Education

There are a lot of things I learned about myself in high school that I’m grateful for. It helped me figure out what to do and what not to do, in college, work, and generally around other people. While high school may seem tough, with all the classes and the extracurriculars and social drama, you’ll hopefully appreciate the things you learned later on.

One of the things I learned was what kind of space I want to work in. Some people love working in busy places with a lot of people. Others like working around books. Others, animals. By volunteering with everything from senior citizen centers to the local zoo, I realized I like quiet places that let me go at my own pace. I realize that I didn’t have to feel pressured to work in an office like what many of my classmates were aiming for. I like keeping to myself, organizing, and working with kids. I knew that I got the mid­semester gloom every March and that was a bad time to study, but a good time to tutor. It helped me figure out what kinds of jobs and internships to aim for when I got into college, and then there was a domino effect: Go with your gut and find what makes you comfortable and productive.

I also learned that people in high school aren’t the only people who will be part of your life. They’re the people you see every day for four years, but there is also the rest of the world. You learn about who you want to be around, and who you don’t. It may feel uncomfortable to be around certain personalities, but you figure out how to tolerate them and even how to get along with them. It is better that you begin to figure these skills out in high school than never. Sometimes you’re friends with the people you’re friends with in high school simply because they’re there, and that’s okay. You learn what to value in a person.

In college, you meet more people, and there are more complexities, but high school already began to teach you that. You figured out that you are good at being in big groups, or maybe you prefer small ones because big groups give you anxiety. You know you like food dates rather than movie dates. Little things like these become so valuable because they allows you to interact and relate with others. They may feel insignificant but they let you find happiness. That’s not insignificant at all, is it?

Work and social life might seem to be the only things that high school cares to prepare you for, but you also learn about yourself along the way. You learn what kind of person you are, but also what kind of person you don’t want to be. High school is this weird period where you haven’t really figured out who or what you like, mostly because the options haven’t presented themselves that clearly. But you get a sense of who you are, regardless. Learning about yourself is the most important thing, and high school can be a great place for that. Take it easy!

Image: Gratisography

Education

When you’re in high school or college, most of your time is spent around people your age. We become absorbed in the humor, language, and habits of those in our age group. Even when seeking advice, peers are often times the first ones we turn to for a sense of understanding. Our common ground is our shared space in time, and there is something very comforting and familiar about that.

However, there are two untapped pools of wisdom that we are missing out on when we stay age-centric. While we are trekking through the first quarter of our lives, we need to learn as much as we can from the two groups of people that flank the spectrum of life: children and the elderly.

So, what exactly can they teach us? Well for starters, we all need to stop worrying about everything. Karl Pillemer, a Ph.D in gerontology at Cornell University, interviewed over a thousand elderly Americans and asked them for some good old (pun intended) life advice. Over and over again in 30 Lessons for Living, the interviewees talked about how they regret having spent so much time mindlessly worrying about things out of their control. Rather than letting moments pass by in constant anxiety, they talked about the importance to “take time to craft the story of your life” instead. It’s more about investing in your legacy, and less about the things that can get in your way. Even the young ones of the world have similar sentiments.

“Children are happy because they don’t have a file in their minds called “All the Things That Could Go Wrong.”

– Marianne Williamson

For budding adults, that file in our minds just seems to get larger and larger with each decision we make. If we want a bit of childish ease to rub off on us, it’s best to keep observing how they choose to live. In a Ted Talk with internationally renowned speaker and author Caroline McHugh, childhood is discussed as a place in our lives in which people are most authentic. McHugh says that “when you’re a kid, you’re fantastic at being yourself because you don’t know how to disguise your differentness.” Kids are not afraid to show up in the world as themselves. They may be unaware, but they are also unaffected by the judgment of others. There’s a beauty in that sort of freedom of thought, that no matter what kind of millennial dilemma we may be going through, we can choose to hide less of ourselves and be proud of who we are.

Those with just a few years under their belt and those with only a few years left, these are the people that have a lot to share. Lighten up a little, feel self-assured, and enjoy what is right in front of you: today.

