Or, another way I put it is:

Whatever you do, there will be more of.

Tony Robbins likes to folks-ify it this way: “Where focus goes, energy flows.”

But philosophers, scientists, and coaches all say the same thing in their lingo as well.

Because it is a law of human psychology, and it can teach us the proper way to interact with reality.

There is a negative expression to the law. If once, you don’t pick up a piece of litter, you are more likely to not pick up the next piece you see.

And there's a positive expression. If you fight through lethargy to go to the gym, you'll find more of that fighting spirit tomorrow. Or if you tell the truth, you will be still more courageous the next time you are confronted with a difficult situation.

I have used this to root out bad habits. When I engage in a bad habit, I like to ask myself: do I want there to be more of that in my life? It's a non-judgmental question that helps me to assess my behavior, and make a new choice.

I have used this in building new habits. I wanted to get better at fasting. So when I was struggling with cravings, I would ask myself, do I want more of the discipline and focus that I feel when I fast?

Whatever I do, there will be more of.

I used a content blocker called Freedom to block social media websites and apps for 12 hours at a time.

That’s it.

Habit formation isn’t about will power.

It’s about designing an environment that makes the best choice the easiest one.

It’s all about reducing friction.

Because habit formation comes down to volume.

So after struggling for years to quit social media for good, I used Freedom, and unironically it helped me break free.

I had used content blockers in the past, but I found they’re all quite easy to get around. Freedom was the first one that I used that made it genuinely difficult to end a blocking session.

“Locked mode” is so difficult that you actually have to email tech support to stop the session. It’s a great feature.

Why block social media?

Because I don’t want to spend my days reacting to others.

I like being in the driver’s seat of my life. To make room for critical thinking and for creativity.

I came to realize that I will never expand beyond the opinions and ideas of others, if I do not regularly engage in critical thinking, which requires significant space and time.

I got something back I thought I had lost forever

Creative restlessness.

In just a few days of blocking, a restlessness to DO SOMETHING quickly set in. Like when I was a kid, and I had free time but didn’t know what to do. And everything in me would scream out to GO. Go find something to play with! Explore something new! Create a new world!

All of that creative energy and get-up-and-go: it came back and is a regular feature of my daily life again.

What a wonderful surprise that has been.

These days, I’m stronger.

I sometimes even like to think that I couldn’t care less about social media.

Until I look at it.

And I’m reminded of how much better my life is without it.

P.S. I get no kickback from Freedom. I recommend them because they helped me.

I want YouTube, the news cycle, and work emails to dictate my life.

I want them to point, and I will run.

Wait: of course not! The opposite is true.

That said, I have certainly learned that if I don’t set an intention myself, YouTube, the news cycle, and work emails will do that for me.

And I likely won’t be aware of that.

I feel dumb even writing the following sentence but here we go: I write out what I’m going to do before I do it, even if it’s as simple as “put the trash bag in the trash can.”

Because whatever I write out, I end up following through on about 95% of the time.

I don’t want to go to the gym.

So, in the morning, I write out “I will get in the car and go to the gym at 12:30pm.”

Then, when 12:30pm rolls around, I magically have far less resistance than normal. And I go to the gym.

I don’t want to rake leaves.

So, in the morning, I write out “I will put on my shoes and rake leaves at 5pm.”

It’s 5pm: I put on my shoes. I go rake the leaves.

Why? Because of something we’re all insanely good at: inertia.

We’re primed to just keep on doing the thing that’s already in motion.

Something algorithmic or hungry with profit motive will gladly set my intentions for me.

Or, I can set them myself.

YouTube, the news cycle, and work emails can buzz off.

I’ve got a life to live, and I’m not going to let them dictate it.

So I’ve arrived at another daily principle: I will set my intention, or my intentions will be set for me.

It's been helpful to me, and hopefully to you too.

From Seth Godin

Tomorrow, he gets yet another chance to make yet another decision about what sort of attitude to bring to his day. As Victor Frankl reminds us, this is our core freedom. To decide how to face the day.


Your week may be going poorly. Or your month. Or your life.

But you have a choice. You always have a choice, even in darkness. Sometimes it's the only choice you will ever be given: what attitude will you bring to this day?

(If you haven't read Man's Search for Meaning, Frankl's book that builds off of experiences in a concentration camp, well…it's worth every minute you'll spend on it. It's a true classic.)

Cars are sexy.

A brand is sexy.

That word is spread so thin, it’s hard to nail down a definition.

So here's one: something sexy instantly provokes a feeling of attraction.

The following sentence will not surprise you: anyone over the age of 14 knows that that feeling of desire and motivation can be a ruse.

So is sexy what any of us are really after? No. (Not in the long term anyways!)

My personal answer to what am I after is growth, happiness, and meaning.

And following what is sexy has produced predicably poor results.

But I’ve finally settled on what actually does produce growth, happiness, and meaning: embracing discomfort and taking risks in the service of others.

Please don’t think I’m good at this: I fail 10x a day. (More like 80x.)

But at least at this point in my life, I know the horse to get back up on. “Embracing discomfort and taking risks in the service of others.” It's a good horse. It's a reliable horse. And it gets me where I want to go.

Now that's sexy.

I earned $1,064,023 by working the university system.

Let me show you how:

I went to Mercer University for my undergraduate degree and Indiana University for two graduate degrees.

The cost of attending Mercer is $59,482 a year and the cost of Indiana University is $53,860 a year.

I spent 4 years at Mercer ($237,928), and 4 years at IU ($215,440) for a total of $453,368.

At 30 years of paying that back at a 6.8% (the standard student loan interest rate), the total in interest payments alone on that cost is $610,655.

Meaning that the actual cost of that education can be summarized as $1,064,023: the principal ($453,368) plus the interest ($610,655).

