How to be Remembered: Lessons From A Cymbal Maker

In the early 1600s the Sultan of Constantinople was searching for the best sounding cymbals for his armies and priests. He contacted a man named Avedis to do the job. Using his skills in alchemy and his desire to produce the best product possible, Avedis created a cymbal that surpassed the Sultan’s expectactions. The Sultan was so pleased by Avedis’ work that he changed his family’s surname to one that translates to “Son of the Cymbal Maker” – Zildjian.

The Son of the Cymbal Maker
The Son of the Cymbal Maker

If you’re familiar with drums or cymbals, you’ll probably recognize that name. Zildjian is a brand that, to this day, is still reknowned for their cymbals and have been used by most major drummers across all generas.

When I first heard this story I was pretty impressed. Avedis’ hard work and dedication became what he was known for because that’s what his name became- Cymbal Maker. If your name is going to be changed to reflect the work you’re producing, you must be doing something pretty amazing.

There are three things that set Avedis apart and made his work so exceptional. Three things that, if you want to be remember for the work your producing, you should take account of.


Avedis was as an alchemist who was known to do incredible work. He had dedicated himself to his craft and spent years building up his reputation. When his “lucky break” came with the Sultan, he was prepared for it. It’s doubtful the Sultan would have approached an unskilled apprentice to design the cymbals for his armies- he wanted a professional. The key is to dedicate yourself to your skill, become known for it, and then you’ll be ready for the opportunities that come up.

Having built up his reputation and knowledge in the field of alchemy, Avedis was familiar with the issues present in metalworking at that time. He was able to come up with a unique and secret method of tempering metals that was stronger and more musical than the other cymbals of his time- one that is still a closely guarded secret today. That uniqueness is what sealed the deal with the Sultan and truly set him apart from his competition. Regardless of the field you’re in or how long it’s been done a certain way, there is always something you could do to make your work stand out from the crowd.

Being different from the rest and getting the initial gig isn’t where the journey ends. After his impressive work, Avedis was the Cymbal Maker for the Sultan. Now, more than ever, it was essential for him to keep the quality and consistency of his work up to the level that had become expected of him. It’s tempting to coast once you’ve reached your pinacle point but you risk becoming a one hit wonder if you can’t keep it up. No one wants to be known as The Alchemist Formerly Known as Cymbal Maker. Consistency matters.


It’s doubtful we’ll ever be renamed for our work but we can be remembered for the work we do. Build your reputation, stand out from the crowd, and be consitent and you’ll being remembered for the right reasons.

What is it you’re wanting to be remembered for? What do you need to work on to make that a reality?

Two Questions Creatives Need Answers For

I recently polled a group of creatives I know with two questions regarding their creativity and their work. As a creative individual, I have my own answers for these questions but it was hugely insightful to learn what other thought and felt when it came to their creative outlets.
The questions where:

What’s the biggest roadblock that gets in the way of your being creative and expressing your creativity?

What’s the most impactful thing someone could say or has said to you regarding your creativity?
As creatives, it’s important to know what gets in our way so that we know how to overcome them and keep working. It’s also important to know what encourages you and builds you up. For me, that answer is a gauge I can use to know if I’m being successful in my work.

The answers I received where varied. We want our work to be understood, we want to impact the lives of others, we fight to overcome distractions and a lack of information or direction. There were some general themes that came up, some more personal. But the key thing I found was this: they had answers.

It’s important to know what stops you from being creative. Also, find out what it is you’re looking for in your work. Maybe you don’t need to hear or be told anything about your creative work but maybe you do. Maybe you, like me, can become easily distracted and then discouraged. Until you can find these answers, you wont have a gauge or a guide- a way you focused and help you realign.

Christmas is right around the corner and right after that, we start the New Year. As we move on towards 2016, let’s work together to make this the most creative year possible- for all of us.

The Difference Between Forcing and Training An Elephant

One of my favorite movies as a kid was Larger Than Life, a movie where Bill Murray inherits an elephant from his father. I’m pretty sure I’m the only person who ever liked the movie but the basic plot line is: selfish guy finds redemption after cross country adventures with an elephant. What’s not to like?