Image: Gratisography

CultureLearn

365 days, 6 hours, 45 minutes, and 48 seconds. That’s how long it takes for our Earth to revolve around the sun. This revolution (and the rotational tilt of the Earth’s axis yada yada…) causes those changes in season. We know the seasons well and we expect certain things to happen in accordance with their personalities. In the colder seasons, we can see our breath hit the cool air and make the necessary changes in wardrobe. We turn our headlights on early on our drives home from work and prepare ourselves for the vigor of the holiday season. Beyond these changes, however, are the subtle lessons we can all learn from the stories that these colder seasons tell.

Autumn to Winter – Accept and embrace change.

The yearly dance through meteorological phases does not stop. Ever. As the earth is always moving, we should too, with the knowledge that the only predictable thing is that things will change. Everyone has to make adjustments in their lives to accommodate other people and rising situations, and becoming aware of the pattern of changes can help people become more resilient to unexpected events. We all get thrown off from time to time when things don’t go according to plan, but accepting and embracing circumstances as they come is the first step in regaining balance and stability. Changes happen, and we reroute. Onward and forward.

Temperature drop – Coldness can be a very good thing.

The power of coldness is twofold: It’s harsh at times but can also bring people together. Whether it is snow, or rain, or gloomy skies, there is something about coldness that exposes a vulnerability within each of us, serving as a reminder that it’s okay to rely on people and things to keep us warm. It is fitting to have that sense of needed camaraderie amidst all the celebrations and traditions happening towards the end of the year. Allow the cold to signal a time for you to put your “relationships on fire.”  Visit relatives, keep in touch with friends, and be the first to call.

Fallen leaves – There is a time for everything.

If only trees could talk. Any deciduous tree out there with barren branches and its leaves sprawled on the ground, would be the first to tell you that losing is a part of life. The trick is learning that loss is necessary. It can be necessary to start anew or to grow in the future. Sometimes we lose jobs, or competitions, or spaces on people’s calendars. We lose hope and we lose energy. These times in which we feel hollowed out should be seen instead, as times of restoring. The effects of losing something lets people reevaluate what matters most to them. Emptiness permits a blank slate to reflect, prioritize, and set new goals. While there may not be an immediate upturn, it will happen. Given the right conditions and mindset, it always does.

Although we may shiver a lot more and have to chase daylight to get things done, treasure these colder months for what they’re worth.

“All seasons have something to offer.” – Jeannette Walls

Image: Samuel Rohl

CultureSkills

There are many things to be thankful for when the Thanksgiving pieces have fragmented into a “disastrous holiday.” This very American, very well planned, very much awaited for holiday may not be the picturesque family-filled weekend.

The Away-From-Home Blues

Not everyone gets the marvelous chance of traveling home for Thanksgiving as intercontinental trips can result in two entire days of travelling, exorbitant holiday fares, or simply lacking the luxury of time to do so. These away-from-home holidays can be seriously depressing – especially when you scroll through your relative’s posts of family reunions or phone calls that report you’re on speaker and all family members you love and secretly hate are together dining without you screaming their “Hellos.” However, if you are away from home, it doesn’t mean you need to celebrate Thanksgiving alone. Call up some friends who are also away from home and have a five-person-Thanksgiving-dinner; try cooking it all together. Amateur cooking without the guidance of your Mothers expertise is only calls for hilarious memories! Another option could be tagging along with along with a friend who has family in the area. Why not experience a different kind of Thanksgiving?

Preparation Timeliness

It’s almost law that you pay a price for the good stuff, no? Food: delicious, anticipated, and the entity that makes Thanksgiving actually happen. In other words, it is one of the most, if not the most important part of any Thanksgiving dinner. However, in order to have your guests roll their eyes in heavenly delight, you must first prepare this complex meal – aka the ultimate “OCD-enticing-price” as people are stressed out of their minds because the food is either finished too early or too late. Both can be disastrous because nothing is better than eating a home cooked recipe fresh out of the oven and nothing is worse than having to wait hours for your long awaited meal. Take a piece of advice: relax. Nothing ever turns out perfectly and that’s just a part of life! The premise of Thanksgiving may have a food component thrown in there, but when looking deeper into the holiday, it’s about being around family and friends and being able to reflect on just how lucky you are to have them!