More than a million dollars.

Education costs are bananas. It could even be potentially argued that student loans are destroying as many futures as colleges are improving!

I was given an unfair advantage, though. Early in life, I was taught how to work the university system. Using those skills, I was able to turn mediocre scholarship offers into full ride offers. These are life changing skills.

Both at Mercer and IU, I received less-than-wonderful scholarship offers.

And then both at Mercer and IU, I was able to work the system to turn those into full ride offers, completely covering all costs.

It was a royal pain in the butt. The scholarships for each of my 3 degrees took many, many months of work.

Which sounds like a painful process until I remember: that’s months of work, to earn $1,064,023. It was the best return on investment I’ve ever had.

I’ve been looking for more ways that I can have more impact with my teaching. So I am taking all of my lessons from the full ride scholarships, and putting them into a course to teach you to do the same.

Professionals going back to school, grad students, parents, and high schoolers: this one’s for you.

I won’t solve the student debt crisis. But I hope I can help a few thousand people like you go to school for free, and have an impact that way.

If you are motivated to avoid a lifetime of debt and want to learn how I did it, I want to share that with you. It’s tough, and absolutely worth it. In my case, worth $1,064,023.

If you’d like early access when the course goes live, sign up for Growing, my free newsletter. I’ll be announcing it there.

It doesn’t matter if your teacher is Tony Robbins or Luciano Pavarotti.

You are the one who does the work.

You are the one who causes learning to happen.

You, through your efforts to engage a new material, are actually the one teaching your self.

A teacher would be better referred to as a guide.

“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” There are so many ways to unpack this. One way is this: there is no teacher, until the student is thirsting to learn and then wills themselves to reach out and grasp for the unknown.

And if you go deeper, you will realize that the teacher and the student are the same person. The teacher is unlocked, so to speak, when the student thirsts and reaches out for knowledge.

10 years ago, I studied with an intimidating force, Virginia Zeani, who is responsible for countless opera careers at the highest level for more than 50 years. In the studio of one of the greatest teachers who has ever lived, she told me, “I am not your teacher. YOU are your own teacher.”

That blew my mind, at the time.

But gradually, I came to understand the truth of her words:

You are your own teacher.

You do not have to “out work” everyone around you. You do not have to show up earlier and leave later than your boss. You do not have to sleep less and work more.

Because successful learning and successful growth is never about the number of hours spent or amount of effort put in. It is about the number of focused seconds.

I got this completely wrong for much of my life. But after finally understanding this, I want everyone to get the same benefits I have from following this principle!

Focused seconds, not hours spent. That’s what counts.

Get small. Get really small.

180 focused seconds is exponentially more powerful than 10 distracted minutes.

The path to successfully transforming your brain and body (learning, growth) is a path made up of countless blocks of focused seconds.

The 10,000 hours rule? Malcom Gladwell popularized it, but it is pseudoscience and has been debunked in multiple replication studies. 10,000 hours is not what is required for mastery.

Cal Newport’s Deep Work

Cal Newport’s Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World is an extraordinary book, and maybe the best starting point for understanding this principle. It clarified so much for me.

The “focused seconds” principle is what allowed me to be successful in so many different career pursuits. It’s definitely a tough principle to turn into a habit. I have failed more times at it than I have succeeded. Everything in technology and entertainment and in the expectations of those around you will hamper your progress here! There's a lot working against you.

But there's an answer to that too.

Design for low friction

The most successful people I know are not the people who just say “no” to temptations. That's because we are simply not biologically equipped to handle the amount of information, entertainment, and opportunity for distraction that is now ever-present.

The most successful people I know are the ones who purposefully design their environment so that they don’t even have to waste their time trying to say no.

It’s not about inner locus of control. It’s not about discipline.

As much as those things matter (and they do!), it's so easy for a focus on discipline to end up being a route for self-shaming. When, what's really going on is that we are not evolved to successfully navigate an infinite firehose of information and entertainment.

So the answer is to design an environment so that focused work is primed and low friction.

Using a content blocker on everything except the few digital tools you will be using of the next 90 minutes. Leaving your phone in another room. Telling your spouse that you will not be reachable for the next 90 minutes. Writing longhand instead of typing.

Sometimes for me, that’s getting up before the kids are awake, and having a dedicated desk whose only 2 functions are learning and production from that learning.

So there's a solution after all

Focused Seconds + Low Friction Environment = Successful Learning

I'll leave you with this quote

Neurons that are used frequently develop stronger connections. Those that are rarely or never used eventually die. By developing new connections and pruning away weak ones, the brain can adapt to the changing environment.

- VeryWellMind

In the end, I don’t think it’s really that hard to know what’s important. We’ve got an infinite number of cliches, proverbs, and philosophies refined over millennia, teaching us all of this anyways.

But living is hard.

Transforming is.

Becoming is.

Today I try to spend very little time on trying to know what’s important, but most of my time on becoming the person that lives it.

One of the things that helps me most is fasting. Hunger is about as fundamental as instinctual desires get. And fasting provides a benefit at that same instinctual level.

For me, fasting provides a sense of freedom and self control, at the deepest level. And since we all feel hungry just a few hours after eating, it takes only a few hours a day of fasting for me to see a substantial mental benefit.

I would credit fasting as maybe the most effective tool I’ve used to strengthen my mind and to break free from mindlessness in life. To empower me to focus on what matters and easily drop what doesn't.

For my fellow students also working on their own transformation, it just might be something to consider.

Confidence is not formed in the mind. You cannot think your way to it. You cannot believe your way to it. Get rid of the self help books because they’re by-and-large unscientific and in the area of confidence, I have found them not much help.