There’s a scene towards the end where Bill watches a circus owner abuse another elephant into compliance. Bill, having changed into a heartwarming hero, knows he could never submit his elephant to that and decides to set her free. This leads to further hijinks in an airport with Matthew McConaughey. As a twelve year old it always made me laugh.

Sometimes our creativity can be like an elephant. Huge, cumbersome, potentially uncooperative, maybe a little destructive. As creatives we choose how to treat our creative elephant- do we force ourselves to do or be something creative or are we training our creativity how to work and react?

I’ve tried to force my creativity to bend to my will before- forced myself to create something funny or inspiring. Generally, I find myself way off the mark of where I’d wanted to be and am not proud of what I produced. I also found myself on the other side of the argument, where I’ve been disciplined and consistent with my creativity and am very proud of what I make.
Through this, I’ve found there are two things that make the difference between forcing and training: time and consistency.

What sets a professional apart from a hobbyist is time- devoting intentional time to your creative outlet. You can’t expect to get better at something by just wanting it or wishing hard enough that it will happen. You have to spend time- wake up early to write your book, stay up late to rehearse your music, give up your lunch hour to practice your art. Take the time to train yourself and your creativity will follow.

Just about anyone can start something. Great intentions and the idea of starting something new generate enough momentum to get you going. Consistently working on something is where it gets difficult. I’ve got almost a half dozen blogs and websites I’ve started but wasn’t consistent with and they’ve faded into obscurity. Growth happens with consistency- spending the time every day with your creative outlet.

Time spent intentionally and consistently is the formula for successful training. It’s what you and your elephant of creativity need to work with each other instead of trying to force it into submission. Training always trumps forcing.
**Consistency is usually my area of trouble when it comes to training. What area do you struggling in? Comment and let me know.**


The 3 A’s To Bouncing Back From A Setback

I am a creative person. I am also a pretty emotional one. When I’m having a good day I am flying high- happy, encouraged, and ready to tackle the world. When I’m down… I get really mopey and critical. It can be hard for me to pull of out of the tailspin of a setback.

That’s where I found myself not too long ago- coming off of a high of success and a period of productivity and focus. Things were looking good- gaining traction in all the right ways and taking the steps I needed to take to reach that success. Only… I didn’t.

While surfing along on the high of having a big win, I got sloppy. I didn’t follow the steps or the plan I’d studied and established and, instead, assumed I could coast along for a while. This quickly led to a major setback in my project, which I then allowed to destroy my momentum, breed cynicism, and give up.

Setbacks happen in life. They are unavoidable. While I was able to pull myself back to an area of focus, there’s a 99% chance I’m going to run into another setback in future endeavors. Do I resign myself to getting thrown off course and being a mopey mess for two weeks? I don’t think so.
The 3 A's
Here are three steps that I work through when I’ve hit a setback.

1) Accept
So things weren’t going your way. At that point you can decide to do one of two things: accept the situation or ignore it. Ignoring it is the easy option. I like to think my problems are like a Tyrannosaurus Rex and are triggered by movement. If I stay perfectly still and don’t look at the problem it’ll just ago away. If you’ve seen any dinosaur movie in the past decade you’ll realize that never works. Instead, accept that things aren’t going the way you want them to- don’t try to ignore the problem or it can swallow you up.

2) Analyze
I am not a fan of this one. When I’m suffering from a setback I don’t really want to look at the situation and try to figure out if somehow I am to blame or if there’s something I could have done to avoid the situation. I want to whine and complain. But, like I tell my 3 year old, whining doesn’t get you what you want. Sometimes, when you stop to look at where and when things started to go the wrong, you might be able to see the source of the problem. Sometimes, setbacks are completely outside of your control- not something you did or could have avoided. Still, analyzing the situation can, sometimes, help you find a way out.

3) Align
If you’ve hit a roadblock or a setback, you might be out of alignment with the plan you’ve created to be successful. That was me- knowing how to produce the results I was looking for but choosing not to do them. Maps and plans are there for a reason- they direct us but also help us get back on the path that will lead us where we want to go. Re-align yourself with your plan and your goal and get back to it.
Setbacks will happen- again and again. Realize when you’ve hit one, learn what you can from it, and do what you have to to get back on track.

What area do you have the hardest time in when you hit a setback? Accepting, analyzing, or aligning?

