ENOUGH TIME THINKING

I have officially had too much time to think.

Thinking can be an awesome thing, you can be creative, you can solve really tough problems, you can even complete your G.E.D. in your spare time, but I am here to tell you that I am THOUGHT OUT; that I am desperately in need of some new experiences.

One of the best things about my job is that I am allowed to travel around the world for work. My active and present mind is only needed part-time, whereas my artistic mind is always FULL-ON, so the rest is an adventure. I am really missing this part of my life at the moment. Without the constant distractions, or artistic nuances, of friends, secret hiding places, and an uncanny ability to get into awesome or hilarious trouble, the beach, and my little apartment are feeling a lot smaller these days.

The times past of rallying the troops, creating plans of action, swearing to God above that this pandemic will never defeat me or my creative spirit, all have moved into the cruelest phase, the long haul.

I have never been so rich, yet so poor in all my life. If anything, this time in my life has confirmed to me that there are two bank accounts, the one with cash in it and the one with experiences.

I cannot put a price on being crowd-surfed in a school bus complete with a ska band parked in the middle of the Red Light District in Hamburg, Germany with my friend Kam in the middle of the night around this time just last year.

I cannot put a price on laying down under a tree in the King’s Orchard in Prague one perfect afternoon and enjoying a cool breeze, just last year.

I cannot put a price on sipping a coffee in Berlin on a brisk grey day in an alley covered in art by my favorite graffiti artists, again, just last year.

It has all come to a halt. For all of us.

You never hear about people lying on their deathbeds screaming that they should have made more money. Their death cries are always focused on not enough time spent with loved ones, or about things they should have done. I have to believe that, in the end, it is money that is the devil needing to be bargained with in order to strike a balance in life, but it is not what is truly important.

Life is important. Experiences are the veins of gold hidden deep in the mountains of our life that we need to mine.

I have never been in this position before, so backwardly wealthy. I have plenty of cash, but no way to experience the world without getting sick. It is very confusing.

If pride were to sneak its way into this newsletter today, I guess I can say that I have been a “good adult”. I am not known for being a “good adult”, but have been one lately. I have learned that I am much smarter than I ever thought I was. I can say that because recent experiences have tested me, and I have surprised myself with my reactions to these experiences. My close friends have been supportive, and likewise proud of my growth. They knew I made a plan and have stuck to it. They have celebrated small victories with me as I have progressed, as true friends always do. It’s in the small victories that large ones are achieved.

I listened to the evening applause outside my window at seven o’clock each night then shut my windows. I have been in it for the long haul from the day we shut this machine down and knew fully what it was going to take. The applause has stopped and has been replaced by evening sirens from the firehouse down the street, something I fully expected.

I am not particularly proud of knowing how to survive life’s tough times. Life survival skills have to be earned, and I would trade those times in a minute if I had had a choice. Surviving is about understanding the battle. The enemy does not care how upset you are, or how tired you are, or how scared you may be. The enemy does not care about you or anything you love. All that matters in a battle is that you are stronger than the thing you are fighting. You must have the ability to show up each day and scream

“BRING IT ON MOTHER FUCKER!!”

You have to beat the bad times back with a bigger stick. That stick is your lifeline. Your life is important, it matters. It has to move forward.

We are on a long haul train ride, and the station is nowhere in sight. It’s a good time to dream and to look out the window. It is also a good time to start making plans to live again when this is done.

It is a good time to swear, cuss, spit, scream, and declare that when your time comes to leave this world, THAT DAY will be a good day because you are too tired to stick around.

You will live your life fully, you will survive a pandemic, you will go on to tell TALL TALES to everyone and anyone who will ask.

These are cruel times, take full advantage of them. What is your tall tale? Create it now.
Tell it later.

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A LOVE LETTER TO ROCK AND ROLL

I’m watching the sunset from my home in Los Angeles. I have experienced a lot of sunsets, each one has its own unique personality. Sunset at the beach feels like a reflection of my life. Sunset in the mountains confirms that I am a part of all things and I can have anything I choose. Sunset on the Strip in Los Angeles is pure adrenaline.

“I could really use a show right now.” 

This thought runs through my head almost every time the sun sets on the City Of Angels. I want to take you with me tonight, I want to expose you to my world.

It’s 7:00 PM

BACKSTAGE

When I arrive at any show, anywhere around the world, it is generally the same. All shows start with a band, a crowd, lights, cheers, and the rhythmic flow of energy between them all. But, casual concert attendee, I am not like you.  

Upon arrival, I stop at will-call. I collect my working credentials. I don’t bother to put them on. I don’t want to stand out as a backstage visitor. A visitor is not who you want to be in the world of rock and roll. You are either in or you are out. No pass will ever define that.  

Circling around to the back of the venue I see tractor-trailer trucks, tour buses, and the crew hard at work. My job is to stay the hell out of their way. 

I move through the backstage area without being stopped or questioned, despite the fact that I do not wear my pass. As I weave between amps, drums, microphones, guitars, and lighting equipment, I am reminded that this is one of the greatest feelings I experience in life, the feeling that I BELONG backstage. I have been invited here to ensure that the show will be remembered forever, photographically. I am trusted. 

Each show is its own defining moment for every performer. It is not my job to take their attention or focus away from that. Artists always find me backstage in their own way. 

I make my way not to the band’s dressing rooms, but to the coffee pot. The kitchen, just like at home, is always the gathering place. The kitchen offers a reason to escape a conversation, to break away, to grab a snack or a drink. Most artists sit down for a bit to say hello, but most just keep moving. It’s not personal, the show is on every rockstars’ mind backstage, not the photographer. 

My interest backstage is always the tall tales the roadies tell, like tours with The Who or Led Zeppelin. I love hearing about the travel, the pranks, or how they leveled a town in just one night.

Backstage is the only place the general public can’t get close to, so it becomes a well-constructed fantasy for most show attendees. The truth is, not much is happening backstage. To the band, it’s just stop number 23 of 40 on a tour.

What you don’t know sitting in your expensive seats, is that the band came for YOU, not for the cool backstage hang. YOU are the most important thing on their minds at that moment. 

Bands want you to have it all when they are on stage. They want the show to be worth the price of admission, they want to kill the set! It is important and personal to bands. I have never met a band that tried to “phone in” a show on purpose. 

THE SHOW 

I squeeze through the sold-out crowd on the right side of the stage to an area called “the pit”.  Every step is being tracked by security guards. I present my photo pass for entrance into the pit with a smile and a salute.