Confidence is acquired by a successfully completing a challenging task, with something instinctually valuable on the line, where you indisputably prove to your self what you’re capable of. And done again and again and again.

Let’s put this into an equation, that I call:

The Confidence Formula

This is the confidence formula that I teach all of my students. I've used it to change my own life, and I hope you can use it to change yours:

Doing The Difficult Thing + Personal Stakes + Win = 1 Unit of Confidence

You must practice The Difficult Thing, with personal stakes, and each time you win, you’ve built another brick in the confidence wall.

What is The Difficult Thing?

It is the actual difficult thing. Not miming a version of it in private (e.g. singing alone).

It’s the actual thing.

Here's an example:

Goal = to sing in public confidently

Singing in your practice sessions = 0 units of confidence

Singing in front of strangers successfully = 1 unit of confidence

Or another example:

Goal = to get good at job interviews

Practicing in the mirror = 0 units of confidence

Portraying yourself well in a job interview = 1 unit of confidence

(The critical nuance is the difference between building skill and confidence. Practicing something privately will help you build the skills necessary to do The Difficult Thing. But it won’t actually build confidence. Skill and confidence are different.)

What are personal stakes?

Personal stakes means this is real. If you don’t win, you will suffer: embarrassment, people will think less of you, lost money, you will think of yourself less, or something else you viscerally value will be lost.

Personal stakes are not at the table when you are alone. Stakes require another party. Confidence building requires interface and interaction with others. If you are alone (in a practice room, in a library, in your house) then you may be doing many wonderful, valuable things, but confidence building isn’t one of them.

Think about this another way: you’re not dumb. You’re actually really smart. And your bull sh$# detector is well-honed. You are NOT going to get away with bull shitting yourself.

You must give yourself indisputable reasons to trust your abilities when there are chips on the table.

Why do you trust someone else? The number one reason is their track record. Their patterns. What they have shown to you in the past.

And the number one reason you will ever trust yourself (trust yourself = confidence) is because you have done The Difficult Thing many times before successfully.

But that leaves you in a spot: how do you go from there? How do you get from 0 units of confidence to at least 1?

You need volume

Want to build lots of confidence? To feel invincible?

Then you need a lot of volume of those challenging situations where you can earn units of confidence.

Now you’ve got to be smart about it. There is no point in going out there and layering up unsuccessful attempts.

You need to start small. Very small.

Be truly humble, and start at a vanishingly small level.

And once you start: you need to not stop.

How I became confident in singing

I wanted to be confident singing in front of people. But when I did, my skin got clammy, my voice jammed up, my throat seized tight, and I became incapable of singing. This was not the relaxed and confident Edward I knew I needed to be!

So I started to volunteer for public speaking wherever I could. In my church director job, I volunteered to give public lectures on music. I volunteered for committees where I had to give a presentation. I volunteered to present in my classes, whenever possible.

I started to speak up in uncomfortable situations. I chose to send wrong drink orders back, or introduced myself to strangers and started up a conversation (which, at the time, seemed like a huge challenge!). I actively sought out any situation where I would use my voice in uncomfortable situations.

This led to singing in open mic nights at bars. A great low barrier way to get comfortable with public singing.

And then to solos in choirs.

Then guest solos in pop and rock bands.

And eventually, lead operatic roles for thousands of paying patrons!

The most effective thing was to start so small, it felt like barely starting: and then not stopping

Start low barrier. Do The Difficult Thing a lot. And don’t stop doing it.

How to acquire confidence isn’t taught

It’s a mysterious force for almost every student I teach. Which is a crime, and something I love to change through teaching! It has had such an impact on my student's lives.

I’d love to continue this discussion further, and if you have an area of development where you’re struggling to grow your confidence, drop me a note and we can brainstorm a low barrier, high volume path to get that confidence growing.

What I need to do most is always right in front of me.

Who I need to become is always something I’ve already been avoiding.

Uncomfortable, but true.

And now it’s my shortcut: when I don’t know what to do or who I need to become, I just do what’s in front of me and tackle whatever I’m avoiding.

It’s one of my best shortcuts, and definitely one of the most painful and humbling.

But, it always works.

Learning to sing is learning Javascript is learning to speak French.

Because this is how our brains work:

Pattern recognition + relationships = learning

Think about music: at first, you just see random notes on a page.

And then soon, you see scales (patterns).

Then you see relationships horizontally (melody) and vertically (harmony) and then simultaneously (a piece of music) and then simultaneously across movements and instruments (symphonic).

Everything is patterns and relationships.

Instead of looking for single data points, look for patterns, templates, for fractals, for meaning. Are you going to have a better chance understanding 100 disjunct pieces of information? Or a singular pattern, that overlays those 100 pieces of information, and makes them all make sense in relationship to one another?

Patterns connect the dots.

One day, many years ago as a fledgling nerd, I was working on a JavaScript course and I realized that…all programming languages are fundamentally similar. And I could recognize those patterns, I could learn any new language extremely quickly.

For the same reason that once you’ve learned English, and then a second language, the third and fourth come MUCH faster because you can now recognize the patterns of human language!

German took me 3 years. French 2 years. Italian 1.

I also completely wasted many years of my life trying to brute force learning! I wish I’d learned how to learn at a younger age, of course, but learning it in my early 20s was good enough to change my life, so I’ll take it!

View the world as patterns and you can decode everything so much faster.

There are an infinite number of ways to be wrong, and extremely few ways to be correct. This is because the list of what doesn't work is infinite and the list of what does is really quite short.

And the list of what works for YOU is even shorter!

Understand that you can waste all of your remaining time on what doesn’t work. Ouch.

There’s a reason master teachers can charge hundreds of dollars for a single lesson. And why their students are smiling when they do.