Bizarre Selections

The quintessential Thanksgiving Dinner: turkey, apple pie, and stuffing? These are all foreign to me as my family celebrates with only a traditional turkey and Colombian food. Maybe we will get the occasional pumpkin pie that is bought from the nearest convenient store and left untouched throughout the night. Our unconventional dinners allow me to realize that there is true beauty in this holiday: the convergence of two cultures. On a different note, there are great stress-inducers other than the turkey not being prepared on time: not having a turkey. Not having turkey is only the worst thing that can happen in any Thanksgiving. But why? Why not have what vegan/vegetarian families have and eat seitan instead? Why not solve the catastrophic problem of having all stores having sold out turkeys by having a chicken substitute instead? The odd substitutes for what is representative of this day may just bring other little surprises!

Family Reunions

Aside from the obvious mishaps that can happen to anyone on any given family gathering, this can be the most unsettling: awkward reunions. It can be the horrible to have to introduce that semi-announced boyfriend or girlfriend. The impressions, the expectations, and the anxiety can all be a bit nerve wrecking. How about this situation: the absolutely irking family members who try to catch up with the happenings of your life by prying with totally eye-rolling questions. They’re all the same. “Any new boyfriends/girlfriends I should know about?” “You’re turning into such a woman/man!” or the expected comparisons to other relatives. Maybe you’re about to see relatives you have not seen in ages. What to expect? Expect anything from total joy to total awkwardness. But, hey, family reunions do these things – they are good problems to have!

Two Ideals. One Night.

“Bye! I’m off on a shopping spree,” everyone practically screams as they hurriedly move from feasting on gluttony to feast on the “more is better” American mantra. You just had a night of thanks for everything you have had and everyone you have had in your life and suddenly America hurries off to Black Friday to catch those 50% off deals like a heard of sheep desperate for a grass buffet. I have forever been curious and mildly disapproving of this concept but it’s very much present in this culture. Perhaps discern this transition with some extra-thanks? Thanksgiving is the time of year when everyone meets in loving gathering – most of the time. It is the time of year when everyone gives thanks for the experiences, opportunities, people, and things in their lives. But it’s also a time when patience, emotions, and your ability to “let go” is tested.

How will you manage your Thanksgiving mishaps?

Image: Satya Murthy

Culture

These days, Thanksgiving is known for its big meal and is otherwise swallowed up by the rest of the holiday season. However, when we think of it like that, we miss a lot of joy that comes from the holiday itself. It is a day that brings family and friends together and makes them take stock of the goodness in their lives. Everyone has their own role to play in this. Even if Thanksgiving is not your favorite holiday, it has values you can celebrate all year long.

1. The holiday motivates us to keep in touch.

With social media, it’s easy to see what your loved ones are up to throughout the year, but it’s hard to make plans to see each other. People really make the effort to be together on holidays but you don’t need a holiday as an excuse to get together. When you miss someone you love, make a plan to see them. I know work and school can be hectic. However, in the last year, I’ve made the effort to spend more time with my extended family and I’m grateful for it. We know each other in a new way now and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

2. Thanksgiving allows you to forge a bond through food.

We all know everyone has to eat. Thanksgiving is a food holiday, but also one steeped in tradition. People work together in their kitchens to keep old traditions alive or create some new concoction. I love to eat and to cook. Throughout my childhood, I was a last minute helper. I had to contribute in my own small way. Now that I am adult, I do most of the cooking myself. On Thanksgiving, preparing food is not just cooking, it is carrying on tradition. Everyone contributes to the meal. We are brought up on recipes that we learn to make ourselves. It’s a group bonding activity that does not have to be one day of the year. I frequently help my family cook. It takes away some of the work after a long day. Take some time throughout the year to share recipes with others or to cook together. It is a fun way to pass the time with people you care about.

3. Thanksgiving is one of the biggest volunteering days of the year.

Remembering what we have now reminds us to help others less fortunate. A lot of charities put out food for families and the ill on this holiday but people need to eat all year round. Why wait to volunteer one day of the year? There are many worthy causes looking for help during the year. Try one.

4. Think about what you are thankful for.

We are in the ‘now generation.’ We tweet, Instagram, and Facebook to talk about what we are doing in the moment. Most of the time, it’s important to keep moving forward and be present. That said, it does not hurt to realize all that you have going for you. It also never hurts to remember all the people in your life who make your life better. Let them know what they do for you. Again, this doesn’t have to happen one day of the year. When you appreciate someone in your life, tell him or her.

