Category Archives: Creativity

Five Life Hacks I Live By

January 24, 2017

Creativity / Simple Living

The word “hack” has become ubiquitous in our modern tongue.  I used to know the word as the way by which some genius techie could break into a computer system, but these days, its informal definition generally applies, that being “a tip, trick, or efficient method for doing or managing something” (according to dictionary.com). In the last couple of years, I’ve seen the word used in this manner and have grown to like it. In fact, since I am somewhat of a simplicity and productivity geek, I make use of the word every day through my actions. I hack away at tasks and situations that should be much easier than they are, and after various trials and research, I have figured out ways to make them more manageable.

This week, I wanted to share five simple hacks that I carry out every day that basically make my life a little easier.  Feel free to try them out yourself.  Maybe they can help you too. 

  1. Make my bed every morning.

Seriously?  Yes, seriously. It takes a little extra effort to make your bed after the ordeal of getting up from a restorative sleep, but this simple act pays dividends.  When you think about the size of a normal room, a bed that might be a full or queen size in most cases takes up at least one-third of the space. More often than not, a bed is also the focal point in the room, the one element that grounds and centers the whole arrangement. If all you did to clean your room was to make your bed, not only would a significant percentage of your room be done already, but you would not have to clean much of anything else. Your room would look pretty good with just the bed made up.

For myself, I am a bit of a neat freak, and so, my bedroom stays tidy almost all of the time, but on the occasional instant when I am rushing out or too exhausted to care about the state of my room, I fix my bed, and I have already won half the battle. Besides, coming back home to a bed that is tidy and made up feels pretty darn good.

 2. Use a wardrobe capsule.

I did not know that a “wardrobe capsule” was actually a thing, but as it turns out, it is. What in tarnation is a wardrobe capsule? Basically, it is a small collection of clothes that you can mix and match to wear every day. Why would you or anyone do this? It overcomes two real challenges.  First, it eliminates the decision fatigue that comes with deciding what to wear.  You can quickly grab any combination of clothes, and they will instantly work together. Secondly, a capsule still allows you to have some variation in what you wear, as opposed to wearing a boring suit or the same thing every day.

For myself, I use a wardrobe capsule for school, and I have gone monochromatic with the color blue. I have a couple of blue slacks, a pair of grey ones (because it is a great neutral that works well with blue), navy blue genes, and various button-down shirts that have the color blue in them in some shape or pattern.  All of these items can be mixed and matched in any combination and still look great. Sometimes I throw in a red jacket or green sweater, but otherwise, I have no decision fatigue and do not look like a clone of myself from the day before.  This works for me.

3.  Drink a lot of water.

I try to drink a ton of water every day. There is the general rule that the average person should drink 8 glasses a day.  My only problem with this is that I tend to lose count. I have decided instead to just make sure I drink a lot of water throughout the day. I drink a glass in the morning after I wake up, and then make sure I do so again every couple of hours and with every meal.  I also drink a glass before I go to sleep. Why do I do this?  First of all, it keeps my energy level up, and I feel less fatigued throughout the day. Secondly, and to be blunt, it helps with regularity.  Constipation is no fun for anyone, and drinking enough water keeps everything flowing quite nicely.  Lastly, I do not mind that this makes me have to urinate more frequently.  I take that time to take a deep breath and a quick mental break. I could always use plenty of those.

4. Do all things gently.

This is a new habit I have been toying with lately. I’ve taken a cue from my piano playing. For the most part, the action of my hands as they press down on each key works best when I stay relaxed and nimble. This gentleness not only produces a consistent and even tone, but it also reduces strain on my fingers and joints. I got to thinking what if I applied this to everything I do?

Whenever I lift anything, be it a spoon or a small box, do it gently. When I push a door open or hold something up, do it gently. When I grip something with my hand, like a steering wheel or glass of water, do it gently. Walk gently. Run gently. Eat gently. This sounds easy, but for me, it requires a good bit of mindfulness to overcome a lifetime of needless overexertion.

Of course, there are times when you should exert yourself more like in the gym or in an emergency, but otherwise, why should we? I am hoping that the decrease in the amount of pressure I apply in all things will alleviate joint and muscle pains. I need to do more research on this, but I am certainly enjoying the more relaxed flow that this invites. Besides, mindfulness is a good practice to pursue, and this happens to be a great way to do it.

5. Consciously be thankful for something every day.

In 2015, I embarked on a year of thankfulness on social media. Every day, I posted a statement about something I was thankful for. As the year progressed, I noticed a very simple change in my life. I started to feel happier. I found myself having a pleasant mood and much less stress. Little things that used to bother me stopped being so annoying. I began to feel better about myself and my life.