Because good teaching is a time machine! It brings your new and improved self into the present at a MUCH faster rate.

Do you want it to take 10 years to master something? Or 2 months? Your life. Your choice.

But, I’d advise you, don’t waste your time on what doesn’t work because:

There are an infinite number of ways to be wrong, and extremely few ways to be correct.

These are two of my favorite quotations of all time, that I've grown to appreciate more and more over time:

“Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”

Classic! At one time, I thought this was just a funny line. (Still is.) Now, I understand it also as descriptive.

Sacrifice is required for every moment of being. At the bare minimum, at any given moment, I am sacrificing my time, energy, and focus. Just by existing. By reading. By scrolling. By working.

Every moment, I am sacrificing at the very least my time, energy, and focus.

When I ignored the fact that sacrifice is always in play, I only cheated myself. Once I recognized that, and then got in the driver’s seat, and started to actively choose my sacrifice, it unlocked my potential by orders of magnitude.

Let me rephrase: “Life is sacrifice, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”

“Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightening to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself.”

- Chuck Close

Motivation follows action. Not the other way around. That one truth alone can change a life.

People like impossible. Impossible means you know where the boundaries are. Impossible means you don’t have to risk failing.

But a lot of impossible things aren’t impossible. They just look that way. Boxes are neat and predictable, after all.

I've been lucky enough to see some impossible things become possible.

It’s not impossible to go to college without any debt. (I did it three times. And I’m not special.)

It’s not impossible to change careers into a high-paying job with no experience. (I’ve done that two times just in the last 3 years. Still just a regular guy.)

Real quick: I always try to remember that survivorship bias is behind most “inspirational” posts out there. (SB is basically focusing only on the few who survived/achieved, and ignoring those who didn’t, making it appear that something is much more possible than it actually is.)

A.k.a. a lot of inspirational content is lucky people who don’t realize they’re lucky and selling the message that what was possible for some is possible for everyone.

But this ain’t that. I am being precise with my words here.

Impossible is, in actuality, often possible.

But it still has a price. And it's often substantial.

College and two graduate degrees without debt? Yeah, I didn’t pay them in gobs of money but I sure as hell paid with extremely hard work, a dash of “work the system,” a hellacious amount of networking, and patience (like moving to a new state to work for two years until I qualified for in-state tuition which made scholarship packages go 3x as far).

Change careers into a high-paying field with no experience? Sure, I didn’t have professional experience, but I had to trade 100+ hours of my time to earn the relevant licenses or certificate that proved competence. Weekdays from 4am-6am and Saturdays from 6am-2pm until the certs were earned. Topped with months of networking.

Worth it? Hell yes. Easy? Hell no.

I’ve only just started teaching students how I earned three free college degrees and two new high-paying careers without experience. What I tell them, and what I want to share with you, is that it wasn’t pretty for me and it won’t be for you, when you bite off a tough goal.

I've learned some rules for impossible

  • Motivation follows action. Not the other way around.
  • The 10,000 Hours to Mastery rule is pop psych and non-descriptive of the way we acquire skills
  • My mental and physical health are the ultimate meta investment: every investment in these has multiplied my other investments. My time and focus and outcomes are exponentially better, when I first invest in my health.
  • You are your own teacher. Everyone else is a guide. Sometimes an incredibly powerful guide, but still: only a guide.
  • Creativity follows process.

I will be sharing on this blog and in my courses everything I have learned and my whole bumpy roadmap for how I made the career changes and earned the free degrees.

The first course in a series is already published, and you can take it for free on Skillshare with the 1-month-free promo: 7 Simple Habits: Unlock Your Brain's Learning Potential. It is also free on Udemy for the next month.

I’m so excited to be sharing these ideas with you, because all of them I acquired by completely failing, wasting time, doing things that don't work, but eventually figuring it out.

And one of my favorite things about teaching is that I can save someone else oodles of time and energy to achieve similar goals.

Ask Me Anything

If you have topics or questions you want me to cover on the blog, shoot me a message here or on Discord. I read and respond to every message I get.

Get out there and get growing!

P.S. When was the last time an inspirational post changed your life? The answer for me is: never. Because feelings don’t change your life. You do.

How can you know if a teacher is real? Is worth your time? How can you pick a teacher to study with? Are online teachers worth paying? How can you find the best online teachers?

Smart to ask because bad teachers: they don’t just waste your time. They teach you bad habits that you later have to unlearn. Unlearning takes 3x as long as learning to begin with. Ouch! You are wise to be skeptical.

Say “NO” to 99% of the teachers and “content creators.” That’s the right approach.

But I’ve had my life transformed by bona fide, expert online teachers too! So how do you find that 1%?

Just before you pick a teacher, shoot them an email and ask for

  • verified testimonials,
  • copies of degrees and certifications,
  • a live portfolio, and
  • professional references.

If a teacher has all that, there’s a good chance they’re worth a shot. It’ll take you 5 minutes to get that info, and that email can potentially save you dozens and dozens of hours.

Here’s an email template you can copy and paste:


Thanks for your time reading my email! I am interested in taking one of your courses. To help me feel more confident, would you mind sending me the following?

  • verified testimonials,
  • copies of degrees or certifications,
  • a live portfolio, and
  • professional references.

Thank you!

[your name]

Learning how to learn while stressed out and short on time might be the most important skill you ever acquire. That's why I just published 7 Habits: Unlock Your Brain's Learning Potential.

These are the 7 simple habits from my own life which I have used to master skills and land leading positions as an operatic tenor, software engineer, professional tournament poker player, and more. While stressed out and extremely short on time! That's the important part.

Here's the twist: I'm not special. I wasn't gifted with preternatural levels of intelligence. But I have been lucky enough to uncover some gems, and I want to share them. I’d like to save you years of your life, and give you the quintessential very best of what I’ve learned along the way.