The pit is a six-foot-wide area between the stage and the front row. It is stuffed with media who have been told they have two, maybe three songs, to get their shots and get the hell out. The pit is filled with 50-100 photographers sometimes. The pre-show mood is usually chatty with idiots comparing lenses and cameras attempting to size up one another. I hate them all, except for Alex Solca, another shooter who makes a living as a shooter.

I like to talk to the crowd behind me that is squished up against the fence like sardines. I understand how hard it is to get a front-row seat, then spend every day waiting for that moment when you are right in front of your favorite band, listening to your favorite songs. 

I usually enter the pit and begin by joking with the crowd. I stand directly in front of a fan and stretch my arms out as wide as I can while faking a yawn, then turn my head around and ask if my constant yawning during the show is going to be a problem. We all laugh.

Soon the questions start to fly. 

“How did you get that pass?” 

“How can I get one?”

I do my best to answer the questions using the skills Michael Stipe taught me at the beginning of this journey. I try to make the fan feel like the coolest kid on the block while reminding myself how lucky I am to be here in this moment.

I check the clock to the side of the stage, it reads -3:00, three minutes ‘til showtime. 

I see Alex in the pit. We catch up for a bit and formulate a strategy for getting the shots we need before the amateurs get in our way.

I feel the stage start to cool down.

Every light in the building goes black, pre-show triumphant march music begins to play through the stacks. On the side of the stage, flashlights are darting around behind amps as shadowy figures appear in front of me.

Suddenly, the lights flip on, the band greets the audience “HELLO (city name)!!!”, guitars rip, drums roll, all hell breaks loose. It’s like an atomic bomb was dropped on stage. The crowd behind me lunges forward, screaming at the top of their lungs. It feels like being at the base of a fifty-foot wave, you feel the energy, all of your senses become overwhelmed, you just have to hold on.

The other photographers all push closer to the center of the stage, elbows in faces, heads knocking into lenses. 

I pull back and move away. I watch what everyone else is doing. I watch the shots the amateurs get in their 7-10 minute window of time. I find the scramble ridiculous.

There’s a game I play, the time I get in the pit is a burning match. How much time can I let pass before I get my shot? How can I be more creative than the herd? How can I make sure my shots are unique?

I am at the far left wing of the stage when I am noticed by the band. I’ll say that again, “I am noticed.” 

Lead guitar player Nita Strauss finds her way to me, drops her guitar down between her legs, and rips into a solo right in front of my lens. The others scramble to my position, but I am already gone, and so is Nita. The solo is over, I got what I needed.  

I move to the center of the stage and find Alex. We work together to create space between us and the other media. We are two songs in with three minutes left. Shutters are blazing as we break away to collect images for our editors, instrument companies, and, of course, ourselves.

As I make my way out of the pit, I notice I have two minutes to spare. I want more, something unique. I find my way to an area just behind the stacks, where I find a perfect line of sight to the drummer. I am so far left that his drums no longer block the view. We lock eyes and he cuts loose.

Photographers on their way out of the pit notice my position and quickly scramble over in front of me. My disgust for these leech types runs so deep that I purposely knock their cameras with my shoulder on my way backstage. Inside I am screaming, “THINK FOR YOURSELF, YOU ASSHOLES!!!!!”

Some photographers argue with security, others quickly begin to check their images, some desperately scramble to get one last shot, but the moment is over. The match has burned. You either you got the shot, or you got burned. I don’t even look at my images.

AFTER THE SHOW

The band knows that they either killed it or they ate shit. When a band kills, the energy is off the hook backstage. In my eyes, it’s the electric energy built from a lifetime of struggling to get their music to you. When the show goes well, a burst of musical lightning strikes and starts an energetic fire in everyone, the band, the crowd, and, me. 

When a band has a bad show, for any reason, it is followed by flying furniture, slamming doors, screaming, and a bottle of Jack Daniels.

After the show is always a better hang. The energy has been released, it is time to catch up and be social. I try not to stay too long. I am rarely interested in what is next for a band after a show and I think the band appreciates it. As a family member, I know my place.

My new friends, the roadies, are now busy “rolling up the circus tent”. I stay out of the way as I try to find my way back to the car. For the crew, it is time for another show, in another town, a thousand miles away. The faster they get there, the more sleep they will get. The night will be endless yet again.

In the parking lot, I pull my keys from my pocket only to find my “ALL ACCESS PASS”, never used.  A smile finds its way to my face. 

Climbing into the car, I put it in drive, and turn left onto Sunset Blvd. Soon I will be at the Rainbow Room for an after-show burger and a hang with Lemme.

I MISS YOU ROCK AND ROLL. I WILL BE HERE WHEN YOU GET BACK.

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HOW IS YOUR PANDEMIC GOING?

“Yo, Kam, how is your pandemic going?” I jokingly ask. I know better than to bring negativity into any conversation with my friend Kam.

 “This is fucking great!” Kam says. “I am having the best pandemic.”

“What are you up to today?” I ask.

“I am packing the van for a camping trip. Yep, headed up to the redwoods, it’s going to be amazing.” 

THE GIFT OF ABUNDANT TIME.

I don’t think I have ever had this much time to myself. Time is a curse and a blessing all rolled up in one. On any normal day around my home office, I would be doing any number of things, worrying, setting plans, making schedules, chatting on the phone, planning trips and solving problems. 

For the last three weeks, it has been nothing but silence and the heartbreak of the cancelations of all of the incredible work projects I was stoked to shoot this spring.

Paris is on my schedule today. I was scheduled to be back in Europe this week with shoot locations that included The Louvre Museum. Instead, here I sit, staring out my window.

This pandemic is forcing us all into silence and a place of reflection. Honestly, I have been struggling with how quiet my life has become. I actually enjoy the noise that soundtracks my life. I have always associated that noise with being an artist, a creative, and someone who is constantly moving forward. Sitting at home has not been easy.

My one pandemic goal has been to not make any decisions created out of fear. I do not want to react to what is happening to me, I do not want to set a ship to sail just because I have been frightened into doing so.

I let it get to me last week.

A few days ago, I had a panic attack, at least, I think it was a panic attack? If my head exploding, a trip to my bathtub for an hour, turning off all the lights, closing the curtains, and curling up into a ball to watch movies for the rest of the day, is a panic attack, then I had a panic attack.

