The 23rd Hour Blog

The right way to quit your day job to pursue your passion 

I left my high paying, very cool tech job to spend a year doing something else I love: music. Some found my decision inspiring, bold. Others were a bit befuddled but wished me well. Many expressed gratitude for my contributions and especially for the way I handled my exit. One manager said he has never seen such a smooth transition. I was surprised to find out that what I did isn’t the default. So, I thought I would share how I think you too can leave your day job gracefully and pursue your passion.

Spoiler alert: this is no shortcut scheme.

Save up some money

It took me about five years of full time work to be able to take one year off. I have to admit I am extremely lucky that my second passion (programming) is a rather lucrative one, but it doesn’t have to be one year. Depending on how much you can earn and save, you can take 3 months off, or 6, 12, or forever. Ideally, if you can make some money doing what you love during that time, it will help you last a little longer. But for that, you’ll need the next point.

Practice saying no to yourself

I don’t allow myself to impulse-buy much. When I buy clothes online, I preset a budget limit to how much I’m allowed to spend ($100), and can’t buy more clothes for at least 6 months. I’m not stingy at all. If I’m going out, I’ll go to a nice place, but I’ll go less often. Having to choose what to delete from the cart is an exercise in self-managing. When you have no boss, no rigid routine and accompanying paycheck, you need to be able to manage yourself to last as long as you can. If you can’t do that, it will be hard to resist the temptation of just having fun and not really advancing your goals.

Run towards your goal

“It’s better to run toward something than it is to run away from something” — from one of the many podcast interviews I’ve listened to in the last year.

In other words, don’t quit because you hate the job. Quit because you found something you’re so driven about that it keeps you up at night, gets you out of bed every morning and makes you feel alive. Quit because you know specifically what you want to do and you need time to do it. Quit because you believe in yourself. If you quit because of this inner passion, rather than because of outer grievances, you will have a much more graceful exit and it will feel great.

Plan your exit

How much money will you need for housing, healthcare, travel, whatever gear or other expenditure your passion project requires? Have your ducks in a row, know what the consequences will be, have your back up plans figured out. Do you have to move somewhere cheaper? Do you have to apply for new insurance? Check the prices, eligibility, availability of all of these. If your phone is paid for by the company, make sure to add that to your budget. Realistically, how long can you last on the money you’ve saved? Half that is a good goal. So if you’ve saved enough to theoretically last a year, give yourself six months, then re-evaluate whether you can last a full year or need to find a new job.

Give at least 2 weeks notice

I announced the big news right before the winter break, giving a desired end date of Jan 15. I offered to stay a few more days if they felt it was needed and they asked for 19th. People were a little surprised but understood and wished me well. They also thanked me for telling them in advance and giving them the opportunity to prepare for this change.

Find new homes for your projects

When I got back after the winter break, my immediate supervisor was away on vacation. After consulting with her boss and his boss, I started transitioning things over to whoever we agreed would be most appropriate for the task. Some were easy, some took weeks of negotiation, but overall, by the time my manager was back, everything had been transitioned with clear documentation on where the project was, what the outstanding items were (if any), and who the contact person would be moving forward. The goal for me was to make sure that my manager wouldn’t have to worry about the transition at all except for the paperwork and hiring someone else eventually.

Train your replacement

I wanted to train those taking over one of the more involved project and make sure they had the chance to ask me any questions before I leave. My plan was to walk them through the project step-by-step. However, since the negotiations took a few weeks, I was only able to briefly go over the process in an hour-long meeting. Still better than nothing I suppose. If you have the opportunity to do so, train your replacement before you leave.

Be gracious

Be thankful for the opportunity. After all, without this day job, you wouldn’t be able to afford your passion time off! The least you can do is be gracious, respectful and do your best to make your exit as smooth and pleasant as possible. Leaving on a high note never hurts. Multiple people have said they would love to hear from me if I ever want to go back into the field. Mission accomplished!

Keep in touch

It never hurts.

Be adaptable

You might need to move to a smaller place, sell some of your belongings, change your lifestyle. We did. Was it easy? Not exactly. But because we have a clear goal, we don’t let anything else distract us. We can and will adapt.

That’s all folks!

If you do decide to embark on this crazy voyage like me, please do say hello.

