“Where the spirit does not work with the hand, there is no art.”
Leonardo da Vinci
One of the best ways to learn is to teach yourself. While having a personal coach or an online course can accelerate learning, it’s hard to beat hands-on experiences.
(Not that these are mutually exclusive—stacking experience on top of mentorship is a fantastic way to learn if you have the opportunity to do so.)
One pattern I’ve noticed (in myself and in others) is how easy it is to watch someone do something, like woodworking, programming, or dancing, for example, or read a great book on a particular skill, but not actually practice the skill yourself.It’s like second-hand learning. We watch a YouTube video of someone making music or handmade pasta, but we never actually get around to doing it ourselves—even though we want too! We’re already on to the next video, next course, or next book.
Lately, I’ve been trying to avoiding doing it, but in the past, I’ve gone through many books back to back without actually testing and applying them in my own life. What’s the point of reading a business book, for example, if you aren’t going to use it or at least try parts of it out? So we can talk big and be more informed? As if.
Better to not read, then read not apply.
Finding things out for yourself is part of the joy that comes from learning new things. Without experience, you lose some of the passion and drive that comes with learning. It’s the classic phrase “Use it or lose it”. Without visceral experience, our new information isn’t all that important to our brains, and will quickly fade out of our noggin’s, replaced by newer and more exciting information.
All that being said, get dirty. Practice what you learn. Test things out yourself. Cut out some paper. Practice some scales. Make it your own.
At the age of 25, Jim Rohn was down on his luck without a penny in his pocket. (Hmm… sounds familiar…) He was a hard worker, went to work early and stayed late. But no matter how hard he worked, he was still a broke joke. He didn’t know it at the time, but he was focusing his efforts on the wrong things. His life began to change when his mentor guided him with the phrase, “Learn to work harder on yourself than you do on your job”. The Art of Exceptional Living
By striving for your best-self, you are living within the boundaries of the question, “How can I become more valuable?”
Life isn’t about what you do for money. I can become a great barista, (I’ll be the guy who can paint butterflies in lattes) but that shouldn’t completely define me as a person. If you think it does, you need to consider that maybe (just maybe) you are bigger than your job.
You are multifaceted and complex being. Being a barista is part of who you have decided to be. If that doesn’t resonate with you anymore, perhaps its time to try something else.
And if you want to do and be multiple things — you’re allowed. Despite what society tells you. You can pursue all that you love, not all at once, but you are capable of stepping into something new (for work or fun) at any moment in your life. Colleges were originally created to make well-rounded citizens. The Renaissance Life is about enabling others to be all they can be and creating a community around pursuing life and mastery.
Life is about all the things that you do that make you into who you are. Just as Aristotle said so long ago, “Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”
When you focus your time and energy improving yourself, you are creating your best-self life.
No one will improve you for you. You have to do that yourself. I can show you how to play an instrument, but you are the one who has to pick it up and practice.
For the next odd sum of days, I’m going to be posting about the principles of living a Renaissance Life. To stay up to when the next post goes out, sign up for the newsletter here.
Age 25. Residential Counsellor at a group home for people with different physical and mental disabilities and behavioral disorders. Freelance artist which includes photography, writing, painting, tattoo design, etc.
Located in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada. A little town five minutes from the Atlantic. Come visit yo. I’ll take you to the water.
Q:What / who inspires you and why?
The wilderness/any place with mountains, lakes, and oceans. I just adore the fact that it was all made for you and I. It’s gold and inspires my heart to create out of seeing beautiful places and soaking it all in. There is clarity in the wilderness and thats where I feel most at home.
One of my best friends, Eric Weaver. His heart is on rhythm with love and honor and beauty and creativity. He sees people well in moments when they feel unseen. He sees beauty in the simple moments. I treasure our friendship/brotherhood. At a time I felt like I didn’t belong he held me and said “you’re home.”
Jedidiah Jenkins. His work, his words, and his heart resonate so much with mine.