I’ve forcibly lost of control over my business life. The pandemic has put RDP on full shut down. I have applied for every loan and every social program offered in the United States and have not received one confirmation email from any government agency. I understand that the system is overwhelmed, but the lack of communication has made it impossible for me to make an informed decision about what I should do. 

I drove myself crazy.

It has been weeks of waiting and grieving what feels like the end of my career, I accepted that I could not go through this pandemic alone, I had blinded myself emotionally, and I needed help.

I created an email and sent it to my best friends, and the best minds I know. I explained that I was unable to make a decision about how to move forward with my life and I was struggling. I needed help, and asking for help has always been incredibly difficult for me. 

The responses from my friends have been incredible and humbling. 

The thought that ruminates for me in this silence is from my friend Judy. Judy said, “What would you do if money was no part of the equation?” Once that is clear to you, the next question is, “How can I make that happen in the present circumstances?”

I told Judy that I had no answer for her, but, thankfully, I now have a lot of time to think about it. 

What a gift it is to be silent, and think only about your life and where you want it to go. Silence has brought me the chance to mentally reinvent myself through inner vision and meditation.

The good news for me has been I don’t see my post-pandemic business life as being that different. I see that I was in the middle of reinventing myself when the pandemic struck. Meditating on my present life revealed I was only a few turns away from achieving my most perfect situation. 

Unfortunately, I had no real plan for those last few turns of my career and I really need one. Quiet time is giving me a chance to review and have a vision of what needs to be done. Silence is providing time to create a road map for the future. 

I am no longer on an inner tube floating in the energy river, letting it take me wherever it wants to. I see things I have avoided for reasons that can only be described as deep inner shame and I am done with it. I see what needs to be dealt with now that I am quiet.

I think there will be a lot of catching up to be done when this is all over. I am actually looking forward to avoiding myself in a lot of ways. I know that I have been changed forever during this pandemic and will hopefully look back on this time as a time of great self-learning, friendship, and the acceptance of charity.  

MEANWHILE

I am sitting here looking out the window and thinking about Kam. I am thinking about the wind, the sunshine and the fresh air consuming Kam’s van as it slowly makes its way up the Great Pacific Coast Highway through the tall trees. I can see Kam driving, then looking over at me with a smile, and saying:

“I am having a great pandemic man!”

I turn and look out the window at the vast Pacific Ocean.

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SURVIVAL

“Damn Rob, this is about as calm as I have ever seen you.” This comes from my neighbor during another 12-foot conversation in my hallway.

“What Gives?”

I take my neighbor’s high praise of my character as a kind of backward compliment. By which, I mean, he does not know my long history of survival nor how I have done my very best to forget about the dark days for years. Survival is actually a skill set I have had in my toolbox since I was seventeen years old.

I spend my time writing this newsletter/blog in order to remind myself that our life experience is not just made up of negative experiences. It is easy to romanticize those days of survival. It’s a little harder to see the romance as an adult in the middle of a pandemic, but I will give it a try.

NOT MY FIRST RODEO

My first real experience with survival came too early. We return in this memory to 3376 Snapfinger Road, where the poisonous cocktail of Multiple Sclerosis, depression, and a teenage son proved to be too much for my mom.  My dad and brother had already left the house. Now it was my turn, and in a sneaky and dramatic fashion, I left in the middle of the night after another horrible argument.

I went to live with my dad and his new wife for a few weeks, but dad soon got the memo from his beloved that Robert was not part of the package she had signed up for. If he wanted to come home that day, he had better not have Robert in tow.

Dad rented me a room in a house in Clarkson, GA for one month. The house was not far from the tracks, and not too far from the church, so it worked. I will never forget my dad reaching into his pocket, handing me a few bills, then turning to walk up the driveway. He got in his car and drove away. It was a real moment.

While this may sound horrible (and there is no doubt about it, it was), in a lot of ways, it was also amazing. I was a young, good-looking kid out on his own. I was in possession of a 1967 yellow VW Bug and the world was my oyster.

Dad had moved me in with Bill Downs. Bill and I were not of any formal relation (I don’t think), but we went to the same church and we had always joked about being family. Bill was very much a renaissance man. He had his eyes on being a professional MLB pitcher when he was not busy painting houses. Bill’s brother Burtis was just graduating law school at UGA and had these nutty friends who formed a band called R.E.M.  We would drive to Athens to see them play and get into all kinds of trouble. It was an incredible time in my life.R.E.M. became Burtis’ first and only client. 

So, I am on my own, I have a car, I have friends in Athens, GA (which is the hottest music scene in the country), and I have a backstage pass to all of it. I could not imagine me being able to take part in all of this if I had been living at home with a midnight curfew.

To make a buck, my brother got me a job at The Southern Railroad. It was not what was considered a REAL railroad job, so no perks. I worked in the yard on the ramp as an Intermodal Inspector checking in tractor-trailers for the rail’s piggyback service. It was the weirdest job ever. I made friends with truck drivers and got what I consider to be a unique education on how to deal with life’s problems from a truck driver’s perspective. 

I learned the mystical powers of Coca-Cola. If you want to remove rust from anything, pour a Coke on it and let it sit overnight. If you have a hangover, mix a Coke with a B.C. Powder for instant relief! Do the same if you ever find yourself falling asleep behind the wheel of a semi-truck. 

The biggest perk I had at the rail yard was knowing where they parked the Stroh’s Brewery trucks. Stroh’s would not accept bent cans, so I had a standing order with all of their drivers not to bother cleaning out the containers when they returned them to the rail yard. I would take care of it. There were nights that I filled my VW Bug to the roof with bent cans filled with perfectly good beer. I was young, I was on my own, and I had all the beer I could drink, not to mention I was invited to the gig in Athens. 

Romantic, right? 

The flip side of all this fun was that I was a teen on my own, living with a guy I didn’t know, in a place I had never been, with an absentee family. It was so bad that at one point someone sent a news crew over to the house to interview me about my situation. I don’t really remember much about it, but I do remember thinking “shit must be bad.”  Funny, when things are really bad, you don’t really know you are a part of it, you are just existing, you are surviving. 

All my friends had gone to college or joined the Army. I was truly alone. I guess that is where I began to survive. I do not really associate a pleasant feeling with survival. Surviving is hard work, but I am glad to have that tool in my toolbox and want to share some tips with you.