Thank you for making music sustainability an integral part of your company vision. 

Thank you for making music sustainability an integral part of your company vision. It is imperative for us creatives to do our due diligence and carefully vet our distribution channels, making sure we are not shooting ourselves in the foot in the long run. Your article does a great job explaining why we have good reason to stand our ground when it comes to the value of our art.

Wrap Your Head Around Backups —  Musicians Edition 

Wrap Your Head Around Backups — Musicians Edition

You know you need it but just the thought of it is so… boring. I get it. I get that feeling too and I’m a techie! That said, if making music is your business, then you have to set yourself up for success by being prepared as much as possible. Here’s how to do it.

The gist is, you want

  • a setup that makes sense for your work
  • a physical backup (or two) — this would be the fastest recovery method
  • a cloud backup — slower than physical, but good to have in case your physical backup is also lost.
  • a workflow that will allow you to focus on music, not backups!

The Setup

Here are a few types of files you might primarily be concerned about

  • Your “finished products”: releases, artwork, and any other accompanying document. You need to be able to access those from anywhere, quickly. For that, I recommend saving them to a synchronized cloud storage service like DropBox, Box, iCloud, GoogleDrive so that you can get to them from any of your devices anytime. I personally use DropBox, which is $9.99/month for 1TB
  • Your recording projects such as Logic Pro X or ProTools sessions. Depending on how much you’ve got, it may or may not make sense to have it all in Dropbox. I personally save the recent ones/the ones I’m currently working on in Dropbox for easier collaboration. If you are very prolific and are running out of space to store them, you could move those to an external drive. Let’s call this your archive drive. You may have multiple ones.
  • Your sample libraries and loops such as EastWest, Ivory or ThatSound. These easily take up a lot of storage. Left on your main computer, you will quickly find your system slowed down to a crawl due to lack of space. It would make more sense to move those to a separate drive. I am moving all of mine to a 4TB external drive that I call the sample library drive:

Physical Backup + Cloud Backup service

Dropbox and similar services only provide a convenient way to access particular files (that are in the Dropbox folder). It does not store all your other stuff such as app data, mail, downloads, documents, etc. For that, you want a true backup system. Preferably, you want both a physical and cloud backup for extra protection.

Physical Backup

First let’s talk physical backup. If you’re a Mac user, you already have the most intuitive backup system at your fingertips: Time Machine. If you’re on Windows, perhaps Genie might be a comparable alternative. If you’re on Linux, you probably don’t need my help ;-)

Time Machine basically stores a copy of your system and files and allows you to “go back in time” by restoring your system with all its files exactly as it was at a particular point in the past. Let’s say you installed some new software that completely screwed things up, you can just go back and pretend it never happened. How far back you can go depends on how much storage space you have for the backups. Time Machine will do an initial full backup (which may take an entire day), then incrementally save the changes you make. It’s very easy to set up. You can also encrypt the backup.

There is one catch. Time Machine backups are not bootable. If your computer’s main drive is completely fried, you need to be able to boot from something before you can restore from Time Machine. For this reason, it is also advisable to have a bootable backup of your main drive. This would especially come in handy when you’re on deadline. You can do so using Carbon Copy Clone ($39.99) or using the Mac’s free Disk Utility to do it manually. CCC allows you to schedule it and make automatic incremental backups, which is nice.

Cloud Backup

Why do you need this? Well, let’s say someone broke into your house and stole both your computer and your backup drive. Then what?

I am currently researching options. Here are a few:

BackBlaze offers unlimited storage, advanced security features, they’ll send you a hard drive anywhere in the world for free if you need to restore your data. It has a 15-day trial and then it’s about $5/month per device. It works with both Mac & Windows.

Synchronize! Pro is the only one that offers a bootable backup. It seems to also offer unlimited storage and archiving capabilities to free up space on your drive. Unfortunately it does not support versions of Mac OS more recent than 10.10. We are currently on 10.14 so that’s a problem in the long run if the software is going to be discontinued. It works on Mac only.

CrashPlan keeps your deleted files forever, has unlimited storage, advanced security features. It is used by many large corporations so it is unlikely to go away soon. However it is the most expensive option I found so far. It offers a free month trial then is $10/month per device for the small business option. It works on both Mac & Windows.