Holidays are a time to celebrate events that happen year after year. However, we don’t have to only bring out these values one day of the year. We can get closer to our loved ones, work together, give back, and appreciate all that life has to offer. All you have to do is remember to try. I told you some ways that I celebrate. Think of how you want to contribute this year.

What Thanksgiving lessons do you implement throughout the year? Share in the comments below or tweet to us!

Image: Lee

CultureEducationInspiration

If you follow us on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, you may have seen our live updates from the Wisdom 2.0 Next Generation conference in New York City. It was a great day filled with invaluable life lessons from awesome people such as Kleaver Cruz, Jessica Kane, Elle Luna, Miki Agrawal, and Matthew Brimer. We are excited to share some of the important lessons that we took away from the conference, complete with photos to document our conference journey in the Big Apple.

Washington Square

When in New York City, walk. We strolled through Washington Square Park before the conference started at 10AM. Even though we were running on 3 hours of sleep, we were so excited for the day to begin.

Conference

Moments before the conference started! The conference focused on millennials living with greater purpose and meaning in life and business. All good things, right?

Jessica Kane

Jessica Kane, The Huffington Post Director of Millennial Outreach spoke to us about what it means to be a millennial. We are the most stressed, but optimistic, generation. Also, according to data, millennials would rather be broke than bored, meaning that we want to find passion and purpose in our work, even if that means receiving a lower paycheck. Because we’re so busy and always consumed with technology, it’s important to incorporate well-being into our lives.

Ella Luna

We were excited to hear Elle Luna speak. She’s an artist and the author of the super popular article, The Crossroads of Should and Must. Something eye-opening she said was that if we want to be free, we need to reflect and understand why we are not currently free. Instead of thinking about what you would rather be doing or where you want to go, first understand why you are feeling a certain way and what exactly you can change to make a difference.

Also, make a “What are you so afraid of?” list – write down 10 things you are afraid of, and once they are down on paper, you’ll see that they might not be so scary after all. This list is a great first step for overcoming your fears and to start doing. Elle had such an amazing energy and optimism; we were so inspired!

 FIre escapes

Lunch break! We roamed the streets and grabbed a quick bite to eat. Don’t forget to look up! There’s beauty around every corner in this city.

Miki

Miki Agrawal, co-founder of Thinx and Wild, was hilarious and so, so smart. We have been long-time fans of hers as a leader and businesswoman, so we were excited to hear her speak. She started her presentation by saying that there are no guarantees in life. A simple, yet important, reminder that we should remember every single day. Some important points she made during her talk: master a skill, purpose is your best motivation, face people and you will face your own fears, and leaders don’t talk badly about other people.

Great people talk about ideas. Average people talk about things. Small people talk about other people.

GA

Matthew Brimer is the co-founder of General Assembly, and he is seriously smart and driven. We loved his point about how your education should always be in beta; never stop learning. He also spoke extensively about the importance of failure, and that failure is necessary. Through failure we can learn and improve.

 These were just a few of the amazing speakers that shared their insight from the experiences they have had. It was an overwhelming day in the best kind of way, and we left feeling motivated and determined to include wellness into our lives. There was a speaker who led everyone through a guided meditation, which is seriously good for your brain and health. Meditation = paying attention to being alive. When you take a couple of minutes out of your day to just be, you significantly reduce stress and help calm your mind and body down.

Not only was it great to hear about including well-being into our everyday lives, but it was awesome learning more about millennials. Every now and then it’s great to learn more about our generation and better understand our place in the world. Did any of these lessons resonate with you?

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

If you love fashion, beauty, décor, photography, or just amazing blogging in general, don’t miss Kat Tanita’s stunning blog, With Love From Kat. Kat styles beautiful outfits and has a keen eye for what’s trending in the fashion and beauty industries, and she shares her insight through photos and round-ups on her site. Not only is Kat a successful blogger with a polished chic style, but she is also savvy business owner who has learned a lot from her experiences. But now, let’s hear from the blogger herself…

Name: Kat Tanita
Age: 25
Education: B.A. in Design Studies from Arizona State University
Follow: Twitter / Facebook / Instagram / PinterestWith Love From Kat

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Kat Tanita: Chasing your dreams and making them a reality.

CJ: What was your favorite class in college?

KT: I loved all of my design classes, but surprisingly my favorite class was Marketing senior year. It was neat to learn about the creative process and how important it is in an effective public relations and marketing campaign.

