A Passion for Music

It’s been 5 years since I first picked up a guitar and started writing my own music. It’s actually kind of incredible how much perspective you can gain in such a short amount of time. I still remember writing my first few songs while still in high school- spending every class writing down terrible lyrics and tapping my pencil on every desk. Even after school, I spent countless hours in my bedroom churning out ideas. Every single one of those songs ended up being awful, but I don’t regret a second of it.

I’ve grown quite a bit since then. In terms of music, I’ve learned all kinds of things from chord progressions, scales, picking patterns, and even the ability to create unique melodies. But aside from my new knowledge and technical abilities, I now understand the difference between wanting to write a hit song vs needing to write because you just have to.

Wanting to write a hit song is all about writing music for the reward. Fame, sex, money or whatever it is, these people simply want to use music as a tool to fulfill their own personal desires. Being in multiple bands and playing with hundreds of people, I realize now there’s many musicians of this kind. And to be quite frank, I was one of them for a while. Ironically, it wasn’t until after I stopped giving a shit about “making it” did I realize that I was in love with the art of songwriting and sharing my music with the world. I plan on creating music until the day I die.

I think to be successful at anything in life you truly have to be passionate about it. The second you start doing something strictly for its rewards, you are doomed to fail. So to all my fellow songwriters out there: Never stop creating, stay authentic and do it because it’s what you love.

11 Free To Use Online Tools

More than 40% of the world population has an internet connection today. An internet connection with the ability to access an endless supply of knowledge, entertainment and practical tools. And yet, only a fraction of these 3 billion people use it to the fullest!

There are countless great websites and applications for practically everything. So I thought I’d share some of my favorites that are fun, easy and free to use. Enjoy!

  1. Documentary Heaven – Hundreds of documentaries on a wide number of subjects. Great as a replacement for a casual movie. I don’t watch television anymore.
  2. Ted Talks – Learn and explore new ideas from experts and passionate speakers. Absolutely fascinating and another great replacement for tv or a movie.
  3. Khan Academy – Great teaching tools on Math, Science, Humanities and Computing. This site has saved my grades on a number of occasions.
  4. Pixlr – Amazing picture editor. Comes in a basic / intermediate version for a quick easy edit or an advanced version for those that are more technical.
  5. Twilight – This mobile application reduces eye strain from staring at your phone, especially useful before going to bed. Has probably saved me hundreds of hours of sleep.
  6. WordPress – Make your own customizable website. By far my favorite blog platform. Has the ability to really individualize your site and make it your own.
  7. Flickr – Amazing site to browse and use millions of commercial free photos. I get the majority of my blog photos from here under the creative commons.
  8. Unreal Engine – Learn how to create your own video game from scratch! Great for anyone interested in game development and is interested in making it a career.
  9. LMMS – The best available tool out there for learning to produce digital music for free. I recommend knowing a little bit of music theory before jumping in, but newbies are definitely welcome too!
  10. CodeAcademy – Fantastic resource for learning how to code and create your own website. Provides both beginner tutorials for newbies and advanced tutorials for those that want to improve their skills.
  11. Krita –  While programs like Photoshop are awesome for image manipulation and design, it has an incredibly high learning curve and can be difficult to get started. Krita is designed for creating concept art, digital paintings, and web comics which has a manageable tool set much more friendly to the average user.

The Fantasy of Free Will

What if I told you that up until this very moment in your life, you couldn’t have done anything differently than what you have done? You couldn’t have went to a different school. You couldn’t have said no to your current job. You couldn’t have been a different person. This is what it means to not have free will.

It’s easy to imagine what it would be like to choose something differently, but this is just an trick of the brain. A fictional character of yourself made up in your own head. This fictional character may resemble you in every way from looks, personality, intelligence and goals, but this person is not you. This person is no different then Harry Potter living in the world of Hogwarts.

How would this person even have decided to make a different choice? Even if you went back in time to the moment one of these decisions was made, you would have had the exact same information, brain state and rationale (or lack thereof) when making the choice. We are ultimately slaves to our desires. Desires being resisted are simply desires replaced by another.

Our everyday choices we experience are illusions that make us think we are the author of our actions. This assumption, that humans can choose what we want, has completely shaped the way our society functions. From politics, law, morality, religion and even personal feelings, free will is at the core of almost everything. But what if this is all one grand fantasy?

In the near future I believe we will be able to prove this empirically through neuroscience (1, 2, 3, 4). It is just a matter of time before society comes to recognize free will as a nonsensical concept.

For those of you who are skeptical (which you should be!) I encourage you to watch this talk by Sam Harris. I would also pick up and read Sam’s short essay on the subject. For those of you who are a bit more philosophically sophisticated, I would recommend reading Galen Strawson’s Freedom and Belief who tackles every contending view on the issue.