shows you get into a rhythm and the set moves into a comfort zone.   And in your spare time – you find that you’re not shedding the material relentlessly (because you already have it down), but instead you’re stopping at roadside attractions and looking for clean places to go to the bathroom so you don’t have to bag it on the bus. (If you don’t know what that means – don’t ask and enjoy your morning coffee instead).

Amateurs analyze every aspect of the performance. They scrutinize every detail and obsess over what was right and what was wrong.

Professionals get the set under their belt and then show up to do the work.

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The Ballad of Jane the Plumber

Llet’s say a homeowner has a broken pipe in the basement.  So they call Jane the plumber.  Jane comes over to the house and says, “this whole pipe has to come out and it’s an odd size.   I don’t have any that length on me.  I can do a quick fix that’s not going to be pretty.  I’ll get you through the next day or two – but I’ll have to pick some up and come back and to replace it.”

Do you think the homeowner says, “What a noob!  She doesn’t even have pipe!”  Not likely.  The homeowner is thinking, “I’m glad that the water is back on again.  I hope this doesn’t cost me fortune!”

Now, do you think Jane the plumber went back home and had a melt-down?  “I am such a hack!  I can’t believe that I showed up at that house without that pipe!  That repair was a joke!  I am such a loser!”

Not bloody likely.  She probably put the pipe order in and went to the next gig.

I’m not saying that professionals don’t care.  Professionals do care about what they do, but they don’t get emotionally invested.  They’re professional because they have the skill set to handle what comes up at the gig, not get freaked out and get through it.  They don’t waste energy evaluating what they do – because they’re too busy doing it.

If you find that you’re taking punches from yourself at a gig or a session take a step back and ask yourself, “what would Jeff Beck do?”  and then go tool out your engine 😉

I hope this helps!  As always, thanks for reading!

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The Perils Of Panaceas And Instant Gratification

That’s MBTI to you, Buster!

Most people have their first exposure to the Myers-BriggsType Indicator (MBTI) assessment either in a college psychology class, a life coaching session or in a work-related retreat / team building exercise.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with the test, participants are given a (psychologically loaded) questionnaire that’s been specifically devised to determine individual preferences and based on those, to then extrapolate the test taker’s decision-making process and world view.

In context, it can be a useful tool.  When participants get their four letter code that determines their personality type, they then typically get the equivalent of a score card to determine what the letters mean and to offer some guidelines on the types of decision-making process that they make.  Again, in context it can be a useful tool where participants might see themselves and their decision-making process in a whole new light.

However,  there always seems to be at least one person in a session who finds this to be something between a milestone and a revelatory experience and the next thing you know, every discussion with this person centers around Myers-Briggs.  Every interaction is analyzed and put through the Myers-Briggs filter.   “Oh well he must be an “I” which means that….”.

And then, eventually, someone calls them on their nonsense.

Myers-Briggs typing starts to break down in the real world, because while it’s not a bad contextual lens for gleaning some information, it’s not a good lens on its own and it certainly has limited validity as the sole filter for information.  Additionally, people don’t dig being typecast in any scenario, even when you’re trying to be helpful.

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“Cure’s All that Ail’s ya!”

The web is full of these observations and cure-alls for whatever ail’s ya.  “Become a guitar god in a week by following these 3 weird simple rules.”   Or forums where one observation is yielded, “I had good success using product x with gear y” and soon you have other people who have never used product x or gear y saying, “Well if you use gear y YOU HAVE TO USE product x!!!”

Take any one-size fits all methodology, philosophy, strategy or any  solution with a BIG grain of salt because, in my own experience, there is no one panacea for anything. Just as there is no one filter that will make previously hidden elements of the world fully visible and comprehensible to you.

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Instant gratification and false entitlement

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The simple fact is that things that are worth having, have to be worked for.

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As a society, we have mutated this concept through advertising and sold people on the concept that because they do work hard in other areas of their life, that they deserve everything.

“It might take you 3 years of saving to buy that 60″ flat screen TV.  You’ve worked hard establishing a line of good credit and you deserve to be comfortable in your twice re-financed home.   Pull that piece of plastic out of your pocket and you can walk home with it today!” – where you will set it up, take it for granted almost instantly and then spend 5 years paying it off and paying more than twice the actual cost of the item.

As Pascal said, “A trifle consoles us, for a trifle distresses us.” It should be called instant gratification because you’re gratified in an instant and your gratification lasts just as long.

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Guitar playing isn’t like that.  Certainly pedagogy and information transfer has occurred to the point where people can progress technically much more quickly on the instrument than ever before.

But the problem is that guitar playing isn’t merely a skill like typing.

More than a skill set, a guitar is a vehicle for expression.  Technical facility might impress people, but if there’s nothing behind it in terms of depth of expression, you won’t make a long-lasting impression on them.