Kat Tanita 1

CJ: What are the greatest lessons you have learned from being a business owner and blogger?

KT: Ask questions, find mentors, have confidence but be humble, hire smart (get a good lawyer, accountant, intern, etc.) and learn from rejection.

CJ: What are your time management tips?

KT: Write everything down in a to-do list and take one thing at a time. Start the day and end the day with productive things, but give yourself a break in between. I always try to get out, take a walk and have a long lunch. It feels good to end the day with something productive – I can’t sleep if I don’t!

CJ: What does a day in your life look like?

KT: Every day is so different. Sometimes I’m at showroom appointments, press previews, meetings, and events. I’m always answering emails, exploring the city, looking for inspiration, shooting outfit pictures, and brainstorming for upcoming projects. I love to cook dinner and end the day with yoga, a run, or circuit training.

Kat Tanita 2

CJ: What advice do you have for youth who want to start their own blogs?

KT: Remember to be unique and original. Don’t try to copy others because what will set you a part is your individual voice and style. Do your research! I simply Googled “how to start a blog” 4 years ago and read so many articles/watched so many YouTube videos. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and find mentors. You should always be learning.

CJ: Which book has had a great impact on you?

KT: Grace was one of my favorite books this summer. I loved learning about her career path. She started from the bottom and worked her way up. She is incredibly talented.

CJ: What motivates you?

KT: My dad’s work ethic motivates me. He always said whatever you do, do it to the best of your ability even if it’s a small, menial task.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

KT: Travel more, read more, and embrace your uniqueness!

Kat Tanita 6

Image: All photos by Kat Tanita from WithLoveFromKat.com

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

As huge jazz fans, we are so impressed with Jazz musician and trumpet player Alex Owen. After graduating from Connecticut College, Alex moved to New Orleans to work with a non-profit geared toward ending housing discrimination in Louisiana. He eventually started a band called the Messy Cookers – aptly named after his own sloppy cooking technique – and they’ve been playing together ever since. Although he now loves music and plays jazz for a living, Alex shares his advice on why never closing doors on opportunities, even at a young age, can lead you to your passion down the line. We are excited to introduce Alex Owen!

Name: Alex Owen
Age: 24
Education: BA in International Relations and Hispanic Studies from Connecticut College, High School Columbia Prep.
Follow: Facebook

How do you define ‘seizing your youth’?

I would define it as going out and doing what you love. I don’t think there is an age limit, or minimum, to trying to make your dream happen. When I hear the term “seizing your youth,” I think of having the opportunity to try things out and see what happens. Sometimes it’s a risk, but if you don’t take those risks now, then when will you?

What did you major in at Connecticut College and how did you determine what to study?

At Connecticut College I majored in International Relations and Hispanic Studies, and I minored in Music. I also was part of the CISLA program. I picked my majors just based on what classes I wanted to take. I had studied Spanish in high school and I wanted to continue to learn the language and become proficient, and I really liked the interdisciplinary focus of the IR major. It just seemed that the majors seemed to fit what I wanted to study. Of course, I wanted to play music as well, so the minor just seemed to fit what I was interested in.

What or who inspired you to become a jazz musician?

I think what inspired me was really just to follow my passion. I don’t think I ever sat down and thought, “I want to be a jazz musician.” I loved playing traditional jazz music at Connecticut College where I first discovered this music, and I also loved being in the jazz ensemble. I wanted to move to New Orleans because I knew they had a great scene for traditional jazz, but I wasn’t sure in what capacity I was going to play.

When I moved to New Orleans, I actually was part of a fellowship program called AVODAH, where I spent a year working full-time at the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center, a non-profit working to end housing discrimination in Louisiana. It wasn’t until about mid-way through my first year that I started the Messy Cookers Jazz band and started to find gigs and get a little bit of work. I realized that I really loved the music, and while I also loved the work I was doing at the Fair Housing center, I really wanted to focus on getting better. It became apparent that if I wanted to gig more and get more work, it wouldn’t be feasible to work full time and try to focus on both things. After I started to get work, I decided that I could really be a jazz musician, and that’s when I decided to focus on it and teach music part time.

Tell me about your college bands The Endpiece and Funk the Police. How have those experiences shaped your current music?