As a part of this course as well, I'm launching an always-free learning community on Discord. Come join! Students can me ask questions, give and receive feedback, and accelerate learning together. Always free, forever.

Every single part of this course changed my life. And I know it can change yours.

I can’t wait to see what you learn!

Some learning is free. Some costs dollars.

Let's talk about it.

You've probably heard "anyone can learn anything, just use the internet!" I used to think that was true. But, in point of fact, it is not.

You live on this green rock spinning through the stars for a brilliant little burst of time. And then you are gone. A third of your time is used sleeping. Another third working. In the remaining third, you find romance, raise children, watch movies, walk your dog, call your mom, eat burritos. You have limited hours and limited energy with which to learn. You can not, actually, learn anything on the internet because your time horizon isn't infinite.

Your time is finite. It is wasting. And at the same time, however, where you spend it is compounding.

Time is a wasting resource: the only amount you have of it, is less than you had before. It is also a compounding resource: where you spend your time is a store of value, layering and layering upon itself, year after year, growing in potency. Your incremental time investments produce exponential returns. Whatever you do regularly, you will see logarithmic growth in.

So let's recap: your time is finite, wasting, but compounding. Using it wisely is the number one concern of the wise. And that is why it costs money to learn.

Because exceptional learning is a time machine that brings your future improved self into the present at a vastly accelerated rate.

And as a secondary effect:

Exceptional learning even further compounds your growth by maximizing today's finite time and energy.

I can teach you, in 10 lessons what will take you 10 years to learn on your own. That's not bullshit. Ask my students. Or take a course. It's simply a product of a teacher having 25,000+ hours of professional experience who is good at it.

Teach yourself with free tips and tricks on YouTube, with your finite evening hours. Or study with "ad agency" teachers with gorgeous 4K videos who know how to entertain, but not how to change you. Eventually, you hit a wall, you spin your wheels, become discouraged, and quit. That's okay. I would too.

Alternatively, give yourself the gift of time and bring your future improved self into the present much, much faster. Do it right, the first time, with a guide who understands what it takes.

So yes. I charge dollars to access my courses. Because it is of extraordinarily value to you and because effective learning is a time machine.

Now here's the twist.

In a private studio setting, the amount of instruction time from one of my online courses would cost you $2,000 to $2,500, in addition to travel time, and wear on your car. It is ridiculously cheap to take courses from a teacher with bona fide experience and skill online. For a few bucks, you can have access to months of learning from an award winning teacher with a student track record that proves the investment is worthwhile. Not bad.

Some people asked me why do I do it: I teach online, in addition to my private studio, because I thrive when I help others grow. I want to impact more people. I want to share the best of what I've found on my own journey. I love getting to do that in my private studio, but I adore getting to do it online. I get to positively impact thousands of lives a year, in a way that is affordable to so many more people. I do it because I love it. I charge because it's worth it to you. And I charge less than I could because I want to be generous with my blessings.

Enough about me.

Get outta here and get growing.

Write in a dozen programming languages, sing opera in five languages, direct a national ad agency, play poker at a pro level, consult for mid-cap businesses around America, conduct choral ensembles, work as a graphic designer, work as a recording studio session artist, and earn three university degrees with 3.9 GPAs. All at the same time. While having friends, a social life, getting married, and having kids.

Here’s the takeaway: I’m not special. I did (do) all that stuff, yep, but that’s not nearly as important as this: I am not special.

Despite all of my Very Regular Human Being qualities, I have learned how to learn new skills rapidly, by studying less, with less stress, with time off for hobbies and goofing, and living a meaningful life.

I'm telling you today that you can learn anything, and study less. Much less! Sounds like marketing bull feathers, but. It’s true.

The thump-thud-squeeze through the juice press of Modern Work Life isn’t actually the required way of life. There’s a better way. Part of that better way is to master learning, which is the keystone skill in the modern knowledge economy.

There is a better way. Or at least, there might be. You just need me to prove it to you.

I didn’t believe, and wouldn’t have believed a stranger on the internet saying “learn anything, study less.” Instead, what I did was buy wholesale into a number of the popular myths our culture and education system feed us. I lived them out to their logical ends. Things like:

  • If you spend 10,000 hours at something, you’ll become a master!
  • The harder you work, the more successful you become!
  • Wine doesn’t have calories!

There's a problem

Constant stress, health problems, over work, and overwhelm. It’s no way to live. (Although I did. Maybe you did to.) We can both agree that it’s certainly not the way to live that will help you rapidly acquire the kind of highly valued skills that the modern world demands. And then in 3 years demands another skill set. And you have to rapidly acquire those, all without burning out.

Like you, the only reason I’ll believe something is because it works consistently over time. Because if you test it, it works. And you test it again, and it still works. Then you can hang your hat on it.

Most of the time when we try something, however, it doesn’t quite work out. But learning that something is not true or not useful makes up a majority of our experiences since what is not useful far outweighs what is. That’s a huge and misunderstood part of the process!

I’m writing this to tell you that I’ve wasted thousands of hours and many years on earnest but misguided learning efforts, until I slowly uncovered a process for learning at the intersection of science and hard won experience.

I’d like to save you years of your life, and give you the quintessential very best of what I’ve learned along the way. (For honest-to-goodness free.)

Learn by studying less

I am producing a brand new course, temporarily titled "Learn Anything, Study Less" where I will share only the most valuable methods to massively increase your rate of learning while studying less, teach you how to individualize your approach, and I want to share it with the readers of this blog for free.

I don’t develop, write, and shoot courses for money. I do it because I get an extraordinary, deep satisfaction when I know I’ve been able to help someone else thrive in life. And I can't think of a more valuable thing to teach than how to learn.