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Having the depth to truly say something, takes time.  Plain and simple.

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A good way to think about this is something a great luthier John Harper told me about guitar.  As you play guitar over time, the vibrations of the notes actually affects the wood on a cellular level.  The vibrations literally change the make up of the guitar over time.  This is why guitars that have been “played in” over time sound completely different than they did off the shelf.

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There are plenty of shortcuts to becoming a fast guitar player.

There are plenty of shortcuts to becoming a better guitar player.

There are no shortcuts to becoming a great guitar player.

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Truly great players, have a completely different relationship to music than most other people.  Music not only nourishes them, but eventually the musician starts communicating with the music rather than just the audience.  That conversation helps them gain further insight into themselves and actually helps to develop them more as people.

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Not only is there no shortcut for that – but if you think about it, you really might not want a shortcut in that area. For example,  if you had the opportunity to meet anyone in history would you rather have the conversation with them when you were 4 years old or 34?  It might be exciting to meet them when you’re 4, but you really wouldn’t have anything to say.  It’s only with the passage of time and experience that you can start to meet the music part way and have that conversation. For every person, that time is different but putting the time in now gets you closer and closer to being able to have that dialog.

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Be wary of the cure-all, the quick fix and the over-arching shortcut.  Work hard and work passionately and know that what you truly put of yourself into anything can ultimately pay dividends for you.

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As always, thanks for reading!

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Be Wary Of The “To Kill A Mockingbird” Production Model

Harper Lee

 

I’ve been accused of having pedestrian tastes when listing Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird as one of my favorite books, but it’s a decision I stand by.  It’s extremely well written with excellent story telling, indelible characters and meticulous language and focus.  It’s truly a classic work.  

 

Here’s a question though, have you ever read any other Harper Lee books?

 

In case you’re wondering why you haven’t, it’s a trick question as there aren’t any.  A recent compelling documentary, Hey, Boo: Harper Lee & To Kill a Mockingbird, has brought to light a fantastic back story about the book.  Airline reservationist and author Harper Lee secured a literary agent with some strong short stories and a personal referral and then saw the original manuscript for Mockingbird rejected by 10 publishers before finding an editor in Philadelphia at a publishing firm who saw something real in the work.  The editor liked the idea but saw a series of short stories instead of a unified novel in its submitted form.   So the two of them went to work crafting a novel.

 

They proceeded to spend two years editing and hashing out the story.  I can only imagine what an exhilarating and agonizing time this must have been for Ms. Lee (she is said to have referred to this period of her life as, “A long and hopeless period of writing the book over and over again.”)  but the payoff was a book (and a movie) that became a classic (and a huge financial success).

 

Harper Lee hit paydirt with Mockingbird but while she never stopped writing, she never published again.  

 

Isaac Asimov

On the literary front, an interesting contrast to Harper Lee can be found in Isaac Asimov.  One of the most prolific writers of all time (his Wikipedia page bibliography is approximately 500 books), Azimov was originally a biochemistry professor at Boston University who became a wildly successful and influential author. I don’t know that any of his books have the emotional impact of Mockingbird (and none of them have the civil rights impact that Mockingbird did), but there’s no denying his influence.

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In terms of artistic output,

I recommend that you don’t hinge all your efforts on any one big payoff.

 

It’s easy to fall into the trap of pursuing “perfection” in artistic output (particularly with regards to recording), but in my opinion, you shouldn’t hinge all of your efforts on ONE defining work.  This is applicable to any aspect of artistic work, but consider for a moment bands who hole up for years on end recording, editing and mixing their full length “masterpiece”.

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In addition to the fact that it’s impossible to ascertain how it will hold up over time (I’m sure that there are a lot of former members of ’80s bands listening to the then “hip” electronic drums on old recordings and wondering what they were thinking.), all indications for the current and future economic model for working musicians involves multiple streams of revenue from multiple releases, sources and performance.  

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In other words, you’re going to need a lot of output and it all has to be high quality.  

 

Creating a classic work like To Kill A Mockingbird is like hitting the artistic lottery.  Instead of getting stuck on any one big project, work consistently hard, keep enough perspective to know when a project is done (the subject of a much longer future post) and keep outputting material.  

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As a short term example, 3 four song EPs released over the course of the year might ultimately gain you more traction (and visibility) than 1 full length released every 12-14 months but it will most certainly put you in a better spot that one full length released  every four or five years.

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(In related news, I’m taking my own advice on this and plan on releasing a lot of Scott Collins output that’s been in a holding pen for a while.)

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Stay engaged.

Stay productive.

Make everything you do as great as you can

then let it go and move on to the next thing you do.

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As always, thanks for reading!

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