Q: What are the best lessons your mom and dad taught you? (Or siblings)
To stretch my heart out and love the ones that some may forget or the ones that may not be easy to love. Going to every extent to love and serve and give to others even if it causes you to sacrifice everything. That love wins in every situation even if it’s not the easiest to do and goes against the grain. To be known as a deep lover of people. To be known for not being afraid of love or to be swallowed whole by it. To forgive always. It’s a process but I’m thankful for it and know I’m getting there.
Q: What’s a challenge you’ve faced recently and how did you handle it?
Rejection in relationship.
There has been a cycle of being rejected in love. It’s hard to heal in similar processes after someone leaves you. I feel the hardest part has been not feeling enough or worth a yes or no. Learning to walk into the next free version of myself has been a challenge. Technology these days makes it hard to move on. You almost need to go off the grid for a while to find yourself again. That’s where I’m at and I know the sunshine is finding my oceans in the process.
Q: What’s your favorite travel experience?
I’ve been majorly blessed by many, but this one stands out. Backpacking / leading a team of students through East Africa (Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania) for 5 months. Was probably the most challenging and best thing.
Q: If you could have a dinner party with anyone in the world (or in history) who would you invite?
Maya Angelou, Nelson Mandela, Amy Winehouse, My best friend Morgan, Alexander the Great, My grandfather, Jedidiah Jenkins, Michele Obama, Timothy McVeigh. Pretty dinner? Yes.
Q: In one word, how would your best friend describe you?
(love you deep Morgan.)
Q: What are some decisions you’ve made that has made you who you are today?
I decided to throw away my boundaries once and open myself up for any challenge even if fear is in the equation. I’ve felt in doing that, fear leaves and the boundaries and walls come crashing down leaving room for free creativity and love to flow. Ba-bye fear, hello freedom.
Q: What songs do you sing when you are alone? And what new bands are you digging recently?
I love singing powerful love ballads or gospel songs.
Q: What advice would you give to someone pursuing creative work?
To be authentic in every way.
Find / fight for spaces and places that make you dream and get lost in.
Always do what makes your heart come alive, and let go of what needs to go in order to pursue the wild creative you. You never know what wonders may come out of you and what beauty you can create.
“Fear has no place.” repeat until you’re not afraid to create what you want and until you don’t care what people will think. It’s your work and your eye. Own it babe.
Learn to dance and not care.
Q: What’s your mission in life?
To love deeply and empower others to do the same. To create spaces where people come to know how loved they are and to pull the gold out of one another. To come alongside others that may be having a hard time, meet them where they’re at and show them that they are not alone in the process. That even though days are hard that there is beauty in our own processes and journeys whatever direction our lives may be going in and wherever we are at right now. Out of that, live overflowing and passionate lives. To keep my eyes and heart wide open.
Q: If someone gave you 10 million dollars, what would you do with it?
Give it away to people that would create self sustaining opportunities to give more away and create a ripple.
Visit and spend time with everyone I love.
Q: One thing you liked about last year, and one thing you want to improve this year?
Found / built a community of amazing, beautiful, passionate, and creative humans to live life with and celebrate one another on the daily. They’re pretty damn rad and it’s an honor/privilege to be surrounded by so many beautiful people.
(J: I want to build a community like this..)
Maybe not give my heart away so easily. Listen more, rest more, breathe more. To live in freedom and not as a victim.
Q: What’s a question you wish I asked, and what’s your answer to it?
Q. Do you like flowers?
I do. I adore flowers. I love giving them away most of the time. But maybe I’m stuck in this place of still bringing flowers home for the one my heart used to be fond of. Or maybe they are for healing my heart. Either way my house usually has vases of dead flowers and I’m slowly growing.
(J: I need to do this more. Give flowers to those I love. They not only brighten up the home, they brighten up the person you give them to, and solidify the relationship.)