10 TIPS ON HOW TO SURVIVE

  1. ONLY DEAL WITH TODAY. 
  2. DO NOT PROJECT WHAT YOU THINK MIGHT HAPPEN.
  3. HAVE AN OUTLET.
  4. SCHEDULE YOUR STRESS.
  5. GIVE UP.
  6. TRUST IN A HIGHER POWER AND A PERFECT SOLUTION.
  7. CHECK YOUR EGO AND REACH OUT
  8. (my biggest problem).
  9. STAY HEALTHY.
  10. FIND SOMETHING FUNNY ABOUT YOUR SITUATION.
  11. LOVE ALL AROUND YOU, IT MIGHT BE WORSE FOR SOMEONE ELSE.

I hope my message finds you healthy, happy, and in a good spirits. I have a lot of experience with difficult, emotionally trying, and mentally taxing stuff.
Please reach out to me if you need any help.
I will always do what I can.

I LOVE YOU ALL

🙂

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I WON THE LOTTERY

Out early for my morning beach walk a few days ago, I thought I would swing by the donut shop to see if they might have some coffee. They did not, so the second option was to cross the street to the 7-11.

I approached the 7-11, but a huge sign was  taped to the door that read, “No Coffee”. I decided to get a few lottery tickets instead and, oddly enough, I ran into the donut shop owner grabbing a few lotto tickets for himself. I am not the only one who is looking for an escape hatch these days.

I don’t play the lottery regularly. I don’t have a set of numbers that I just know I am going to hit one day. You won’t find me wearing a shirt around the neighborhood that reads “If You Don’t Play You Don’t Win”, but like my donut making friend I am sometimes attracted to the fantasy of just having a huge amount of cash.

For me, a romantic creative, this is where I find massive value in buying a lottery ticket. I get days and days of fantasies for just one dollar, what a deal!

I am smart enough to know the odds of actually winning the lottery are slim, but that is not the point. I buy a ticket and fold it perfectly into my wallet, making sure not to crease the barcode. I would not want an unreadable ticket at my life-changing moment midnight on Tuesday. (How embarrassing to lose millions on a technicality! )

My lotto buzz begins shortly afterward. 

Okay, let’s see, it is looking like I am going to win about twenty-four million dollars on Tuesday, I will need to be prepared. What is the first thing I need to do? How do I get out of the store alive? Do I know anyone that is rich? I wonder if Bill Gates would take my call if I baited him into thinking I wanted to give it all away? I need some rich people’s tricks. 

I like to think the day would go like this. After winning, I keep my enthusiasm to a minimum then quietly walk home. As I am about to call the lotto office, it hits me. Will I need a private plane to cash the ticket in person? Should I fly commercial? What if I drop the ticket in the men’s room at the airport? Can I check the oversized celebratory check on the plane or do I have to carry it on? Will people see my huge check as I am walking through the airport and try to steal it from me? There are so many things to consider.

Anyway, later that day, after securing my many millions into my Passbook Savings account at the bank and receiving a wink from the hot bank teller girl who normally shuns my hilarious advances, I step into my new life as a rich dude.

This is where my fantasy typically takes a weird turn, I really don’t want anything for myself. 

I have had a small bit of money in my life that was handed to me. I found it to be such a stressful pain in the ass, I had to move it to an internet savings account that took me three days to access. I am uncomfortable having the ability to buy whatever I want anytime I want it. My entire relationship with money has been built around the premise that if you want something, you work for it, you dream about it, then eventually get it.

When I was a kid my list of chores on any given Saturday ran the length of our refrigerator. My chore list was so monumental that if I had known there were child labor laws, I would have had my parents arrested, happily.

This was how I learned that there is no better feeling than wanting that new record at the mall, working your ass off for it, and finally getting it. This feeling is only second to playing that record at full volume (because you earned the right) and driving your patents crazy for the torture they put me through in the name of a good work ethic.

Since I now have twenty-four million dollars and I don’t really want anything, what should I do? In my mind there is always only one answer, I will give it away. Thus begins a new, and much more exciting, part of my fantasy. 

“You are receiving this money from the Margaret Dozier Fund For The Arts.” 

All the letters would start like that and be personally handed off to an administrator of an after school program, a charity for the arts, or a summer camp scholarship fund.

My Mom was an artist, who in my eyes, truly suffered for art. Mom had MS, but she never let it get in the way of her making art or treating me to a cabinet full of colored papers, glue, and OMG, the glitter!  I received glitter in every letter from Mom, even long into adulthood. 

Still burdened with millions in my account, I begin to think about all my friends who have helped me along the way, and their kids. What would be the best way to ensure the money lasts long enough to ease whatever financial sufferings they might have for the rest of their life?

“You are receiving a check from the Margaret Dozier Art Investment Fund. The interest on money that has been placed in the MDAIF is being distributed to you annually to ease whatever financial burdens you may experience in your lifetime.” 

Friends around the globe would soon read these unexpected letters, I imagine with shock and glee. I feel like this approach would work best for everyone I know. It would be a gift that would last, and is impossible to blow in one trip to Las Vegas. (I know my friends really well.)

I have a few million left for myself, so what now? I might upgrade a few things, maybe hit the road for a year, get a check-up? 

I have very few things I need to accomplish because I am currently doing most of them. In this lies the beauty of Robert Downs winning the lottery, it is the knowledge that I already won long before I ever bought a ticket. I am overwhelmingly blessed in this life every day.

I stick the ticket into the machine at the 7-11 on Wednesday morning. “Sorry You Are Not A Winner” it reads.

Bullshit.  

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THE RULES OF YOUR LIFE.

I am back home at “my” beach, it’s early Sunday morning, and my body is still on east coast time. I just returned from New York City where I packed ten days worth of work into seven. I am exhausted, but it’s not terrible. The funny thing is exhaustion tears down all the walls that normally block your creative mind and heart.

This morning I was thinking about the rules of our lives.

I grew up in the south, and I was taught early on that if I had faith and I was kind to others, the Universe would deliver me all the happiness and prosperity I could handle. As it turns out, that was only partially true. I’ve learned that I have to participate in my life. If I want to receive prosperity and happiness, there are decisions I have to make to allow those things to be given to me. I have found out that it’s not a one-way street.

What are the rules of your life? Read on for some thoughts about a few of mine.

1. PROFESSIONAL PATIENCE

People have been incredibly patient with me throughout my career. It began when I was thirteen years old and begging my Dad to take me to work with him. My Dad was a forty-year professional photo-journalist with the Atlanta Papers (UPI/AP), and I freaking loved photography.