One thing I realized about being thankful is that it is essentially an affirmation, a very positive, life-enriching one. Energetically, the conscious outpouring of thankfulness into your life and surroundings will ultimately create more personal satisfaction in all you do.

My gratitude taught me to embrace all that I have and to trust the talents and gifts I have been given. When you cherish everything, you take nothing for granted. When you value your life, you value yourself. These days, I carry a small weekly calendar in my school bag and write something for which I am grateful every day.

From the time I started to be consistently and outwardly thankful two years ago to today, my life has changed dramatically and for the best. I am happier. I have more love in my life, and I am doing more of what I love to do.

If I could recommend one life hack above all others, it is thankfulness. Do it every day. Make it known or document it somehow. Thank me later.

So, go ahead. Hack away. Make your life easier. These are among my favorite life hacks.  What are yours?

 

Gordon Roqué Performing LIVE on WMTS 88.3 FM on Jan. 20

January 19, 2017

Creativity / Press / Shows

Friday Night Spotlight, a new show  hosted by Rudolph Valentino on Middle Tennessee State University’s college radio station WMTS 88.3 FM, will have me on the air as its featured artist. I will be talking extensively about my music and also play some songs live.  The show will be on from 8:00 PM to 10:00 PM CST on Friday night, January 20, 2017.

You can live stream the entire program from the show’s website by clicking on this image here:

Live Stream

The show will also be broadcast live from the studio on Facebook, and I will be sharing that as well!

Happy Listening, and I hope you enjoy the show!!

My 5 New Habits for 2017

January 17, 2017

Creativity / Inspiration

I am not big on New Year’s Resolutions these days.  This year, I have decided to imagine that it was already December of 2017.  I started to think about what I could accomplish this year that would make me immensely proud, and then I started to think about how I can do regular small actions to make them happen.  Essentially, I started to think about how I can actively change by life through new habits.

Currently, I already brush and floss my teeth, read books, play music (either my piano, cello, or ukulele), and do some kind of exercise (even if it is just a little) every day.  What’s great about these daily practices is that they are already attached to specific times.  Brushing happens in the mornings and evenings.  Flossing and reading takes place before bed.  Music is played for at least a half hour (usually longer) in the evenings and so on .  .  .

This year, I want to develop new habits that enhance my creative abilities.  So here is a list of them and how I hope to get them accomplished:

1.  Goal:  Write 52 Blog Posts in 2017

How:  Spend at least 5 minutes every morning writing, and publish a new post on                
Monday or  Tuesday every week.

At the core of all my creative pursuits, I have always been a writer.  Being able to express myself through words has been a conduit and catalyst for my music, lyrics, and virtually everything else.  I have learned that writing is a skill that needs to be practiced.  Especially since I am currently in college, my writing abilities need to be at the top of their game.  Writing every day will help me do this, and since this blog is my own sort of online journal, it is the perfect outlet and forum for me to practice my writing and share my thoughts.

2.  Goal: Learn to read and play 2 difficult pieces of classical music
                1.  Impromptu #4 (Opera 90) by Franz Schubert
                2.  Moonlight Sonata by Ludwig Van Beethoven

How: Study just one line of sheet music per week (the equivalent of about 3 to 5                 stanzas).  Go over them every night during regular practice.

As a pianist, I am actually pretty terrible at reading music.  When I think about how I learned to read letters and numbers, it was a gradual and very consistent process.  Learning a long piece of music incrementally will help me understand how to play it better.  I chose two different pieces for the qualities they possess.  The Schubert piece is more about virtuosity through speed and rhythm, and the Beethoven piece emphasizes mood and emotional expression.  I have my work cut out for me, but I really want to do this.

3.  Goal: Learn how to play the ukulele

How:  Memorize one new song to play and sing every month in 2017.  Practice                     every night.  Song for January:  Coat of Many Colors by Dolly Parton

I already play the piano and the cello.  The problem with both is that neither is terribly convenient to carry around.  My cello is petite and delicate, and I have already broken it once.  I have owned a ukulele now for about 4 yours without actually digging deep to learn it.  I can take it EVERYWHERE with me.   I already know how to play a couple of songs, and I think it is time to really start branching out.

4.  Goal: Do more with watercolor

How: Paint a new piece for every blog post in 2017.  One night every week will be           dedicated to painting.  Continue with “Year of Color” practice on social                         media by 
posting this art.

I have recently been geeking out on watercolor.  I have this adorable portable set  that comes with a brush, sponge, and thirty colors.  This is far less expensive and messy  than oil painting, and it is super fun.  One new piece every week means 52 pieces by the end of the year.  Woah.  I am still trying to figure out which actual night will work best, but as you can see at the top of this post, I have already started.