How Goals Changed My Life

With Thanksgiving tomorrow and Christmas quickly approaching after that, all of the Holiday Madness will quickly be raining down on all of us. So, before everything goes crazy until the end of the end, I wanted to suggest you start thinking about something early: yearly goals.

I was first introduced to the concept of yearly goal setting around this time last year from Dave Ramsey’s Entreleadership book. The topics of being an entrepreneur and a leader aren’t exactly what Dave is famous for so I was curious what he had to say on the topic.The book had a lot of good information about running a successful business, but for me the biggest takeaway was on the topic of goals.


Borrowing from Zig Ziglar’s Wheel of Life concept, Dave spoke about the seven spokes of the Wheel of Life.These seven topics pretty well encompass the entirety of life- there isn’t much that can’t fit into one of these categories. The idea is that we need to be growing in all of these areas in our lives. If not, our lives become unbalanced and, like a wheel that is unbalanced, things don’t go smoothly.

Dave had me there. While I’ve spent time focusing on some areas within these seven topics, I’d left others almost completely alone. My life was majorly unbalanced and it was throwing pretty much all areas of my life off- especially the quality and consistency of my creativity.
The seven areas are:


There’s only one area I’d want to add to this list, and that is: Creativity. As creative people, I think that deems it’s own goal for the year.
We’re all about to step into the rush of parties, trees, lights, family, and fun. But in those quiet times between all the holiday hullabaloo, take a minute to think about these areas of your life. Think about if you’re growing, as an individual, in all of these areas or maybe only some of them. Think about what might be unbalanced in your life and how you might be able to adjust some of it in the coming year. Take a second and write them down in a journal, text them to yourself, drop them in Evernote, whatever it is you do. Just don’t forget or lose them.

This is a quick and dirty exercise. As we wrap up this year and start the next there are other steps I’ll share from my journey and make some suggestions about how to make these goals a reality for your life. For now, be mindful of them when you get a chance. These seven (or eight, if you add Creativity) areas can change your life.
What’s one area of the seven (or eight) areas of life that you’ve neglected in the past year?

3 Ways Thankfulness Fuels Your Creativity

Here we are, about to dive into Thanksgiving and all that it entails- holiday dinners, family and friends, food. At some point, either quietly to ourselves or maybe in some formal manner around the dinner table, we will take time to share what we’re thankful for this past year. It’s a great a beautiful thing.

There’s only one problem, though:

I am not very good at being thankful. Thankfulness is not something I think of often.
There are countless reasons as to why being thankful is a good habit to have. An avenue that gets overlooked is how being thankful can effect our creativity and creative outlets.

Of the many benefits that thankfulness has for our lives, here are three that can directly effect your creativity.
Songwriters who’ve lost love or fallen madly in it, writers who can share harrowing tales of overcoming injustice, artist who translate raw emotion into color and shape- great art, in all its forms, stems from the story of our life. Thankfulness causes you to look at your life and study it- analyze it. You find the experiences and events that have helped shape your life and, for some, you realize how grateful you are for those experiences. Others, while maybe not something you’re thankful for in the typical sense, are now fuel for your creativity. Regardless, having a thankful mindset causes you to not just look at life but to learn from it- the good, bad, and indifferent.

I’m really good at complaining. Being thankful helps keep my perspective in check- because there is so much that I have to be thankful for. I am healthy, I have a beautiful wife and family, I am pursuing my dreams and passions of helping creative people in their journey. When I have a better perspective- a better outlook on life- it inspires me to be creative. It makes me want to write, to play music, to produce videos. I am more creative when I am thankful and I make better content, as well.

One of the things I am most thankful for is my family. They are also one of the greatest sources and inspirations for creativity. If I loose focus on the things I am thankful for, I loose focus on one of my greatest sources of creative inspiration and encouragement. The fuel that drives me to be creative runs dry. My creative work reflects that. When that happens, being thankful is a tool that helps me refocus on what matters. Whether I am running on empty or just needing to be topped off, refocusing on the things I am thankful for help make me a better creative.
Maybe you’re like me and thankfulness is something you tend to only think of during the month of November. Let’s not do that anymore. Let’s make a concentrated effort to stay thankful- for the sake of our healthy, our minds, and our creativity- every day.

What’s the biggest thing you are thankful for that’s happened to you in 2015?