Final Thoughts

Arguably, the online backup systems could be a replacement for the physical backups. The only caveat is that, when on deadline, you want to be able to get your stuff fast.

Remember, you want a “set it and forget it” system so that you can do it once, then go back to way more interesting tasks like making music :-)

The tips were compiled from a forum discussion I had with a few other ladies (and gents) in the biz. Thanks to Patti Boss, Carla Kay Barlow, Anne House, Michelle Lockey, Bill Lefler for sharing their strategies with me.

Wrap Your Head Around Backups —  Musicians Edition was originally published in SmartMusicianGuide on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Why Crazy Rich Asians Gives Me Hope 

I recently attended a party where I found myself chatting with two lovely caucasian ladies. Another couple joined the conversation, and we went through the usual “what do you do?” and “what’s next?”. One of the ladies had worked at the same company as I did for a number of years. Both go to church a few blocks from our previous home. It’s a small world.

Then, I happened to mention that I’m considering a move to Nashville. I fell in love with the city the day I first set foot there. There is no other place like it. Music is just everywhere. It’s not pretentious, it’s reasonably priced. There’s only a few drawbacks: not a huge variety of Asian food, the weather, and… once you get outside of Nashville, it’s a different demographic. I mentioned that the couple of times I’ve been there, I was often the only Asian person in the room, and it felt a little weird. I felt like an outsider, and I felt that my experience didn’t matter. And that was in Nashville. I’m not sure how welcome I would be outside of Nashville as a progressive, Asian, artistic immigrant.

At that point, my fellow alum interjected. “Wait a minute, I’m from Tennessee…

Oops. I hope I didn’t offend the lady.

I invited her to tell me more about how it is to live in Tennessee. She said I’m right about Nashville, Memphis and Knoxville being very different from the small towns in between. Then, she whispered something to her friend and they promptly turned their backs and left without another word to the rest of us. So much for God’s word on tolerance? The couple and I gave each other a baffled look, and could only shrug and laugh. I felt bad but also incredulous. I would have apologized for the offense given the chance, but it seemed my interlocutor had no interest in breathing the same air if it could at all be avoided. Oh well.

But here’s the point.

These ladies were offended by the fact that I dared to say I felt uncomfortable as a minority, thereby reinforcing the feeling that my experience as a minority doesn’t matter. Especially if it doesn’t make the “majority” feel good about themselves. They don’t have to acknowledge it. They can simply dismiss it and go on with their lives.

Crazy Asians

For so long, the Asian American community has struggled both to fit in and to stand out. I have been told since I was a little girl that I will never, ever make it in western pop music because I’m Asian. It doesn’t matter how talented I am or how hard I work at it. I just don’t look like the rest of them. My own family told me this!

Now, before you judge them for not being supportive, consider this: Caucasians in America never have to say to their kids “your dreams will never come true because you’re white, and that’s just the sad truth”. These parents might have 99 other reasons to discourage kids from an artistic career path but “race” isn’t one of them.

And this is why Crazy Rich Asians means so much for Asian Americans, especially Asian American creatives:

  • It has broken the glass ceiling for future generations of Asian American actors. It is a big budget, big studio rom-com. The success of the movie shows that, contrary to Hollywood lore, there is in fact demand for ethnic leads telling ethnic stories.
  • It’s hard to explain why but it makes me feel at least acknowledged. Before this, I’ve never gone to a movie theater and seen people who look like me on the screen. Not in lead roles in a Hollywood romantic comedy. Definitely not telling our stories as Asian Americans, trying to balance fitting in and preserving our cultural heritage. It always felt like we weren’t an important enough demographic to accurately represent in American media.
  • It humanized us in a way that only movies can. The Asian cast was not there just to play stereotypical roles. It showed that we’re not just kung fu masters, or tiger moms, or math nerds. We’re people, with dreams, heartaches, and the universal apprehension of in-laws :)
  • It gives me hope that perhaps my family was wrong about needing a different skin tone, eye color, and face shape to succeed in music nowadays. Personally, one of my favorite parts of the movie was Kina Grannis’ cameo. I’ve been watching her videos since the early days on YouTube and I was just happy to see how far she’s gone.
  • May I point out that the music was amazing? Loved all the Mandarin covers of jazz standards and pop classics. It helped reinforce the fact that we are really a diverse bunch with different personalities, tastes and talents. I did not understand a word, but I really enjoyed the music. Hats of to music supervisor Gabe Hilfer for that.
  • Last but not least, it was really cool to find out that the director (Jon M. Chu) is none other than the son of our favorite Chinese restaurant owner and chef. Chef Chu must be very, very proud.