5.  Goal: Improve my cello hold and learn vibrato

How:  Consult with as many cellists and experts as much as possible.  Do research through weekly lessons and practice on Sundays.

By this time, I have no doubt that I can play the cello and consistently produce a solid tone, but I still experience pain in my hands when I play.  Perhaps this is par for the course for any cellist, but I want to do all that I can to play well and not damage my hands.  If by the end of this year, I have not improved my technique and eliminated pain, I may retire my cello pursuits altogether.  It is just not worth the damage to my hands if I cannot fix this.  Lastly, learning to play vibrato is one of the aspects of cello music that makes it sound so darn beautiful.  I live to play beautiful music.  So, let’s do this.

There you have it.  I’ll be checking in about all of these pursuits throughout the year both here and on social media.  Please feel free to ask me how I am doing.

What do you hope to accomplish by the end of this year?

Generosity in 2016 and Color in 2017

January 1, 2017

Creativity / Generosity / Inspiration / Simple Living

Happy New Year!!!

Since it is officially 2017, I now declare it to be my Year of Color!  I’ll be posting colorful artwork and photography on social media (namely Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter) all year-long.  I am feeling very creative with my visual work, and I just want to challenge myself to create and share more of it!

At the beginning of 2016, I set my sights on making 2016 my year of generosity with acts of kindness for 52 weeks.  I did in fact carry out many acts of generosity throughout the year, and for this post, I wanted to highlight the organizations that benefited from my giving.

Nashville Rescue Mission (https://nashvillerescuemission.org/)
This is a  local non-profit that provides shelter, food, and clothing for homeless men, women, and children in Music City.  I donated lots of bottled water and canned goods.

Pet Community Center of Nashville (http://petcommunitycenter.org/)
As an animal-care non-profit , Pet Community Center provides affordable immunization and other services.  You should check out their monthly mobile unit that goes out to different neighborhoods across Nashville. I took Steinway there for his shots.  They were very sweet to him.

National Association of Tribal Historic Preservation Officers (http://nathpo.org/)
This is a national organization of Native American tribal leaders who work to preserve tribal lands across the United States.  Giving to them is a small gesture I can make towards supporting the indigenous people of the US. This organization helps maintain schools, hospitals, and infrastructure on tribal lands as well as protection and emergency preparedness on sacred sites.

Habit Zen App by Leo Babauta
(https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/532372598/habit-zen)
I am a huge proponent of mindfulness, simplicity, and meditation.  Leo Babauta is a native of Guam who currently lives in the San Fransisco area.  He is the author of the blog zen-habits.net (which is read by millions of people around the world), and I really love his writing and his ideas about simple living.  He’s assembled a small team to build an app that helps people create and maintain healthier habits based on his own work and research.  I am proud to support any thing he does.

Time Out Youth (http://www.timeoutyouth.org)
There will always be a place in my heart Time Out Youth.  TOY is a non-profit organization in Charlotte, NC that carries out support and advocacy for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning youth ages 11-20.  Not only did I seek out their services when I was a 19-year-old living in Charlotte, I also worked as their Youth Programs Director. I made some of the most meaningful friendships of my life, and being a part of the TOY community was the  most affirming experience of my young adult existence.  I needed the love, validation, and support everyone gave to me more than I realized.  This place still exists today, and they are as strong as ever.

Wildlife Conservation Network and the Elephant Crisis Fund  (https://wildnet.org/)
Elephant Crisis Fund
Who doesn’t love elephants? Well, a better question would be why are elephants getting killed by the dozens? The answer to this question is not a simple one. At the center of this issue is a longstanding and illegal ivory trade that has been profitable for anyone involved in it.  There are cultural and economic implications to this terrible crisis, and the only ones paying the real price are these beautiful and sweet creatures whose bodies are slaughtered and left to rot after their tusks are cut and ripped off of their bodies.  This is horrendous, and I hope it ends someday soon.

Rocky Mountain Institute (http://www.rmi.org/)
In spite of those who beg to differ, climate change is real, and it is actually happening. I am trying to do my part by recycling everything I possibly can every week, and by living in a remote and rural home, I have decreased my ecological footprint. (This continues to be a work in progress.)  We as human beings have thus far failed as stewards and caretakers of the Earth’s natural resources, but I believe we have the capacity to be better.  The Rocky Mountain Institute is doing some incredible work through its multi-level approach at tackling climate change both in the United States and internationally.  Their biggest mission is to work with corporations, businesses, and communities across the world to shift their enterprises towards efficiency and renewable energy/resources.  In my mind, global enterprise needs to be led by global sustainability.  I fully support any initiative that advocates for this.