Thank you Gregg for taking the time to answer my Q’s
Q. How do you answer the infamous question, “So what do you do?”
I hate this question haha. Maybe it’s because I feel like it defines you—or attempts to define you. I hope that I love others well and am a constant to people in their lives. Everything else is an aside.
Q. What’s your favorite travel experience?
India. Hands down. It is a piece of my heart. It’s the first time I feel like I knew what it was to fall in love. While it may not have been a person, to know that you had been meaning to “meet” a place for so long—once I found that, everything about that place becomes a rhythm that you feel beating with your blood, within you. That’s how you know.
* I feel that way when I travel. As if I’m taking off the weight of my ‘normal’ life and experience the world completely different and new.
Q. When did you first start playing and singing music?
I started playing music when I was around 15. It began around the time my Nanny passed away unexpectedly. I remember writing an instrumental piece on piano for her funeral. I started writing songs when I quit my lessons (‘rebel’) in high school. It was mainly to get back at girls who had done me wrong. As you can see, not much has changed.
Q. Who in your own life has influenced you to take the leap into the music biz?
My mentor, Jeff Bourque. He was the worship leader at my church for years. He used to come pick me up from high school and we would go back to my house or his and he would show me how to write a song. It’s his fault I always tell him, hahah. He was and still is such an encouragement. Little did we know, he and I would embark on recording the singles I released over the course of 2015 and 2016. I am forever grateful for him and just his belief in my potential. It’s an amazing thing to see someone go from being a mentor to a friend to a brother.
Q. What bands or individuals have influenced you?
I have always been infatuated with Fleetwood Mac. How can Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham embody SUCH CHEMISTRY onstage every show? It’s mesmerizing.
Q. How has relationships and connections impacted your craft (and life)?
It (relationships) has literally been the inspiration for all of it. I would say if you know my songs, you know my love life—and in many ways…me. A few miss-truths here and there, but songwriting for me is therapy. It has helped me walk forward. It’s the one place to be totally open and have no need for a filter. No one can tell you what to say or how to say it. You get to recount every memory, every instance. I have found it to be one of the most ethereal places for me.
Q. What’s your song writing process now? Is it any different since you started?
I always just begin.* I usually play my piano and start singing at the same time. I’ll rarely deviate from that and base something off of a line in my head or a melody I hear when I’m sitting in the steam room at the gym.
* Same here, songs come from a hum, or unexpected places.
Q. When did the name Bandit Heart pop into your head? What’s the story?
I just wanted to name this thing something that wasn’t my own name. I wanted it to have no preconceived notions on what it could be or would be for anyone listening.
Q. What are some decisions you’ve made that have made you into who you are today?
Trusting Jesus Christ has been the anchor for me in my life. Everything else pales in comparison right now. It is the one, true adventure.
Q. What songs do you sing when you are alone? And what new bands are you digging recently?
I usually listen to classical music when I am alone, haha. I love where it takes me. I feel like I’m in an indie film usually. ‘Spiegel Im Spiegel’ by Arvo Pärt is my favorite piece.
Q. What is your story around health?
Well I am a vegetarian who occasionally eats fish. I love to run. Running is another therapy I entrust to get my spirit moving. I eat pretty clean and I love wine. Those are my caveats. Years ago, when I was in another band, I became sponsored by a company called Garden Of Life—and they have pretty much become my girlfriend.* (IG @gardenoflife)
Q. What advice would you give to someone pursuing creative work?
Always be yourself. Never let anyone else ever put a dream in your mind that you don’t want. Always listen to God. He will never steer you wrong. He is guiding your life in a way that you might possibly may never be able to completely fathom, but He loves you and wants you to trust Him. Success is not about money. It’s who you impact and how those things along the way bring joy to your heart.