Have you seen the movie? What did you think?

Also, in your opinion, what would have been the most appropriate response to the ladies I encountered at the party? Was I wrong to say how I felt?

Let me know in the comments below!

The Opportunity Cost of 10,000 steps 

Or why I never used to exercise.

This daily goal has always seemed so daunting. On an average work day, I would barely get a few thousand steps. At the end of the day, I would want to spend whatever energy I had left writing, recording and performing music. That usually doesn’t help my step count much, no matter how much I stomp my foot to the rhythm. Yet, just yesterday, I did over 11,000 steps and it seemed like nothing.

It dawned on me that my lack of energy was probably a result of perceived opportunity cost. I always felt like the gym was too much of a time sink. I had a membership but never went. When you factor in driving there, finding parking, changing, working out, showering, driving back, it really adds up. There’s so many other things I could be doing that would feel more productive AND more enjoyable…

Although I don’t think I’ll ever truly enjoy the gym, here are things I do to make it feel like a more productive option:

  • When I’m feeling lazy, I take a book with me and ride the bike for a while. I’ve missed reading and time on a machine goes by so much faster with a book. Audio books are even better.
  • If something is on my mind, eg. I’m stuck on a problem, I’ll download a tutorial or podcast episode related to the topic on my phone and listen to it while I work out.
  • If what I need to do is more visual and doesn’t lend itself well to audio learning, then I’ll load a playlist of reference tracks and make mental notes on the songs while I work out.
  • When all else fails, inspiring podcast interviews or funny YouTube videos might do the trick :-)

That said… I still don’t get to the gym as often as I should, but I am making a little progress. Baby steps!

What do you do to motivate yourself to exercise? I’m all ears for new ideas.

Bookers will love you for this 

Venues & Bookers Will Love You For This

Top 17 things to do to make sure you’re booked again

You’ve landed a cool gig. Maybe you’re really new and you just booked your first coffee shop feature. Or maybe you just scored your first festival or showcase. Every new gig is an opportunity to make new connections in the music business, no matter how small the venue or audience. You always want people to feel like they were lucky to book you. It’s not hard to do, but it is all in the details.

Before the gig

  • Make sure you know where to go, what to bring, who will be the point of contact beforehand.
  • Decide on your set list. You should at least know how many songs you can fit into your allotted time slot.
  • Think about your banter. Is this a venue where people will want to hear the story behind your music? If so, which story do you tell? Refresh your own memory so you don’t stumble on stage. You want to be as professional as possible to make your booker look good!
  • Promote the event. Everybody loves some help promoting their event.

At the Gig

  • Bring your best attitude and be flexible. You’re an entertainer, it should be fun to be around you. Introduce yourself to other musicians if you get a chance.
  • Show up at load-in time. If applicable, ask where to put your gear until it’s your turn to soundcheck, so that it’s not in other people’s way.
  • Once you’re there, stick around until you’re done soundcheck. Don’t have people chasing you around when it’s your turn.
  • Try really hard to remember everybody’s names: the sound engineer, MC, volunteers, anybody who’s helping out. It does matter.
  • Thank everyone personally before you leave.

On Stage

  • If it’s a new audience, repeat your band name a few times.
  • Mention your social media and/or merch if applicable.
  • Thank your audience.
  • Thank your host/venue and the event staff.
  • Do not apologize. It doesn’t make you appear humble. It makes you appear unprofessional and undeserving of the audience’s time. Even if you make a mistake, the show must go on.

After the gig

  • Send a thank you note. Bonus points for physically mailed thank you cards.
  • Tag the venue, organizer, photographer etc in your social media posts about the event. If a photographer provided pictures, make sure to give them credit whenever you post those photos!
  • Share any posts about the event. Promote them. Reciprocity is the name of the game.

There you have it! Have we missed anything?