I publish on platforms like SkillShare and Udemy because it costs money to write and shoot courses, as well as host materials on this website. They help me cover basic expenses and increase my impact, so I like them. Regardless, readers of this blog can access this course for free.

To get free access to Learn Anything, Study Less, just sign up here before August 31, 2021, and you’ll get the course for free, no questions asked. (Get the course link and unsubscribe to my email list if you like: no hard feelings!) Any questions, drop me a note.

This is going to be the best course I've ever published, and I can't wait to put these powerful learning tools in your hands. They changed my life, and I know they can change yours.

I can’t wait to see what you learn and achieve!

I grew up admiring Dan Cederholm and John Gruber and Jason Kottke and Cameron Moll and Jeffrey Zeldman and Molly and Jeremy Keith and Andy Clarke and Shaun Inman and Jason Santa Maria and Eric Meyer. I witnessed them advocating for a free and open web, through The Web Standards Project and the W3C (which I proudly contributed to as a budding web developer). Because of their work, I fell in love with the open web and the creative possibilities it made available to the world.

But then Google and Facebook and Twitter (although to a less extent Twitter) sucked up all the water. They slowly drained the internet of its personality and verve, and the majority of artists and mavericks I admired, hung up the hat. For more than a few years, the internet felt like a desert, and I know I’m hardly the first person to feel that way.

The interent giveth. But for quite a while there, it was taketh-ing a lot more than it was giveth-ing.

In the last few years, though, the scene has shifted. Not to great acclaim. It just happened, a little at a time.

Micro.blog launching in 2015 was certainly a harbinger. Cameron Moll just made a comeback this Spring. Kottke and Gruber are going stronger than ever. Those should be sentences from 2000, not 2020.

The independent web will morph and shape shift, but it certainly won’t die. That’s a nice thing to be able to say in 2020.

What I loved back when I was a kid, I still love now. Moreso, actually. I love independent authors and artists, with the guts to keep doing things their way. People who like to make mistakes and blaze a path through action, not council. (As opposed to those who choose their path based on Google Analytics. Also known as sycophants. I should know: I was one! Nothing destroys the fire in your belly like chasing page views.)

That's what I loved about all those old school web gurus: they were out on a limb, inventing the future, focus groups be damned. They didn't do it for money. Some got rich. Most got by. But they just kept at it, they kept creating things where there weren't things before.

I’ve always thought that people who create because they need to are the most interesting people in the world.

The ones who do, and keep doing, regardless of whether or not they’re being looked at. Those are the ones who change the world.

Music education is considered enrichment by some, and education by others. The research, for many decades, has shown that it should be considered core education. It's about as extra as math or history.

The first reason is that human beings need art: we don't just enjoy it. As humans, we actually need it, psychologically and biologically.

The second is that it permanently changes how our brains are wired, how we process emotions, how we handle negative life events, and how our brains develop.

As it relates to young people's development writ large, music education has massive effects on their brain development. There are six neurological differences between active music creators and non-musicians, found in the prefrontal cortex (where executive function, decision-making, and impulse control are operated):

  1. Enhanced brain development, resulting in significantly greater academic growth across all school subjects.
  2. Significant boosts to standardized and IQ test scores.
  3. Language and literary skills are significantly improved.
  4. Reading skills and linguistic sounds are significantly improved.
  5. Enhanced motor skills are more easily developed.
  6. Emotional intelligence, a more positive attitude toward school, increased self-confidence, persistence in overcoming obstacles, and intrinsic motivation for learning: these traits are all permanently improved by studying music.

Most crucially, these benefits are not found in those who simply consume music or write about music. They are found in those who actively engage in the difficult creative process of making music.

The long and the short of it is, if students don't engage in active music making, they will be much further behind than those who do engage in active music making.

In many countries, like America, music education continues to be seen as "enrichment" by the school system. It's extra, like putting sprinkles on your ice cream.

Meanwhile, wealthy parents invest endless dollars in private music lessons for their children.

The scientists and the high achievers know that music is fundamental to a young person's growth and development.

The American school system needs to catch up.

Presenting edwardatkinson.com version 5.0: the first time I’ve gotten this right.

For 32 years, I lived in a script authored by a committee of strangers. I had a chair at that writer’s table, sure, but it was just one chair, and an uncomfortable one at that. I’d pitch a bold idea every now and then, and the group might approve. Too often, the committee would tell me I was veering off a mysteriously pre-charted path. Things got testy. But, that’s all history now.

Some time back, I fired the writers.

That’s why I made this website. There is exactly one curious author writing the script, and there are only a few rules:

  • Enthusiastically make mistakes.
  • One day at a time.
  • Share the best in life.

Here on this website, I will not be creating art or content based on clicks, taps, or views. Pages will not be tested for conversions. There will be no A/B testing on design choices and no gaming the algorithm.

This project is a human with a single voice: my own.

I shared an early draft of this website with Brother Angelus, my younger monk brother, who noticed that it was different from anything I’d done in the past. He told me to tell you what I told him: I don’t need to perform anymore. I’m not here to please the audience. I’ve been starving the wolves of insecurity for years now, and have no intention of ever feeding them again.

I am here to do my best work, to trust my own instincts, to explore what is interesting, and to share it with you. Come along if you like the sound of that.

Virginia Zeani said to me once, “To sing is to thank God you are alive.”

There is no more meaningful reason to create art: to thank God you are alive. Her words are on the bottom of every page on this site for that reason. (And I always appreciate the reminder.)