Unfortunately, (for them), the guys at my Dad’s office were not always keen to have a little kid in the office all weekend. Their attitudes began to change after they taught me everything they knew about developing film and prints. I began to spend my time “at work” helping out in the darkroom “catching” for every photographer who worked there. These photographers also taught me how to carry all the camera gear to professional sporting events, and to run to awaiting helicopters with bags of shoot film so they could take a break.

I owe those guys everything and continue to pass their patience on to every photographer who reaches out to me. I answer questions no matter how mundane they are. When their eyes light up I know I have them because we are sharing information about something we really love.

2. SHARE THE STOKE

I recall the day I was out surfing in Malibu alone when the famous big wave surfer, Laird Hamilton, pulled up beside me in the three-foot surf. I looked at Laird and immediately said, “Hey man, take whatever waves you want.” It is common surf etiquette to trade waves so everyone gets a chance in a set. Laird said, “No way man, let’s do this!” He paddled into position, caught the wave, stood up, and began flipping his 12′ board in “helicopters”, an inhuman feat of strength.

I grabbed the next wave, knowing Laird was at the end of the line. I faked my best Surfer Magazine cover pose by bending down to tickle my fingers against the wall of my three-foot wave, a right reserved for those who surf monster fifty-foot waves. When I got to the end I clumsily kicked out to find Laird sitting there. Laird looked me right in the eye and said, “Go hard man”, smiled and paddled off.

I am including a link that I really want you to click on to prove the weight of that statement that day.

Laird Surfing Jaws In Hawaii
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s0Pw7vKtqpo

Laird shared his stoke and it was an unforgettable moment that changed my life instantly.

If you know me personally, you have seen what happens to my face just before I am about to rip into a huge photoshoot. My closest friends would say they don’t even know who I am in those moments. A normally carefree Robert becomes laser focused.

I am absolutely untouchable. I am hyper-aware of my privilege and wrap myself in it completely. The photo business has its ups and downs, but you won’t find that attitude in my camp.

I know what it is like to be unhappy at work.

In my mid-twenties I gave up on photography and was quickly recruited into a corporate position complete with a cubical, an expense account, and all the free scotch I could drink. I spent four miserable years on a trip to and from my personal hell. The fact that I get to wake up in the morning and do exactly what I love and am still obsessed with is truly a gift. Feeling in sync with my talents is unexplainable and I wish more people could find it within themselves to do what they love, so I encourage it. I share my stoke, my never-ending attitude that your most perfect life is there for the taking if you just reach for it.

Life is a mix of ingredients, good stuff, bad stuff, and sweet stuff. When that perfect combo finds you through your hard work and commitment, everyone else will sit back and ask you how you did it so easily and you will just laugh, then, share your stoke.

SHOUT OUT

Kenny Aronoff
Drummer for Fogerty, Mellencamp, Smashing Pumpkins.

Kenny made it very clear to me a number of times that there are no secrets to success. “It’s just hard work and kicking ass until it’s all over.” Kenny shares his stoke with me all the time and I am lifted.

3. GIVE BACK

Giving back started with my Dad. On any given Friday night the question around the house was, “Where is Dad?”

Dad could always be found shooting on the sidelines at any local football game. It was not like any local team had ever reached out to my Dad for photography, it was just something he loved, and he loved giving back.

On Monday morning, coaches around the County would find a package left at their office door full of the most incredible photographs of their team in action over the weekend. Schools would use those photos in the trophy cases to highlight their sports programs. It was always an anonymous gift.

I am currently working on shoots for ten local bands in my neighborhood. I have completed shoots for three of them so far, for absolutely nothing. I, too, love giving back.

4. ASK FOR HELP

It took me a long time to learn how to write this newsletter. Spelling and grammar were never my strength. I still struggle with it, even as I am writing this now! It has been, and is currently, the most challenging part of my life, but I keep trying.

I have been discouraged by professionals around the world and even my own family as someone who could not put a sentence together, and they were right, so I reached out.

My first editor was Kayla, a Pepperdine graduate student, and friend, who encouraged me to send her this newsletter before I sent it out blindly. Kayla would make corrections, underline things, and ask me questions. At the end of each newsletter, she would always offer me just a little encouragement like, “ you are getting better”, or “this was really easy, not a lot of mistakes”. That small bit of encouragement always meant the world to me.

My current editor, Sonia, is a possible twin that has the ability to finish my sentences and stare into my soul. She helps me say what I really want to say to you, but with my own voice. Sonia would say, “I speak Robert”, and it’s true. Our friendship allows us to speak each others language and decode the message behind the words. Sonia is a fierce friend and always offers some kind of encouragement or positive feedback that enables me to continue with this experiment as a writer.

A small bit of encouragement for something that is important to me is rocket fuel. Saying to someone, “You absolutely have this and I am on your side”, is life-changing. At least, it has been for me, it’s so easy and so rarely done.

5. POWER WITHIN

I think it’s very important to assess your life regularly, decide what is working and what isn’t, and remove the things and people who are not serving your purpose. For me, it is easier said than done.

You have to realize you are important. We all possess the awesome power to change ourselves, but also to change how we affect those around us. We possess the power right now to absolutely make someone’s day, and possibly change their life forever.

Don’t believe me? Call a friend, tell them everything you know about them that makes them awesome, then tell them that you love them with all your heart and are rooting for them.

Pick up your phone right now and change the world.

What are your life rules?

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Navigating The Immeasurable Life.

I’m sitting in building 134 of the Long Beach Veterans Hospital waiting for my next push. I experience what I like to call a “soul strike”. I’m not sure if this just occurs in artsy people such as myself, or if being artsy allows me to recognize that I am approaching feelings. It feels like a shaken can of beer in my brain that needs to pop!

I converse with Veterans with amazing stories, big energy, and wisdom while I push their wheelchairs down a long, cold, abandoned hallway to physical therapy, or worse, chemotherapy. What I’m learning from them, in a big way, is that every decision in life, whether your own, or one forced upon you, leads to immeasurable results. 

I take a quick right turn out a side door with my assigned Veteran. He deserves a better experience than this cold hallway. “We’re cutting through the park for some sunshine,” I say to my friend.

I have often thought of how things might have gone if I had made different decisions. As a young person, I was unable to make decisions about my life, a practice that lingered long into adulthood. As I grew stronger, I realized I had a choice. I started rolling the dice with my life.