This year represents the most that I have given to charity pretty much ever.  I plan on doing monthly giving to these and other worthwhile organizations in 2017.  From now on, generous giving to others will be a strong and integral part of my life.

 

So there you go!  Bring on the color in 2017!!  Bring on the giving!!

I am looking forward to the year to come! Let’s make every day of 2017 extra special!

My 2016 Fall Semester Reflection

December 28, 2016

Creativity / School

As I announced HERE back in August, I uprooted my whole life, moved into the woods, and enrolled in college.  Currently, I am enjoying my six-week-long winter break (Yay!), and I have been able to slow down enough to reflect on my experiences as a college student.

I gave myself two simple goals for the semester:

  1.  Do not pull any all-nighters.
  2. Get the best grades I possibly can.

On both counts, I was successful.  I managed my time pretty well overall, and I received very good grades in all my classes.  As part of my coursework, I read three full-length novels (in addition to numerous short stories that I took essay quizzes on every week) and wrote one seven-page research paper, one five-page book report, and a critical analysis.  I had at least one quiz or test to study for every single week, and I achieved perfect attendance in all my classes. In spite of all this, there were still no all-nighters for me! Yes! (Insert fist-pump here.)

I took pages upon pages of notes during the semester and became a big fan of using note cards to organize large amounts of information.

Of course, my time was not devoid of stress. Midterms, papers, those daunting essay exams, and comprehensive (!) final exams drove me a little crazy at times, but I got better at all of these with practice.  The work was as rigorous as I expected.

I took advantage of perks like working out every week at the enormous campus rec center, and I spent countless hours studying in the brand-new, state -of-the-art library (which has access to several expansive databases for research.  I totally geeked out.)  I also found a couple of quiet corners that were conducive to occasional Asian power-napping.  Good times.

I was most surprised by the frequent use of cell phones in many of my classes. It was ridiculous actually. Some students would not put their cell phones away at all. They kept texting, taking selfies, reading random crap, or tweeting even as the professor was teaching. I don’t get it. That’s not the kind of student I am, but it seems to be the way of the world right now. Oh well.

In all my classes, I acquired lots of knowledge and information over the last four months.  For posterity, I want to document here the top 10 most valuable concepts that I was able to explore and grapple with:

  1.  Patriotism and Nationalism are two different expressions.  Nationalism is no good under any circumstances whatsoever and is pretty much evil.`
  2. EVERYTHING is propaganda.
  3. The forced internment of 126,000 people of Japanese descent during World War II was one of the most egregious injustices in US history.  In the interest of national security, all three branches of US government, in spite of the systems of checks and balances intended to prevent government overreach, conspired to make it happen.  This incident is a modern precedent for the forced imprisonment of a group of people by the government and the army based solely on race and includes two supreme court cases that justify any such actions.  I am seriously concerned that this will happen again.
  4. Racial injustice is deeply rooted in American history. It is as American as apple pie.  From the slaughtering of Native Americans to slavery and the civil rights movement and to the violent conflicts of today, we have clearly not figured out how to work through this.  Our differences have only served to divide us.
  5. War can be an industry that only the rich and privileged actually benefit from.  The rest of us either die or suffer.
  6.  What I learned in elementary school about how Native Americans were treated as the United States expanded westward was a tame and watered-down version of a brutal and unconscionable truth. It was a slaughtering and a decimation, if you will.  A genocide in every sense of the word. Communal tribes were broken apart and hunted down.  They were looked upon as savages and many were forced to assimilate into what was considered a more civilized, Protestant way of life.  Thousands of families and children were killed and forced off of there land and homes.  The few who were left were forced to live on desolate, undesirable land we now refer to as reservations.  This is the history of the country I currently call home.  It is utterly shameful and infuriating.
  7.  Any and all movement can be a form of dance.
  8. “The Wizard of Oz” was originally written as propaganda with each element and character (like the wicked witch of the west and the yellow brick road, for example) representing geographical and political elements in the argument for and against the mining of silver versus gold in the late 1800’s.  This refers back to #2 on this list.
  9. In terms of sound recording, low frequencies can be adapted and molded more easily than high ones.  Higher frequencies come with fewer options.
  10. Read anything by W.E.B. Dubois.  Totally. Worth. It.

Overall, I enjoyed this fall semester. It got me to extend my thinking outside of my own little bubble.  My humanities and history classes helped me to see the world in different contexts.  All my classes taught me different ways to process important information and understand it all better.

I was not sure if I could do this whole college thing again, but now I know that I definitely can. The spring semester coming up offers some completely new challenges and a much more hectic schedule.  I am going to enjoy the time I have to rest before it starts all over again with some serious piano/cello/ukulele playing, napping, non-academic reading, and cat-cuddling.

My cat will be very happy about that.