Bookers will love you for this was originally published in SmartMusicianGuide on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

THE GIST: “The Linchpin” by Seth Godin 

The Gist is a new series where I summarize books I’ve read and my reflections on how their concepts apply to my life as a music entrepreneur.

It was 2008 and I was about to release my first EP of 7 songs. As I sought for marketing strategies, I came across bloggers Derek Sivers and Seth Godin. What was supposed to be marketing advice turned out to be full blown life philosophies that I have lived by for about a decade. Both Derek and Seth are gentle, articulate heretics. Their respective blogs are generous with their wisdoms. They have an optimistic outlook on life and the future of art. They question the status quo, and don’t settle for “that’s what people do”. My kind of people. It was not hard to win me over as a customer.

I’ve just finished re-reading Seth’s book “The Linchpin”. Here are my take-aways:

  • There is art in every job. All of us are artists when we find an elegant solution to a problem, or add a personal touch to make a customer feel special, or even just offer a kind smile. Art isn’t just for musicians, painters, writers, film makers. It’s for everyone who is willing to be creative.
  • In a post-commercial world, we need artists. Those people who come up with creative ideas, who aren’t afraid to challenge the status quo, even if that means risking ridicule. The linchpins. Not necessarily glamorous people. Just people who are very, very hard to replace because their mere presence makes things better.
  • Emotional labor is quickly replacing physical labor. It takes emotional labor to care about the job, the customer, the problem, and to come up with a creative solution. It takes emotional labor to put something out in the world despite our lizard brain begging us not to risk rejection and make a fool of ourselves. It takes emotional labor to distance ourselves from our work enough to be objective and not take it personally when it does not work out.
  • Fear and anxiety are not the same thing. Fear keeps us physically alive. In modern society, very few things actually warrant fear. We mostly experience anxiety. Anxiety is redundant. It is practicing failure that will not actually happen and often makes things worse.
  • The lizard brain (the resistance) wants you to fit in, worries about what others think, would prefer you to settle for less. Recognize it, acknowledge it, and move on. Often, the lizard brain will urge you to do something rash. Do nothing. Great negotiation tactic.
  • Linchpins do not let emotional attachment or ego get in the way of the work. Attachment can lead to denial. E.g. the record industry in the early 2000s.
  • You can fit in or you can stand out. You cannot do both. Success starts with a choice.
  • We experience joy from giving. Giving only what you are paid for deprives you of an opportunity to experience joy. Do not let the transactional nature of business get in the way of creating joy. It will make work more rewarding.
  • In the connection economy, the generous win, the hoarders lose.
  • Masterpieces are shipped. Always ship. On time. The work is worth nothing if it does not ship.
  • Projects often don’t get shipped because of too much thrashing at the end. More and more people are brought in as the project develops and request different approaches and features, which then introduce bugs and other issues. It should be the opposite. Get all the opinions upfront, then lock it down. Less and less people should be involved closer to ship date. Thrash often, but thrash early.
  • Artists don’t color outside the box. Outside the box is doomed to fail. On the edge is where everything is happening, where projects are shipped and problems are solved.
  • You don’t need to change titles, jobs, or careers to be a linchpin. You can decide to become one by seeking interesting problems to solve within your current organization.
  • You are a genius. Sometimes. Most people are geniuses sometimes. No one is a genius all the time. You could probably do Richard Branson’s job most of the time, except for a few minutes or hours a year when he comes up with the next big thing. The rest of the time, his work is just average work.
  • The education system was founded on the economics of factory production. Factories needed trained workers who can follow and obey simple instructions. Schools created obedient, competent workers for the factories. Cogs.
  • In the new connection economy, we need creative people who are not here to follow instructions. And we need to allow them to challenge the status quo. You can have a culture of obedient workers, or one of (sometimes disobedient) linchpins.
  • Art by default has external benefits for those who haven’t purchased them. If I buy a painting and hang it at my house, anybody who visits can also enjoy it. Art is to be shared.
  • What people truly want is connection. To be seen.

So how do I apply this to my career as a songwriter, producer and music entrepreneur?

I often wonder what life would be like if I had other people to do all the non-musical tasks. The “genius sometimes” concept is a good reminder that it is acceptable, even normal, for a lot of my work to just be… work.