Rolling the dice requires more than a hair flip and a “come on lucky seven” kind of attitude. Just making the decision to roll the dice can be mentally crippling. Even more terrifying is that after you roll said dice, you have to keep doing it until you crap out or win big! I tend to crap out a lot. But I keep playing until all my chips are gone. It’s the never ending creative process.

As a younger person, I had less to lose, and a lot more chips (or so I thought). I rolled the dice moving to Paris to become “the greatest photographer in the world”. I did not speak French or have a work visa. I didn’t even have a job. I just knew Paris was the spot and had every notion that I would somehow be discovered. I was there for about three months, but I found I enjoyed sitting on Jim Morrison’s grave smoking hashish much more than actually looking for a shoot (a decision I don’t regret). 

The next roll of the dice was a move to New York City. This time I had a better plan, fewer drugs, and no language barrier (except in Brooklyn “EHHHH!  I’m walkin’ herrrrre”). I lived in a loft on top of an ice cream factory in Brooklyn (now DUMBO) and worked with some of the greatest photographers in the world. Everything was going great, right up until my Craigslist roommate tried to murder me in my sleep. I tossed my belongings out the window in the middle of the night and somehow found my way back home to Atlanta.

I continued to roll the dice many more times, not necessarily knowing how things would turn out. It wasn’t for many years that I would start to see a pattern within myself. I realized I had little choice over how things were going to work out, but I had an emotional choice about how things were going to work out inside of me. I have stuck close to what feels right over the years and I give that feeling ultimate respect in my world. Respect for my feelings has paid off in my career with two of the most jaw-dropping compliments an artist could ever receive.

Second Best Compliment Ever:

I’m standing in a group of people behind the Honda Center in Anaheim, California, and I can’t get Kenny Aronoff(Drummer: Jon Fogerty) on the phone. Kenny is running an all-star show rehearsal and I am scheduled to shoot him in action. I put the phone down and gaze into the sea of others trying to find their way backstage when I see the production manager of the show walking out the back door toward me. Grabbing my arm he says “follow me”. As we are walking to the backstage door, I explain to the manager that I didn’t have my credentials yet. At that moment, he turned to me and said, “It’s okay man, I can tell you belong here.”

My jaw dropped. It was an incredible compliment to all the work I have done in the music industry. 

I BELONGED HERE. I KNEW I DID. I HAD ALWAYS FELT IT. I STILL BELONG HERE. 

I walked to the stage slipping by Rick Neilson (Cheap Trick), past John Stamos, and to the stage where Kenny was playing. I gave Slash the “eyebrows up head nod” and greeted Darryl Jones (Rolling Stones) with a smile. 

When Kenny finished the song I said, “I don’t have a pass.” Kenny replied, “ Its okay man, you know what to do, that’s why I hang out with you.” Yet another jaw-dropping compliment.

The Best Compliment Of My Career (So Far):

A mid-afternoon call from my friend Miche, from Decatur, Georgia, on no particular day. Miche said over the phone, “I have gotten to the point where I can tell what magazine covers are yours when I pass by the newsstand without looking [at the credits].”

I melted. Goal reached.

Rolling the dice puts energy into motion. Authentic compliments from respected peers are mile markers in your life that remind you that you are on the right path to your dreams, and that others can see it. 

It’s impossible to measure the far reaching effects of our decisions, but they are there. So roll the dice and trust that eventually, you will hit the jackpot of your dreams. You can’t win unless you play.

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Whitten

I have had such an awesome response to my last newsletter on volunteering this holiday season, I thought I would let you know how it’s going. But first, a little history on how volunteering became such a big part of who I am.

Snapfinger Road, commonly known as highway 155 in Lithonia, Georgia, was located, as they say, “in the sticks”. There were only a few ways to socialize back in those days. We did not live in a neighborhood, so friends would need to come to visit or I would go on “spend the night” adventures. As I got older friends who had their parents’ cars, there were football games, and jamming with the band in the basement. Those came and went, but one group has always been my core and my heart, and I found them at the Decatur Presbyterian Church.

The DPC Youth Group, when not getting stoned and sending toilet paper rolls flying into our beloved youth leaders’ front yard trees, were required to do some good in the world. Call it payback, call it a grand mistake on our leaders’ part, but the day I visited Whitten Center in Clinton, SC, my life changed.

Whitten Center was advertised as a place for seniors to follow rainbows into the next life, but that was not what we experienced there. I am not positive what happened, maybe we went to the wrong Whitten Center, but when we arrived there were no happy seniors to pinch us on the cheeks. There was, however, a camp filled with extremely disabled young and old people who were out of their minds to see us come rolling-up.

WE WERE OUT OF OUR LEAGUE.

Our leaders huddled like the Rams on the fifty-yard line and weighed out whether we could handle this experience, and even worse, could our new friends handle us driving away in our beautiful rented church bus. The decision, if not a clear one, was made to stay and kick some ass, do some good, and damn the torpedoes if we failed.

My first moment of volunteer service was spent with a lovely young lady who was suffering from hydrocephalus. Her head was so huge that it required a trough-like mechanism to get around. My mission that day was a simple boat ride, nothing more. My new friend was scared stiff, but she was also so excited that she grinned from ear to ear as we paddled out into the deep on a perfect day in South Carolina. She had no idea the lake was only three feet deep, but to her, it was as deep as the freedom she clearly felt that day.

I was young, I did not understand what was happening to me in that moment. I paddled and made silly Robert jokes as we made our way around the lake. It was so lovely. Thinking back, I would’ve liked to have been a bird in a tree watching this. Sixteen-year-old Robert Downs yucking it up with a severely handicapped young lady paddling around a lake enjoying every second. I realized I had the capacity to see past the exterior of a person and stare directly at their heart, even though I did not understand that ability until much later in my life.

Our leaders, as part of their decision to stay, required that we all meet after to decompress and to share our experiences. Meeting together was an excellent gauge to see if anyone in our group was freaking out. The decision to stay was an absolute feather in our leaders’ cap. So we rolled (toilet-papered) their houses when we got home that weekend after a few beers and some wanderlust time in our big field under a midnight sky.

We were kids. We had no business being in this position of responsibility with such severely handicapped individuals, but I am here to tell you it was our proudest moment and it bound us. That day, we grew up a little. Some of us processed the experience by openly weeping, others found incredible strength in providing love to those who received very little.

The kids that provided service to these special people with me that day have been my friends for going on fifty years. I love them now as much as I loved them then.