Q. What advice would you give someone who wants to jump into music, but hasn’t taken that leap yet? (aka me ha)
I always feel like the word “leap” has some expected HUGGGGE action to it, but in all reality, it’s just deciding to put your foot down and start somewhere. I usually tend to turn off sensor in my brain that makes me nervous and just do things how i believe they should be done. NOT in a cocky way, but to the extent that i don’t keep freaking myself out. If i’m so nervous about releasing a song or an EP, it will never release. But the biggest thing you can think about music, in my eyes, is you are creating for someone else. In the grand scheme of things that person is God, but at an earthly level, you never know who truly needs your music.You never know. And once that stuff is out there, it’s theirs…it’s the listeners. Who are we to say that they don’t deserve to hear it? Who are we to say that they may get more out of a song than we ever will….even if we wrote it. Find people that you can pour into but also find people that can pour into you. Not just to give you technical advice, but those who can encourage you and you are able to encourage them. Building a community around creativity is vital to your survival. Not just as a musician, but as a human being. Some of my favorite and most personal relationships revolve around people who aren’t even other musicians. I don’t have this secret circle of music pro types. It’s those who love life in the way that I do, and in most ways, do it entirely better than me—BUT they build me up and spur me on to want to do the same for them as well.
Q. What advice would you give to your younger self?
Listen to God, always.
Open the door for her.
Walk her to her car.
Listen to what you want to do, not what others think you should do.
Don’t always run; learn to walk.
Q. Who or what inspires you and why?
Nostalgia. It’s always there. It’s included in the memory packs of our brains. We can go there when we want; there are clothes and feelings and hats we can wear to make us feel like we’re 18 again….or 22…or 27. Nostalgia is special; it’s potent. It can get all over you if you let it and it can run you. But what I love about nostalgia, is I can go there and leave when I want. You can see old girlfriends, old memories, new loves, mistakes, happiness…whatever you want. It’s all there. I’ve never really said it that way, but I think that’s it.
Q. In one word, how would your best friend describe you?
Q. What’s something challenging you faced recently and how did you handle it?
I brought back a pretty rare buddy (sickness) from India that resurfaced after four months. It took me by surprise as well as my doctor. And in the five days of pain that I had, he told me that I couldn’t work. So I sat out on my porch and just soaked everything in. It was hard because I had to slow down, but i think sometimes in our lives, we get forced into things because we need to. And I needed that.*
*I’ve been experiencing my own flavor of this force recently. It’s humbling.
Q. What’s your mission right now? What does success mean to you?
Success is an illusion that we make up to feel compensated for and like we have approval. In my heart, success has been completed. Jesus lives; and He died for me. Anything I do now is out of joy because of that. My mission right now is to create music that can relate to other people, to be real with music, to not hide or cover it up. I also hope that at any moment, as my heart grows for India, that He is paving a way for me to transfer my life over there.
Q. If someone gave you 10 million dollars, what would you do with it?
Pay off my student debt; move to India; give the rest away.
Q. Do you have a mentor? If so describe them and the most valuable things you’ve learned.
I have had one since I was about 15. I mentioned him above, Jeff. I think the biggest lesson that he has taught me is mentoring someone isn’t about this massive transfer of information from an older person to a younger one. It’s about walking with them. And that should happen effortlessly. It’s deciding to stop and take the time. He taught me so much through that and that’s how we are still friends now. He’s one of my favorite people and his family still pours into me in an incredible way.
Q: Have you mentored someone?
I would say a lot of the reason I am a youth leader now is because of Jeff. For the last year I have had the honor of walking with guys who are sophomores in high school. It’s my hope to be with them through graduation, but I tell them all the time that it’s a never-ending dedication to them.
Q. One thing you liked about last year, and one thing you want to improve this year?
I can’t stress enough how valuable it is to be present with where you are. I am fighting in that arena and want to grow. Be present for the people you love.Be present for the job that you work at. Be present for the struggles just as much as the joys. You will never get back today. If you are always pining for tomorrow or the next big thing or the next year, you’ll always be one step ahead of “right now.” THAT is what I want to be working on this year and every year.
Q. What are some impactful books you’ve read recently and why? (Recent reads / or books you’ve read multiple times)