Here is what I’m working on now

  • Podcast with the working title: “Enthusiastic Mistakes by Edward Atkinson.” Interviews with professional poker players, Met stars who perform successfully under extreme pressure, creatives who do the work, humans who conquer demons and embrace the messiness of life, mini-deep-dive series on big topics, and an ethos of embracing mistake making.
  • Online courses for singers
  • YouTube series of 10-minute conversational videos on sacred music directed to congregations who’d like to better understand what all the fuss is about and how to engage with the subject without the tribal “worship wars” silliness.
  • YouTube series of 10-minute videos directed to priests and music directors. Church music usually stinks. (I mean, let’s be real here.) It doesn’t have to, and I’ll show you how. No BS. Straight to the point.
  • Recordings of Gregorian Chant to become an album
  • A secret video project with a friend (details TBA)
  • Formatting my 15 years of sacred music resources into a couple of pages, to jump start anyone starting out in the field
  • Tightly edited videos of voice lessons, where the student goes from bad to great, followed by a breakdown of how we made that happen

What I will work on in the near future

  • Projects suggested to me by my patrons
  • Resources for directors of music programs and priests that are stupidly easy to implement
  • Consult with music leaders about their particular obstacles and issues, and share the answers publicly
  • Commission and record new sacred music
  • Design an exceptional children’s choir program, and share 100% of the resources publicly and for free
  • Create a training course for beginner choir members to go from zero to hero that any choir director can give to first time choral singers

Some past projects can be seen here, and I look forward to growing that list drip by drip.

Join the Party

Join the party and become a patron. 1,000 patrons of Edward Atkinson at any level, by May 2021: that’s my goal. We’re at 100 already, which is inspiring and beautiful.

I believe deeply in the power of true patronage, instead of transactional patronage and commercial art. True patronage incentivizes and influences the artist to create his best work and not his most-likely-to-be-liked work, and that’s no small thing. It does more than that too.

So join the party and become a patron! We could use a few new faces in the New Renaissance. (900 more to be exact.) My deepest thanks and gratitude to those who have helped kick things off already. I, quite literally, couldn’t do any of this without you.

Patron or not, I’d love to have you join my Infrequent Updates mailing list or invite a buddy to join because (1) I do not want Facebook and Google to control my relationships with friends, fans, and patrons, (2) I rarely send out emails, and (3) when I do, I only send out the best stuff.

I delete 98% of the emails I receive. (Sound familiar?) I work hard to craft those 2% emails.

Thank You

Please get in touch. Share your point of view. Suggest a project. Send me a photo of your cat.

Most of all: thank you.

To be an artist is to create. Ideas do not write, paint, sing, or craft: artists do.

To be an artist, do your work.

History tells us that plagues and wars are the norm. That doesn’t make living through the spread of a highly infectious global disease any less dangerous or stressful. It does wipe some smudges off of our perspective, though. Reading a little history always makes me see more clearly.

Art didn’t go extinct during the Black Death. Or while the Roman Empire collapsed. Or when Alexander pillaged half the earth. Art has thrived (and sometimes even boomed) in the midst of war, famine, and death.

For profound reasons, artists feel ‘whole’ only when they are doing their work. I don’t believe that’s an accident, biologically or spiritually. When you do the work you are meant to do, when your actions are aligned with your purpose, good things happen.

Remember that. You feel whole when you do your work.

It was true before COVID-19 and it will be true after COVID-19.

Artists: Get off your ass. Get to your work. That is our path.

Breath. Air comes in, air goes out.

That might be what you tell your self. But that’s not the real story.

Your body has a history written in its cells, and it remembers whether you do or not. Trauma is inked on our bones. Experience is coded in our proteins. Your body is your instrument. And your body does not forget.

It might seize up under pressure, because it learned to be fearful. Your body might feel that it needs to protect itself in extreme ways, when it feels threatened. And you know what the body perceives as threatening? (Of course you do!) Singing in front of others.

But turn it on its head: if the body does not forget, teach it something to remember that empowers it and you. Let it remember something powerful and freeing.

Teach your body acceptance today. And tomorrow your body will remember.

Teach your body to sweat and be powerful. And tomorrow, your body will remember.

Teach your body to move with freedom. And tomorrow, your body will remember.

Teach your body again tomorrow, and it will remember that too. Teach it something true for a week, and it will remember. Weeks turn into months. Months turn into habits. Habits turn into you.

Your body is extraordinary, powerful, and beautiful. Don’t let it forget it.

Everything your body has ever done comes from one source: food you’ve put in it. That Five Guys burger was broken down in your colon, became lung cells, which were then compressed to exhale the carbon dioxide currently leaving your body as you read this sentence.

Food is, quite literally, the stuff of life. How wonderful! Every molecule of your beautiful body was once food. Then you ate it. And it became, well. You.

That spicy noodle soup you’re slurping will become skin cells on your forearm. The protein bar you grabbed for breakfast will become brain processes and hormone secretions. Everything that you currently are, you once ate.

We don’t usually think of food this way.

But when we do, meals become moments of gratitude and joy.

Food, the human body, life: these are miracles.

There is a long list of things that singers do to their homes to keep their vocal tract tracts healthy. Humidifying. Dusting. Regularly washing sheets. Allergen-proof pillow cases. You name it. But I recently discovered I had been overlooking something big. It’s super cheap to fix, and has had a big impact on my vocal health. Once I fixed it, I haven’t had morning sniffles.

Most homes and apartments have an air system which has an air filter you can change out. However, this filter is located where the central air system begins, often the basement or a utility closet. After the central filter, there are tens or hundreds of feet of air ducts which, if you’re brave enough to take a look, are guaranteed to be chock full of dust and allergens. It’s unavoidable…even if you DO change your central air filter regularly! Over time, that central air filter will have missed a great deal of airborne allergens, dust, and gunk. And that’s when it’s clean. And let’s be real: how many of us actually change our central air filter every month??