Those were some really great bands to be a part of. When I look back at my college experience, some of the fondest memories I had were from those two bands. I think those experiences were incredibly helpful because they taught me so much about being in a band and what the dynamics are like. One thing I learned from being a musician is that it takes so much work to make the music great. You have to practice, you have to find different roles, and you have to learn how to create chemistry with your other band mates in order to make great music. I’ve found that in any style or genre of music, this is true.

You also have to be able to find common ground among different personalities. While I don’t play the style of music that those two bands played anymore, I still take what I learned from those bands about working together with other musicians to make great music, and it’s something I use every time I play with people today.

Alex 2

How do you stay motivated on-stage night after night of performing?

It’s definitely tough to do this. It’s certainly easier when you are playing a crowded venue. The hard thing to do is really be on your game when it’s the third or fourth set and it’s a slow night. I think what makes some musicians truly great is that they play the same way whether there are 100 people in the place, or two people. I really try to focus on just making great music at all times and I try not to worry about the crowd. Obviously, I’m always paying attention to the crowd, especially when I’m the bandleader. But once we pick a song and we get into it, I try to block it out and just try to make great music. Ultimately, that’s the most gratifying thing, and it’s something that I could do every day for the rest of my life.

Where does your band name, Messy Cookers Jazz Band, come from?

Ha-ha, this is a pretty funny question. I was making a comment to myself the first year down here that when I was cooking, I made a pretty big mess. I lived on campus all four years of college, so I never really learned how to cook before I moved down to New Orleans. All of a sudden, I realized that I had to cook for myself, so I learned the basics and was able to get by. I guess my technique was still a little sloppy. I was cooking for my housemates one night and I made the comment about how I was a messy cooker. My roommate Jeremy was walking by, and he went “I think I just found your band name.” The name was just too good to pass up.

How does living in New Orleans inspire your music?

I think living here is great because to play the music I want to play, which is traditional New Orleans jazz, I’m able to learn from the best. There are great musicians still working all the time today, who themselves came up playing with and learning from some of the all-time greats. It’s really a privilege to be able to hear them play on almost any given day or night, and to occasionally have opportunities to play with them. I think hearing what they have to say, and listening to the way they approach the music, is key for me to also try and play this music. I try to utilize their advice in every gig I play.

What is one of the greatest lessons you have learned from being a musician?

There are a lot of good lessons I’ve learned. One is definitely how to take criticism and how to take rejection. Every musician is going to have self-doubt, get yelled at on a bandstand for making a mistake or not knowing a song, get fired from a gig, or get turned down for a gig. It’s very discouraging, but the best thing to do is trust in yourself and trust in your ability. I’ve found that during the tough times, trusting myself has allowed me to stay positive, remain focused, and continue to make great music.

d

What is the biggest challenge with being a musician? The best part?

There are a few challenges with being a musician. I’d say one challenge being unsure know when your next paycheck will be coming in. Especially as someone that is new to town, I’ve gotten a lot of gigs last minute. Since I’m still trying to establish myself, I’m in a position where if I can make a gig, I take it. It’s definitely hard to adjust your schedule last minute. The schedule can also be grueling. Working nights can be really hard, especially since I teach during the day. You really have to alter your life schedule to fit your work. Sometimes this means trying to eat a big meal to last you the 4-5 hours you will be out since you don’t have access to food. Other times, this means trying to hang out with friends during the day because when they are free night, this is when I’m working.

On the flip side, the best part of being a musician is that it’s greatest job in the world! I get to make awesome music, something I would do anyway in my free time, and then I get paid for it. I’ve been fortunate to get work with some world-class musicians, which is an awesome experience. There are many nights when I can’t believe I’m sharing a bandstand with some of these people. It’s also gratifying when you can tell that you’ve touched people with your music.  When I’ve just spent a night making music that you know was great music, and people come up to me and tell me how much they enjoyed it, that really makes it gratifying.

Any tips for learning how to play an instrument?

The biggest tip I can give is to be patient. Something I tell my beginning band students all the time is that Louis Armstrong didn’t sound like Louis Armstrong when he first started playing. Music is like a totally new language; nobody just wakes up a genius. Everyone works at it and tries to make new strides. When you are learning a new instrument, take pride in whatever progress you make, however small, and focus on achieving each milestone. Eventually, before you even realize it, you will start sounding better and playing an instrument will become more fun.

How do you overcome self-doubt (or stage fright?)