Now about thrashing… I have to admit that a number of songs at various recording stages are stuck in limbo. It is time to put in the emotional labor of going through, finalizing, releasing with inevitable imperfections, knowing a shipped piece is better than 20 shelved ones. Much easier said than done. But I will try.

As a songwriter/musician, I have submitted songs to various opportunities and most of them never pan out. By now, I am used to rejection. Write, record, pitch, rinse, repeat. I don’t take it personally. I know it’s a numbers’ game and that’s just the cost of doing business. That said, sometimes I just can’t help thinking “if I could just get a break”…

Well, it is time to reverse this rhetorical question and instead ask “how can I be someone else’s break? How can I find and serve a music consumer, solve their problem, and make their day, even if it is to refer them to a different musician?” The challenge to myself here is to go out and make those connections. That’s the part where I’ve honestly been slacking. As emotionally labor-intensive as it gets if you ask me.

Next, anxiety. It runs so strongly in the family that it’s anybody’s guess whether it’s nature or nurture. Probably both. If I don’t call home, it will be assumed that I am likely deathly ill, kidnapped, possibly murdered by a serial killer. It’s no wonder that to this day, I have nightmares of people dying. Next time I catch myself worrying about things I cannot control, I will have to remind myself of the fact that anxiety is merely practicing failure that hasn’t yet happened (and likely won’t). That said, please try not to die, thank you :-)

Last but not least, the gift. While the intention comes naturally to me, I don’t always execute. For example, I often think about sending cards, but then I put it off and forget. I also often have ideas for a blog with tips for fellow musicians, but then leave it 3/4 finished in the draft folder for a month. I’m going to try and clear out more time for this in the future. For starters, I’ll try to write a blog on every book I finish with the main points and how I can apply it to my own life. Hopefully it will help someone somewhere.

What’s your favorite take-away from the book? Let me know in the comments.

Finding Authenticity 

One day, I stumbled upon the world of sync licensing. Many of the songs being licensed were three chord songs, simple melodies and lyrics, cute but nothing complicated to them. Our songs naturally tend to be cute, but with intricate progressions, so writing a three-chord song felt easily achievable. After all, the first few songs I wrote were similarly simple. I could easily do it again. Or so I thought.

I was going through a difficult time. As I re-evaluated my life goals and searched for answers, I would go to my car during my lunch breaks and attempt to write happy songs. Even then, I saw the irony. I would look at the list of themes that I had decided were sync-friendly and just brain dump. Most of it was terribly trite. We did finish a couple of these songs, and they weren’t bad, but none of it rang true to me. The result was lackluster music. Happy, upbeat, simple, but nothing I was particularly eager to share or spend a lot of money to produce.

During one of these solo car lunches, starting with yet another sync-friendly prompt, I found myself writing about what was truly consuming me. I forgot about the theme (independence) and followed my muse to the internal debate I was silently going through every day. I was feeling lost and trapped. I found myself wondering whether I was really enjoying that dream data scientist job I had. What really made me happy? Why was I so anxious all the time? Am I being selfish? Am I crazy?

It took me months to figure out why I wasn’t feeling fulfilled and what to do next. But in less than 20 minutes that day, I was strumming the chords and singing some of my most honest lyrics to date. It turned out to be a 5 chord song, ridiculously simple, with universal lyrics, all the hallmarks of a sync-friendly song. But it rang true. Perhaps because it was true. I finally got it. I locked the car and walked back to my desk feeling a little lighter than I did before lunch.

A few months later, I quit my job. I decided to dedicate a full year to building our catalog, learning production, and growing our music business. When I played the song for the first time, the audience reaction was immediate. I could see people connecting with the song, the melody, and my story. Unlike the dozens of happy songs that I half-heartedly tried to write while feeling unhappy, this one was a positive twist on emotions I was really feeling when I was writing. That was the key to the simple but authentic song. Although not everyone will connect with it, I’m confident that we’ll find a home for it somewhere.

The song is now in production and we will release it soon. In the photo below are the lyrics. If you’d like to hear the song, we’ll be sending it to our subscribers in one of our upcoming newsletters. Sign up now to get it for free: We send a newsletter every 4–6 weeks.

I Quit My Job To Start My Music Business: People React. 

Photo credit to the incredibly talented Lesya Kulchenko.