As my life rolled on I got lost for a while. I found drugs and alcohol and left home way too early. I eventually found my way and when the words “be of service” were spoken to me again, I related. I thought to myself, “I can do that, I know how to do that.” Little did I know the gifts I would receive in return.

The source of my greatest gifts lately have come from the Veterans Hospital here in Long Beach. After weeks of pokes and prods, my official position at the VA is: “Robert Downs: a person who pushes Veterans from one treatment to another. “

It’s no small task, the facility is huge.

I am, by far, the youngest volunteer. I am also the only volunteer that has not served in our armed forces and/or is not under court order to be there. This makes me an extremely odd bird to most of the folks I meet at the VA.

It is also cause for my most rewarding moments.

Sam, an older volunteer, was giving me the “stink-eye” one day, “Ya know you can get a job here if you volunteer long enough, lots of opportunities at the VA.” I calmly say, “I have a job”, and smile. After a few more weird looks, I attempt to explain and even hand him my business card, but he still does not believe me. I move on.

“Robert, you have a pick up at PT.”

The most rewarding experience I have each day happens in a millisecond.

Pushing a wheelchair down a long hall, a Marine Crew Chief asks me “So what part of the service were you in, Robert?” as I am wheeling him back from his PT appointment. I reply, “I did not serve in the military.” “So, what are you doing here?” he asks. “I just want to show my support, you guys are the best and I cannot even begin to understand your sacrifices and service, so I do this.”

Then it happens, a millisecond of complete silence in our conversation. I appreciate you. I respect you, but mostly, I am grateful to you, hangs silently in the air for just a moment. I have no reason to be here except to serve you.

“So what’s the craziest thing you ever saw?” I ask, and we wheel on.

These men and women are fascinating to me. I have heard stories about how to smoke pot while on duty. Stories about what happened to a guy when he went face to face with a Bengal tiger in the bush. It is amazing, every day I volunteer, the men and women amaze me.

Sam and the VA have now figured out that I am indeed a working photographer and not in need of a job. They have put me in charge of teaching the photography class. I can’t believe it…

HOW LUCKY CAN I GET?

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Immeasurable Life

I’m sitting in building 134 of the Long Beach Veterans Hospital waiting for my next push. I experience what I like to call a “soul strike”. I’m not sure if this just occurs in artsy people such as myself, or if being artsy allows me to recognize that I am approaching feelings. It feels like a shaken can of beer in my brain that needs to pop!

 

I converse with Veterans with amazing stories, big energy, and wisdom while I push their wheelchairs down a long, cold, abandoned hallway to physical therapy, or worse, chemotherapy. What I’m learning from them, in a big way, is that every decision in life, whether your own, or one forced upon you, leads to immeasurable results.

 

I take a quick right turn out a side door with my assigned Veteran. He deserves a better experience than this cold hallway. “We’re cutting through the park for some sunshine,” I say to my friend.

 

I have often thought of how things might have gone if I had made different decisions. As a young person, I was unable to make decisions about my life, a practice that lingered long into adulthood. As I grew stronger, I realized I had a choice. I started rolling the dice with my life.

 

Rolling the dice requires more than a hair flip and a “come on lucky seven” kind of attitude. Just making the decision to roll the dice can be mentally crippling. Even more terrifying is that after you roll said dice, you have to keep doing it until you crap out or win big! I tend to crap out a lot. But I keep playing until all my chips are gone. It’s the never ending creative process.

 

As a younger person, I had less to lose, and a lot more chips (or so I thought). I rolled the dice moving to Paris to become “the greatest photographer in the world”. I did not speak French or have a work visa. I didn’t even have a job. I just knew Paris was the spot and had every notion that I would somehow be discovered. I was there for about three months, but I found I enjoyed sitting on Jim Morrison’s grave smoking hashish much more than actually looking for a shoot (a decision I don’t regret).

 

The next roll of the dice was a move to New York City. This time I had a better plan, fewer drugs, and no language barrier (except in Brooklyn “EHHHH!  I’m walkin’ herrrrre”). I lived in a loft on top of an ice cream factory in Brooklyn (now DUMBO) and worked with some of the greatest photographers in the world. Everything was going great, right up until my Craigslist roommate tried to murder me in my sleep. I tossed my belongings out the window in the middle of the night and somehow found my way back home to Atlanta.

 

I continued to roll the dice many more times, not necessarily knowing how things would turn out. It wasn’t for many years that I would start to see a pattern within myself. I realized I had little choice over how things were going to work out, but I had an emotional choice about how things were going to work out inside of me. I have stuck close to what feels right over the years and I give that feeling ultimate respect in my world. Respect for my feelings has paid off in my career with two of the most jaw-dropping compliments an artist could ever receive.

 

Second Best Compliment Ever:

 

I’m standing in a group of people behind the Honda Center in Anaheim, California, and I can’t get Kenny Aronoff(Drummer: Jon Fogerty) on the phone. Kenny is running an all-star show rehearsal and I am scheduled to shoot him in action. I put the phone down and gaze into the sea of others trying to find their way backstage when I see the production manager of the show walking out the back door toward me. Grabbing my arm he says “follow me”. As we are walking to the backstage door, I explain to the manager that I didn’t have my credentials yet. At that moment, he turned to me and said, “It’s okay man, I can tell you belong here.”

 

My jaw dropped. It was an incredible compliment to all the work I have done in the music industry.

 

I BELONGED HERE. I KNEW I DID. I HAD ALWAYS FELT IT. I STILL BELONG HERE.

 

I walked to the stage slipping by Rick Neilson (Cheap Trick), past John Stamos, and to the stage where Kenny was playing. I gave Slash the “eyebrows up head nod” and greeted Darryl Jones (Rolling Stones) with a smile.

 

When Kenny finished the song I said, “I don’t have a pass.” Kenny replied, “ Its okay man, you know what to do, that’s why I hang out with you.” Yet another jaw-dropping compliment.

 

The Best Compliment Of My Career (So Far):

 

A mid-afternoon call from my friend Miche, from Decatur, Georgia, on no particular day. Miche said over the phone, “I have gotten to the point where I can tell what magazine covers are yours when I pass by the newsstand without looking [at the credits].”

 

I melted. Goal reached.

 

Rolling the dice puts energy into motion. Authentic compliments from respected peers are mile markers in your life that remind you that you are on the right path to your dreams, and that others can see it.

 

It’s impossible to measure the far reaching effects of our decisions, but they are there. So roll the dice and trust that eventually, you will hit the jackpot of your dreams. You can’t win unless you play.