3 Thoughts on the Volume of Life

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about music throughout my life, from performance and touring to technologies and sales to managing and directing, it’s this: louder isn’t always better.volume-949240_1920

It didn’t always seem that way, though. Think back to when you where a teenager. Who had the better sounding stereo system in the high school parking lot- stock speaker kid (that was me) or dual sub woofer, LED back lit surround sound kid (not me)? To the untrained ear, louder can seem to be the way to go.

Studies have shown, however, that isn’t the case.Some evidence suggests that there really is no sonic benefit from blaring your music versus playing it at a lower level. Take if from a kid who left too many concerts only being able to hear in one ear- loud is not the answer.

Our lives can be loud, too. Facebook, Twitter, the news, jobs, dinners, families, kids, responsibilities- it can all build up and up until our lives are just a constant roaring around us. Trying to find a way to express your creativity and release it to the world can seem like just one more blaring speaker added to the already overloaded surround sound system that is your life.

Here are a couple of interesting parallels to think about in both music and our lives.
1) Volume
If you listen to the same song at blaring volume and then quieter, you’ll be surprised what stands out to you. Entire parts- harmonies and instrumentation- that you didn’t even know where there suddenly pop out to you. Finding a way to dial it back the volume can show you things you didn’t even know where possible.

2) Damage
My parents always warned me about hearing loss, and for good reason. The science backs it up- loud music for too long, too often can cause permanent hearing loss. Maybe not deafness but problems could arise that can’t be undone. Be mindful of what you might be at stake if you can’t find a way to bring it down a notch.

3) Enjoyment
Maybe I’m getting older but I’m finding I tend to like music more when I reign it in a bit. I can study it, be mindful of it, and find much more enjoyment than when I simply crank it to eleven and get drowned out by the thumping bass line. Restraint doesn’t cause me to loose out on anything- instead it makes me more aware of what’s in front of me.

In life, in the pursuits of our creativity, and in music- there is a time and a place for everything. A time for silence and a time to turn it up and let loose. The key is to know when, where, and for how long.
Two Questions today- what’s one way you might be able to dial back the loudness that’s in your life?
And what is your favorite song to crank and jam out to?

What I Learned From a Missing Lug Nut

This isn’t your typical “make sure you have the right tools for the job” story, although I could tell you one. This is a story about how I met my neighbor Jesse, who I still think might be a mechanic angel who lives on my street.

I have no idea what I'm doing...
I have no idea what I’m doing…

Backstory- I am not a car savvy individual. I’m sure this is a surprise for you but it’s true. But with the help of lots of Youtube videos I can do some basic car maintenance. However, the morning I realized I was missing three lug nuts and two of the wheel studs on my front tire (I might be using the wrong words for car parts, so please forgive me) I realized I was a bit out of my element.

I did everything I could think of to try and fix the thing. I bought tools I didn’t need, I watched videos that didn’t help, I bugged friends and family members on a Saturday morning- all with no success. Hours later, in frustration and desperation, I headed back to the store to buy more tools I didn’t need when I got a phone call from my wife.

“Don’t buy anything,” She said.
Oh no, the car blew up. This is always my initial fear when it comes to cars, probably from watching too much TV. “Why?”
“Our neighbor is coming to fix the car.”

Turns our Jesse, who lives down the street, had all the right tools and the knowledge to fix my car troubles. He had seen my car jacked up in my driveway, swung by to talk with my wife, and offered his help. By the time I got back from the store, my car was fixed and ready to go. I was amazed and incredibly grateful.
I took a lot out of that experience but one of the biggest was this:

You don’t have to do everything, yourself.

Jesse had operated a car repair shop for years. His car knowledge and my Star Wars trivia expertise are probably pretty close- which is nerd for saying he knows a ton about cars and I know too much about Star Wars. Regardless, he’s a specialist- his knowledge and experience got something done in minutes that I’d spent hours on.

As creatives, we tend to fall into the same trap. Pat Flynn (@patflynn) spoke about this at Michael Hyatt’s Influence & Impact Summit earlier this Fall. One of his biggest suggestions for leaders and creatives is not to insist that we do everything ourselves. We don’t have to do everything to be successful.