I wasn’t quite sure how my colleagues, friends, or family would react to my departure. For a long time, I dreaded that my decision would be met with derision, shaking heads/eye rolls, and full-blown panic attacks respectively.

After months of weighing pros and cons and recalibrating my fears vs what is really likely to happen, I finally got to the point where I had to do it. I just had to. I left my job, taking a full year off the 9-to-5 to focus on the craft of songwriting, to travel, and spend time with loved ones. And the reaction was not quite what I expected.

I am writing this hoping it will help at least one person out there realize that it likely wouldn’t be the end of the world if you wanted to explore something different for a little while. People will support you. And you can still go back. And going back isn’t proof that your idea failed either. We no longer are expected to pick one thing and stick with it all the time, for ever. Take advantage of it.

Below are my favorite reactions and lessons I learned from them.

If you’d like to listen to our music while you read, please do enjoy the embedded @SoundCloud links :)

The song below is called “Risking More”. It was inspired by a quote found on a friend’s Facebook profile around 2008. It read:

“If you don’t risk anything, you risk even more.”

— Unknown.


“Glad to hear that you are taking the time — you would have had more regrets about not trying than you will have about a year’s salary. “

— a colleague

Lesson: Time vs money

Life is both long and short. We have a lifetime to earn a paycheck. Taking a year or two off to launch your business is not such a crazy idea in the grand scheme of things.


“I did a similar thing a few years back — left my job to pursue music production. “

— another colleague

“I just came back from a similar break. I took 8 months off to travel with my spouse. Congratulations!“

— yet another colleague

“I did the same thing for 18 months. It was awesome. You can always come back and everything will be the same. A little different, but mostly the same. I’ll likely to do it again every 10 years or so. “

— yet another colleague

“We’ll miss you. If you’re ever back in the market for a job, definitely let me know. “

— a boss

Lesson: Not that big a deal

They got their jobs back. Nobody thought they were out of their minds. In fact, it seems more people do this than I previously thought. And it is something that is celebrated. Most companies want people to come to work refreshed, energized, focused. If you need to take some time off to do your own thing to get to that state, then do your thing and come back when you’re ready to give it 100% again.

Creativity is becoming more and more salient. To be creative, we have to acquire different experiences. We have to live life in order to find true inspiration and identify real problems to which we can contribute a solution in this world. If you’re running out of ideas, maybe you could benefit from a change of scenery, too.


“I have to admit, I’m a little jealous.”

— many colleagues

Lesson: You’re not alone

More people long to do this same “crazy” thing than you might think.

If you are in a position where you can afford to, and you’re driven to make a passion into a profitable business, just start. Even if you end up going back to a 9-to-5, you’ll have a lot of fun and the experience of a lifetime. I know I am!


“You’re so brave, you’re inspiring me. “

— yet another colleague

Lesson: Bravery is for the beholder

When you acknowledge your authentic self, and how you fit in the market place, and what changes you need to make to maximize both your productivity and your happiness, people won’t think you’re cray-cray. They might actually admire you for daring to do it.

The best part? It’s not even about “daring” to do it. It looks a lot harder on the outside than it really is. While I did take a long time to make the decision and ensure a smooth transition, it didn’t really feel like I was taking a huge risk, and that it was a do or die career move or anything this dramatic. It just felt like I had to do it. It was almost a compulsion. I needed to do my thing for a while.

You don’t have to be or feel like a hero taking huge risks. Just take calculated steps to what is right for you. It’s just a bunch of small steps, one foot in front of the other. Bravery lies in the eye of the beholder.


“So when are you coming to visit? You can stay longer now!“ — Grandma

Yes we can, and yes we will.

Lesson: Time is all we have to give

Your family will be just fine. Just make sure to budget some weeks in there for quality time with them and assure them that your finances are in order. Time together with the whole family is a luxury for those of us who are immigrants. They’ll be happy to see you.

If you’ve enjoyed this blog, clap, repost, comment, send it to someone who needs it.

Written by Sherry-Lynn Lee


We love writing! Not just songs, but also little anecdotes, stories, reflections that hopefully provide a glimpse into our quirky artistic path. Somehow these unlikely bedfellows, two "perfect strangers" from across the globe found each other in California and turned out to be artistic soulmates. 

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