Like learning an instrument, this comes with practice. The more gigs I play, the more confident I become in myself, and the easier it is to overcome stage fright. Stage fright, and self-doubt, is a part of being a performer, and is something that becomes easier with practice. Whenever I get nervous, I also try to remember that there is a reason I’m on the bandstand. If I’m a sideman, I try to focus on the fact that someone called me to play the gig with him or her, so I must be doing something right. As a bandleader, I try to remember that the venue likes us enough to hire us, and the people I’ve hired like playing with me enough to want to play with me, otherwise they would’ve said no.

c

What advice do you have for youth who want to be professional musicians?

My advice is to go for it. If you feel it’s what you want to do, and it’s what you are most passionate about, then absolutely go for it and don’t hold back. People are definitely going to tell you that you can’t do it, or that it’s not stable, etc. These are things that almost all professional artists face at one point. If you are driven enough and determined enough, you can sustain the bumps in the road and make it happen. It’s also ok to take a part-time job or do something on the side to make ends meet, even if it’s not exactly the work you want to be doing. I’ve been lucky enough to find work teaching music, which is something I love and plan to pursue, but I know other musicians and other artists who’ve had all types of weird jobs not related to their art. As long as it doesn’t directly interfere with your art, I say there’s nothing wrong with getting a job to pay the bills.

What do you do when you’re not making music?

I really enjoy spending time outdoors. I’m fortunate that New Orleans has a temperate climate (other than the summer), which allows me to go running, spend time in parks, and generally do activities outside. I also spend time with my girlfriend, watch TV shows, and spend time with friends.

What does a day in your life look like?

Ha-ha, depends on the day! Usually my weekdays consist of teaching during the day. I have a little break in the afternoon, where I usually exercise and get other work done (the work never stops for musicians). If I have a gig that night I’ll eat an early dinner, warm up a little, prep for the gig, and head down early to set up. If not, I’ll either go to hear other bands and sit in, or just hang out and rest. The weekends are mostly about gigs. If I don’t have a daytime gig, I can run errands, hang out with friends, and then go to my gig later. However, some weekends I just spend it running from gig to gig. The great thing about being a musician is that no two days are the same!

What motivates you in your everyday life?

I always just try to be the best person I can be. Whether I’m playing music or not, I always try to be nice to others, to spend quality time with other people, and to be true to my craft.

What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?

I would definitely tell myself that music isn’t dorky, that I should be pursuing it. I think at 15, I really was into sports, and not so much into music. Playing trumpet was more of a chore my parents made me do (and I’m glad they made me do it), and I wish I had treated it differently. I think a lot of this was that I didn’t realize how much fun playing was, and I didn’t think it was that cool.

Image: Hot Steamed Jazz Festival; all others from Alex Owen

LearnSkills

I recently just wrapped up my very last class in an 8-week series of Tango classes. For many years, I have always wanted to learn how to ballroom dance. I saw the movie Shall We Dance? and was in awe by how fun dancing looked. I am in no way graceful or coordinated, so I knew taking any kind of dance class would be challenging. I did some research, found an 8-week Tango class, and decided to go for it.

I ended up loving every minute of it, and even though I was correct in that it would be a challenge, I loved putting myself out there to learn a new skill. I can now Tango, and even though I am still at a beginner’s level, I am better than I was eight weeks ago. In addition to learning the steps and how to position my arms, I learned a lot about myself in this class series. There are aspects to dancing that are similar to life, and I made the connections as I was (awkwardly) gliding across the dance floor.

These are the 9 things I learned from Tango class:

1. The power of repetition.

At the beginning of every class, we would do exercises back and forth across the dance floor. Even though it got repetitive, the point was to take the next step better than the previous step. Dancing is all about getting the steps down, and through practice and repetition, the steps become part of your muscle memory. Through this repetition, my feet and body started to understand the way the dance was performed. After just two classes, I held my arms up in a different way than the very first class without thinking twice. As you do things over and over with intention, you get better at them.

2. Get in the zone and focus.

When you are dancing with your partner, it is important to be in the moment. The second your mind starts to wander, toes are stepped on and the entire rhythm is thrown off. When you are dancing, or working on a project or task, give it your 100% attention so you can do it well.