Having a website problem and coding isn’t your thing? If Java isn’t where your creativity lies use the knowledge of experts to get more done, with more success than you’d be able to do on your own. Need a headshot and you’re getting tired of outrunning the countdown timer on your camera? Find someone who knows what it takes to get a good picture.
To be successful in our efforts in life, whether car repairs, our creativity, or anywhere in between, don’t think you have to have all the answers and expertise. You won’t- it’s not possible.

Find people, make connections, share your expertise.
What’s one area where you could use a helping hand in your creativity?

Or what’s one way you could help out a fellow creative who is in need of a helping hand?

5 Steps For a Hot Date with Creativity

Creative people know that there is a problem with Creativity- Creativity isn’t always cooperative.

Sometimes, Creativity is like going on a bad date. Like a sitcom level bad date.

Picture this: You’ve prepared for your date with Creativity and started building up all these expectations for how great this is going to be… Only, Creativity decides to show up late, under dressed for the fancy occasion, and has decided to be very non conversational. Despite your best efforts, the date is a bust.

That night as you lay your head down to sleep, your phone buzzes. It’s Creativity who, now that you’re exhausted, frustrated, and completely unprepared, has decided to have an amazingly detailed conversation with you. The information starts and it just keeps coming- faster than you can retain it. The suddenly, Creativity has said goodnight. The conversation has ended, and you’re left remembering only half the details of this important conversation… and those are quickly fading away.

Creativity has a schedule all its own and it’s hard to be prepared for when it’ll strike. I’ve tried creative journals or writing down my ideas but those always seem to get lost or aren’t available when I get an idea. Then I realized something I almost always have on me- my cell phone. Detail-General-Break-Line-690x300

Here’s the solution that has worked awesomely for me:

1) Apps- Evernote
I might get my ideas while I’m out taking a jog (yes, I run on occasion) and want to jot them down on my phone’s app. I don’t want to write out a blog post on my phone, though. I have Evernote installed on all my devices so my creative document is shared across all of them. I can pull them up wherever I’m at- whether capturing an idea on my iPhone or settling down to write one out on my laptop.

2) Shortcut
My creative document is one of the first things I access when I launch the app- no digging around trying to find the note while the ideas flow downstream to the Sea of Awesome Ideas I Never Wrote Down. Two taps and I’m writing out my ideas before they forever disappear.

3) Write Down Everything
Creativity hits me as I’m falling asleep or already half asleep… so not all my ideas are great. When an idea strikes isn’t the time to try to decide if it’s worth pursuing – I just write them down so they don’t escape.

4) Sorting
Later, in the light of day and when I have some time to check out the ideas, I review and refine the list. I’ve got three sub-lists in the document that ideas get shuffled to: Write, Refine, and Eh… Pretty self-explanatory. My one thing is, I don’t delete ideas- no matter how off the wall they might seem. Sometimes an Eh… idea just needs to be grouped with a few other Eh… ideas before you realize they might be great when they’re all together.

5) Creating
Now I have a selection of creative ideas at my disposal that I can choose from when I sit down to work. Pick one and go for it.
This is my method, highly influenced by Michael Hyatt and his raving reviews of Evernote. I’ve taken what others have said and done and tweaked it so that I’m prepared for when Creativity decides to be chatty. Tweak it to fit your needs- just make sure you have a plan to not let those creative ideas get away from you.

What about you- what’s your method to capture a creative thought before it runs away into the Forest of Eternal Forgetfulness?

Rebranding- Not Redirecting

Sometimes you start things with the best intentions. Sometimes you realize shortly after you start there might be a better way. 

Today I introduce to you myself- Matthew J Alexander and MJA Media. Not much is changing from what I just started- still sharing great ideas and content and encouraging people to share their stories in an effective way. 

In fact, effectiveness is why I’m choosing to rebrand right now. I want to make sure I can offer you the best possible content, support, and information. MJA Media is the best way for me to do that. 

 I apologize if this all seems jarring- it won’t happen again. For now know that will be where all future content will be shared. For Social Media, make sure you follow @theMJAmedia on Twitter for my latest thoughts and ideas on story, social media, video, and even sharing some of my own. 
Thank you for following and baring with me. I’m excited about moving forward and doing what I set out to do: 

Providing Creatives with ideas and tools to help them effectively reach and grow their audience. 


Questions? Concerns? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer and set your mind at ease.