For years I told the story of how I left Cincinnati, Ohio back in 2008, jumping the cliff to pursue a full-time career in music. I even made a song and video about it. It's a great story, I used it as inspiration both for myself and for other artists looking to make a leap toward their dreams. But as time has passed, I've learned how to better articulate some of the key details that eluded me in my early days of sharing. These details are crucial, because they distill this romantic idea of 'following your dreams' down to a very practical series of tangible steps.
That said, below is the revised edition of this story. My hope is that in reading this, you can see how tiny steps create the appearance of a giant leap.
So, Cincinnati, 2008: I'd just released a successful album and toured internationally. However I returned from that unprecedented high to a lonely apartment, a depressing Cincinnati winter, a huge stack of bills and no clue how to move forward with my career. I'd like to say I knew what to do, but I did not have the foresight or courage to immediately change my conditions.
Instead, I spiraled and boy did it suck. I felt a huge pressure to live up to the success of my recent project. I was depressed and sunk into the comfortability of my routine, even to the detriment of my creativity and well-being. I was honestly scared as hell and clueless as to making a leap in any significant direction. But then my best friend at the time moved out of Cincinnati and I realized life was changing whether I was ready or not. Thus, his leap of faith allowed my connection to the city to instantly lessen. As the promise of comfortabilty melted, I felt more courage following in his footsteps and pursuing my potential elsewhere. Before I'd made a major move, seeds were planted and beginning to grow.
That following February of '08 I saw a primary-era Senator Barack Obama give a speech at the University of Cincinnati telling us all how we needed to change our selves and patterns if we wished to affect a real change in our life. Right place right time. I felt like he was talking to me. I left that rally inspired and decided, with little else planned, I would set a move-out date of November 4, 2008 (election day). I was still petrified of abandoning everything that felt so comfortable to me; from my daily bus rides to work to my stagnation in the local music scene. I wasn't happy with any of it, but I still had the comfort of routine, and change was scary.
Setting a move-out date 9 months down the road was easy. I could always delay it or talk myself out of it. But the date had meaning and I tied it to the inspiration I felt during the Obama speech. So to my credit, I did something smart, something I don't even think I knew I was doing at the time. I broke my leap up into tiny, tangible steps.
In April 2008, I walked into my newspaper telemarketer job and gave them 6 months notice. I did it for me more so than them. By telling them when and why I was leaving, I allowed someone else to hold me accountable for me dreams. If election day came and went and I was still in my little newspaper cubicle, I'd have to answer to them.
A crucial step before moving to my eventual home of Columbus, Ohio was taking an extended and long-overdue trip to New York to handle some necessary business that would be crucial for my music career moving forward. So for my next move, I purchased a plane ticket for November 5th and set up living arrangements. Now I'd officially invested money (which was in short supply). The stakes were raised.
The following month I told my landlord I would not be renewing my lease by the end of that September. The pressure was beginning to mount. By taking these 3 moderate steps, I was slowly making it harder for myself to STAY rather than leave. It's as if I started running down a hill step by step until the momentum collected with such a force that I HAD to jump the cliff. To try to turn-around would cause more harm than jumping.
I moved out of my apartment at the end of September and stayed with my friend Joe for a month. On November 4th, I woke up, voted and went to my last shift as a telemarketer. I celebrated my last day with co-workers and then hopped a 4am flight to New York. During my layover in Chicago I picked up a Chicago Tribune with Obama's historic win across the front. I felt validated in my choices and used the momentum to push forward. I still have that newspaper. Apparently I'm still on my journey.
I've taken a ton of leaps since 2008, from moving to San Diego to marriage to family to returning back to college, and I'm all the better for each of them (I look forward to sharing them). And as was the case with my first leap, I wasn't responsible for the ideas or even majority of courage in taking these leaps (my wife is responsible for most of those), but I can still pride myself on knowing that I took them. I've flown and I've fallen. I've crashed and I've landed. I've gotten up every time. You're no different.
A motivational newsletter, book or podcast can help you mitigate risk, it can inspire you, it can prepare you, but it can't take the leap for you. I encourage you to (responsibly) take the leap.
In other news, I will be taking a brief break from my "Ill Communication" live streams but in the mean-time, you can catch the first few episodes HERE. Given my topic above, you might also enjoy this column I wrote on setting attainable goals that get you to bigger goals.
Your quarantine song of the day is "Gone" from my 2012 EP "Synesthesia: The Yellow Movement". It's available for stream & download on all accommodating platforms.
The video is where it's really at though. This video was my love letter to Cincinnati, how I chose to tell my story and the story of my city.