3. Embarrass yourself, and then laugh about it.

Staring at yourself dancing in front of a mirror that covers an entire wall is not easy, especially when you don’t actually know how to dance. When you’re just starting out, you are going to look silly sometimes, and you are going to make mistakes. When you feel embarrassed or bad about it, just look around you. Everyone else there is learning how to dance, as well. You are all in the same boat. Laugh it off, and move on. This applies to most things in life, not just dancing. Whether it’s public speaking, a sports game, or something you are learning by yourself, just know that when you can laugh at yourself if you make a mistake, you have already succeeded.

4. Learn from your mistakes.

Okay, so you embarrassed yourself and messed up on a step. Say sorry to your dance partner for stepping on his or her toe, and learn from the mistake. Focus, figure out what you could have done better, and then don’t make the mistake again. It feels so great when you get a complicated step right.

5. Quick-quick-slow.

There are a couple of steps in tango that require a quick-quick-slow rhythm. This means that you step quickly twice, and then take the third step slowly. Then repeat. As I was learning how to do the “media luna,” where you move around your dance partner in a quick-quick-slow circle, stepping forwards and backwards, I couldn’t help but think about how much it resembled my life at the time. A lot of things happened all at once, and then all of a sudden everything slowed down. Sure enough, the next week my life was back to being quick-quick, and then slow. Things will get hectic, busy, and overwhelming, but if you stick with it and keep moving forward, your life will calm down and you can breathe again.

6. Use feedback to your advantage.

When I was making mistakes with my footwork or body positioning, my teachers would identify what I was doing wrong and help me fix it. They are there to help me become a better dancer and to learn the proper way of dancing the Tango, so why would I get annoyed with their feedback? Use feedback to your advantage and excel.

7. Stay on your toes.

Not physically, but metaphorically speaking. There are routine steps that you will learn in dance, but every now and then, your dance partner will switch up a move just to keep you on your toes. It’s when you get too comfortable and your mind starts drifting that you will mess up the last-minute switch. Just as in life, get into a rhythm and routine that works for you, but every now and then, switch things up to keep life fresh. Stay on your toes and improvise.

8. Learn how to follow.

As someone who works hard to be a leader, it isn’t always easy to be a follower. When I Tango, I am the follower. I take directions from my dance partner, who is the Lead. At first this was difficult, and I would be pushing and pulling to try and move in the direction I wanted to go. However, when it comes to Tango, I had to learn how to trust my leader and follow his steps and direction. While the two dance partners are a team, one person takes more control of the situation. When I finally learned how to follow my Lead, we would be gliding across the dance floor. It was a pretty cool feeling.

9. Step outside the comfort zone.

None of these lessons would have been learned if I hadn’t stepped outside of my comfort zone in the first place. I signed up for these Tango classes without a friend or dance partner. I embarrassed myself in front of strangers, had no one to laugh about it with except myself, and I can honestly say it was awesome. These Tango classes were something that I did for myself, to follow through on my interest, and to learn a new skill that I’ve wanted to experience for the longest time. If you want to learn how to do something or if there’s a class you want to take but you can’t find anyone to go or do it with you, just do it by yourself! When you don’t have the distraction of a friend, you really can focus on personal growth and learning more about yourself.

Skills

As 2013 comes to an end, it is a great time to start reflecting on lessons you have learned in the past  year. Maybe you learned something new each day, or perhaps certain situations taught you invaluable lessons. Were you inspired by an interesting fact, a funny joke, a tidbit about your best friend, or deeply impacted by a major personal life lesson? Did you accomplish any major goals? Through your experiences in the past 365 days, what did you learn about yourself?

Taking some time to think about what 2013 taught you is great for a couple of reasons. First of all, you have gone through many experiences and most likely have grown in certain areas of your life. By recognizing these changes, you can feel proud of what you have gone through, identify what you have improved upon, and strategize ways to exceed what you have already accomplished.

Secondly, you can pinpoint strengths and weaknesses from the past year. This allows you to determine what weaknesses you want to work on in 2014 and what strengths you want to maintain.

This exercise varies for many people. It might be easy for some to think back on the year and recognize what they have learned, but for others, important lessons may be less obvious. If you fall into the latter group, make a list of things you have done and emotions you remember feeling in 2013. All of the days start to blur when you look at them as a whole, so picking out specific situations may trigger certain memories and lessons.

We’d love to know – what did 2013 teach you?