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The Rules Of Your Life

I am back home at “my” beach, it’s early Sunday morning, and my body is still on east coast time. I just returned from New York City where I packed ten days’ worth of work into seven. I am exhausted, but it’s not terrible. The funny thing is exhaustion tears down all the walls that normally block your creative mind and heart.

This morning I was thinking about the rules of our lives.

I grew up in the south, and I was taught early on that if I had faith and I was kind to others, the Universe would deliver me all the happiness and prosperity I could handle. As it turns out, that was only partially true. I’ve learned that I have to participate in my life. If I want to receive prosperity and happiness, there are decisions I have to make to allow those things to be given to me. I have found out that it’s not a one-way street.

What are the rules of your life? Read on for some thoughts about a few of mine.

1. PROFESSIONAL PATIENCE

People have been incredibly patient with me throughout my career. It began when I was thirteen years old and begging my Dad to take me to work with him. My Dad was a forty-year professional photo-journalist with the Atlanta Papers (UPI/AP), and I freaking loved photography.

Unfortunately, (for them), the guys at my Dad’s office were not always keen to have a little kid in the office all weekend. Their attitudes began to change after they taught me everything they knew about developing film and prints. I began to spend my time “at work” helping out in the darkroom “catching” for every photographer who worked there. These photographers also taught me how to carry all the camera gear to professional sporting events, and to run to awaiting helicopters with bags of shoot film so they could take a break.

I owe those guys everything and continue to pass their patience on to every photographer who reaches out to me. I answer questions no matter how mundane they are. When their eyes light up I know I have them because we are sharing information about something we really love.

2. SHARE THE STOKE

I recall the day I was out surfing in Malibu alone when the famous big wave surfer, Laird Hamilton, pulled up beside me in the three-foot surf. I looked at Laird and immediately said, “Hey man, take whatever waves you want.” It is common surf etiquette to trade waves so everyone gets a chance in a set. Laird said, “No way man, let’s do this!” He paddled into position, caught the wave, stood up, and began flipping his 12′ board in “helicopters”, an inhuman feat of strength.

I grabbed the next wave, knowing Laird was at the end of the line. I faked my best Surfer Magazine cover pose by bending down to tickle my fingers against the wall of my three-foot wave, a right reserved for those who surf monster fifty-foot waves. When I got to the end I clumsily kicked out to find Laird sitting there. Laird looked me right in the eye and said, “Go hard man”, smiled and paddled off.

I am including a link that I really want you to click on to prove the weight of that statement that day.

Laird Surfing Jaws In Hawaii
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s0Pw7vKtqpo

Laird shared his stoke and it was an unforgettable moment that changed my life instantly.

If you know me personally, you have seen what happens to my face just before I am about to rip into a huge photoshoot. My closest friends would say they don’t even know who I am in those moments. A normally carefree Robert becomes laser-focused.

I am absolutely untouchable. I am hyper-aware of my privilege and wrap myself in it completely. The photo business has its ups and downs, but you won’t find that attitude in my camp.

I know what it is like to be unhappy at work.

In my mid-twenties I gave up on photography and was quickly recruited into a corporate position complete with a cubical, an expense account, and all the free scotch I could drink. I spent four miserable years on a trip to and from my personal hell. The fact that I get to wake up in the morning and do exactly what I love and am still obsessed with is truly a gift. Feeling in sync with my talents is unexplainable and I wish more people could find it within themselves to do what they love, so I encourage it. I share my stoke, my never-ending attitude that your most perfect life is there for the taking if you just reach for it.

Life is a mix of ingredients, good stuff, bad stuff, and sweet stuff. When that perfect combo finds you through your hard work and commitment, everyone else will sit back and ask you how you did it so easily and you will just laugh, then, share your stoke.

SHOUT OUT

Kenny Aronoff
Drummer for Fogerty, Mellencamp, Smashing Pumpkins.

Kenny made it very clear to me a number of times that there are no secrets to success. “It’s just hard work and kicking ass until it’s all over.” Kenny shares his stoke with me all the time and I am lifted.

3. GIVE BACK

Giving back started with my Dad. On any given Friday night the question around the house was, “Where is Dad?”

Dad could always be found shooting on the sidelines at any local football game. It was not like any local team had ever reached out to my Dad for photography, it was just something he loved, and he loved giving back.

On Monday morning, coaches around the County would find a package left at their office door full of the most incredible photographs of their team in action over the weekend. Schools would use those photos in the trophy cases to highlight their sports programs. It was always an anonymous gift.

I am currently working on shoots for ten local bands in my neighborhood. I have completed shoots for three of them so far, for absolutely nothing. I, too, love giving back.

4. ASK FOR HELP

It took me a long time to learn how to write this newsletter. Spelling and grammar were never my strength. I still struggle with it, even as I am writing this now! It has been, and is currently, the most challenging part of my life, but I keep trying.

I have been discouraged by professionals around the world and even my own family as someone who could not put a sentence together, and they were right, so I reached out.

My first editor was Kayla, a Pepperdine graduate student, and friend, who encouraged me to send her this newsletter before I sent it out blindly. Kayla would make corrections, underline things, and ask me questions. At the end of each newsletter, she would always offer me just a little encouragement like, “ you are getting better”, or “this was really easy, not a lot of mistakes”. That small bit of encouragement always meant the world to me.

My current editor, Sonia, is a possible twin that has the ability to finish my sentences and stare into my soul. She helps me say what I really want to say to you, but with my own voice. Sonia would say, “I speak Robert”, and it’s true. Our friendship allows us to speak each other’s language and decode the message behind the words. Sonia is a fierce friend and always offers some kind of encouragement or positive feedback that enables me to continue with this experiment as a writer.

A small bit of encouragement for something that is important to me is rocket fuel. Saying to someone, “You absolutely have this and I am on your side”, is life-changing. At least, it has been for me, it’s so easy and so rarely done.

5. POWER WITHIN

I think it’s very important to assess your life regularly, decide what is working and what isn’t, and remove the things and people who are not serving your purpose. For me, it is easier said than done.

You have to realize you are important. We all possess the awesome power to change ourselves, but also to change how we affect those around us. We possess the power right now to absolutely make someone’s day, and possibly change their life forever.

Don’t believe me? Call a friend, tell them everything you know about them that makes them awesome, then tell them that you love them with all your heart and are rooting for them.

Pick up your phone right now and change the world.

What are your life rules?

 

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