Now take a look at the grates on your air vents. Those little things on the floor or in the walls that you ignore every day. Notice how the edges are coated in a light gray film? That’s what’s getting inside your vocal tract. Everything you see on the outside of the grate is just a fraction of the crud that’s made its way into your body. Yikes.

Here’s the solution I came up with. Super cheap filters inside the grates that cover your air ducts.

  1. Buy a pack of the True Blue Cold Air Return Filter Pads, 10×30.
  2. Take out the grates covering the end of your air vents. There’s usually one in every room.
  3. Cut the pad into grate-sized pieces. Place the pad on the inside of the vent.
  4. Re-install the vents.

That’s it. A simple, cheap, and fast solution which has had a profound impact on me as a singer. Between the two filters (the central filter and the grate filter), the allergens and dust get trapped.

Now, I don’t wake up with sniffles any more. Airborne allergens, dust, and whatever other crud that lies in my air ducts? It’s not making it into my throat any longer. It has almost totally eliminated the days where I wake up and have to fight mucus or a sore throat.

I hope this helps other singers out there, or maybe those of you who deal with asthma or similar issues where air quality plays a big part of your daily life.

I’m excited to be singing a Christmas concert in a few weeks, and in searching for repertoire, I suddenly remembered the great track Dormi O Bambino from the Three Tenor’s Christmas album in 2000. The song is so sweet, so beautiful, and so simple. I’m convinced almost any crowd would love it.

Searching for sheet music, I discovered a few things. For one, it’s not a published piece! Dormi O Bambino is actually a translation of a Polish folksong, a cradle lullaby, by the name of ‘Lulajze Jezuniu.’ What the Three Tenors sang was translated and arranged just for them, and never made commercially available.

I wanted to sing the song in Italian, which didn’t make things any easier. The Three Tenors album version is a mixture of Polish and Italian.

After searching fruitlessly for some time, I contacted Classical Vocal Reprints who, for those not in the know, are hands down the authority on finding rare or hard-to-find versions of sheet music. They’re amazing! (And better at what they do than most universities libraries…truly amazing!) But for the first time ever in my experience, they were unable to locate sheet music for me.

So here we are: unpublished music, in multiple translations, with no commercial version available anywhere.

Well, I did what any frustrated singer would do: I parked my butt in a chair, and listened to Carreras’ concert version fifteen times, and transcribed the Italian through a combination of lip reading and careful listening. (And Carreras’ muddy diction made this take quite a few listens!) I checked my transcription with a former Italian teacher of mine, who is a native Italian and currently teaches in Bologna. She helped me improve the quality of the transcription, and we worked out a finished product that we both feel is pretty darn accurate.

Here below is the transcription of Dormi O Bambino, all Italian. If you have a half decent pianist, they can arrange an accompaniment with interludes easily from any recording. I hope that by sharing this, I can save someone else some time!

Please feel free to share this with friends or colleagues (especially tenors looking for Christmas rep!). Enjoy!

Dormi, o bambino perlina mia; dormi amata dolcezza mia
Gesu or dormi, dormi o bambino e tu mammina culla il piccino.

Chiudi ti occhietti, colmi di pianto.
Calma il tuo viso così affranto
Gesu or ormi, dormi o bambino, e tu mammina culla il piccino.

Gesu or dormi, dormi o piccino, e tu mammina culla il bambino
E tu mammina culla il piccino.


The arts educate the whole person, drawing on every skill set, hope, desire, and human need, to create something meaningful.

The arts are not for the sole purpose of earning a profit; this is their strength.

The arts inspire us to strive beyond the basic demands of survival, beyond animal needs.

The arts teach us to see humanity in the eyes of a stranger.

The arts teach us to listen more and shout less.

The arts teach us to work together for a common good.

The arts inspire the mind and heart, with lasting permanence.

The arts express the values that the next generation will internalize.

The arts change minds and perspectives.

The arts nurture the human heart, a forgotten element in modern education.

The arts feed the mind and challenge the body.

The arts inspire in us the most powerful human feeligns love, awe, and devotion.

The arts are a bedrock block of human living and life, and have been fundamental to every known culture.

The arts are what make us human.

As living beings, we must partake. Frequently. Yet human beings elevate food beyond simple nutrition, and always have.

Food is art. It forms the first layer of bedrock in all cultures and traditions, religions and families. Food is the living tradition that expresses a people’s history. But unlike monuments or books, food is alive and food is now! It is perishable, and it is fragile, just like you and me.

I’ve always loved food. But it is in understanding that food is a language that I’ve learned to respect and honor it. Food is spiritual because it is, in the most literal sense, the stuff of life. It feeds not just our bodies but our spirits too. It brings us together, and it is common to all mankind. It transcends our selfish differences.

Food is a beautiful language. Its symbols and words are the sweat in the kitchen, smiles on faces, the time spent lingering with friends, that deep sigh of contentment after a heavy pasta dish with fresh basil from the garden. Food is a sign that I will die one day, yet food is a sign that I will live and fight at least one more day. And if it’s good food, with joy in my heart! To share in a universal need, with that undying desire for a life beyond mere survival, is the most human of acts.

Food shared is a sign that I care for your strength and health. It’s also a sign that I’m hungry, and you are too, so let’s be a couple of humans  in this moment. Food is what you give to an ailing friend. Food is how to say I love you, without words.

Good food is Mozart, or Shakespeare, or Hemingway, depending on the chef. More days than not, though, in the bustle of life, it’s just a low grade pop song. But it’s still food. It’s still the stuff of life. It’s still that magic thing that makes it all work. In the mundane and elevated alike, there is always a beautiful moment to share (and taste!) if only we look.